The voice, the pen

I have often noticed how, what one feels, another thinks. Why, then, should we not share those thoughts and feelings? It might make things clearer for all... Here, I am offering snippets on whatever gets me thinking, with the intention of sharing these moments with you, hoping for a dialogue of sorts. Whether a word, a sentence, a whole text, please, share.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Tropical paradise

Oh, yes, the dream of the tropical paradise, who hasn't heard of it? Basically, it's the same as the kitschy Xmas film, or the documentaries on the lifestyles of the rich and famous in Hollywood: it's eternal playtime, people have time to meet and greet, life's easy.

I live in a hot climate, and can get to a beach in about 40 minutes by public transport. The rain is measured in mm/year, and palm trees are native to the area. It's a 1st World country, so I have all mod-cons. Basically, it's quite close to the basic requirements of the dream.

So, do I live in paradise?

Well, no, I do not.
For one thing, I don't like the heat and miss the seasons. Also, being fair-skinned, I cannot really go to the beach too often, at least not during sunlight time. Additionally, I have a job! Which, I agree, is wonderful in that I'm done at 4 pm, thus I have a lot of free time every day; but, still, it's not like I am on holidays every day. Plus, yes, there are all the sociopolitical issues in the area, nothing to scoff at, although honestly not that big a daily deal once you stop listening to the news.

So, do I feel cheated?

Well, no, I do not.
I have moved (let's be honest, I might move yet again in future!) countries, continents!, a few times. Every place has elements that throw us for a loop, some more than others. The magic, the real magic, is in the fact that I can help adapt any place to what I consider a better version of it. If that does not work, or if the idiosyncrasies are too great for me to live with, I can choose to pick up and leave!

We are not trees. We can move.
People, sometimes, complain about their lives, comparing them to what they dream they should be like. They forget that their lives, at any point, could change. They forget that that change can be given, sure, but mostly that they, themselves, can effect that change. True, it may be that they have obligations (children, jobs, mortgages...); still, the main obstacle is their own perception of those obligations as chains. And they laden the chains with the responsibility for their lack of movement.

I do not live in a tropical paradise. No, I do not. I live in a real place, in a real moment. For now. Because this is my choice. And if I grow roots, fine; then, like a tumble-weed, I'll detach myself and seed somewhere new.

What about you? Where do you live? Is it your paradise? And, were you to choose it, can you tumble free?

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Remember your victories - gratitude lists

Victory - the word sounds grandiose, bellicose, or historical. Yet, there are small victories we accomplish each and every day, which can keep us afloat when we feel most adrift.

Battling depression, recognising and celebrating one's victories is a major element of daily practice. Gratitude lists, so en vogue nowadays among the self-help crowd, have long been a part of therapy. Some evenings, the list fills up so fast, your hand feels nearly unable to keep up; other times, it takes effort to make up the 3-5 minimum elements (each person has their own minimum number). The crux of the problem resides in the fact that, for it to be truly effective, a gratitude list has to be genuine - you must feel honestly grateful for that bit of reality in your life.

It needn't be a massive blessing. Nevertheless, it must bring you real joy, even if just a spark.

Some of the things I have been grateful for, as time has gone bye and I revisit the technique, include family members, jobs, locales. They also include clothes, being awake to see the sunrise, or the colourful bounty of a fresh salad. Sometimes, they repeat themselves, which is only natural as we grow bolder in going for that which we love, that which justifies our smile, our need to live and experience.

The secret, you see, is that a gratitude list is actually a memento of the instances we allow ourselves to come up for air, and revel in it. These are moments when we have defeated the inertia to sink, choosing instead to act, to experience, to thrive. These are the moments we have loved ourselves again, enough to show, and keep a record of, them.

In the lifelong journey that is depression, gratitude lists are some of your most powerful weapons.

Today, I am once again grateful for many things. Among them, I am grateful for being able to read and write.

What are you grateful for, today? What is you victory?

Wednesday, 1 May 2019


NB - This is not a happy post, be aware.

As the sun sets, and the stars come out, we light candles and remember.

