Author Archives: mariliaspin

Where do I even start? / Por onde eu começo?

(O texto em português está disponível abaixo)

It’s the end of the year… and once again it’s time to reflect on what happened and how life treated me (and I treated it). If I think of what my life surprised me with since I last wrote on here (May 2014), I don’t even know where to start describing how much my life has changed. So much has happened! I had a baby (10 weeks earlier than expected!), I had my mum visiting us in the UK for the first time (super special), I had my sister over too (she is still here), I started my maternity leave, my relationship with Lee (partner in crime) has become something else… something different, something even better. There is a gorgeous human being called Louisa in our lives now and I guess when you have a baby you see your partner in a different light. It’s almost like you get each other more, small stuff stops being an issue and you realise that together you are stronger than you ever thought you could be.

2014 has been by far the best year of my life, without a doubt. I thought I had done it already, but, really, it’s the year when I met the love of my life, which is the way my friend Estelle describes having a child. When I saw my baby for the first time, it changed my world…

So here are the main things that I realised/found out in life post-Louisa…

1. You have more strength than you think… lots more!

A premature birth requires strength. I know it happens all the time, but when you are in that situation, you have no choice but to stay strong and believe things are going to work out. Louisa was born very early and the first few hours were very difficult. However, Lee and I never for one second believed that things wouldn’t work out just fine. And although Louisa is still being monitored, we have so much faith in our little one… so I guess the more strength you show, the more you have.

2. Patience comes when you need it

The first days of Louisa’s life were touch and go. We were eager to know if everything would be ok but, somehow, I was just patient with everything. I just felt calm. I have no idea where this serenity came from, but I just had it. Those who know me will know that I’m far from what you’d describe as a patient person, but I surprised myself. I wasn’t asking questions I knew couldn’t be answered, I wasn’t feeling anxious, I wasn’t panicking. I was happy to take a day at a time, to go with the flow. I quickly learned that the whole thing wasn’t a race, but a marathon.

3. You are not just you anymore

Ohhh… this is a big one. There will be a time in the life of every person that has a child when you suddenly realise that you are not on your own anymore. No, it doesn’t matter how much you wanted that child, how much you planned and prepared for that moment. One day, when you least expect it, you will realise that you will share countless experiences with them, help them with their problems, be there for them and go through happiness and sorrow with them. And you will realise that your job is to make sure that they can be the best they can be to go through life, with and without you. It’s scary to realise you have that much responsibility, but also reassuring to find out that you are more than up for the job.

4. A half ‘reflex’ smile can change your mood

No sleep, no time to eat, have a shower, to exercise, to meet friends, all those things that were so common in pre-baby life and that you miss dearly… all to be completely forgotten when your little one gives you half a reflex smile, that is not even a ‘real’ one yet. I know this real one will happen, though… in her own time. And when it does, I might just melt. (Gosh, this is all so cheesy and yet I can’t help myself!)

5. It’s true what they say… there is no time for anything

I know this is a cliche, but what did I do with all the time I had before? Lie-ins, lazy nights, movies, pub sessions… ermmm… not anymore! You sort of learn very quickly (well, you are forced to) to compartmentalize your life in little chunks of a couple of hours (if you are lucky), because this is the time you have between one feed and the next. Everything you do becomes a bit of a mission and the alarm to stop all you are doing (aka hungry cry) may go off at any time. Going out of the house becomes another crazy happening and sort of military operation. It needs to be carefully timed so that baby doesn’t start screaming when you are queuing at the post office. Adventurous stuff.

6. Your family and your true friends will be there for you

This is by far my main realisation with all that has happened this year. I decided to post on Facebook what was happening with our little Louisa, since she stayed in hospital for two months and people wanted news. The response I got was completely overwhelming. I am convinced that the positive thoughts everyone sent our way had a massive effect on Louisa’s recovery and it’s partly why she is now home with us.

My mum and sister also came to visit us for the first time since I’ve been living in the UK (13 years), my dad Kao and mum Iris were always in touch, sending messages every day (thanks, Whattsapp!) and many of my friends were there for me, to help, to hug me, to offer advice, to listen, to ask how things were going or simply to talk about something else and take my mind off it all. Some new friendships started in the midst of all that was happening, some others strengthened, others dissipated somehow but, whoever stayed, confirmed they are by my side for the long haul. And I’m so glad that they are.

7. Perspective is everything

Louisa is absolutely fine now. She is at home with no medical apparatus or anything like that. She is putting on weight steadily and growing each day. But we do know that the brain bleed that she had will need monitoring in the coming years. And this is fine. It doesn’t scare me, or Lee. It doesn’t phase us, really. We are in love with our girl and believe in her, whatever the future brings.

8. Love is all around!

The amount of love you feel when you look at your baby is something out of this world. Ok, cliche again. But I just feel so blessed for having been able to experience this in my life. It’s crazy that all the love that I felt pre-Louisa cannot compare in any way to the love I feel for her. It’s just on a different league. I know that this love got me through the tough times and I know that this love is what will keep me positive for the future.

All in all, what a year!

