Parents

Father's day was celebrated today in Spain, as always, coinciding with the festivity of Saint Joseph. And just by pure coincidence, today in Ireland what was celebrated was Mother's day, as it's the fourth Sunday of Lent.

The dates vary from country to country, but the intention is the same: honouring each of our parents in a special way, at least once a year. Thanking them for everything they've done for us, everything they've given us, starting with the gift of life.

A little child's hand grabbing an adult's hand

It's interesting to see how our relationship with our parents evolves over time, we go through different stages... Let me paste here one of the many versions there are out there of how a child sees their dad at different ages:

  • At age 4: My daddy can do anything.
  • At age 7: My dad knows a lot, a whole lot.
  • At age 8: My Father doesn`t know quite everything...
  • At age 12: Oh, well, naturally Father doesn`t know that, either.
  • At age 14: Father? Hopelessly old-fashioned.
  • At age 21: Oh, that man is out-of-date. What did you expect?
  • At age 25: He knows a little bit about it, but not much.
  • At age 30: Maybe we ought to find out what Dad thinks.
  • At age 35: A little patience. Let`s get Dad`s assessment before we do anything.
  • At age 50: I wonder what Dad would have thought about that. He was pretty smart.
  • At age 60: My dad knew absolutely everything!
  • At age 65: I`d give anything if Dad were here so I could talk this over with him. I really miss that man.

What do you think? Do you agree? And we could say the same thing about mothers. If you want proof, you only need to ask your kids what they think of you, especially if they´re teenagers 🙂

By the way, while we´re on the topic of honouring our elders, let´s also take the opportunity to remember our parents´ parents, and the parents of their parents... What I mean to say is, let´s remember where we come from, and celebrate our ancestors, for it´s thanks to all of them that we are here today, even if there are parts of our family history that we don´t particularly like. They all did their best with the knowledge and resources that they had.

From here, I'd like to wish health and happiness to all fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. And wish for us all not to wait until they´re gone to realize how much we can learn from them.

Framily

Today I'm bringing you a word that's probably not in the dictionary, but it definitely exists, and it has a beautiful meaning:

Framily

Surge de la combinaciĂłn de dos palabras en inglĂ©s, “family” (familia) y “friends” (amigos), y se refiere a un grupo de amigos que son tan cercanos que los consideras realmente familia. Son tu familia elegida, por asĂ­ decirlo. Si alguna vez has vivido en otro paĂ­s (o en una ciudad lejana) durante un periodo largo de tiempo, seguramente entiendas muy bien este concepto.

Three little wooden dolls representing a family, next to a amall tippee, with an Earth globe behind them

That's what happened to my husband and me when we moved to Ireland: being so far away from our respective families, we started to rely a lot more on our friends, forming a new circle of loved ones. And that circle expanded with the arrival of our children, and it grew stronger, until it became our framily.

A few years have gone by since then, and due to various circumstances we're a little scattered around these days; but every now and then, stars align and some of us are able to get together, like this weekend (missing those of you who are not here). I've been able to verify once again that the same bond and the same closeness are still there, and it's been great to see that our kids, who grew up together as children but then didn't see each other for years, wmare also greatly enjoing the reunion

Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if they're family of friends, or how you first met, the point is noticing the wonderful people that are part of your life, and nurturing your relationship with them.

Stuck in time

This week has seen the start of the month of February, which also has its celebration dates, even if they´re not as well known as those from other months.

Por ejemplo, el 2 de febrero se celebra en algunos lugares de España la fiesta de la Candelaria, o “las Candelas”, como se la llama en Cáceres, mi ciudad natal. Recuerdo que de pequeñas, mi hermana y yo nos vestĂ­amos “de campuzas” (con el traje regional tĂ­pico cacereño), y nos llevaban de romerĂ­a junto a la ermita de San Blas.

Ireland also has a celebration for this time of the year, specifically on February 1st: the Celtic tradition used to celebrate the holiday of Imbolc, which later on, with the arrival of Christianity, became Saint Brigid´s day, honouring Ireland´s female patron saint. Interestingly, the Celtic tradition considered this date to be the beginning of spring... Spring? Already? But how can it be, with this cold? Yes, it´s true, it´s still cold, but if you look carefully, around this time you will start to see little new plants sprouting, new life growing, after it all being kind of asleep during the winter.

And speaking of winter, another tradition for this time of the year, this time in the United States (sorry but I forgot the name of the town) is Groundhog Day, which supposedly predicts if the winter will continue for a while or if spring will be arriving soon.

