Dec 31, 2012

My 2013: Purposeful Action

I don't have the habit of making new year's resolutions. I'm not sure why, but I've never enjoyed thinking about the future.

Hmm... Well. Perhaps because it causes me anxiety.

But this year will be different. And I'll begin by choosing my theme for 2013 (as suggested in Rowdy Kittens). Mine will be: Purposeful Action. I decided to chose this theme because I've been realizing how my strong tendency to live almost exclusively inside of my head (frequently 'philosophizing' about how life should/could be lived) has lead me to stagnation, and to a consequent terrible feeling of years quickly flying by... When I do take action, many times this action is motivated by fear, and not so much by purpose.

I'm not practical. I'm not the kind of person that naturally makes things happen. I pretty much live in my mind. I frequently feel like a stranger to my own body, and I tend to forget the physical world around me. It's like living in a foggy-dreamy cloud. Sometimes I remember that the world is still below, moving, and that I should move too. 'What, another year has passed? But, I was in the cloud just for 15 minutes! How can this possible be?' Do you get the picture?

I'm not condemning my nature. I really believe I'm wired this way, because this is how I remember to be since I was a little child. But some balance is needed. I definitely need more action. Not just any action - but purposeful action. So I intend to keep this theme at the front of my mind every day of 2013.

This year I want to take purposeful action to:
- Finish my PhD;
- Find a full-time job (after finishing the PhD);
- Get out of my parents house (after finding a full-time job :P);
- Reflect on, experiment with, and define my future meaningful career orientation (I'll be using this book, to help me - I love Barrie Davenport's insights, on her blog);
- Declutter my living space;
- Bring more of what gives meaning to my life and makes me happy into my everyday life.

The last one is not very specific, because I'm in a process to figure out what it is that gives meaning and brings happiness to my life.

Ok. I actually enjoyed doing this exercise! I feel more 'oriented' already ;P

I'll keep blogging, as regularly as I can. I recently thought about creating another blog. Dedicating this one to posts that would be more like 'inspirational' essays (with the things I've been learning, and that I think may be useful to share), and the other would function more like a personal journal. I'm still pondering on this.

Please, bear with me. Despite the passiveness I was complaining about, 2012 had many great things, and I'm very excited about 2013. I commit to make this new year abundant in purposeful action, and I would love to continue to have you near by - for the sharing, and for the extra-inspiration!

I wish you all a great and meaningful 2013, full of happy moments :)

Dec 29, 2012

Summing up The Reverse 100 Thing Challenge

Hi you all!

Today I'll be summing up my "Reverse 100 Thing Challenge" experience.

The process:

On the first days of the challenge I could easily find items to donate. Most of them were overflowing in my closet and drawers!

After having 20-30 items collected it got more difficult to find items in good condition that I was willing to let go of. So I dug deeper into my clothing, and into my books. With each new approach I could select another couple of things I was keeping but not really using.

With some of the books, it was easy. Like books I didn't intend to read that were only taking up space. But with other books it was hard. For example, one of the books I selected to donate was one I didn't particularly enjoy reading, but because it had been an expensive purchase and it had a beautiful cover, I was having trouble letting go of it. It stood beautifully on my shelf! And then there were my childhood and teenage books. I wanted to keep them all for memory sake! I ended up deciding to donate some of the books, and to keep the ones I enjoyed most and didn't feel prepared to donate just yet. I'm now gradually giving my teenage books to my 11 year old cousin (who is also my godchild), who loves to read. I gave her the first, and on the day after she told me she had already read 30 pages. Now that's a much better use for my old forgotten books!

After a while I couldn't find more items that I was willing to let go of. My closet, drawers and shelves were already breathing much easier! So I asked my mother if I could sort through an old closet we have on the pantry. I was amazed by the huge quantity of clothing my mother was keeping - from old, old times. For example, she was keeping almost all my trousers since I was 12! I was able to gather a huge amount of clothing in great condition, and this closet could also breath more easily, now with only the clothes that my parents still use. Then I got my brother's permission to go through his closet (he no longer lives with us). And then my sister went along and sorted her own closet. Yay! It got easy to reach 100 items. And we have more clothing gathered to go.

I've already donated part of the clothing, and I have bags of clothing in my car trunk, ready to go. I still need to figure out to whom I'm going to donate some of the items. If I don't find a good recipient, I may trade those items for clothing.