So long, 2014. Bring us all a brand new year, full of joy, health, family gatherings, happy moments, sincere smiles. And even more love, because there is always more space for it in our hearts.


 2014-11-28 23.09.49

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Texto em português

É o final do ano e, mais uma vez, é hora de refletir sobre o que aconteceu na vida da gente. Se eu começo a pensar em como a minha vida me surpreendeu desde a última vez que eu escrevi aqui (Maio de 2014), eu nem sei como começar a descrever o quanto a minha vida mudou. Tanta coisa aconteceu! Eu tive um bebê (10 semanas mais cedo do que o esperado), minha mãe veio nos visitar aqui na Inglaterra pela primeira vez (o que foi muito especial), minha irmã também veio (e ainda está aqui), eu comecei a minha licença-maternidade, meu relacionamento com o Lee (parceiro de vida) se transformou em algo diferente, algo ainda melhor. Um serzinho lindo chamado Louisa faz parte da nossa vida agora e eu acho que, quando se tem um filho, é inevitável ver o seu/sua parceiro/a com outros olhos. É como se a gente se entendesse ainda melhor. As pequenas coisas já não importam e a gente se dá conta de que juntos somos mais fortes do que jamais achamos que poderíamos ser.

2014 foi o melhor ano da minha vida, sem dúvida nenhuma. Eu achei que isso já tinha acontecido, mas foi o ano em que eu conheci o amor da minha vida, que é como a minha amiga Estelle descreve ter um filho. Quando eu vi a minha bebê pela primeira vez, o meu mundo mudou…

Então aqui vai uma listinha do que eu percebi nesta vida pós-Louisa…

1. Você tem mais força do que imagina… muito mais!

O nascimento de um bebê prematuro requer força dos pais. Eu sei que isso acontece a toda hora, mas quando você se encontra naquela situação, a única opção é ser forte e acreditar que tudo vai dar certo. A Louisa nasceu muito cedo e as primeiras horas da vida dela foram muito difíceis. Contudo, o Lee e eu nunca paramos de acreditar que tudo daria certo. E, embora a Louisa ainda precise ser monitorada nos próximos anos, nós temos muita fé na nossa pequena. Isso tudo me faz crer que quanto mais força mostramos, mais surge de algum lugar.

2. A paciência vem quando precisamos dela

Os primeiros dias da Louisa foram bastante críticos. Nós queríamos muito saber se ela ficaria bem mas, de alguma maneira, eu consegui ser paciente com tudo. Sei lá, eu simplesmente me sentia calma todo o tempo. Eu não tenho nem ideia de onde surgiu toda essa serenidade, ela simplesmente começou a fazer parte de mim. Aqueles que me conhecem sabem que eu não sou muito paciente, mas eu me surpreendi comigo mesma. Eu não fiz perguntas que não tinham respostas, eu não me senti ansiosa, eu não me desesperei. Eu estava feliz em simplesmente viver um dia de cada vez, cada um com seus desafios, e deixar o barco correr. Eu logo aprendi que a situação toda não era uma corrida, mas uma maratona.

3. Você não é mais apenas você

Ohhh… esse é um ponto importante. Vai chegar um dia na vida de cada novo papai ou mamãe em que você vai se dar conta de que não está mais sozinho neste mundo. Não, não importa o quanto você queria aquele filho, não importan o quando você planejou tudo e se preparou para aquele momento da vida. Um dia, quando você menos esperar, você vai se dar conta de que vai dividir inúmeras experiências com aquele serzinho novo na sua vida, ajudá-lo com seus problemas, comemorar seus feitos e estar na vida deles para sempre, na alegria e na tristeza. E você também vai perceber que o seu papel é ter certeza de que ele/a possa ser o melhor possível, com ou sem você ao seu lado. Dá medo perceber que se tem tanta responsabilidade, mas também uma certa segurança de notar que se está mais do que pronto para o trabalho em questão.

4. Um meio sorriso de reflexo pode mudar o seu humor

Sono, sem tempo para comer, tomar banho, se exercitar, ver filmes, ver os amigos, todas aquelas coisas que eram tão comuns antes do bebê chegar e das quais agora você tem saudades… tudo é esquecido quando o bebê te dá um meio sorriso, que não é nem um sorriso real ainda. Eu sei que o sorriso de verdade vai acontecer logo… quando a Louisa estiver pronta. E quando acontecer, acho que vou derreter como um sorvete no sol (nossa, isso tudo é muito cliche, mas mesmo assim não consigo me conter!)

5. É verdade o que eles dizem… não se tem mais tempo pra nada

Eu sei que todo mundo fala a mesma coisa, mas o que eu fazia com todo o tempo que eu tinha antes? Dormir até mais tarde, noites preguiçosas, idas ao pub… ermmm, não mais! Logo você aprende a dividir a vida em pedaços de 2 horas aqui e ali, pois este é o tempo que você tem entre uma mamada e outra. Tudo o que você faz se torna uma missão e o alarme que manda você parar o que está fazendo (também conhecido como ‘choro faminto’) pode começar a tocar a qualquer minuto. Sair de casa se torna um acontecimento e meio que uma operação militar. Tudo tem que ser cronometrado para que não se corra o risco de o bebê começar a berrar de fome quando você está na fila do correio. Uma aventura e tanto.

