Archive for the ‘English’ Category

My “box of goodies” for 2013

Sometime towards the end of 2012 I read an interesting idea online and then implemented it from the beginning of 2013: I wrote daily notes about my good experiences and collected them in a self-made box that I called “my box of goodies”.

Today I read all these notes and got more than an hour of smiling and reliving happy memories. I’m surprised and thrilled to see that I’ve had so many reasons to be happy, especially during the most difficult year I’ve lived so far:

  • intimate / playful / intellectually stimulating / action-oriented interactions with people I like;
  • getting things done;
  • pampering my senses with fresh and clean smells, lively music, massages and hugs, tasty food, beautiful images;
  • finding new exciting ideas and ways to implement them;
  • letting myself drawn into stories, be they books, theatre, or film;
  • getting and giving help (when it’s wanted and needed by the receiver);
  • expressing myself in a straight forward or in a creative way;
  • seeing something from a new perspective;
  • developing confidence (in myself and others) and receiving others’ trust;
  • getting and giving presents;
  • feeling the joy of loved ones;
  • moments of serendipity;
  • receiving appreciation for my qualities and for my actions, getting rewarded for my work;
  • waking up well rested;
  • recovering from illness;
  • being emotionally touched by others or emotionally touching others;
  • expanding my knowledge and sharing it with others;
  • doing what I feel is right even when it’s uncomfortable;
  • increasingly managing new skills;
  • finding hope or accepting the situation during difficult times;
  • admiring and learning from people who are witty, humorous, creative, deep thinkers, deep feelers, authentic;
  • discovering unexpected inner and outer resources;
  • feeling pretty;
  • cutting myself some slack;
  • taking care of myself, even at the risk of bothering others.

While reading the notes, I noticed a few writing mistakes I’d made and I (almost effortlessly) resisted correcting them – now that’s another reason for me to be happy! :D

What about you? Looking back at 2013, what are you grateful for?

PS: There is research showing that gratitude is related to individual well being and to relationship quality, so I’d encourage anybody to make a habit out of it. If you’re looking for ideas on how to this, here’s an even cooler one.

 

Holiday greetings, the TA way

 

How to be a grown-up

1. Have strong opinions. Have very strong opinions. The more of them, the better.

Have strong opinions about complex issues like global warming, the financial crisis or the future of the European Union. Never mind that you’re not an expert in any field related to the topic you’re addressing. And never mind facts, you can draw conclusions without them!

Have strong opinions about everybody else, especially about what they should do. Whether it’s about what the president should say next, about how your neighbours should raise their children, about who your best friend should date or about what your partner should feel – you know it! No need to listen to these others and try to understand their own experience, just go ahead and spill your wisdom all over everybody!

Have strong opinions about things that don’t make any real difference to your own life. Is that famous singer gay? Will those two celebrities get back together? Is that guy over there wearing a wig? Never mind that life is short and it’s your job to make it meaningful; you just have to dedicate time and energy to matters like these!

2. Voice your opinions. As often and loudly as possible. If anybody else is trying to say something, just keep talking as long and as loud as it’s needed for them to stop talking.

3. Convince others of your opinions. If they don’t agree with you, they’re just being immature, ungrateful or deceptive – show them! If they don’t have an opinion on the matter, you must certainly save them from their ignorance!

As you can see, I have strong opinions about very opinionated people. Does this make me a grown-up? Sarcasm aside, I’m aware we all have our opinions, our biases, our need to be right, our need to feel in control. I just get so tired of it all when facing judgement that outweighs curiosity, empathy and contemplation.

 

Will you be my Conflictine?

Here’s a short, imperfect guide for dealing with interpersonal conflict. It’s based on my own experience, so it may look like it doesn’t apply to you. Still, for conflicts with people you care about or at least people you want to keep a good relationship with, it’s usually a good approach. Admittedly, it does require some inner strength and focus on cooperative problem solving – hey, I said “good”, not “easy”!

1. Understand

The first step in managing the conflict is understanding what is really going on. Maybe this seems oh-so-clear from the first impulse, but if you pay more attention and give it more thought, you may find that it’s actually just a small misunderstanding. Or maybe the other is just projecting on you some problems that have nothing to do with you, so the attack is not actually meant for you. Many other answers you might find, if you just look for them.

2. Validate

Part of the understanding – a very important part! – refers to the subjective experience of the other person involved in the conflict. How do they interpret what’s happening? What are they feeling? Leave your own judging apart for a while and just use your curiosity to see through the other’s eyes. As you get more and more information, convey your interpretation of it, to check if it matches their own interpretation, and also to show your interest and care for them. You might not agree with their view, but validation is not about agreeing. It’s about accepting that two different people may see the same situation differently and willing to step into the other’s shoes for a while.