3 reasons why I loved doing this exercise:

1. I found out I don't really need half of the things I keep. I just thought I needed them. Realizing I don't is liberating!

2. I started a process that I definitely wish to continue. I feel I've opened a door to a simpler and lighter life :)

3. Giving feels great! Awesome, really :D

I would love to hear about your experience with this exercise (or with a similar one)!

P.S. I've just joined Leo Babauta's Sea Change Program. I'm super excited about it!

Dec 24, 2012

Quick recap and wishing you a beautiful Christmas! :)


First of all I want to apologize for my long absence. The last 2 weeks were, for several reasons, a bit chaotic - including a lot of sewing (and a very vivid nightmare about a late end of the world!).

I had some new orders, and I added the following two covers to my shop:

I think I'm becoming addicted to sewing :P

As you may have noticed I completed my 100 reverse thing challenge a while ago. It felt great! I've already donated some of the things, but there are many more still waiting to go. I want to do this in the next few weeks, and I'll be dedicating one of my next posts to sum up what I've learned with this experience.

Right now, and to finish, I just want to wish you all a beautiful and merry Christmas, full of warm moments with your loved ones :)

Image Credit: Cameron Hampton PSA.

See you soon! 

And... Oh oh oh!

Dec 14, 2012

My 12 Great Things of 2012 {borrowed exercise ;P }

I've been feeling better, since my last post. I'm happy my depressive moods aren't as sticky as they used to be :)

Minutes ago, while browsing through my favorite blogs, I stumbled upon Just a Little Less's invitation to share 12 great things of 2012. I thought this would be a wonderful exercise, to help me remember all the good things that filled my 2012. So here's my list:

1- Starting (and maintaining) my tiny Etsy shop

2- Starting my blog

3- My big brother's marriage

4- Publishing 2 articles in scientific journals

5- Developing an even closer relationship with my sister

6- Starting tutoring Math

7- Completing the Reverse 100 Thing Challenge

8- Having found new and wonderful blogs

9- Seeing Radiohead alive

10- Seeing Leslie Feist alive

11- Great moments with my boyfriend

12- Great moments spent in Lisbon, in my September conference

This list was written quite impulsively, so I'm sure there are other great things. But what matters is that I could confirm that my life isn't as stuck and sterile as I sometimes seem to believe.

I invite you all to make your own list! ;)

Dec 11, 2012

Feeling broken

Today I feel broken. I hadn't felt like this in a while. I guess my antidepressant sometimes fails me.

My life situation is more or less a mess, and I know it. I'm not being able to combine the tutoring sessions, the sewing, the writing in the blog, and the thesis. At this rate I'll never finish this thesis, and I'll continue indefinitely living in my parents home, without an euro in my pocket.

Right now I'm sitting at the University's big library. I'm surrounded by people 5-10 years younger than me, and I feel like I haven't evolved a thing since I graduated, 6 years ago. I remember when I used to study for my civil engineering course in these same chairs, and how miserable I felt.  Life was like an unpleasant chore, to be endured day after day, without complaint. I didn't even think much about my future. I was solely concentrated on being one of the best - because that was my definition of surviving. Yep - not of success, but of surviving. Today here I am, again, feeling miserable about my thesis and my lack of future perspective.

I know I have my negativity lens on. I know tomorrow things will seem a bit brighter again. But still, I know something needs to change, or years will continue passing by, and I'll keep feeling that life is passing me by.

I'm sorry for the negativity. I just needed to put these words out.

Dec 7, 2012

My habit no. 1: How can I make peace with mornings?

Today I'll be reflecting a bit on my Habit no. 1 ('Creating a regular and healthier sleeping schedule'). You can see the current graph with my bed and wake up times in the tab above.

Until now:

Percentage of times I went to bed before 2 am: 76%.

Percentage of times I woke up before 11:30 am: 48%.

What went well:

I managed some regularity in my bed times. This is good, because:
- I no longer went to bed at crazy times (like 4, 5 or even 6 am!). These crazy times used to make me feel very tired and depressed the next day;
- I knew at what time I had to 'end my day', and so I was able to better manage my daily activities.

I only woke up at the 'desired' time interval 48% of the times. This is far from my ideal, but is still much better than what I used to do (< 5%).