6. A sua família e os seus verdadeiros amigos vão estar presentes

Esta é, sem dúvida, a maior revelação depois de tudo o que aconteceu este ano. Eu decidi postar no Facebook o que estava acontecendo com a Louisa, já que ela ficou no hospital por dois meses e as pessoas queriam notícias. O envolvimento das pessoas foi imenso. E eu estou convencida de que todo o pensamento positivo teve um efeito enorme na recuperação da Louisa.

A minha mãe e irmã vieram me visitar pela primeira vez aqui na Inglaterra desde que eu moro aqui (13 anos), meu pai Kao e mãe Iris estavam sempre em contato, mandando mensagens todos os dias (obrigada, Whatsapp!) e muitos dos meus amigos estiveram presentes, ajudando, me abraçando, me dando conselhos, me escutando, perguntando como estavam as coisas ou simplesmente falando de coisas completamente diferentes para me distrair. Algumas amizades começaram no meio de tudo o que estava se passando, outras se fortaleceram e outras se dissiparam, mas quem ficou do meu lado confirmou que está do meu lado pro que der e vier. E eu fico muito feliz com isso.

7. Perspectiva é tudo

A Louisa está super bem agora. Ela está em casa com nenhum equipamento médico. Ela está engordando todas as semanas e crescendo a cada dia. Mas nós sabemos que o sangramento no cérebro dela vai ter que ser monitorado pelos próximos anos. E isso não amedronta a mim ou ao Lee. Nós estamos apaixonados pela nossa menininha e nós acreditamos nela. Estamos prontos para o que o futuro nos trouxer.

8. O amor está por tudo

O amor que se sente quando se olha para um filho/a é indescritível. Ok, mais um cliché. Mas eu me sinto tão abençoada por estar podendo vivenciar isso na minha vida. É muito louco pensar que todo o amor que eu sentia antes dela nascer nem se compara ao amor que eu agora tenho por ela. É um amor que está em outro plano. Eu sei que este amor me ajudou a enfrentar momentos difíceis e eu sei que é este mesmo amor que vai me manter positiva no futuro.

Resumindo… que ano!

Tchau tchau, 2014. E que venha um ano novinho em folha, cheio de alegria, saúde, encontros familiares, momentos felizes e sorrisos sinceros. E ainda mais amor, porque sempre tem mais espaço nos nossos corações.

Categories: Babies, Being a mummy, Energy, Friendship, Happiness, Living away from home, Love matters, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A little thing called ‘WhatsApp’

And so I discovered this little thing called Whatsapp recently. Oh dear. If anyone out there is as out of synch as I seem to be all the time with anything technology-related, I explain: Whatsapp is an app for your phone that you use to keep in touch with people, if you are both signed in. You can send messages, pictures, videos, etc.

A friend of mine asked me if I had it and I said no (already thinking – mmm, this will be complicated and I can’t be bothered!). But then my other half downloaded the thing and she found me, as easy as that! I was amazed (I am easily amazed with anything like that). So, friend added, we started talking away. Fantastic.

I then quickly realised how good a little thing this was. See, living away from family and friends, this makes it so much easier to keep in touch with everyone, especially when you consider the different time zones. I can leave a message at midnight my time and get a reply at 4am, but that’s ok, because I can listen to it at any time I want! It’s great!

It can, however, become slightly addictive. I have been talking to one friend in particular who also lives away from home (by ‘home’ I mean our hometown) and we seem to talk about our daily lives’ little details, like what we are doing today, what the plans are for tomorrow, how we are feeling, if the weather is good, stuff like that. But even with all the details and lots of little messages, it doesn’t become tiring at all. It just makes us feel even closer. And what’s not to love about that?

I miss my friends so much. I have fantastic friends that I made here in the UK, but my friends from home know all about me. They know the awkward teenager I once was. They know how stubborn I can be. They know my star sign without even asking. They just really know what I’m like. Don’t get me wrong, my friends over here are slowly but surely getting to know me too, warts and all, but long-term friendship is a process where steps cannot be skipped. So it’s good to be back in constant contact with those that know me inside out and have done so for many years.

I am indeed addicted at the moment. I look forward to my friends’ messages and I enjoy sending mine to them. I also like the fact that there is no immediate interaction, as this makes you think and really try and address all the points your friend made in the last conversation. It seems as though less of the conversation is lost than if you were face to face.

Of course, it’s not ideal. Ideal is face to face, as it always will be. Nothing beats looking into each other’s eyes, as a good friend most of the time doesn’t even need words to explain a look. But since we can’t have it all, Whatsapp is a fantastic solution (and no, I’m not being paid by them!). In my opinion, anything that makes me feel closer to the ones I love, is ON! Bless technology!

Categories: Living away from home | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A deconstructed world

In the past, we worked hard to put the world in which we live in into some kind of order. We had the role of everyone in society very well established (regardless if that was done in a fair way or not). We all knew what to expect of things, we all knew what was right and what was wrong.