3. Take responsibility

Admit to yourself your own contribution to the turn of the situation. Maybe you had no mean intentions, maybe your actions are perfectly justifiable in the given circumstances. Anyway, it takes two to tango and at least two to have an interpersonal conflict, and entering conflicts is usually not a reason for shame; it’s getting stuck in them that’s truly damaging. Telling yourself “this is what I’ve done to get here” is the first step for accepting responsibility for your actions.

After this, go ahead and express to the other that you’re aware of your contribution to the situation. Apologize if you find it’s the case, maybe even ask what you can do to make up for it. Sometimes just saying “I understand how my words triggered you to get angry” will be enough.

If all you did to get into the conflict was just be there, then… think again! :) Even if you didn’t start it, it doesn’t mean it’s all the deed of the other person. If you haven’t given a response to a provocation from the other, then how is there a conflict between the both of you?

And what if you really haven’t fostered the conflict, but the other person keeps inviting you into it? Well, you’re still responsible for what you do from now on.

4. Self disclose

Voice your own emotions and thoughts that resulted from the actions of the other. If you want anything from them in order to be able to leave the conflict behind, ask for it. Maybe you want an apology, an explanation, commitment for certain future action, or a hug – whatever it is, it’s your job to ask, not their job to read your mind.

And this is it! The four steps are not necessarily so separated or in this specific order. You may give some validation, ask for some, then validate some more, take responsibility for a small thing, then ask for the other’s admission of their own contribution and so on. However, if you can genuinely give (understanding, validation, compensation) before asking, I’d say your chances of really solving the conflict are the highest you can get; just don’t neglect to take care of your own needs, too!

If you tend to avoid conflicts, here’s a little motivation for you to change: all the small conflicts you keep shoving under the carpet will pile on each other, until one day they will explode into a big conflict. And without the practice of solving the small ones, dealing with this big one will be even more difficult. Ready to start practicing now? :)

 

Balla-la-lad

You rock my world, you jazz my heartbeat,
you sing to me your symphony,
you hop my hips and trip my hoppings,
you cha-cha-charm me off my feet.

You drum my steps, you leave milonging
for your caresses on my chords,
your smiling eyes funk up my fire,
your saxovoice blueses my soul.

My rivers dance when you are close by
and when you’re gone I fado out,
I wish you’d double step right to me
and waltz me to the end of lust.

 

What’s your home-made Utopia?

Do you prefer Romanian? Here’s the Romanian version of this article.

While talking to a friend about the kind of society we’d like to live in, I realised the conversation was engaging and stimulating for me and decided to extend it, including more people. Namely, those who read my blog :)

Here’s what I’m curious to find out from you:

1) How would you describe the society you dream living in? Be as specific as you can. I’m not looking for big words, but for concrete characteristics. Also, I’m not looking for many traits of such a society; one is enough, as long as you can mention it clearly and it’s important for you.

2) What do you concretely do in order to bring your contribution to the existence / emerging of such a society? If the answer is “Nothing”, then what will you do for it and starting from when?

The questions from (2) are, I’ll admit it, not just for my curiosity. They’re also a way to encourage mostly those answers that are authentic (cause if you want that society, you’re willing to do something for it, right?), reasonably realistic (if you can do something for it, it means it’s not completely unrealistic, even if it may seem unfeasible for others) and have a potential to inspire others for taking concrete steps towards their own dream-society.

You’re welcome to post comments to this article; you don’t need to create an account, just enter a valid e-mail address – it won’t show up on the site and I promise not to spam you :) . Or if you’d like to have a guest post* on this topic on my blog, tell me!

*Guest post: you send me a text written by you and I publish it here as an article, mentioning you as the author.

 

What Comes After Fall?

What’s the hype
about falling
in love?
Sure enough, letting yourself fall
requires letting of control,
which may well be a sign
of round inner strength.
Then again, it may be
the result
of merely tripping.

But the problem with falling
is it stops
very soon.
And quite brutally,
I might add.

What I want
to know
is the secret of those
who can stand up from falling
and still be in love.
Was their love so deep all along
that it fully covered their height?
Or maybe
they managed
to bring it from down there
as they rose on their feet?

So you’re falling
for me.
Should I catch you?
Tell me this:
are you willing
to stand with me
in love?

 

Attached to non-attachment?

“He’d avoided creating family ties, believing they might hold him back from attaining spiritual freedom.”

Hmpf.

The above quote is from an article on the life of an enlightened guru. I’m not pointing to the source because my interest here is for the concept itself, not for a specific person adhering to it. And anyway, the view is not unique to this guru; it’s not unusual for people in an ambitious spiritual search to strongly evade attachment to “earthly” matters. Paradoxically, avoidance of attachment is also quite popular among the not-so-enlightened people characterized by the famous fear of intimacy.