(Yes, I do sound like an engineer with all these graphs and percentages... And practicing my 'technical English' in the thesis doesn't help either! Bleh...)

What didn't go so well:

Oddly, I've been feeling sleepier and sleepier in the mornings. I.e., it's getting harder to wake up at the time I want...

As I shared in a previous post, when the commitment was fresher it was easier. Then it got more difficult. I guess I began to see my accountability here in the blog as a burden, and I felt ashamed of my lack of 'success'. This shame further depressed me and demotivated me.

But, rationally, I definitely don't wish to regard this as yet another failure. Instead, I'm choosing to see it as an experience with value, from which I can learn a few things...

And now what?

I've decided I'm going to focus on the things which I feel I can control. These things are:
- Bed time;
- Physical exercise (which, they say, improves the quality of sleep!);
- Creating a 'morning' pleasant routine for those days in which I actually manage to wake up at the time I decide.

I'm not sure if I'll continue posting my daily graphs here, but I'll certainly keep reporting on my progress regularly.

And I would love to hear suggestions from anyone who also has (or had) a difficult relationship with mornings!

See you soon :)

Dec 2, 2012

Stepping out of the race

In the last session, I told my therapist about how I sometimes feel embarrassed while I'm among other students, at University - because the writing of my thesis is going much slower than it should, and everyone seems to be doing better than me. Then, my therapist said something that had a strong impact on me. She said: "You loathe the race. You say you don't want to be on the race. Nevertheless, you're still on the race."

She's right... I'm still on the race.

'But what race?...' - You may ask. Well, this competition in which we're placed very early in life. Some of us (like me) begin learning to evaluate our success (and, consequently, our worth) from grades - especially from comparing them with other kid's grades. What they forget to tell us is that we're trying to compare what cannot be compared. Why is 18 (out of 20) better than 14? Perhaps the student with 14 had to work harder in order to surpass his limitations, and perhaps he was more engaged in the process and had more fun while studying...

Throughout life, we continue evaluating our worth by measuring and comparing things like:
- 'Popularity';
- Resumes;
- Professional/social status;
- Business (a.k.a.: number of roles and activities we're involved and can squeeze into our days);
- Finances;
- Materialistic acquisitions;
- Etc.

Sadly, many of us don't seem to be able to quantify the quality and meaning of these things in our lives unless we compare them to what's going on in other people's lives. As in 'I thought my clothing was OK,  but now that I've seen Miquelina's wardrobe I feel like a ragamuffin!' Or 'I thought I had a good resume, but Asdrubal has many more postgraduate courses and traineeships than I do. Bah... I'm worthless...'

The thing is, if we really think about it, no comparison is ever truly fair. Because we're never comparing identical backgrounds, contexts, motivations, experiences, etc, etc. We're never actually comparing 'comparable' stuff.

Asdrubal may win the race, but perhaps he was so focused on winning he didn't notice the flowers along the path, or the lovely birds chirping. Ildefonso may arrive in 10th place, but he may have actually noticed the flowers, and the birds, and perhaps he even stopped for a while to chat with a beautiful girl who was passing by. Maybe Ildefonso didn't noticed there was a race, to begin with.

So, what is a better alternative? I guess we can simply choose to step out of the race.

Perhaps this sounds scary. If I'm not constantly evaluating myself against what others are doing, how will I know if I'm on the right path or if I'm successful? First, I have to say I've come to dislike (very much) the word 'successful', at least considering the way it is traditionally defined. Second, I've learned to believe there is no universal 'right path'. I believe we need to search within  ourselves for what feels right to us, in each period of our lives, even if no one else is doing it.

Perhaps we should frequently ask ourselves questions like:
- Am I doing what I'm doing just because everyone else is doing it?
- Am I just trying harder for the sake of being the best?
- What is meaningful to me?
- What am I passionate about?
- What makes me feel truly alive?
- How can I bring more of these elements (meaningfulness/passion/aliveness) into my life?

I think we can look at others' lives for inspiration. But just for that - inspiration. Not in a competing-kind-of-way. Because every human path is unique, beautiful, and important...

From now on, I'll certainly be asking myself the above questions much more often :)

Note: I'm always very happy to hear from you in the comments section!