Nowadays, everyone believes – greatly because we are slowly making every single new generation believe – that we can be and do everything we want. Everything. Anything. The choices are endless.

This tends to make people take an established rule, something that served a purpose at some point, and break it apart, sometimes purely just because they feel they can. It’s fun. After all, rules are meant to be broken, right?

Breaking rules that no longer fit community/society life and transforming them into rules that do is absolutely fine in my book. Transforming things for the sake of it and for the detriment of well-established beliefs that make total sense is quite another.

Take prejudice, for example. People around the entire world suffer from it. It’s incredible that in this day and age we are still discussing it. And yet, people feel they have the right to do the atrocious, to break boundaries that are nobody’s to break, to try and feel superior when we are all the same.

We have come from nothing (as my dad liked to explain to me when I was a child, the world began with the explosion of atoms and that’s that.  Whenever I questioned a God, he would just shrug and show no commitment). We built and created so much. And now, by either being careless or perhaps by just being far too innovative and too daring (far more than we actually need), we are damaging, slowly, the good foundations we have always had. Again, I’m not talking about keeping what no longer fits, but about destroying what still fits.

Ok, ok… I know we have come a long way on many aspects of life in society and the way our communities work around the world. However, I can’t stop thinking that sometimes it feels like we are just taking all that we have worked for and smashing it, like you would smash a brick on a wall. And after every time we do it, our foundations, our purpose, our reasons for being are all there, in millions of pieces. The rules are broken. And we all take a tiny piece of that brick to make with it whatever we want. Once broken, all the pieces flying in the air might make for an amazing view, but once they fall on the floor, what exactly are we left with?

Call me crazy, but I would much prefer a simpler world.

simplicity

Categories: Different eras, Insights, Rules, What are we doing here? | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Latina’s voice in an Anglo-Saxon world

Oh, how much I have learned in these 14 years living here in England. Driving on the other (wrong?) side of the road, saying ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ all the time (us Brazilians can be quite forgetful when it comes to that), remembering NOT to hug people all the time (I’ve learned this the hard way, believe me!), being on time for everything (and I thought I was punctual in Brazil!), amongst so many other things.

By far, though, the hardest thing I’ve learned (and am, in fact, still learning), is how to decipher what the English say, especially at work. I shall explain. Take this situation as an example: everyone is at work, working through an important project. Everyone can see that one person is not doing what they are supposed to be doing, at least not in the correct way. This person doesn’t realise exactly what is wrong, but carries on doing whatever their task is in the way they know how to. Facing this situation, the English just stay quiet. They simply let the person realise for themselves what it is that they are doing wrong, with no fuss. I, on the other hand, just want to go straight to that person and say: “Hey, this is wrong, the best to way to do it is like this”. This would make the person a) appreciate my help. b) do the job correctly and c) feel like they are working as part of a team that cares about the overall result. However, in the same situation above, I have witnessed… well, nothing most of the time. Or the English saying a bunch of words that don’t really mean much. They just seem to choose not to take charge of things. They prefer not to say anything substantial, they prefer not to get heavily involved and leave far too much to our interpretation.

croppedimage564371-mean-what-you-say

My theory is that, over here, people must have some kind of switch that us Latinos just didn’t have installed. This switch is the one they use when they are in a situation where saying something, reacting, imposing themselves would make them stand out and, God forbid, standing out is a no-no, so the switch is on. Since their switch is always on ‘not to react’ mode, and mine is always off (which means I’m often the one that will say stuff), I’m the one that risks being seen as ‘the trouble maker’ – all the time. Now, no one wants to be seen as the trouble maker, especially when you have really good intentions and all you actually want to do is help. You want to be seen as the person that isn’t afraid of saying something, taking risks and being passionate. For the English, though, giving your honest opinion is just not something they do very often. Their usual reaction when asked is usually… yes, silence. Or words that are so mild and neutral that they can speak for 15 minutes in their calm way and you still won’t know what they actually think. But don’t be fooled. They are thinking something, behind those eyes that say: “I’d rather not tell you the truth”, they just choose not to tell you what it is or tell you through some sort of ‘word-code’.

This table here shows what I mean and shows how much misunderstanding the English can cause…

What the English say What the English mean What foreigners understand
I hear what you say I disagree and do not want to discuss it further He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect You are an idiot He is listening to me
That’s not bad That’s good That’s poor
That is a very brave proposal You are insane He thinks I have courage
Quite good A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest Do it or be prepared to justify yourself Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that I am annoyed that It doesn’t really matter
Very interesting That is clearly nonsense They are impressed
I’ll bear it in mind I’ve forgotten it already They will probably do it
I’m sure it’s my fault It’s your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don’t agree at all He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please rewrite completely He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options I don’t like your idea They have not yet decided

The English like to live on the fence. I’m no acrobat, me. I like to be either on one side or the other, being the mid-fielder is definitely not my speciality. I like to say what I think. And so many times, being in this country, this has meant that people saw me in the wrong light. This is, by far, the most difficult cultural lesson to learn over here. For me, at least. I like to be able to take sides, to voice my opinion, to transform things, to make things better by standing up for myself, for a group of people, for the benefit of a project.

