Posts Tagged With: how we spend time

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…

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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.

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

The Dutch

Since my first visit to Amsterdam, in 2000, I have developed some kind of fascination with the Dutch people. They seem to speak right to me and I seem to understand what they are all about – and deeply admire it.

Over the years, I visited Amsterdam four times and I plan to go there again and again and again. The place is magic – and, believe me, magic is a word I definitely use sparingly when describing a place that I like.

To start with, I like the place because it’s beautiful. And my apologies that I can’t speak for the whole of the Netherlands as I have only been to Amsterdam, but I’m sure I’d be just as fascinated had I travelled further within the country.

Amsterdam has a charm that is even hard to explain. The best thing about it is to get lost (and by that I don’t necessarily mean getting lost by a drug high you can achieve legally over there). I’m talking about walking and walking and walking so much that all of a sudden you start recognising that you have been going round in circles a little bit and took a long time to notice. It doesn’t matter one bit, though. The place is so beautiful and so majestic that you simply won’t mind seeing the same sights over and over again.

Lee and I went to spend Easter in Amsterdam a week ago and, once again, the place amazed me. So, with everything fresh in my mind, I compiled a bit of a list of my favourite things about Amsterdam and the Dutch people.

Please note: I’m not an expert and my travels consisted of 4 visits, so please forgive me for not being extremely thorough, I’m only mentioning the things that strike a chord with me.

So here goes…

1. The way of life

The Dutch seem to live a very balanced life style. They cycle everywhere, they all look healthy and fit and, most importantly, they seem to really enjoy life. A recent study said that 75% of  the Dutch women work part-time and are perfectly happy with their decision. In fact, the Dutch don’t work very much at all, when compared to their European fellow countries. They work an average of 30.6 hours a week, which is nearly one day less than in any other European country. Even so, they still manage to be at the top of the list for productivity, so we could say that working less hours seem to make people more productive. It makes sense: if you have a good work-life balance, you will be happier and, in turn, you will have more enthusiasm to do your work. Clever people .

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Life is good, eh?

2. The Food

The supermarkets contribute, in my opinion, to the Dutch being so healthy. Lee and I were amazed, in our last visit, at how beautifully the fruit and veg are displayed on the shelves. They get placed on shelves with these glass doors, making the whole fruit and veg section look like a shop window. It makes everything look so fresh and yummy. Having said that, nothing beats a good stroopwafel with a steamy cup of coffee. Or the marvellous cheese and brown bread they make. Or the most amazing apple pie I’ve ever had (to be found on Winkel 43 – Noordemarkt). Not so healthy, perhaps, but all true Dutch national treasures.

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Stroopwafel and apple pie. Yum!

3. The bikes

The thing you have to get used to quickly in Amsterdam is the bikes. They are everywhere. With over 880,000 bikes in a city where 790,000 people live, no wonder they are seen on every space available on the streets, on top of one another sometimes, and all around the city, with all the Ducth people riding them. And the reason you have to get used to it quick is because the cyclists may run over you if you’re not careful. They do tell you if you are in their way by ringing their bell a bit in advance, but sometimes just before they are about to hit you. Eeek!

The bikes add to the charm of the city and are certainly a major photo opportunity on every corner. And the most curious thing about this bike-obsessed life is that the Dutch really don’t seem to care for really fancy bikes. They prefer theirs to be gearless and rusted, with the odd exception when they paint them in cool colours (see photo). The Dutch don’t thrive on spending money where not necessary – and the bikes, although a main mean of transport, don’t make top of the list for them to spend their (not so hard-earned) money on.

The most amazing thing, though, is what you get to see the Dutch doing on their bikes. They carry their children on it, they carry heavy objects (such as the massive mirror Lee and I saw this guy carrying on our last visit), they eat, they talk on the phone, they have a full conversation with the fellow biker next to them. It looks extremely easy, but I bet it takes years and years of practice.