Nov 30, 2012

Aveiro on a coldish afternoon

(Note: This post was initially part of a larger post, but I decided it made more sense to split it.)

Me and my boyfriend (I'll just call him B. from now on) enjoy loosing ourselves in longs walks through Aveiro. Below are some pictures I took this Sunday (late) afternoon.

Come walk with me... :)

Tiny carousel

Christmassy "Fogueteiro"

"Parceira do Ramo" is cold.

I am cold!

Colorful "Moliceiros"

Beautiful curvy lines of "Moliceiros"

Last daily reflections on the "Ria"...

It's Christmas inside!

It's Christmas outside!

Yep, it's Christmas outside.

Ok, I get it. It's REALLY Christmas outside.

Mmmmm... Roasted chestnuts ("castanhas assadas")...

Hope you enjoyed the walk.

See you soon :)

Nov 29, 2012

How can we help someone in extreme pain?

(Note: This post was initially part of a larger post, but I decided it made more sense to split it.)

Things haven’t been easy around here, in the last few days. Someone very close to me is suffering a lot (emotionally), due to a loss. This person is very fragile. I find myself trying to help the best way I can, but most of the time it just seems I can’t help at all. I realize that it’s easier to deal and be with my own pain…

How can you help someone in extreme pain? How can you show the person that life is still worth living? I’ve been struggling with these questions...

Nov 22, 2012

Walking depressive moods away

In the last few days my moods have been a bit darker than usual. I got used to scan my emotions regularly, because this (generally) prevents me from falling deep into the dark well of desperation without even noticing how I got there. So, whenever I feel the first symptoms of darkness (like the desire to just vegetate for long periods of time in front of the computer or in bed, and/or feeling a ball of sadness burning in my stomach), I try to do something different from my usual depression-enhancing strategies (which generally consist in actually vegetating in front of the computer or sleeping countless hours during the day).

I realized how spending most of my day working in front of the computer, not exercising (enough) and catching a minimum amount of daylight cannot be good. So, today, I went for a long walk, alone. I used to do this frequently, 3 or 4 years ago, but somehow I lost the habit. This time I decided to take my camera with me, and I’m sharing some of the photos with you. These were all taken in my small village (Fogueira – which means ‘bonfire’ – don’t ask me why!). The air was crisp, and the sky was (peacefully) blue. It did wonders for my mood :)

Fresh fields:

Colors of autumn:

Beautiful old houses:

(Fogueira has many beautiful old adobe houses. It’s a shame they are completely neglected…)


(Adobe is a traditional construction material in Aveiro region. Aveiro adobe bricks are unfired and made with arenaceous soil and lime. They are beautiful, highly ecological and sustainable!)

Signs of Catholic church:

(I'm an exception in Portugal, and wasn't born into a Catholic family. For many years I attended the Baptist church.)

Back home:

(Pictures taken in my parents' backyard.)

Ok, you can go now ;P

See you soon!

Nov 17, 2012

Procrastination tip: embrace imperfection

I’m very perfectionist - in a (frequently) paralyzing-miserable-draining kind of way. I have a hard time with errors, uncertainties, difficulties and, essentially, imperfection…

As a student:
- I was the one with glasses who studied insane amounts of time;
- I was the last one to leave an exam, begging the teacher for 5 more minutes;
- Many of my practical assignments were never finished because I spent too much time attending to details;
- I always had a hard time recognizing quality in anything I did. This made me work like a crazy person and eventually I ended up with good/great results – but at an enormous cost. In the end I was feeling exhausted and miserable.

With the PhD this perfectionist tendency reached new levels of insanity. I was no longer one among many other college students. I had been chosen to do a PhD. And I had a supervisor with his eyes on me, telling everyone how important my work was. And well... Basically, I froze. Perfectionism highly encumbered my work progress (and it still does, but not so frequently).

When I’m working on my thesis these are frequent thoughts:
- This piece of work is a mess! I can’t take this messiness. I better quit…
- I’m working so slowly… This pace is ridiculous! I should be doing this much faster. I might as well quit.
- I don’t know how to solve this problem. Omg! I’m such an idiot. I better quit.
- I need to revise this piece of work 10 times before it’s finished! I can spot so many imperfections…

Crazy, right?  Who can work with a mind like this? ;P

Eventually I had to learn to embrace error and imperfection. Look them in the eyes, and say: “You don’t scare me”, and “I can deal with you”, or “I can live with you”.