I think it’s so much easier to just say what you think clearly rather than hide it in a ‘polite’ way of speaking. Where is the good in hiding it? I’m sure the English have their own reasons, but most of the time I just can’t understand why they do it. I’m more and more convinced that this must be a game they play with us foreigners. I’m sure they are all aware, amongst themselves, of what they really mean. They just hide it from us to see our blood boil. It must be funny for them to see us losing our minds, trying to stop ourselves from telling things as they are. I like the English a lot, I even picked one to be my partner in life but, truthfully, I have no patience for games like this, with the greatest respect.

Categories: The English | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Table for one, please.

There is something quite liberating in approaching a restaurant and, with the confidence of an Olympic games medallist, say: – Table for one, please.

I recently travelled alone to Lisbon, in Portugal, and I really wanted to experience their culinary. I usually have no problems being on my own, but I have to say… it had been a while since I sat in a restaurant, ordered a dish, ate and paid the bill entirely on my own, having just myself as company during the meal. It was almost like a new experience for me. Something that represented freedom in many ways.

Eleven years ago I went travelling in Italy. For 10 days, I explored Italy completely on my own. My goal was to see as much as I could, so I started in the south and made my way up north. The great thing about this trip was that I didn’t have any hotels booked, no train timetables printed out, nothing. I didn’t even know all the places I could go to. I just went. I was literally arriving in each city and fighting for survival (ok, that sounds a bit too extreme, but if I chose not to do anything, I’d literally sleep on the streets and probably get arrested or something). Arriving in an unknown place, not knowing where I’d sleep that night was such an adventure. Yes, of course I know that many people have done that before a million times, but I recall that experience one of the best ones of my life. I felt so proud of myself every night when I laid my head on a pillow, knowing that I made my way there on my own. I guess it was the time I felt most responsible for myself. And that didn’t change since then, so I suppose it was a bit of a turning point.

caminhando sem rumo

There is a lot more to travelling alone than just finding a bed, though. You can decide everything… ON YOUR OWN. You are the queen of your own trip and no one will dare telling you what to do, because no one knows you! I find that visiting a place alone works as a great opportunity for a very close meeting with yourself. You can get your mind wandering about everything and not get these thoughts interrupted by people talking to you. It’s like meditating the whole time, with amazing discoveries along the way.

On this recent trip to Lisbon, I remember getting out of the hotel (yes, I had booked it in advance – I guess my gypsy ways are gone) and looking to the right and to the left. I then remember thinking: which way should I go? I answered my own question by giving myself a little spin and thinking: whichever side I face, that’s where I’m going! To the right it was, then. On this trip, I walked, walked and walked the entire time. I didn’t have a long time to explore the place and I wanted to make the most of it. However, although I did see amazing sights, what I felt most amazed about was the way I was feeling. Walking down the street, with a fresh breeze on my face and the impulse you get when you are walking downwards, combined with the very appealing idea that I had no clue where I was going gave me this fantastic feeling of freedom. It was almost like I was floating on the streets, just letting that breeze take me wherever. And my mind was wandering all the same, making up all these thoughts that would come in and go out in the speed of light.

I had two incredible days in Lisbon. I just couldn’t believe how insightful it was to just detach myself from my usual surroundings for a couple of days and what a difference it made to my outlook on life. That freedom, that adventurous spirit stayed with me, and reminded me of the girl I was 11 years ago. It reminded me of my courage, of my ‘happy-go-lucky’ ways, of my free spirit. The same one that I’m not letting feel trapped ever again, for whatever reason.

Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder of who we really are to go look for that person inside ourselves and bring them back.

Categories: Insights, Travel tips, Travelling alone | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Evolve with me

I don’t know what is going on, but I just feel full of love lately… I just can’t stop writing about the damn thing! It might have something to do with the fact that I’m going home all the way to Brazil next week and I just feel so nostalgic. I’m going for my mum and step dad’s 25th wedding anniversary and I can’t wait to give them a big hug!

My auntie and uncle have also recently celebrated their wedding anniversary (their 50th!) and all these celebrations have made me reflect about couples, life as a couple, choosing the right person, and deciding to stay with that person. I found myself asking the question: what is it that makes people want to stay together? I mean, sometimes it seems as though the whole universe is conspiring to show us why we shouldn’t be with someone. Sometimes, so many challenges are put in our way that we think that we are missing a trick by not just letting go. But then, despite it all, we insist, because we believe that somehow that is meant to be. And why is that? In a world of instant relationships, where giving up is all so easy, why some of us still persevere and try to overcome bad times to stay with someone?

I guess it all comes down to the roots of said love, the reasons that brought the couple together in the first place. It could be the way she talks, it could be the way he is always so thoughtful, her clumsy ways or his talents as a chef. Or it could be none of these or all of them together. The thing is, somehow, somewhere right there in the beginning, a ‘ping’ moment happened, that moment when you realise that ‘Yep, that’s the person for me and I shall stop looking around for anybody else’. Bingo!

