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.

101100

It´s been my birthday this week, this is how old I am now: 101100.

Written in binary format, of course, honoring my training as a computer scientist, and the title of this blog 😊

But given that a person is way, way more than just one single identity, and given that I never liked that division between “people of science” and “people of letters” (which was very much in fashion, at least in Spain, a few years ago), I´m telling you with letters as well:

It´s been my birthday this week, this is how old I am now: XLIV, in Roman numerals.

Then, if we want to go into “geek” land (which is a term that I do identify with, because if you think about it, deep down we are all “geeks” for something), we can express it in hexadecimal code as well: 0x2C.

My only regret is that I haven´t been able to write it in a particular code that I really like, but that unfortunately only contains symbols for letters, and not numbers… Maybe one day I´ll take my geekiness to a whole new level, and invent Dada Urka numbers 😊

Travel companions

I´m writing these lines from Madrid airport, waiting for my flight back to Dublin.

For the past few days, I´ve had the rare chance to allow myself to make a stop along the way, put the (often frantic) rhythm of my daily life between brackets, and pay attention to what´s truly important… It´s been a true privilege, and I´m really grateful for it.

Among many other things, I´ve truly enjoyed sharing time, affection and conversations with several people that once were, or perhaps still are, my travel companions.

  • My mum, brothers and sisters, who were the first companions I had in life, and who are still walking along with me, even in the distance.
  • My siblings-in-law, warm and loving as always, and my nephews and nieces, the next generation, coming in with tremendous force (you guys are all so lovely 😉)
  • My dear cousin, whom I hadn´t seen in ages 😊 (I was so happy to see you Borja)
  • Family friends who are as close as family itself; we know we can always count on you.
  • Friends that make you feel that it doesn´t matter how long it´s been since you saw each other last, the connection is still there, and keeps growing(you know who you are)
  • A reunion that sent us back down memory lane, with dancing steps… (thanks a million for everything Cristina!)
  • And speaking of memory lane, there was even time for laughs, looking at old photos from my first communion 😃

Then, the icing on the cake has taken place today: I´ve been lucky enough to meet in person with several colleagues in this new adventure of reinvention I´ve embarked on. Even though we´ve only been walking together for a short time, you´re already leaving your mark on my life, we´re growing together, and there´s so much that we still have to share…

To be honest, I´m going home with a feeling of joy, treasuring the moments that I spent with all of you. Thank you so much, my travel companions.

Farewell, Dad

My father passed away this week, at the age of eighty-eight, may he rest in peace.

They say the best way to lead is by example, and that’s exactly how he did it. In a way that was firm, but also warm and straightforward. Through his attitude, his habits and his personal and professional code of ethics, he was a superb example for my siblings and me, and later on, for his grandchildren as well.

Many remember his good memory, his manners (rather serious, though good humoured), and the quality of his work, always impeccable. But the topic that comes up most frequently in conversations when we remember him, the thing that’s etched in the memory of those who knew him, is the way he used to congratulate them on their birthdays.

In these times when many of us seem to spend our days “collecting friends” on social media, and keep sending each other superficial messages, he used to dedicate time every day to sit down and write cards by hand, to personally wish happy birthday to the many friends, relatives and acquaintances listed in his notebook. And then for the closest family members, his happy birthday wish arrived in the form of a text message, delivered to our phone exactly at midnight, so that we could start celebrating our day from the first minute.

He kept a place in his thoughts and his heart for each person that came along in his life, regardless of whether he saw them frequently or hadn´t seen them in decades. A beautiful example, which I would like to follow (even if it is in more modern ways), not only for what it is but also for what it represents: giving importance to what is important. And work is important, of course, and it´s important to do it as best as we can. But people are, always, more important.

Thanks for your example Dad, for so many things I´ve been so lucky to learn from you. And farewell.