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Family day out on the left, a very cool bike in the middle and a busy mum on the right

4. The bluntness

I like blunt people. I like when you know where you stand with others. I tend to be like this – which sometimes doesn’t go that well with my polite British fellow colleagues and friends. But hey. I admire it. And the Ducth are just the same.

If you ask them a stupid question, they will look at you like you are, ermm… stupid. And when they stop looking at you that way and decide to help you out by answering your question, expect the answer to be short and sweet. They are straight-forward people and hanging around doesn’t seem like a productive use of their time. However, I may be speaking from a ‘tourist’ point of view here, and they might show a lot more tact with people they actually know. Still, I admire this ‘black and white’ approach (it’s even on the street signs!).

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Lots of the famous Dutch orange on everything, of course – even when they’re being blunt!

5. The houses

Oh my God, they all look so amazing. Outside and inside. And I can say that about the inside because one of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam is to let my inner voyeur out and look inside every single house I have the opportunity to. I think they are amazing. The Dutch have this ability to group things together, but nothing ever looks too matchy-matchy. Everything they seem to own has a purpose to be where it is and the colours they put together sometimes don’t go (in theory), but in practice they just work. They certainly have a gift for making a place look effortlessly welcoming, cosy and modern at the same time. Hats off.

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6. The flowers

They are in almost every house, in restaurants, cafes, stations – pretty much everywhere. And boy do they make the place look colourful, inviting and fresh! I just love how they use flowers for decoration. You see all kinds and they are quite cheap. I wish they were that cheap here in the UK, so my home could have more of it. Flower power.

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7. The 3 kisses

This is something we do in Brazil and, during my few visits to Amsterdam, I noticed a lot of people doing the same. The tradition works in the same way as it does in Brazil: 3 kisses on the cheek (more like ‘blown in the air’ kisses) that start on the right, then left, then right cheek again. The kisses are for family and friends only, though – like in Brazil. It’s just so refreshing to see that, when here in the UK people have this barrier and this personal space that the other person shouldn’t even dare trespass. Refreshing and closer to home.

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Ok, maybe not on the mouth!

 8. The airport

I just love Schiphol Airport – it’s definitely my favourite. Arriving there gives a pretty good picture of what is to come. It’s straight-forward to find where you have to go (very Dutch-like), modern and, to me, the most important thing: it’s colourful. It’s an airport I usually choose for flight connections to Brazil, if I can, and it’s definitely a bonus to be able to buy some stroopwafel on your stopover.

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Vibrant and colourful features make Schiphol special.

9. The passion for life

The Dutch seem to have a special passion for life. They seem to have this eagerness to enjoy every single second, even if it’s by doing nothing. I remember seeing many people just sat at their door step soaking in the sunshine and doing nothing else. They have this ability to enjoy the moment, to relax, to just ‘be’. They don’t seem to be a worried nation, they take life as it comes and cross bridges when they come to them. They don’t get stressed. These are characteristics I really admire, as I can be a stress-head sometimes. We have a lot to learn with the Dutch and their quirky approach to life, me thinks.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA… and relax!

Overall, the Dutch seem to be very happy people and I think this is what fascinates me. Nothing seems to phase them too much. They eat well, they exercise, they are friendly, they don’t mess about, they are proud of who they are. They just seem to go through life in a very well-established manner, like they have all read this secret amazing book of ‘how to live life in the best way’ (but shhh, please don’t tell anyone).

When Lee and I were at the airport, coming back to the UK after our last visit, we were having a chat about how great it would be to live in Amsterdam. We would work less, we would be more relaxed, we would be fitter. We then started talking about how and if this would even be an option for us. I was voting yes, and so was Lee, but then we thought again and found a major obstacle: we’re just not cool enough.