Groundhog standing on their hind legs with a small twig in their hands

Realmente yo lo de la marmota lo recuerdo, como seguro que muchos de vosotros, por una pelĂ­cula que se hizo muy famosa en su dĂ­a: “Groundhog day”, que en España se tradujo como “Atrapado en el tiempo”. En ella, un reportero de televisiĂłn sarcástico y malhumorado se ve obligado a vivir una y otra vez el mismo dĂ­a, el 2 de febrero, DĂ­a de la Marmota, hasta que por fin aprende las lecciones que le trae la vida y se convierte en una persona mucho más autĂ©ntica.

Tan famosa es esta historia que cuando alguien nos dice que “vive en el dĂ­a de la marmota”, todos lo entendemos perfectamente, Âżverdad? Se siente atrapado en una rutina en la que todos los dĂ­as le parecen iguales. ÂżY cĂłmo se puede salir de ahĂ­?

Bueno, pues igual la pelĂ­cula misma nos puede dar algunas pistas. Por un lado, en algĂşn sitio oĂ­ o leĂ­ que si todos los dĂ­as nos parecen iguales y se nos pasan los meses y los años sin darnos cuenta, es porque no estamos aprendiendo nada nuevo… Por otro lado, a veces parece que la vida nos pone por delante las mismas situaciones una y otra vez, como si nos tropezáramos siempre con la misma piedra. ÂżNo será que lo que tenemos es que aprender otra manera mejor de gestionar esas situaciones, para asĂ­ poder “pasar pantalla” y llegar al siguiente nivel?

It´s very easy, and very tempting, to complain about routine and monotony in our day to day life, but that´s how we forget that the power to make every day count is actually in our hands.

So, what do you think? Do you feel like you´re living in Groundhog Day? And which is the song that plays on repeat for you every morning when you wake up?

Perspective

Has it ever happened to you that, while you were worrying about a problem or a challenge that seemed unsurmountable, suddenly something else happened that completely changed your perspective and made you realize it wasn´t that bad?

Sometimes I remember the beginning of the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, a book of mostly nonsensical humour that I read many years ago (thanks Hernán for lending it to me), and of which I don´t remember much, except for a couple of details I thought were full of genius geeky wisdom🙂

The story begins with the main character arriving one day at his house, only to discover it´s about to be demolished to build a new highway. Apparently, a notice sign had been put up a few weeks before, but he hadn´t seen it, and as you can imagine, he gets very nervous; he starts shouting at the construction workers, trying with all his might to save his house from getting destroyed... But as it turns out, it doesn´t really matter, because then he finds out that the whole planet Earth is about to be destroyed, in order to build a new intergalactic highway (and there was also a warning sign that nobody had read!).

How often do we get obsessed with a specific thing as if our life depended on it, and it doesn´t occur to us to take a step back, change the way we look at it, and that way get to see the big picture?

Close up of a glass ball on a wooden log, showing a rocky landscape that we can also see out of focus in the background

Another good example, this time from real life, was the beginning of the pandemic: many of our worries from before March 2020 suddenly disappeared, as we realized that what was truly important at that time was being healthy and safe, and everything else was an additional luxury.

And I´m not saying that our previous worries were not valid, on the contrary: every single thing that happens to us generates certain thoughts and feelings, sometimes alongside physical symptoms, that we should process; we should pay attention and give them their space, because they´re here to tell us something, to deliver a warning, or maybe a teaching.

What I´m saying is that the importance of things is relative, and when we don´t have something big to worry about... Sometimes our tendency is to worry about something small as if it were big.

O a veces estamos tan metidos en la situaciĂłn concreta que sea que nos cuesta verla con claridad, y como dice el dicho, “los árboles nos impiden ver el bosque”. Es entonces cuando mejor nos viene el buscar otra perspectiva, y hay muchas tĂ©cnicas que nos pueden ayudar a conseguirlo, tanto en solitario como con ayuda de un amigo, o de un profesional.

Por ejemplo, cuando estemos atascados intentando tomar una decisiĂłn porque nos da miedo elegir mal, puede ser Ăştil el recordarnos que, en esta vida, son realmente muy pocas las probabilidades de que una decisiĂłn nuestra provoque un daño irreversible e irreparable. La mayorĂ­a de las veces, tanto si sale “bien” como si sale “mal”, las consecuencias son perfectamente asumibles, asĂ­ que podemos permitirnos decidir, actuar, y sobre todo aprender de los resultados.

Por cierto, lo de “bien” y “mal” lo pongo entre comillas porque como ya sabemos, todo es relativo… Salvo en the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, where they were able to find the ultimate specific answer to the Big Question on Life, the Universe, and Everything 🙂

Discomfort

There have been a few moments this week when I have felt a little uncomfortable.