Learning to embrace the inevitable imperfections in my work has helped a lot in dealing with my procrastination tendencies. Not only in writing the thesis, but in many other activities I engage in – like writing blog posts :P, sewing, and even decluttering.

As Neil Fiore so wisely says – swap “I need to be perfect” for “I can be perfectly human”. How much more refreshing and liberating is the second alternative?

Life is, in itself, imperfect. Striving for perfection is, at the very beginning, a lost cause. Of course we can and should strive for quality – but without the weight of perfectionism, our labor has much more room for learning, creativity and fun! ;)

Do you have perfectionist tendencies? How do you deal with them? I would love to hear from you in the comments section :)

Note: I recently read another inspiring post on this subject. Check it out.

Nov 15, 2012

La Quimera

Today, a little inspiration, to not forget the flowers blooming right at our feet...

La Quimera 

Like children I walked to East, believing

I could touch the sun with my own hands;

Like children I walked through the round earth

chasing, far away, the solar chimera. 

I was at the same distance from the golden East

as much as I walked and walked again; 

So I did like children: feeling the uselessness of the march 

I picked up flowers from the ground, and started playing.

~ Alfonsina Storni ~

(Note: This is my own translation from Spanish, so it's far from perfect!)

Nov 12, 2012

My habit no. 1: a difficult relationship with mornings

As you may have noticed, in the last few days it has been harder for me to stick to my habit no. 1. Going to bed before 2 a.m. is much easier than waking up before 11:30 a.m.! In the first days, when the commitment was fresher, it was less difficult to get me out of bed – now it’s getting harder, and harder…

I thought that with the new ‘regularity’ I wouldn't need to sleep so much and that eventually I would begin to wake up a bit earlier, and actually feel rested – which, so far, hasn't happened. But maybe it’s too soon for that…

I wonder about the reasons for my sleepiness, and my difficulty in getting up at a ‘decent’ time. I think there may be three main reasons:
1) My depressive moods (one of the possible effects of depression is sleeping too much);
2) The fact that my mind doesn't seem to fully rest while I’m asleep (I have vivid dreams with complicated plots, and I frequently remember them in detail…);
3) The fact that I may still be suffering from the long-term side effects of Isotretinoin (I was subjected to an acne treatment in 2006 with powerful side effects – one of these side effects may be tiredness - and even depression).

The thing is, my apparent inability to ‘control’ my sleeping habits has a strong negative effect on my self-esteem and, consequently, on my moods – and this creates a negative cycle, with negative moods further potentiating my sleeping chaos.


Still, and so far, I was able to wake up before 11:30 a.m. 62% of the time, which is much better than my previous lower ‘success’ ratio (<5%) :P So, nonetheless, this has been a great exercise and I will continue doing my best :) And, of course, I will report on my progress regularly.


Now, let’s change the subject... :) 

I spent my Saturday sewing, and here is a picture of my new finished cover:

This one is going to the UK!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

See you soon ;)

P.S. I'm always delighted to hear from you in the comments section!

Nov 8, 2012

Lessons of frugality from my childhood (part 2)

(This is the continuation of my previous post.)


Until I was 13 we lived in an adobe house built by my great-grandparents in the late 40s (or early 50s), and which was slightly renovated by my parents - the house was in good condition, and so they just had to finish and paint the walls. This house had two floors – the ground floor served as a wine cellar for my grandfather, and the first floor was our home. As a side note, I live in a Portuguese region very well known for its good wine (‘vinho da Bairrada’), even thought I haven’t yet learned to appreciate wine :P And my grandfather produced wine to sell.

So, fortunately we never had to pay rent, and my parents were able to save money to build our own house. I believe I can say our first home was considerably small. Still, it was just enough for our family of 5. And I have such wonderful memories associated with this house… One curious thing is that when I dream (and I dream a lot - in vivid colors!) I’m almost always still living in this first house (even though I left it when I was 13) and I can picture all its rooms as if I just left it yesterday… My pink room with two pine beds (mine and my sister's), the small living room with the brown sofas, the blue kitchen…

After we left this house, it has served as the first home to my uncle and its family (until he built his own house), and it is now (after some rehabilitation) my grandparents home. So, still the same great principle of sharing resources within the family… :)


I’m very grateful for the fact that, in the 80s, Portuguese TV had only two (public) channels, one of which was advertising-free and more or less cultural, and that there was no cable TV. So, I didn't watch a lot of TV. Of course, I had my favorite children shows which I wouldn't miss (like this lovely one, which I recently found on YouTube – I confess, almost cried when I found it!) , but we didn't spend much time in front of the TV.


