Martha and Mary

I, like many others around my age both in Spain and Ireland, was born and raised in a catholic environment, so for many years, I attended Mass every Sunday and every religious holiday.

I remember several passages from the New Testament that impacted me, and one of them was the one about Martha and Mary:

 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. Esta tenía una hermana que se llamaba María, la cual, sentándose a los pies de Jesús, oía su palabra. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work alone? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I think this passage caught my attention because I didn´t fully understand it, it didn´t make sense to me. Well, if you had things to do, then you had to do them, right? You couldn´t just be lazy and stay there… But then Jesus came and said the exact opposite, which I found mindblowing.

I didn´t even think of questioning whether those “things that had to be done” really needed to be done, or whether simply being, without “doing”, really meant being lazy.

And that´s because I was internally suffering that contrast (or rather, conflict) between what Martha and Mary´s characters represented: I was overwhelmed by all my tasks, which I felt as obligations, and when for whatever reason I dedicated time to rest or do something less “productive”, I felt bad afterward. I wasn´t comfortable with either one thing or the other. The result? A lack of sleep that lasted for years, and a big feeling of guilt.

Now that time has passed and I know myself better, I know that what´s really happening is that I have two different operation modes:

  • The “efficient mode”, where I have loads of energy and I´m super productive, be it at work, doing house chores, out on errands, etc.
  • The “quiet mode”, where I follow my own rhythm and take my time recharging batteries, in whatever way is needed depending on the moment.

What made all the difference for me was learning that not only both modes are valid, but they´re also necessary, they complement each other, so it´s all about keeping the balance. In order to spend energy, I need to receive it first. And because we live in the culture of “doing”, we need to highlight the importance of “being”, but if we focus only on being and never doing, then we don´t make progress either… Ideally, the two of them would go hand-in-hand and play for us, not against us.

Going back to the passage about Martha and Mary, what Jesus does is praise Mary for prioritizing the most important thing. Let´s do that as well: be clear on what´s most important to us at any given moment, and prioritize it, with awareness, in the best possible way and without feeling guilty.

Untranslatable sentences: food for thought

As I´ve already said a couple of times in this same blog, there are a few phrases and sentences in English that I love and for which I can´t find a good Spanish translation, and vice versa.

The phrase that came to my mind today is “food for thought”, which is basically something that makes you think when you read or hear it. The Spanish translation would more or less say “food for your mind”.

Which is what I aim to make available to you through these weekly articles: a few ideas and quotes that can spark reflection… and if we´re lucky, even a bit of action.

Here´s today´s food for thought:

The steps that you don´t dare take also leave a mark.

Grela Bravo

In what direction do you want your steps to take you? And what´s preventing you from taking that step that you haven´t attempted yet?

Chapters

I´ve always loved reading. And I guess it´s no surprise, having grown up in a house full of books, with role models like my dad, a die-hard reader, and my sister Cristina, another one, who was also my roommate… Let´s just say I had examples to imitate 🙂

Thankfully (and also thanks partly to Fredi and I being so pigheaded), the fondness for reading has made its way to the next generation, and our three daughters also enjoy reading, which makes us really proud. Because even though they´re also growing up surrounded by books, and we would like to think we´re a good example to them, as you know, it´s not that easy nowadays, with so many screens demanding attention through endless videogames, movies, series, social media…

The truth is, we´ve become an accelerated society, which finds it very hard to slow down. But the thing that can help us to counteract that tendency is precisely a good book: it allows us to take a break from our busy lives, and gift ourselves a little period of calm. It enables quality time with ourselves, and on top of that, it stimulates our brain in a very beneficial way, either because we´re learning something new, or because we let our imagination fly as we dive into a story.

Today my friend Inés was telling me how hooked she is on the book she´s currently reading… Is there anything more exciting than that feeling of wanting to read just one more chapter? Or the feeling of staying up reading until really late at night during the holidays, knowing you don´t have to get up early the following morning? That was the best thing in the world when I was a child, I truly miss it.

There are loads of quotes on the topic of reading; today I´d like to share two of them with you, and the second one, to be honest, is not even about books! You´ll see.

Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.

Louis L’Amour

This first one is clear, right? When a book has an impact on us, there´s always something new, a new perspective, some new learning, that expands our vision of the world, and somehow changes us a little. And it doesn´t happen only with books, it happens with every experience we have in life, as if our life itself was a book, and we kept making progress with each chapter.

But beware, for the book of life contains a hidden danger...

  You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

Michael McMillian

… And it´s the danger of getting stuck in a certain “chapter”, in a story that we keep telling ourselves, again and again, and that´s preventing us from moving forward. An infinite loop… Until the moment we decide to break out of it and carry on.

And what about you, what story are you telling yourself? Are you making progress through the chapters? Or are you stuck?

Yes or no?

A few days ago, speaking about personalized T-shirts, my daughter Alicia told us that her ideal one would be black, plain, with a single word written in big white letters:

No.

I have to admit, it would suit her perfectly 🙂

Also, I´m delighted that she´s so self-confident at thirteen years of age. Because for me personally, it´s taken a considerable effort to learn to say no.

Does that ring a bell? Saying yes, to everything, maybe because of willingness to help others, not wanting to disappoint anyone, striving to be liked and thus feel loved and appreciated, or maybe because we think we´re indispensable… For these and many other reasons, we give away our time and energy to anyone who would ask. Sometimes, until we can no longer bear it.

But there´s one thing we need to realize: every time we say YES to something or someone, there is another something or someone that we´re saying NO to.

  • Who are you saying no to, when you forget to set limits and say yes to everything? yes?
  • How much time and energy are left for yourself (and the things that you choose) at the end of the day, the week, the month?
  • And how much space is left for you to grow, to enjoy, to welcome something new and unexpected in your life?

At this stage, you may have realized that you want to choose more consciously your yeses… but how can you start saying no no , in order to leave room for them?

One interesting perspective can be taking the word NO as an acronym:

NO = Next Opportunity

I love this idea because it has a double interpretation. On the one hand, when we´re asked for something that´s going to consume our time and energy, we can give ourselves permission to evaluate it and decide, and if in reality what we want is to leave space for something else that we value more, then we can respond in a kind, assertive and conscious way, secure in the knowledge of why we do it.

On the other hand, when we happen to be on the receiving end of that no, the acronym will help us to see that it´s not the end of the world and that there´s no need to take it personally. Because, if we want to set limits and get others to respect them, it´s only fair that we in turn respect the limits of others… And who knows, maybe that no turns out to be exactly what we need in order to wake up, learn something new, adjust, make progress, and end up finding an even better opportunity.

Would you dare put this into practice? I challenge you to say NO to something this week and see what happens!

By the way, that model of T-shirt does exist, it´s a good birthday present candidate 😉