Categories: Amsterdam, Coolness, Dutch People, Living away from home, The Good Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

No regrets

My home country suffered a tragedy a week ago. A fire in a nightclub killed over 230 young people and injured over 100. The reasons for the fire were lack of common sense and the infamous Brazilian way of doing things (by that I mean expired fire assessment certificates, no fire extinguishers in the premises, etc). Total chaos and very ‘Brazil’, I have to admit. Very, very sad.

This post, however, is not about the reasons why this has happened, although this would certainly deserve a post of its own. This post is about the young people that died. They all died almost instantly by the inhalation of carbon monoxide. Doctors said that they didn’t feel any pain, they just sort of fell asleep.

I can’t help but imagine them waking up, though. Waking up in the spiritual sense, I mean, after they had gone to ‘the other side’, after they were already dead. Some people claim that, after you die, your spirit comes out of your body and you can watch what is happening around you. You can see your body there, motionless, lifeless.

This image in my head made me think of what those young spirits would be thinking, how hard it must have been for them to understand what had happened and what they were doing there, lying on the floor of a nightclub full of black smoke, full of other dead people, full of their friends. I wonder if in this situation you think you can go back to your body and make yourself wake up from this bad dream. I wonder if they thought of the things that they still wanted to do in life. And I wonder if there was anything that they felt they should have done before dying. Anything that they regretted.

This week, I had the oportunity of watching a video about a nurse that recorded the top 5 regrets of dying people.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog and, subsequently, she compiled her observations into a book called ‘The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying’.

The nurse writes about the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

At the end of their lives, many people realise that they had not honoured half of their own dreams, either because of choices that they made or because of choices that they didn’t make.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Time with family and friends was sacrified because of work and many of the dying mentioned working too much as one of their main regrets.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

With many of the dying having developed illnesses related to supressing their feelings, it’s no wonder that not making people aware of what’s inside can result in ill health and an unfulfilled life.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Who can’t think of good friends that we lost touch with? Those friendships from our school years that, if cultivated, could have become large parts of our lives? It’s so important to keep in touch with friends and yet so many people leave it ’till later’, when it can be too late.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

Those deaths in Brazil, if anything, have made me think about how fragile life is and how responsible we are for our own happiness. If anything good can come out of it, be it our evaluation of what we are doing with our own lives. We still have time to change things, we still have time to take charge of our own future. We still have time to have no regrets.

Categories: Death, Time | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Happy? So be it!

As with many of us, the approach of a new year makes us look at life and analyse where we are, what we are doing and how we want things to happen in the future. This thinking is what forms goals and plans for the times ahead. However, no matter how great it is to have a plan for the future, it is also an amazing thing to be in the present, feel it and discover happiness in it.

The happiest people aren’t the ones with the most money, things, friends, power, attention, health or even love. Neither are they always the ones with the least. The happiest people  are the ones who practice gratitude and focus on loving life consistently (and ok, having goals and trying your best to achieve them helps too!).

So in this post, I would like to take the opportunity to list a few reasons to be grateful and HAPPY about this crazy little maze that we call life.

1. Nature: who doesn’t love the sunset? It’s my favourite part of the day. I like all the colours turning into one, the sun going smaller, smaller and smaller until it disappears into the ocean or behind the hills. It makes me feel calm. And it’s free, with access to anyone who cares to open their eyes to appreciate it.

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2. Random kindness: a chat with the neighbour, some unexpected help when you need it, a smile when you don’t expect it. These little surprises make life what it is, a little magic trick waiting to happen.

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3. Art: it’s everywhere, even you make it, I bet! Again, it’s a case of opening your eyes to the new, to the crazy, to the inspiring and let your newly found perspective broaden your mind. Seeing it, reading it, listening to it, watching it will only enhance your life.

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4. Nice food, especially if cooked in good company. Chop, chop, chop, chat, chat, chat (drink, drink, drink). The greatest recipe I’ve ever known.

Plate of food on table with wine glass in background

5. Great people around you. Happy people are infectious, so the more ‘happies’ you have around you, the more are the chances of you being happy too. Surround yourself with positive people and your mood will reflect their joyful spirit.