This choice, when made, usually means that you sort of become more adaptable to the traits of that person. You know them well, their annoying bits and their best bits, and you learn how to endure the abrupt way they can respond to you when they are in a rush, her annoying habit of asking silly questions when watching movies, the complete disregard he has for the laundry basket, the way she needs to be so controlling. These – and many other characteristics and behaviours – become just part of that person, part of the partner you chose.

Nowadays, when relationships go wrong, people can too often just discard them. Far too many times, they blame the work that is involved to keep a happy relationship. Well, of course there’ll be work involved. Even though we have been made to ‘mate’, we are very much individual human beings, with all our quirky traits and odd behaviours. So to think that joining two people, even if they are attracted to each other, is as easy as joining two pieces of magnet, think again. Some adaptation is required, and not only just the once. On an ongoing basis. Oh yes…

growing together

So, if it’s so much work, why do we still do it? The way I think of it is because the pros outweigh the cons. A little adaptation, a little understanding, a bit of accommodating and patience are not that much, when you get great company, fantastic laughs, affection in abundance and someone that genuinely cares about you in return. There is something about that person that makes it ok for you to wake up a bit earlier than them to make them coffee. There is something special that makes you not mind having to put up with their messiness, their ‘leave me alone’ moments and their obsession with never ever , God forbid, using a fork to scrape a pan. The same way that they put up with your fear of motorways, your useless ways in the kitchen and the way you like to change the furniture around all the time. It’s a very balanced but unspoken trade.

There is a song that kind of describes what I’m talking about. You will know it. It’s that one that goes… “Nobody knows it, but you’ve got a secret smile, and you use it only for me…” I think this song says a lot about couples staying together. To me, it represents that underlying understanding that is always there somehow and pushes you through limits but always makes you stronger. You see something special in someone because what is special about them is somehow highlighted to you in a way that others can’t see. These understanding looks, smiles and gestures keep that connection, keeps them protected. If these are treasured and the two of you manage to keep them intact, then you will be just fine.

Couples that persevere are brave. I heard someone say the other day that they are kind of embarrassed to mention that they have been happily married for over 20 years. People just look at them incredulous, doubting that that could ever be true. Why not? It’s a great thing to find someone for whom you are willing to adapt yourself, so you can grow stronger together. If that person is happy to do the same for you, even better (or lucky, shall we say?). And when a couple is willing to evolve together for an amazing length of time, like my auntie and uncle, and my mum and stepdad, then only one thing can describe that: true love.

Categories: Brazil, Friendship, Happiness, Love matters, Personality traits, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Love someone? Tell them so.

I used to think that saying ‘I love you’ all the time was a bit of an exaggeration. Whenever I heard couples on the phone saying ‘Bye, love you’, I used to think: ‘Why do they have to say that all the time?’ I use to think that the more you said ‘I love you’, the less meaning the words had. A bit like saying ‘Are you alright?’ when you meet someone on the street. It doesn’t mean much, does it? It’s just part of the greeting process.

I don’t know what has changed, but I now think in a totally different way. And the process didn’t go like: ‘Ok, from now on, I’ll say ‘I love you’ every morning when we go separate ways to work, in every text message or call and every night before we go to sleep (with some added ones when we cuddle and the words appear out of nowhere again)’. No, none of this was planned.

One day, I just realised that one day didn’t go by when I didn’t say ‘I love you’ to my partner. I mean, I have had other relationships before and this didn’t happen, so it does bear the question: what has changed? Yes, you thought right. I guess when it feels right, the words just come out without you thinking too much. And yes, I do think I have loved before, but I don’t think it was a love strong enough to say the words every day, if that makes sense.

It doesn’t happen just with couples, though, does it? I, for one, can’t hang up when I talk to my dad before saying ‘I love you’ first. Or to my grandma, or my mum, or my sister. I mean, the people that are very very close to your heart make you just want to say it, because you want them to know exactly how you feel.

When you think about the meaning of the words ‘I love you’, what comes to mind? To me, it means: ‘I’ll be there for you always and I appreciate you in my life, just the way you are’. I think this covers it. But some kids have their own translation of the words, and each and every one makes perfect sense. They show that you don’t necessarily have to say the words to show someone how much you love them.

Here’s what the kids said… (these are from a study where professionals asked kids aged 4 – 8 years-old the question ‘What does love mean?’). Some are quite funny, but they are all so honest…

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca- age 8  

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl – age 5  

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“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy – age 6

“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” Terri – age 4  

“Love is when my mommy   makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to   make sure the taste is OK.” Danny – age 7  

“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.” Emily – age 8  

“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.” Elaine-age 5  

“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann – age 4  

“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” Karen – age 7  

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica – age 8 

And the above is exactly the point of this post. People need to know how we feel. It’s so good to know how other people feel about us, so why do we sometimes hold back? Saying ‘I love you’, in whatever way it comes, is the most selfless thing you can say to someone. Yes, it makes you vulnerable. Yes, it means you wear your heart on your sleeve. But then again, if you don’t let feelings take over often enough, what is the point in living?

Categories: Love matters, Relationships | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The secret of happiness… by me.

