Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! To all of you who celebrate, be it as a religious festivity or simply as an occasion to enjoy spending time with your loved ones.

Christmas tree leaves close up with lights, golden stars and golden bauble

Either way, I hope you're having the opportunity to do something different, as well as rest and recharge batteries now that we're getting closer to the end of the year.

And with the new year, new things will come to BinaryWords! For the moment, let me leave you with a phrase I saw yesterday in a Christmas market stall here in my home town, it read something like...

Living is like riding a bike: in order to maintain your balance you need to keep moving forward

UPDATE: after writing this post I learned that the quote is by Albert Einstein, and its wording is slightly different: it mentions moving, doesn't say in which direction. But I say, given that we have to move, why not moving forward?

Christmas carols

Yesterday I spent my afternoon listening to (and singing along to) some "villancicos", which are the traditional Spanish Christmas songs. I found a Youtube compilation that was very similar to what I used to listen to when I was little, a cassette tape with carols sung by children, and it brought me many happy memories.

Old looking sheet music surrounded by Christmas tree leaves and small pink and purple baubles

Some Spanish "villancicos" are versions of Christmas carols originally written in other languages, like Silent night or The little drummer boy, with soft and harmonious melodies. Then there are the ones originally written in Spanish, like "Los peces en el río" (Fish in the river) or La marimorena .(I really don´t know how to translate this one), with lively tempos, cheerful melodies, and instruments like tambourines and "zambombas" (which Google says can be translated as "friction drum" - it´s a typical Spanish thing). Anyway, as you know, Spanish people love celebrating things by being loud 🙂

To be honest, "villancicos" are some of my most treasured Christmas memories. Now thinking about it, I believe it has to do with them being songs that are passed from generation to generation, and that we can all sing together, the whole family. I used to love singing them myself as a child, and years later, when it was time for my daughters to learn them, I really enjoyed passing them along. It was as if, for a little while, I also became a child again...

For me, Christmas carols combine the power of music, which lifts our spirit and brings us together, with the excitement of Christmas. And if you look at it this way, they´re the perfect excuse for us to allow ourselves to become children again, set aside our worries for a little while, and truly enjoy the present moment.

What about you? Do you like Christmas carols? Which one is your favourite? And what other things make you feel as excited as a child?

Untranslatable sentences: me da pereza

Today I´m bringing you one of those untranslatable phrases that I enjoy collecting, only this time it goes the other way round: it´s an expression in Spanish for which I can´t find a good English translation.

Example scenario: it´s Friday evening, and the company´s Christmas party is starting in a couple of hours. Outside it´s already dark, and quite cold; the snow from the previous night has started turning into ice. I´m feeling warm and cozy at home, and when I start thinking about dressing up and going out, into Dublin´s city centre, to attend the party...

Me da pereza.

Grey cat lying on its side a wooden shelf, looking at the camera

Eso es lo que diría yo en español, “me da pereza”, que viene a ser algo así como que “me sobreviene un sentimiento de vagancia al pensar en hacer X”. Es como que me canso sólo de pensarlo. Es una poderosa sensación que se me viene encima… y que me empuja hacia el sofá 😀

Buscando por ahí, he encontrado dos posibles traducciones: “I don´t feel like it”, que significa “no me apetece”, y “I can´t/couldn´t) be bothered”, que básicamente quiere decir que no lo voy a hacer, bien porque no lo considero necesario, o porque no me interesa, o porque soy demasiado vago como para hacer el esfuerzo.

Supongo que, de las dos, la que más se acerca es el “I don´t feel like it”, porque transmite la sensación de que en general creo que hacer X es una buena idea, pero que ahora mismo no me apetece o no tengo energía para hacerlo. El “couldn´t be bothered” no me acaba de encajar, no me parece que le dé valor ninguno a X (por pasotismo, indiferencia, o a saber qué), y además ya presupone que, sea lo que sea X, no lo voy a hacer.

Y esa es, en mi opinión, la gracia del “me da pereza”, o del “no me apetece”: que impone pero no impide, es una barrera que se puede superar. Nuestro cerebro muchas veces se quiere ir a lo fácil, a lo cómodo, a lo que nos ahorre más energía, y por muy buenas razones (véase instinto de conservación). Pero nosotros no tenemos por qué hacerle siempre caso, porque él no siempre sabe lo que más nos conviene…

I'm not saying that we shouldn't listen to our body when it really needs to rest, of course we should. But beyond that, it may be good for us to think about what it is that's holding us back, and why. What's hiding behind that laziness? What are we really trying to avoid? And what reward can we find if we go ahead regardless? That way, we will know if it's worth making that initial effort.

Did I finally go to the party? Yes, I did. Why? Because I knew that once I got there, I would have a great time, and that's exactly what happened. What was my strategy? The same one that's worked for me so many times in the past - going straight into getting ready without thinking too much about it, and most importantly, not sitting on the couch!

What about you? What is it that you don't usually feel like doing, and how do you motivate yourself to get over it?


December is here, and in the countries that celebrate Christmas, the Christmas spirit has already invaded everything: streets full of light, families decorating their houses, shops full of people buying presents, Christmas carols and other seasonal songs playing everywhere...

Para muchas personas es una época del año llena de ilusión y de alegría, aunque también acompañada de cierta dosis de estrés: igual tenemos que hacer preparativos para viajar, o nos toca recibir familiares o amigos en casa. A lo mejor nos estamos temiendo esa “sobredosis” de reuniones familiares y otros compromisos que suele haber en estos días, o quizá este año nos enfrentamos a alguna situación que nos impide celebrarlo como nos gustaría.

Maybe it´s the first Christmas without a loved one, who´s going to be very present in our hearts and our thoughts.

O a lo mejor estamos pasando por una mala racha, del tipo que sea, y el malestar aumenta todavía más en estas fechas, cuando parece que todos tenemos que estar contentos casi por obligación (nuestro amigo Raúl lo llamaba algo así como “el simulacro universal de paz y amor”, creo que la expresión la sacó de un capítulo de Los Simpson).

For many people, unfortunately, that discomfort is much much deeper... There may be feelings of sadness and loneliness that the rest of us are not able to understand from the outside.

En cualquier caso, me da la impresión de que gran parte del problema nos lo creamos nosotros mismos con nuestras propias expectativas, a todos los niveles: desde las que nos vende la sociedad a través de la publicidad y las películas, a las que nosotros tenemos sobre qué debemos hacer y cómo nos debemos sentir, pasando por las dinámicas familiares o de nuestros grupos sociales más cercanos. Año tras año nos “compramos” esas expectativas, y luego nos decepcionamos y nos frustramos cuando vemos que no se cumplen.

That´s why this year I´d like to propose something different to you. I propose that you rekindle your excitement for something related to Christmas (if you celebrate Christmas that is, or at least the winter holidays, or the new year). It can be a particular tradition or anything else you can think of that you´re excited about, no matter how small. And once that moment arrives, I propose that you let go of expectations and LIVE IT, enjoy it as it is, the way it´s happening, without comparing it to how you would have liked it to happen. Because things change, life is constantly changing, and the only moment that you can really enjoy is the present.

So, what about you? What are you excited about this Christmas?