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6. Great working environment. Working with people that inspire you, understand you and value your work makes the 9-5 part of your life a pleasure, not a chore. If you love what you do, even better! Just don’t forget to count your blessing here, as many people work for the weekend.

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7. A great network. A big family that likes to interfere in everyone’s business (like mine), great close friends and a partner that ‘has got your back’ is all you need anytime: when you are down, to pick you up; when you are happy, to celebrate with you.

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8. Fun times. Appreciate having fun when you can. Our crazy daily lives don’t always allow specific times to have fun, but you can make the time for it. Have a laugh with your colleague at work, make a joke when you can, do an impromptu little dance, laugh with others. And always remember to find the funny side of things. There is always one.

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9. Good health. Be grateful for being healthy and enjoy looking after yourself.

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10. Live in the present and savour every moment as if it was your last.

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So there you go: these are my reasons to be happy and grateful. Would you care to share yours?

Categories: Creativity, Dreams, Energy, Friendship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just a matter of time

I find myself with no time. And when I say no time, I mean no spare time. Of course, I have time to go to work (since I have no choice in the matter), I have time to brush my teeth and time to clean the kitchen floor. But I don’t have time to BE. I have no time to just sit and watch the world go by, to just look out to the sea and day-dream. I have no time to do the things that inspire me because everything else takes over.

It’s quite sad when you realise that your life is passing by and you are not being able to take control of it, to take the bull by the horns and say: “Hey, I have a say here! I want to spend my time differently!”. I want some time for creative idleness. That time that you use to do nothing or do a lot. That time that you use to do whatever floats your boat, to make you happy, to inspire you and make you productive.

Some people like to drink, others like watching TV, some people eat to pass the time and others go running. I like to just BE. I don’t have a specific activity that I like doing to be in my creative idleness zone. I go with the flow. Sometimes even cleaning gets me in the mood to create something and that’s fine, as long as I feel like I’ve achieved something from time to time.

I know that we all suffer the pressures of not having enough time in the day – and I’m not even considering the ones who have children (honestly, can’t figure out how they manage!).  We all have things that if we don’t do, we feel guilty about. I feel guilty when I don’t give myself the time to exercise, for example. I know that my body benefits immensely from it and I know I like it after I start it but, most of the time, I simply can’t be bothered and then I feel really bad for not making the effort afterwards. I also feel a little guilty if I don’t keep the house clean enough or if I don’t give enough time to my friends. We need more hours in the day!

I always give 110% at work and although I consider this a good thing, I get home with my brain cells smashed. Some nights, I get home with no more energy than the necessary to make something to eat, shower and go to bed. Yes, it is demanding because it’s always so busy, but it does drain me and affects my life outside work. And life should NOT be just about work, there is so so so much more to it!

I wish my time was spent more wisely. I wish I didn’t care if there are clothes to be washed or a sink to be cleaned. I wish I was more of a ‘happy go lucky’ kind of girl. But I’m not. No matter how much I try, the dirty sink will get on my nerves if I leave it, so I’d rather go and spend 5 minutes doing it than worrying about it for the rest of the day. It’s just the way I am, I guess.

I’m not sure what I can do to make this better, rather than writing about it, which always helps in my case. I don’t know if there are things I can leave out of my ‘to do list’. I simply don’t feel able to cross anything off at the moment. I just wish I could get ‘in the zone’ a bit quicker. By being in ‘the zone’ I mean getting to that place where your mind is clear, ready, inspired. That moment when I feel I can create something out of nothing, something I can call MINE, something special, even if only to me.