I have discovered the secret of happiness. Oh yes, I have. It’s something all of us can do, all of us sometimes already do, but may not even realise. I found out about it only this morning, and quickly thought I’d share it with whomever cares to read this post. Are you ready?

This morning, I woke up and got out of bed. I like to get up, go to the kitchen and put the kettle on. Then, whilst the water is boiling, I usually just stand around the kitchen, trying to wake myself up a little more. Today, however, it was almost like the noise of the kettle put me into some kind of trance, for I started looking around as if I was in a different world. An Alice in Wonderland World.

I started looking at all the things that make me happy. Some books I had in the kitchen, some magazines, lovely food, pictures of family and friends… and then a realised… Gosh, I have everything I need. Yes, I still look for more, I still want more (to learn more, to improve more, to travel more…) – I guess this is what keeps us moving forward. But that realisation, there in the kitchen, was such a bliss.

I then made a coffee and left it on the kitchen table, as I felt this urge to go around the house and look for more things that would make me realise how lucky I actually am in life. Entering the living room, I saw my guitar. I absolutely love my guitar and I adore playing it, even though I’m not that good. It makes me feel alive when I play and sing, it’s such a good feeling. Then I saw another pile of books that I can’t wait to read, my laptop that puts me into contact with my lovely family, and then I remembered that I’m going to be seeing them all in a month’s time. And then I started crying because that kind of happiness was just too much.

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I left the living room with tears going down my face and went into the bedroom. There, sleeping like a baby, Lee was just making that very subtle breathing sound that we make when we sleep. I just looked at him for a little while, thinking: ‘Gosh, how did I get so lucky? How did I find this amazing person that loves me and puts up with me?’ And then he woke up and asked me why I was crying. I couldn’t really explain, so I just said: ‘Because I’m happy.’ To which he said, opening his arms and displaying a bit of a puzzled face: ‘Come here…’.  And there I was, embraced by the love of my life, in a warm bed, in silence, thinking about all these little things that make my life and make it so very special. If you really think about it, it’s not much, it’s not stuff. It’s feelings. It’s realisation.

So the secret of happiness, to me,  (I know you have been waiting for this bit) is PERCEPTION. It’s seeing what’s around you but not just seeing it, feeling it and realising how much each of these little things contribute to your well-being and your ‘feeling good’ factor. It’s valuing the people around you and the things that you can do yourself to make your life happier. This is my happiness secret.

So how about you, what is the secret of your happiness?

 

 

Categories: Happiness, Living away from home, Love matters | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The next right thing

I was reading a story of this woman that was an addict and then became pregnant (yes, it was in Cosmo, but I’m a sucker for reality so excuse me!). She was saying that she felt like a ‘walking contradiction’ when she was a teenager, always pretending to be someone she wasn’t. She pretended very well and was very popular, but deep inside she knew how much she was lying to the outside world – and to herself. Then, she found herself pregnant and finally decided to take action to destroy her worst habits of drinking, bulimia and drug usage. At this point, I thought to myself:  ‘Crickey, that can’t have been easy’. And, because it got me intrigued, I carried on reading.

The story unfolded well and in the end she managed to break free of all of her bad habits. She says that she now accepts that she will never be totally happy, so she is happy to accept to be happy-ish most of the time (I personally find this a bit hard to understand, but she must have her reasons). But this story of struggle is not the reason I’m writing this today. The reason I’m writing is because she mentioned something that struck a chord with me. She had a technique to get rid of her old habits that made her so unhappy but at the same time were so consuming. And I thought that this technique could be of use to anyone, hence this post. It can certainly be useful to me (and I have already started using it).

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Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs help or anything like that (and I certainly don’t want people to think this is a self-help kind of blog), but who doesn’t find themselves in times of trouble sometimes? Who sometimes doesn’t quite know what to do next? Exactly. The technique is called ‘the next right thing’. If you find yourself in a position where everything is getting on top of you and you don’t know if you are coming or going, just think small and think to yourself: what is the next right thing that I could do? And then do it. And then, if you do this often, it will become a way of life and you will find it much easier to take action when you need to.

Let me translate this into practical examples: you messed up at work. You made a mistake and don’t know what to do now… don’t think about losing your job, how hard it’ll be to find a new one or how people will judge you. Just think of the next right thing you can do to try and resolve the situation. It doesn’t need to be something big, but it will get you moving, rather than freezing because the prospect of all the negative things you thought in the first place. Another example: you feel that you don’t spend enough time with your children and you fear that they will not remember you in the future in the way you hope they would. Yes, this is a very sad prospect, but don’t think that far ahead. Think about the next right thing you can do to never get to that negative outcome. See? It works when you are already in a sticky situation or when you are trying to prevent one.

When I’m overwhelmed, I freeze… I think things like: ‘oh Gosh, this will take ages’ or ‘ ahhhh, I have so much to do, I don’t know how to get started!’ or ‘I want to stop going to bed so late every night, but can never accomplish it’. You can apply this thinking to everything, really (I have been applying it to work, with it being so busy and crazy at the moment).