No, I’m not suggesting enlightened-wannabes and intimacy-avoiders are the same thing. They do have different motivations pushing their behaviours. At the same time, they do share this part of the strategy. And the thing I constantly don’t get is how they aim at obtaining freedom by evading something, when to me it’s clear that what we avoid is what imprisons us more tightly than anything. (Just to be sure: I’m talking about avoidance, not about the aware choice of not doing something based on evidence that doing it would bring more damage than benefit in the context.)

I haven’t yet formed some clear beliefs about divinity and life after death. Nor about the general purpose of life on earth, although here I’m almost sure that the answer involves “living it”. As introverted as I am, I’d strongly question a divinity I’d discover solely or mostly in isolation, especially when it comes to some of the deepest quests of humans – such as attachment to others. How can avoiding these contribute to true spiritual growth as a human being? I’d be greatly disappointed to find out that God’s master plan for us was something along the lines of “Let’s throw them in there and see if they can learn the supreme lesson, which they can only learn by skipping the most difficult and practical classes”.

On the other hand, I do resonate with the strive to avoid attachment that stops our growing. I just see a different solution for this (or maybe I’m just phrasing it differently): looking for healthy attachment. How does this sound to you?

 

Where do all those words go, when they go?

The quietest member of the family usually has the most to say“, according to some psychologists, including the one blogging here.

Which reminded me of the time my teammate and I went to interview some teenagers (volunteers in a charity project) for a TV program. When they saw us with the camera and microphone, some of them started making jokes and loud comments. They became less vocal when I asked them if they want to give a short interview, but they agreed. The content of their answers didn’t match their initial spontaneity. Then I approached a girl who seemed rather reserved, working on her tasks rather far from the loud group. She said she’s not comfortable with the camera and fears she’ll mess it up, but after a bit of encouragement agreed to participate. The answers she gave were some of the most impressive I ever received while playing reporter – simple words with a sense of wisdom and a touch of genuine emotion.

It was not the first time I heard a quiet person making more sense in a few words than a very vocal person in a few hours. That’s not directly because of quietness, but because quiet people have more time to listen. And the qualities we develop while listening turn out to raise the quality of our speaking, too.

Still, I constantly run into depictions of “good communication” only from the perspective of the emitter.

During a workshop aimed mostly for psychologists, one of the group exercises we had to do was find concrete examples of behaviours performed by “a good communicator“. Ideas were flowing rapidly: “speaks clearly”, “is on topic”, “uses language and style appropriate for the context” and so on, until I took an introvertedly deep breath and then released the air together with the first idea I’d had on the subject: “listens“.

I’m always amazed at how much advice is out there on how to deliver information compared to the advice on how to take the information in. Could it be because people who love giving advice are better at speaking than at listening? Yes, there is some irony I’m throwing here and my experience as an introvert in a world dominated by extroverts is surely a source of bias, but I am also curious to understand this.

I’m always amazed at how much and how deep people end up telling me if I just really listen to them. And I see it as an exchange of gifts – they give me their trust, I give them my attention.

I’m also amazed at how much I have to say when faced with genuine curiosity for my inner world. I may even overdo it if this attention comes after a too long period of being mostly silent.

So it looks like we all enjoy and sometimes even need to be listened to. Then why is there so much social gratification for the loudest of us? And why do people who are mostly quiet usually get classified into categories with at least slightly pejorative names? If all of us would be “good communicators” only in the sense of “good emitters of information”, there would be nobody left to receive the messages we’re sending.

How would you define a “good listener“? And where do you learn these skills from?

 

The metaphor of the lemon tree

The lemon tree in our backyard here in Porto is probably the most famous of its kind, worldwide (well, maybe the second most famous after the one of Fool’s Garden). That’s because I’ve been mentioning it in the e-mails to my friends, uploaded photos of it in my online albums and showed it to all those who’ve visited me here. At first I liked it just because it was exotic and right under the windows of our living room. Then I discovered it’s much more interesting than I had expected.

Unlike the trees I’d been used to, the lemon tree has ripe fruits, green fruits and flowers at the same time. Then again, don’t we all?

Unlike the typical linear models we’ve been preached again and again, real people are usually a mix of ripe, green and blooming. This person is a successful professional who is still far from starting a family. This other one has spent a lot of time learning but hasn’t yet found the environment or the ways to make the best use of his or her learning. That one has outstanding emotional maturity, but not much knowledge about history, or the arts, or economics. And that one there is a great dancer but a bad driver, while this one here has fabulous jokes to share but little knowledge about his or her own self.

So next time you start panicking that it’s harvest season and not all your fruits are ripe, remember that the only shoes you must fill are your own. Or, as one of my favourite songs says, “the race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself”.

PS: When I give this advice to “you”, I’m also including myself among those who still need to learn this lesson. So if you ever want to return this advice to me, feel free ;)