This quote kind of explains how I feel about time:

“The soul requires duration of time – rich, thick, deep, velvety time – and it thrives on rhythm. Soul can’t be hurried or harried… We may go through many events in the day and experience nothing because the soul has not had the opportunity to feel them from many different points of view.” Roberto Sardello

The choices we have to make every single day on how we divide the hours in the day into what deserves our attention can be overwhelming. And I know when I’m not making the right ones because I basically feel crap if I don’t do the things I like to do. It’s simple maths really:

Time + things I like to do = Happy Marilia

Time + things that I have to do but don’t necessarily like to = Unhappy Marilia

My commitment to myself from now on must be, I guess, to try and declutter. I must try and erase from my life the things that don’t deserve that much of my attention. Like cleaning, for instance. Maybe I can clean less, so I can read more. Maybe I can worry less, so I can day-dream more. Maybe I can just apply this newly found maths to everything that requires time in my life. This way, I’ll know straight away if spending time on something I don’t really want to do is taking away time that I’d be using to do the things I love, so I’ll feel more empowered to saying no to a few things here and there. If we think about it, even the person who has absolutely nothing, has time. Time is universal, everyone has it, even if only a little left. This makes us pretty powerful. We ARE in charge.

Right, enough talk, I’m gonna go make a nice coffee and read my book for an hour. Sod the washing-up.

Categories: Creativity, Dreams, Personality traits, Quirky thoughts, Time, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just in time

Time…. what a precious commodity!

We all love to say that we are busy, busy, busy. It seems to make us feel important. The question is… are we, really? If you were to stop and analyse where your time goes, I bet you’d be surprised.

There are so many things that we do that we don’t account for in a day. Checking Facebook, for example. The vast majority of us do it. I probably spend a good 20 minutes to half an hour each night, just browsing and reading things that usually amuse me. I don’t do it at work because I’m usually quite busy there and that is the truth. Ok, Facebook can be considered entertainment. But how about the endless shitty programmes that we watch on the telly? Are they bringing anything positive to our lives? I am guilty of that too, hence one of my New Year’s resolutions was to watch less TV and read more. It seems to be working so far…

I used to think that I couldn’t be the perfect daughter, sister, girlfriend and eventually mum if I didn’t have loads of time to dedicate to each of these roles, which is why I find becoming a mum so scary. I used to think that my loved ones deserved lots of my time, be it in thoughts or in real activities. I still do. However, I now see that we all jugle our time and spend it with different people, so even if I had all the time in the world for my mum and dad, they probably wouldn’t be able to reciprocate. What we have to do is make sure that we spend quality time. This, to me, means giving someone 20 minutes of your time but with no distractions. When you speak to them (even if it’s on Skype), you look into their eyes. When you go somewhere with them, you don’t check your phone all the time. When you are listening to them, you are actually listening and not thinking that you forgot to defrost the chicken for tonight’s dinner.

Something else related to time that strikes me nowadays is how people are averse to spontaneity. Gone are the days when you’d knock one someone’s door for an unannounced visit. That seems to be rude, especially here in England. The surprise element of seeing the face of someone you like having in your life is wiped away by numerous phone calls and text messages trying to arrange a suitable time to spend a few moments together. I say a few moments because most of the time we are just “fitting people in” as well, making life feel like one giant puzzle where people are tiny pieces.

I think we have to remember that every day is a new day and offers a chance to see something you have never seen before. Every day we have a chance to surprise people, to be spontaneous, to make people smile. We don’t need to box off times to be happy, to do errands, to see loved ones, to work and to make dinner. We can potentially have it all at once. I think the secret might be in stopping to see life as this game where we have to play our cards carefully. We should just throw all cards upwards and laugh when they all come down, messy and scattered everywhere.

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that we have to stop being so organised with time, we should just let things happen, just go with the flow more than writing it all in the diary. Ok, some people, especially the ones with kids, will say that they have to be organised, but I challenge you to just let it all go for a week and see what happens. If you don’t limit yourself, then maybe you will be surprised… maybe you’ll feel freer and maybe you will find yourself naturally spending your time just with what/who really matters.

Categories: Time | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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