Uncertainty

Christmas is almost upon us, and I don´t know about you, but this year I´m finding it a bit difficult to get into the holiday spirit. In a time of the year when people usually make lots of plans, uncertainty feels heavier than usual... And I mention "than usual" because I would dare say that over the last two years, we have all adapted to a certain level of constantly not knowing what´s going to happen. And we know that at one point or another, we´re going to keep bumping into uncertain situations.

snowy pathway surrounded by bare tree

But given that our brain doesn´t like uncertainty at all, what happens is that if we leave it in auto-pilot, it spends loads of energy staying alert and imagining the worst case scenario, causing us unnecessary stress until we end up exhausted. And that´s not sustainable in the long term.

The solution? Learning to feel comfortable with the discomfort of not having absolute certainty, of not knowing how things are going to turn out, of not having everything under control.

And what can be super helpful here? Trusting.

Trusting that everything is going to turn out in the best possible way, in the way it's supposed to turn out, even if it's not the way that we want, or we´re not able to understand why. When we dare to let go and trust life, the story changes. The uncertainty may still be there, but the fear disappears.

Let me copy here a few words from Brené Brown on this, linking with the topic of vulnerability:

I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.

Happy holidays. May uncertainty not prevent you from living them fully, perhaps this year in a new and different way.

Starting over

They say each day is an opportunity to start over… And yes, that´s true, but it´s also true that there are certain times of the year when it´s easier to get that feeling of a clean slate. For example, when a new season starts: the days change in length, the weather also changes, and we take the opportunity not only to renew our wardrobe but also to adapt our habits to whatever is appropriate at that time of the year.

And one of the changes in season that most impact us is the beginning of a new school year, which in both Ireland and Spain (where I live and where I come from, respectively) takes place in the month of September.

"Back to school" written on a black backboard

It´s a moment where I usually feel very energized, ready to start new projects, create new routines, and get settled again after a change of scenery during the summer.

And this year is no exception: on the contrary, I´m even more excited, as this year brings big changes in my personal and professional life (if there´s even a way to separate one from the other), and for once I feel like accepting the challenge of embracing uncertainty, of walking towards it instead of avoiding it… To be honest, I´m not too sure how it will all turn out or where I will end up, but I do know that it´s going to be a very interesting path, full of challenges and learning, and I can´t wait to get started :-)

Friendships

Back when I was in college, my friend Merche had a poster in her room that I liked a lot. The drawing was a very colourful cartoon of a group of animals, I recall there was a giraffe, an elephant... And the phrase that went with it read: "Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes"

As we go through life we meet a variety of people, we make friendships, we share periods of time with some people or other. And although we usually thend to look for persons with whom we have things in common, when we make friends who are somehow different (and there are a thousand ways to be different), that friendship ends up being even more enriching: it helps us to grow, widen our world and see other perspectives.

Some friendships are lost as time goes by, others stay, and others change and evolve along the years. And it's completely natural: neither you nor them are the same you were a year ago, or ten, or twenty, and sometimes each person's path goes in a different direction. But that doesn't diminish at all the fondness and the time you once shared.

And then thankfully, without apparent reason, there are certain friendships that are not affected by time. It doesn't matter how long ago we saw each other for the last time, or if we have lost contact for months, or even years... When we get to meet again, we get back that same old closeness, that same old joy and fondness.

I am incredibly lucky to have found a good few of those friends for which time doesn't matter. And this week I've been able to get together with a few of them. Thanks a million guys (and girls), you know who you are ;-)

Original by Dani&She

An unexpected present

I´m not much into sea swimming in general; I grew up inland and it´s not something I´m used to. But what I do love is walking along the beach, dipping my feet in the water. 

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of doing exactly that, as I watched a gorgeous sunset. It had been a very hot day, but at that time it had cooled down a little, and the temperature was ideal, even the water felt less cold than usual to me… Most people had already returned home, there were only a few left. And at that moment, it was all peace and quiet.

What a joy.

So there I was peacefully walking, enjoying the scenery, deep in my own world of thoughts, feeling happy for having set aside my to-do list for a little while to live the present moment (and in my head giving shape to a blog post about priorities, which I will write some other day) when another visitor of the beach took this cool picture:

Bea walking along the beach at dusk, her reflection showing in the water

An unexpected little present, and a lovely memory, thanks Sharon!

