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.
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 :-)
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 ;-)
This week I'm writing to you from Cáceres, my home town. I'm back "home" for a few days, enjoying family, friends and the last few days of summer. And after the year and a half that we've had, I'm truly enjoying it, fully, without taking anything for granted :-)
I'm feeling a bit odd, like I'm at home but also away from home at the same time, as if things had changed while somehow staying the same... I'm a bit like this every time I come, but now even more so, with everything that's been happening during this time.
Searching for quotes related to this topic, I bumped into this one, I hope you like it:
Have you ever been in a situation where you have a problem or a question, and simply by explaining it to another person, you find the solution yourself? And not because the other person did anything in particular...
In fact, “the other person” doesn´t even have to be a person at all. It can even be an object, like a rubber duck for example.
And I say rubber duck because this is exactly the name that´s been given to this technique in the IT world: the rubber duck debugging method., o en inglés, the rubber duck debugging method.
This method proves really useful when you´re programming and get stuck trying to resolve an error (or bug) that´s preventing your application from behaving as it should. The idea is to explain the situation to the rubber duck, and to do it in great detail because of course, the duck knows absolutely nothing about your application. So you have to explain the context, the exact problem you´re trying to solve, how you´re trying to solve it, the code you´ve written line by line… And very often what happens as you´re going through it with such a level of detail is that you suddenly realize where the problem is, and how you can solve it.
Super cool, right?
You might be wondering: ¿why a rubber duck? Honestly, I don’t know, maybe it all started out as a joke, but the truth is that this method is as useful as it is simple (once you get over the awkwardness of talking to a duck, or any other inanimate object of your choosing), and can be used not only for debugging code but for life in general.
I imagine this technique works so well because it forces you to take the problem out of your head and see it from the outside, from a different perspective, so you stop going about it in your head the same way again and again. Moreover, the action of going through it step by step and out loud helps you to focus on details that you may have overlooked before, that way increasing the chances of identifying the real problem and finding a solution.
What do you think? Are you willing to give it a try? Perhaps next time I see a rubber duck in a shop, I´ll buy it to keep it here by my computer :-)
A conversation that plays out quite often in our house, and one that you can probably relate to, is negotiating in a given moment what´s mandatory and what´s optional.
My daughter Alicia is the expert in all this, though her sisters are not far behind. When I ask her to do something she´s not convinced about, Alicia asks: “do I have to?”. And my answer, most of the time, is “yes”.
But not always. So she´s right to ask :-)
In fact, this is something that most of us should ask (ourselves) more often: this thing I have in front of me, this thing “I have to do”, do I really have to do it? ¿According to whom? What happens if I don´t do it, or if I do it differently?
Clearly, the answer can be a yes, it needs to be done, and it may still be yes most times, but it may also surprise us and end up being a no more often than we thought. Or we could come up with another alternative, an intermediate solution that´s even better than the previous one… By asking the question we allow ourselves to see the options, and we have more ability to choose.
Of course, whatever we decide, we have to be responsible and fully accept the consequences. But the key point is that we have options, even if we don´t always see them, even if we don´t always like them. But we do have options. And once we realize this, we can choose whatever we see fit, and “I have to…” becomes “I choose…”, and the burden becomes a little lighter.
Here are a couple of quotes that I love on this topic, as they go a step further, inviting us to choose how to relate to what is happening in our life:
This one I heard for the first time in a yoga class (thanks Carsun!), and felt it especially close when giving birth to my girls, before realizing that it can really be applied to everything in life, not only physical pain.
And this other one I only heard recently; it seems to me that it´s very fitting to the times we´re now living:
Today I felt like reflecting on the title for this website and blog: binary words... but what do words and binary have in common?
Computers and language? They do have a lot in common.
Did you know that we as people are not so different from computers? We have hardware, our body, which needs energy in order to work. Of course, we don't work on electricity; our energy comes from feeding and hydrating ourselves properly, and from recharging batteries by sleeping and resting :-)
We also have software, a set of "programs" that are running inside our mind. Some of the programs we kick off ourselves, as in the case of computers, and we see them and use them consciously; but in addition to those, the operating system runs many other programs that remain unseen, in the background, making everything work...
That's our unconscious programming, our autopilot, based on beliefs and values that are well established within us and that we rarely question, even though they may not even be ours, and we may have inherited them or acquired them without realizing. And that unconscious programming pulls the strings in our day-to-day a lot more than we can imagine.
Perhaps that autopilot is producing some results that we don´t want in our life. The good news is that we can re-program it, once we find that program or programs that are causing us trouble, or are preventing us from moving in the direction we wish to go.
But how? How can we bring to the light those troublesome "lines of code", and replace them with better ones?
A programming language that we can use is words.
There is a lot of power in words, and this is something we often forget. The way we talk to others matters a lot. And the way we talk to ourselves matters even more, because we give it even less attention, not realizing that it's a crucial factor in how things turn out for us in life.
So let's pay attention to the words around us, the ones that make up our world, the ones we use almost without realizing. How is our internal dialogue? How do we talk to ourselves, and in turn, to other people? What are our words conveying? Complaint, criticism, defeat, negativity?
Those words will give us clues about the programs that may be undermining our efforts to move towards where we want to be. And bit by bit, digging deeper, we will get to see clearly what's behind those words, and we will have the power to transform them into other that help us and encourage us, instead of holding us back. We will have the power to choose our destiny.
And following on with the computer metaphor: we, like computers, need connecting to be able to fully function. Nowadays very little can be done without an internet connection... With people, it may be less obvious, but at the end of the day we are social beings, we need to connect with others emotionally in order to live a full life. And even less obvious, but equally necessary, is to connect with ourselves, to have an interest in getting to know and learning to love ourselves.
The confinement months have tested our ability to connect, and maybe thanks to that, we now appreciate connections more than ever. As the saying goes, it´s all fun and games until you lose your wifi signal! (todo son risas y juegos hasta que pierdes la señal de wifi)
Today I´m sharing another text that I kept for many years on my bedroom wall, this time in my parents´ house. Thanks Lucía for reminding me how beautiful and inspiring it is, almost a century after being published:
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career,
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
sino doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Continuing with the art tour of my own house, this picture is patiently waiting for us to hang it on my bedroom wall:
Beatha, Gáire, Grá are the three Irish words for Life, Laughter, Love… The only one I know how to pronounce properly is Beatha [ba-ha], and it’s a word I’m very fond of, those who work with me will know why ;-)
The lines are the same three words written in Ogham, the earliest written form of primitive Irish. The Ogham alphabet has twenty letters, each represented by one or more lines, and when it´s written vertically like here, it´s read from bottom to top.
Three simple yet powerful words, written in three different ways, reminding me to pay attention to what really matters.
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:
An unexpected little present, and a lovely memory, thanks Sharon!