Violinists in the subway

Life is full of little details, of those details that go unnoticed when we´re lost in our own thoughts, which is most of the time. More often than not, our auto-pilot is turned on, and we´re worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, thus missing the present.

And of course, ignoring as we are all those details that make each day unique and special, it´s no wonder that we feel like we´re living in groundhog day!

But if we get to slow down a little, and focus on being alert and present as the mindfulness practice teaches us, then we start noticing surprising things, amazing things, wherever we are. Because there´s beauty everywhere, as long as we know how to see it.

I recently heard a really cool story related to this (thanks Paz!), an experiment that was carried out a few years ago in the United States. A superfamous violinist, one of the best in the world, set himself up as a busker in a subway station in Washington D.C., playing with his Stradivarius violin during rush hour. He played for almost forty-five minutes, and during that time, only seven people stopped to listen to his music, and only one of them recognized him. All the rest walked by, carrying on with their daily stress and worries… Is that really the way we want to live? Always passing by, only to complain afterwards about how we´re stuck in a rut?

The good news is that we can break that cycle. Each morning when we wake up, we have a choice between turning on the auto-pilot and living one more groundhog day, or shifting our perspective, and letting ourselves be surprised by the “subway violinists”: a spectacular sunset, your children´s joy when arriving home, a chat with a loved one…

Today´s “violinist” for me is realizing that this is the fiftieth post in this blog 🙂 What´s yours?

Go raibh mile maith agat

It was Saint Patrick´s day earlier this week, and all around the world there were celebrations of everything to do with Ireland and the Irish, including their very own language: Irish (or Gaelic).

I used to think that I was good at languages, but that was before I moved to Ireland and bumped into Irish… I find it really interesting as a language, but also very complicated to learn; it took me years to learn how to say something as simple as “thanks”.

Although, in fairness, saying thanks in Irish is not as straightforward as saying it in Spanish or English…

This mug was a birthday present (thanks Irene!), it literally says “a thousand thanks”. It´s one of the few things I do know how to say in Irish, together with the colours, counting from one to ten, and some of the most popular names for boys and girls, which I learned by meeting people whose names I had no idea how to pronounce 😊

Luckily, you don´t have to speak Irish in order to live in Ireland; English is more than enough for day-to-day life. Children do learn it in school from an early age, and even though it´s not going to help them to communicate with people from other countries, it will help them to preserve this country´s legacy and traditions.

Also, on top of that, learning languages in general helps to open our minds, because it forces our brain to think differently, and allows us to explore, through the use of words, other ways to see the world that are different from ours. So whatever we get to learn, be it a lot or a little, will be welcome.

For the moment, here is the message from the mug again, and let me take this opportunity to thank you for being here and reading me every week:

Go raibh mile maith agat

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 😊

Do not let

Today I´m bringing you a poem by Walt Whitman, for those days when you feel like saying “stop the world, I´m getting down…”

close up of open book on a table, against dark background
Do not let the day end without having grown a little, without being happy, without having risen your dreams.

Do not let yourself be overcome by disappointment. Do not let anyone take away the right to express yourself, which is almost a duty.

Do not forsake the yearning to make your life something extraordinary.

Do not stop believing that words and poetry can change the world.

Whatever happens, our essence is intact. We are passion-full beings.

Life is a desert and an oasis. It knocks us down, it hurts us, it teaches us, it makes us protagonists of our own history.

Although the wind blows against, The powerful work continues: You can make a stanza.

Never stop dreaming, because in dreams man is free.

Do not fall into the worst of errors: silence.

The majority lives in a dreadful silence. Do not resign escape.

Run away. “I create my screams through the roofs of this world”, says the poet.

Appreciates the beauty of simple things. You can make beautiful poetry about little things, but we can not row against ourselves. That transforms life into hell.

Enjoy the panic that causes you the life you have ahead.

Live it intensely, without mediocrity.

Think that the future is in you and face that task with pride and with no fear.

Learn from those who can teach you. The experiences of those who preceded us, of our “dead poets”, they help you walk through life.

Today’s society is us: The “living poets”.

Do not let life happen to you without you living it.

I only knew the beginning of this poem, I read it in full today for the first time, and I have to say that I love it, each line has so much to extract and reflect on…

By the way, thanks to this, now we know where the “Dead poets´ society” movie got its name from 🙂 (If you haven´t watched that movie, I totally recommend it, and if you already have, I´d recommend it again, it´s worth a re-watch after all these years)

Blank page

Today I sat down to write a post… And couldn´t think of anything.

Absolutely nothing.

What a strange feeling.

Usually by the time I sit down to write, I already have a topic in mind, and if I don´t have it yet, it just comes up on the spot as if by magic. But today, who knows why, time was slipping away and my page was still blank. No matter how hard I thought, or how much I searched for inspiration.