Recharged batteries

Every once in a while it´s good to have a change of scenery, even if it´s just for a couple of days, to set aside the daily routine, change perspective, and recharge batteries. This summer, for the second year in a row, I took the girls on a mini-vacation in Ireland, or using a popular expression nowadays, on a staycation (holidaying without leaving the country).

It´s really such a joy to go out and visit new places, or return to places you visited years ago... And these lockdown times have made me appreciate these opportunities more than ever. I´ve loved going back to the ring of Kerry, and we´ve had the privilege of seeing it at our own pace, without rushing, and without the endless row of tourist buses that usually invade these lands during the summer months. 

During this family trip, we´ve had a bit of everything: surprises, changes of plans, lots of music on the radio (of varying quality), lots of ice cream (and chocolate!), and above all, lots of amazing landscapes. Here´s an example, the Kerry cliffs:

View of the Kerry cliffs and the sea

So in summary, we´re bringing back a big load of good memories, enough to keep us going until the next break. And if going away on a holiday for a few days feels great, equally great is coming back home afterward :-)

After having this little rest (more of a mental break than a physical one, I must say), I´m resuming my day to day with renewed energy, especially the couple of projects I´m working on, that I´m really excited about, one of them this blog of course. I´ll keep you posted.

Version history

The extraordinary circumstances we have lived in this past year have resulted in many of us thinking about reinventing ourselves, be it out of necessity, due to changes in our lives and our surroundings, or simply due to having more time for reflection, for taking an honest look at our life and evaluating the possibility of altering our course.

The word "reinvention" used to sound to me as very radical, and I have to say I was almost afraid of it. Until I remembered what my good friend Bea told me once: that along the way in our own history we are really living many lives; every time we turn a page, it´s a new life.

And I realized I had already reinvented myself, and more than once.

Life cycles of man and woman.

Coming as I am from the IT world, what came to my mind was comparing each of those reinventions with a "version change" in my life. Every significant change has meant some progress, some learning, which I´ve been able to incorporate to the next version of myself. Some of those life events I chose, others I didn´t. Some of them were bigger than others, the same way an operating system or application can get upgraded to a "major" or "minor" version (if I´ve lost you already, here´s more information about software versioning).

So I got to work and ended up building my own version history:

  • V0 (version zero) - I arrive in this world (more specifically in Cáceres, Spain) on March 10th 1978.
  • V1.0 I decide to study Computer Engineering - the first "real" decision of my life.
    • V1.1 - I get a boyfriend.
    • V1.2 - I finish college and move to Madrid, searching for a job.
    • V1.3 - I get my first job, in a consulting firm.
    • V1.4 - I change jobs, my assigned project gets cancelled and they let me go.
    • V1.5 - I find another job, in another consulting firm.
    • V1.6 - I get interested in translating, and take a course - university expert in translation Spanish-English
  • V2.0 - I get married and move to Dublin, Ireland
    • V2.1 - I find my first job in Ireland, as an analyst/programmer, in a great company (bye-bye consulting)
    • V2.2 - Mi daughter Irene is born - I become a mother.
    • V2.3 - I have a miscarriage with my second pregnancy.
    • V2.4 - My daughter Alicia is born.
    • V2.5 - I take a Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) course.
  • V3.0 I decide to take a career break, and spend more time with my daughters
    • V3.1 - I take a course in teaching Spanish as a second language.
    • V3.2 - My daughter Eva is born.
  • V4.0 I separate from my husband (later on I get divorced).
    • V4.1 - I start working in another great company, as a systems analyst.
    • V4.2 - I buy my own house to live in, with my daughters.
    • V4.3 - I transition from IT to a business role within the same company.
    • V4.4 - I adapt myself to working from home and changing the shared custody routine.

So there you go: at least three reinventions, three big changes, with their little gradual changes in between... Funnily enough, my first calculation ended up in version 4.3, now that I´m 43 years old :-)

I hope this example motivates you to reflect on your own experiences, on how you have upgraded versions so many times already, facing big and small challenges, and how you have succeeded and learned with all of them... that will give you confidence to face whatever comes next, continuing to evolve.

In the meantime, as it couldn´t be any other way, I´m already working on my fourth reinvention, preparing version 5.0.