Nothing serious, only a bit of discomfort when facing situations outside my usual day-to-day. They were somewhat tense moments (inside my head, at least), in which I didn´t know what to do or say in order to avoid making a mistake, and I felt clumsy and incompetent, a bit like a fish out of the water.

Outside my comfort zone.

But also this week, interestingly, I heard an analogy that worked wonders in making me change my perspective.

Discomfort is something that we naturally tend to avoid, as we find it unpleasant, whether it´s related to a physical sensation or any other kind of uncomfortable feeling, like in certain social situations.

But for example, when we´re practicing a sport, what we´re doing is essentially subjecting our body to a certain degree of discomfort during a set period of time, with the goal of developing our muscles and making them stronger. And bit by bit, with perseverance, our body gets used to it, and becomes capable of doing that exercise more and more easily and with less and less effort.

Está muy claro que si no nos movemos del sillĂłn, nuestros mĂşsculos no se desarrollan. Pues de la misma manera, podrĂ­amos argumentar que nuestros “mĂşsculos” sociales, y nuestras habilidades en general, se desarrollan viviendo experiencias un poco incĂłmodas, que son las que nos remueven, nos desafĂ­an y nos impulsan a aprender.

Because, let´s be realistic: when we feel a hundred percent comfortable, it´s because we´re not learning at all...

A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.

John Assaraf

I remember that before moving to Ireland, I was not used to feeling cold at all, and I found it really hard. Then as years went by, I acclimatized, and nowadays, it´s not that I enjoy being cold or anything like that, but that sensation that I used to find so uncomfortable in the past is not such a big deal now, I find it much more bearable. Why? Because at some point I decided to stop avoiding feeling cold at all costs, and I allowed myself to feel a bit of the cold and confirm that it wasn´t the end of the world and that I could still function normally. Now I believe I´ve freed myself from having to always keep an ideal temperature.

Llevando el mismo razonamiento a las situaciones que os comentaba al principio, ahora por suerte sĂ© que el sentirme incĂłmoda durante unos minutos no es el fin del mundo. Todo lo contrario: es una oportunidad para estar atenta y observar (y observar-me), ejercitar “mĂşsculos” que a lo mejor no sabĂ­a ni que tenĂ­a, y confiar en que acabarĂ© aprendiendo algo nuevo.

What about you, what makes you feel uncomfortable? And what is that discomfort trying to teach you?

Excitement

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 Ă©poca del año llena de ilusiĂłn y de alegrĂ­a, aunque tambiĂ©n acompañada de cierta dosis de estrĂ©s: 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 dĂ­as, o quizá este año nos enfrentamos a alguna situaciĂłn que nos impide celebrarlo como nos gustarĂ­a.

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 todavĂ­a más en estas fechas, cuando parece que todos tenemos que estar contentos casi por obligaciĂłn (nuestro amigo RaĂşl lo llamaba algo asĂ­ como “el simulacro universal de paz y amor”, creo que la expresiĂłn la sacĂł de un capĂ­tulo 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 impresiĂłn 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 travĂ©s de la publicidad y las pelĂ­culas, a las que nosotros tenemos sobre quĂ© debemos hacer y cĂłmo 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?

Expectations

This week I´m late writing my usual post. I normally publish it on Sunday night, but this time I wasn´t able to make it, and I honestly feel bad for not having done it.

For failing to meet expectations.

Man dressing in a business outfit sitting in front of his laptop, checking his wristwatch and frowning

And if I stop to think about it, I realize this is a feeling that´s been with me for my entire life. Feeling that I´m not doing it well enough, that I´m not living up to expectations.

But, who´s expectations are those? Good question. Very often, the first answer that comes up for us is that they´re other people´s expectations, but do we really know for sure if that´s the case? Could it what we believe other people´s expectations to be? Or what we expect for ourselves?

In any case, I think it´s always useful to reflect a bit and talk to whoever we need to talk to in order to clarify those expectations, it can save us a lot of stress and plenty of headaches (sometimes literally!)

So let me take this opportunity and ask you: did you miss my weekly post this morning? Did you even notice it wasn´t there?

Movie or video game?

Do you like video games?

My general answer, as of today, would probably be a no. But there was a time in my younger years when I used to play some video games.

Well, Tetris, mostly. I used to looooooooooooooove Tetris.

I played on a Nintendo Game Boy, which back then was the coolest pocket video game device ever. The games came in removable cartridges, and I had a few cartridges apart from Tetris , including Super Mario Land, which I also used to play quite a lot.

I liked those games (and I was more or less good at them) because they came with very clear instructions: fitting pieces together in order to complete horizontal lines, or running from left to right, jumping around, and catching as many gold coins as possible. But later on, when more sophisticated computer and console games came along, like graphic adventures and so on, I lost interest.