A bit disconcerting, isn´t it? An empty page. Ideas, words, answers that haven´t arrived yet.

It occurs to me that, in general, we humans are not great at dealing with empty spaces. Like when we are in a conversation and suddenly there´s a silence, and out of discomfort we try to fill it as soon as possible, saying something at random. Or like when we´re queuing somewhere, or waiting to be served at a restaurant, and we turn to our smartphones so that we don´t have to deal with not knowing what to do until it´s our turn.

There´s a lot of talk nowadays about our society being used to getting instant gratification. And interestingly, when we think about our kids, we know that it´s good for them to get bored sometimes, because that´s what´s going to foster their imagination and creativity… But let´s be honest, up to what extent do we apply the same to ourselves as adults?

Maybe when we finally learn to come to terms with that empty space, with that blank page, and discover that we don´t need to have all the answers (much less have them immediately!), we will allow our imagination and creativity to flow. And then we will realize that there are infinite ways to fill in that page, and that we can truly enjoy experimenting and finding our own style.

Every new day is a blank page of your book waiting to be written

Untranslatable sentences (or nearly)

You may have noticed that this is a bilingual blog: it´s published in Spanish, and also in English. I have the good fortune to speak both languages, and I´m also an amateur translator, so I get to enjoy double time with this blog: first while writing the weekly post, and then again while translating it 😊

But it´s true that every now and then I bump into a word or sentence that I find really hard to translate… Something that sounds great to me in one language, but then loses all its spark once translated. And it´s not just with the blog, it happens to me also in daily life, and I suspect I´m not the only one suffering from it. At home, I spend most of my time speaking Spanish, but there are certain words and expressions that I always say in English, because in Spanish they just don´t fit. And at work it´s the opposite situation: I speak with my colleagues in English, and sometimes I struggle to explain an expression or saying that would be super simple if I said it in Spanish.

One of those sentences that sound amazing in English, which is why I always say it that way, is something I learned years ago in a yoga class for pregnancy. I love the way it sounds and also what it conveys; I repeat it often to my three “babies”, and I say it to myself as well, because I believe it´s something we can all benefit from hearing:

You are lovely, you are lovable, you are loved.

Beautiful, right? And in English it sounds so musical, so special, almost like a poem. Now, we translate it into Spanish, and it turns out something like “eres adorable, te mereces amor, eres amado/a”. The message is still very nice, but which version sounds better to you?

Like branches on a tree

Let me show you today another one of the pictures that decorate the walls in my house:

Drawing of a tree and some text
FAMILY: like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions… Yet our roots remain as one.

I love this picture because it joins two ideas that I find really interesting. Belonging to a family means sharing our roots: as its members, we all come from a common place, we share some history, the history our ancestors started and we get to continue.

But like branches on a tree, from that common root, each of us grows in our own way and in our own time. Some of us look more like other branches of the tree, and others, less so. Some of us grow closer together, and others, further apart. And that´s all good. Each branch searches for its own path forward, always getting nourishment, knowingly or unknowingly, from the roots and the trunk that hold them.

I guess I big part of our mission as parents is exactly this: being a solid base from which to provide our children with everything they may need, of course including physical and emotional nourishment, but also the space and freedom they require to grow and evolve following their own style, and trust in the knowledge that they will find their own way in life.

Configurations

Sometimes when we´re thinking about a problem we want to resolve, especially if we´re a bit on the perfectionist side, it happens that we fall into the trap of thinking two things: first, that there´s only one “ideal” or “perfect” solution for that particular problem, and second, that there´s only one possible way to get to that solution.

We forget that as human beings we are all different, and the same way the situations that each one of us can encounter in life are potentially infinite, such is also our creativity to find solutions, as long as we give ourselves a confidence vote.

But you see, sometimes along the way we lose that confidence, like when we´re putting together a side of the Rubik´s cube, and in doing so we dismantle another side. Sometimes when we make a change, we unintentionally stir other things up, because everything is related.

Maybe the secret is to start thinking about life as an experiment, and instead of trying to get to that perfectly put together Rubik´s cube, which is also so rigid and immovable (and boring!), with all its coloured little squares slotted on their corresponding sides, we could decide to find our own combination, the one that works for each one of us. Our cube doesn´t have to look like anyone else´s cube, or be the exact same for as long as we live.

And how do you achieve that? Well, by trying different configurations. I´m a big fan of intermediate solutions, that is, making small changes that slowly get us closer to where we want to be, knowing that we can always modify the experiment and change course if we so decide, as we start getting new results and making new discoveries.

And I´m saying small changes, because if they´re too big, they may not last long, or they may seem so difficult that we end up giving up, or worse, not even trying in the first place. So let´s go bit by bit: what happens if I move this piece slightly toward this side? Or if I swap this colour with that other one?

Apparently, a Rubik´s cube can be configured in 43 quintillion different ways… How does today´s combination look for you?

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.