As I told in a previous post, buying books was not even an option. But I so eagerly loved to read, that I read a significant percentage of the books the mobile library brought to our village. And later, I would still rely on library books to satisfy my love for reading. And because my family knew about this passion, books were always welcome Christmas gifts ;)


One wonderful thing about children is that they see the world as a huge playground, and are always inventing new ways of having fun! So, not having many toys was never a problem. To begin with, my grandparents’ huge yard was like an adventure land – so many trees to climb or lay beneath, a small stream of water to play in, a straw hut to explore, an old house to play scary games, etc, etc. Wow. I just love having grown up in the country!

And within the house I remember playing lots of make believe games with my sister and cousins – and really, all that we needed was a little bit of imagination. I also remember drawing and writing stories, just for the fun of it :)


I guess I could go on and keep exploring the wonderful details of a simple childhood. But I believe you get the point.  Of course, this story is told through the eyes of the child that I used to be. I know my parents had their worries, but I also know that they, too, regard this as a wonderful time of our lives, independently of the money struggles.

I guess what I would like to take from this reflection is that with our basic needs met, and stripped of the materialistic expectations and demands our society so fiercely places upon us - and that we unthinkingly take as our own - , and with the openness and wondering eyes of a child, life can be beautiful and peaceful and lovely – and, of course, full of happy moments... :)

Nov 5, 2012

Lessons of frugality from my childhood (part 1)

As I told in a previous post, in my childhood we lived on a very tight budget. Well, it was the 80s, in Portugal. The country had been out of a dictatorship in the 70s, and life wasn't easy (monetarily speaking) for most people. My father is a schoolteacher and at the time teachers, in general, were badly paid. My mother worked in her parents’ small grocery store. In spite of the economical struggles, I remember a happy childhood, filled with good memories…

I thought it might be interesting to remember (and to share) some of the details of our simple (and happy) life.


Fortunately, we never lacked food. Still, we always ate at home. Always. I think I’m not lying if I say I never ate at a restaurant during my childhood/early adolescence (excluding, perhaps, at wedding parties). But food was always yummy, as my mother is a fabulous cook. And a great part of what we ate came from my grandparents’ 'farm'. Tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, green beans, figs, plums, persimmons, nuts, eggs, and even meat (this was a great opportunity to learn some new words in English – “persimmons” is just awesome :P).
When we had to eat out, we always took our packed lunch with us and had a picnic. It was healthy and a lot of fun!


In our family, clothing would pass from cousin to cousin, from sibling to sibling and even from aunt to niece. I only disliked wearing my older brother’s clothes. Excluding that, it was quite pacific. At school no one really noticed or cared about clothing, as we were all equally ‘unfashionably’ (but cutely!) dressed :P
We almost didn't have stores to buy clothing nearby (shopping centers had not yet arrived to our area) and so, sometimes, for special occasions, my mother would order a dress from the local seamstress. I always loved these dresses - so lovely and naive looking :P


I have great memories from vacations (except that time, when I was 6, and I lost my 2 year sister… - oops! - but don’t worry, she was found pretty fast). Happily, we live at about 30km from the beach. We would go camping for about 20 days, in a park near the beach. These were simple vacation plans, but on the night before leaving to the camping park I could not sleep with excitement! And we also had some getaways with the extended family, with picnics and a lot of play. All simple, but (at least from a child’s point of view) pretty fun :)
There were also some years where we couldn't afford to leave home. And yes, I know those years were not so fun. I filled my diary pages with: ‘Booooring!’ But a simple day out in a park or at the beach was enough to have me happy again. “Look diary, I made a drawing of the duck we saw at the lake! And look, here's a drawing of the cake I ate!!” (for those who may be wondering – I have my diaries since I was 8 years old, and it’s a lot of fun to (re)read them).


(to be continued!) - So, see you pretty soon :)