Hands holding a videogame remote control

Because the instructions for those games were not nearly as clear: there was much more freedom of movement, which also meant a much bigger need for quick decisions, adventure, and exploration… I felt lost, not knowing what to do or where to go, and I found it overwhelming. So I got to the point where I preferred not to play.

I preferred watching a movie for example, which was much easier and more comfortable.

So, why am I telling you all this? Because today I´d like to share with you some thoughts on two ways to see life: as a movie or as a video game..

If we choose to see life as a movie, it looks like everything is easier: we don´t have to do anything, just sit down comfortably on the sofa and watch life go by. But the thing is, if for some reason we don´t like the way the story is unfolding, there´s nothing we can do to change it, or to change how it ends, because we cannot interact with a movie. At most, we can complain, shut down the TV, or get up and leave the room. But the movie stays the same.

On the contrary, if we choose to see life as a video game, then that means more work: it´s time to get up from the sofa, take the controls, and start moving, exploring, and making decisions. And yes, we may make mistakes along the way. But in exchange, we get the opportunity to live our own adventure, influencing the course of the game and the results we progressively obtain. We can experiment, discover, get surprised, get it right, get it wrong, learn, course correct, and try again, as many times as we need (for as long as we have lives left!). We can change the game, and as the game changes, we also get to change.

What do you think about these two ways of looking at life? And which one do you choose for yourself today? I recently realized that I´ve already spent many years watching movies, so I´m starting to take up the video game controls, would you like to play as well?

Ends and beginnings

Here´s a quote that resonates with me with special strength today:

The end is never the end, it´s always the beginning of something.

Kate Lord Brown

My colleagues and I have spent the weekend presenting our final Masters´ degree projects, this way culminating a whole year of learning and transformation. I feel proud, very happy, a bit nostalgic about the cycle that´s now at an end, and very excited about the one that´s about to start.

A todos mis compañeros de “la 15”, mil gracias y enhorabuena, ahora es cuando empieza de verdad la aventura 🙂

Routine (not monotony)

The month of September is starting, and in the northern hemisphere, the summer is now at an end, or getting very close to it: it´s the moment to get back to a routine.

Calendar sheet for the month of September, on a pink pastel surface, surrounded by groups of dried flowers and small ornaments

What goes through your mind when you hear or read this word, routine? I get the impression that many of us, at least the adults, have a love-hate relationship with it…

Of course, for children this is also the moment to get back to a routine: it´s back to school time, or will be very soon, depending on the country. What´s interesting with kids is that, because they´re growing, their routine keeps changing every year, it´s never exactly the same. Each school year brings new activities, new excitement, and new challenges; it´s a brand-new adventure.

ÂżY para los adultos? Pues depende. Como nosotros no siempre “pasamos de curso”, nos puede parecer que volvemos exactamente a la misma rutina de siempre, al mismo trabajo, a la misma gente, a las mismas obligaciones… En realidad sĂ­ que hay cosas que cambian, pero igual no destacan lo suficiente como para que les prestemos atenciĂłn. Y si durante las vacaciones hemos conseguido “escaparnos” de un trabajo o de un ambiente que no nos gustaba mucho, ahora el tener que volver puede que no nos haga demasiada gracia.

But the thing is, like children, adults also thrive in a routine, it helps all of us to stay much more centered. We, humans, are creatures of habit.

So then, why do we dislike this time of the year so much?

Could it be that we confuse routine with monotony?

A routine provides structure to our day and week, it´s like the framework where we can place our different tasks and activities. And even if some of those tasks and activities are imposed from the outside, many others are not, so we have some flexibility to adapt, make changes, experiment, and see what happens.

Now that we´re just starting the cycle again, it´s a good moment to introduce small changes in our daily routine, starting with simple things that can translate into big results. For example, here are a few suggestions to start your day on the right foot:

  • Breathing consciously
  • Planning/visualizing your day
  • Reading an inspiring book
  • Writing down your thoughts
  • Repeating positive affirmations
  • Being thankful for what you already have
  • Meditating for a few minutes
  • Doing some yoga or stretching
  • Going out for a walk, a run, playing a sport…
  • Preparing a special breakfast for yourself

All of these are beneficial at any time of the day; my suggestion is to dedicate the first time slot of the day to them (to YOU), before speaking to anybody else, and before reaching out for your mobile phone, so that you start your day from a place of intention, instead of just reacting to whatever happens to you.

What are your thoughts? What new activities and challenges are you going to add to your daily routine this year, to avoid falling into monotony?