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!