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For a worrier-type like myself, this is a wonderful solution. Instead of over-reacting and thinking ‘this will never be possible’ or ‘I’ll never get out of this situation’, this approach puts things into a much smaller perspective and makes you act. It’ll be a small act, but because you’ll be asking yourself constantly ‘what is the next right thing to do?’, one small act will follow the next and you will end up just doing things instead of thinking them through too much. You will also do what is possible for you at the time, rather than waiting for ‘when the time is right’. Sometimes thinking too much, I find, hinders action. And without doing, we are hardly achieving anything, aren’t we?

Please don’t think that I’m being patronising here. Everyone is different. I’m just saying that this little sentence has already had an effect in my sometimes lazy approach to things… I think, think, think and sometimes don’t really act, and then start thinking ‘why aren’t things happening how I wanted them to?’ Well, it’s my own fault for doing fxxx all about it! Thinking about the next right thing to do makes you constantly do something. And achieve results that can change your life. One step at a time.

Categories: Happiness, Next right thing, Quirky thoughts | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going the distance

I live in a building with only 8 flats. All the other residents are older than Lee and myself. And when I say older I mean at least 50 years older. They are all lovely people, with their own grumpy and quirky traits.

The couple that live above us is definitely in their 70s and, because this is a very old building, I can hear a little about their daily lives from our flat (I know, a bit annoying, but I try to make the best of it). For example, I already know that they go to bed no later than 12:30 am, I know how loud the man can yawn when he is on the balcony, I know a couple of programmes they like to watch on telly (although I can hardly hear it, really) but, most of all, I know the type of music they like. And this is because every Sunday, without fail, they will listen to music for a couple of hours in the afternoon. They listen to Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles,  Miles Davis, The Beatles, The Supremes, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash … these are some of the ones I recognise (and I have to say I’m not exactly an expert). In my opinion, they have fabulous taste.

Every time they listen to music like that, I can’t help but imagine how stable and settled they are in life. Ok, they are old and they have known each other for a long time, but there is something very endearing about a long-term relationship. I imagine them listening to these songs and looking at each other with puppy-dog eyes, remembering old times, and maybe even dancing slowly in the living room. They certainly have the energy for that, as I see them out and about all the time.

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Long-term relationships are a blessing. It’s almost a miracle that 2 people can meet each other in this big wide world and manage to be there for each other throughout their lives. It’s a choice. It’s knowing that that person will be there for you no matter what and that you will be there for them too. I think that there are secrets to the long duration of relationships. These are things that we don’t do consciously, we just do them, as long as we feel that it’s still worthy for us to have that person by our side.  To me, these things are:

1. Accepting your partner for who they are.

My mum once told me that people don’t change (simple but very wise words). Yes, you may change your views on things, change dreams or change your hair style, etc. But your core, what you truly are, will never change. So, if your partner has traits that you can’t live with, don’t expect that these will change with time or that you can make them change these for you. They won’t. You either learn to live with these little things or you better let go. But remember: you also have little things that your partner may not love, so give and take is paramount.

2. Accompanying your partner through their many phases.

Your partner will go through different phases in life, and you will too. Being there for each other during these times is what makes a relationship strong. We change work, we change interests, we change rhythm, we change tastes. And these changes make us see the world in a different light each time. As a couple, being able to understand and accept these constant transformations in the other person will make you the one constant thing in their lives. And having that one trustworthy person to fall back on again and again is priceless. It makes us feel grounded, secure and loved, no matter what life throws at us.

3. Sometimes giving more, sometimes giving less.

You will sometimes feel that you love your partner so much you could burst. But, in equal strength, you may find that for periods of time, you are just coasting along and going through the motions. I see this as a normal thing. You can’t have that ‘can’t live without each other’ feeling all the time. It’s exhausting! But you should feel that often enough so you always value how important that person is in your life and how much sadness you’d feel if you lost them. To me, love comes in waves of intensity, sometimes they are very high up, sometimes quite low, but somehow always there in some shape or form.

4. Making time for me, me, me.

Have an interest in yourself. You can’t just live for the other person. Cultivate your own interests, give yourself time to appreciate the things you love, even if you don’t share them with your partner. You can’t lose your own identity, as this is what attracted your partner to you in the first place. Also, looking after yourself, having your hobbies and appreciating your own company will make you a better and more interesting person.

5. Understanding that love is subtle.

Grand gestures? Yes, they can be nice. But nothing, to me, is nicer than a cup of coffee made without request at the right time, a ‘how was your day?’ just when you are bursting to tell someone about the supplier that let you down, a ‘come on, let’s go out’ right when you were just starting to wonder what to do on this grey day… Love is in the little things. It’s in the intrinsic way your partner knows you so well and how they make your every day more special for doing so.

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Long-term love is for the courageous. The longer you spend with someone, the more the barrier we usually have to protect ourselves from others comes down. So, the same way as with my neighbours, in many years’ time there will be no barrier at all, as you will know the other person almost as well as you know yourself. And this knowledge of the other, this willingness to share yourself with someone is true love. It’s love that gives you butterflies in your stomach, it’s love that goes through ups and downs, it’s love that goes the distance, with dancing in the living room and all.

Categories: Friendship, Happiness, Love matters, Personality traits, Relationships, The Good Life | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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