6 million - more people than the population of some countries. Imagine a city, such as Miami, or Riyadh, or Singapore, and all its inhabitants rounded up, tortured, murdered, and desecrated.
That is what we remember on יום השואה (Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day). At least, that's the main idea.

The full name is יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה - (Yom HaZikaron laShoah velaGvura) Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. Behind the title, there is the pain of loss, as well as the remembrance of the heroic fight for life each of those people engaged on, whatever form it took: rebellion, submission, adaptation. And then, the heroic continuation of life for those who survived, fighting daily with their own memories, with the weight of survival where so many others did not make it. We cry for those who were taken away, but also for those who carry the horrors within them. We cry over the photographs, the mementos; we embrace the children whose souls have also been marked by the shadow of the horror.

We light candles, we stand still while the tears flow yet again, trying to heal the collective pain of a mutilated society, a generation lost.

And throughout, we will keep in mind that despite all odds, we are here: to continue, to remember, to remind others that ignorance, if fuelled by fear and sad rhetoric, may turn any human into a monster.

We remember, because we have to make sense of the lessons we must not forget.

For more information:

Monday, 22 April 2019

Matzah, consecrated bread and wine, and chocolate eggs

Last Friday was Leila Seder, the beginning of Pesach, also known as 'Passover'. For Jews, it is one of the major holidays, when they celebrate leaving slavery behind in search of their Promised Land. It is thus additionally known as 'The Holiday of Freedom', although among the more lay of the community, it is often referred to as 'The Holiday of Spring', given it usually falls around the time the weather warms up and winter wanes.

Last Friday was also Good Friday, when Christians remember The Crucifixion. This took place after Jesus was captured when he and his disciples were celebrating Leila Seder, which is also probably why the bread given out during communion in mass is flat. During Pesach, there is no leavening agents used in cooking - no sodium bicarbonate, no rising agents, nada. This is to commemorate that, as the Israelites were fleeting Pharaoh's lands, they had no time to sit and wait for the dough to rise for bread. Instead of yummy, airy bread, Jews eat matzah, flat and unleavened, for the eight days of Pesach, and Christians partake in it.

I grew up in Spain, where on Good Friday one can witness one of the most important procesiones - large groups known as cofradías, dressed in robes and hoods to forgo pride, follow a millennial tradition taking large effigies depicting the stages of the Passion along the streets of the cities. Even to those who are non-believers, these events are impactful in their reverence, pomp, and time-defying continuity. On the other hand, it can be quite discomfiting in its paraphernalia, particularly the pointed 'capirote' hoods. These are activities intended to make the watcher think about death, and hope for resurrection.

Good Friday, however, is also the beginning of Easter for most Anglo-Saxons, and thus much closer to Pagan celebrations of birth and Spring than to the pain of death. Communities gather to decorate, then hunt for, colourful eggs. Bunnies and fluffy chicks reign on cards and toy form, whilst chocolate reigns at picnic tables. There is no staying indoors to read at night, like during Seder; there is no burning incense and silence only broken by drums, like at a Paso. Instead, children scamper while adults smile blinking in a still-chilly sun.

Do you know what I find most relevant in all these three overlapping traditions?

They are all excuses to celebrate life. They all encourage us to be together, they are all magnificent and worthy of learning about, hopefully also learn from. I have done all three, in different years, and I cannot choose one over the others. The wealth of experiences the world offers us is amazing.

Freedom, Rebirth, the joy of Seasons, all are fantastic reasons to go out there and celebrate Life with those you love.

Which motive, how, and with whom you celebrate, that is up to you.

Blessed holiday!

For more information:

Tuesday, 16 April 2019


Touch is essential to human beings. Our skin is our largest organ, with its millions of nerve ends connecting its surface to our more innermost centres. Even if we lose any of our senses, touch will remain, may it because we actively touch someone else, or because we are being touched.

That may be the reason why we use expressions such as 'it's a very touching story' to imply that our emotional compass has been affected; or 'keep in touch', when what we want is for the other person to remain a part of our tribe, for we care for them and their presence is precious to us; and why most of us relish being caressed, hugged, and so forth.

In the last 24 hours, I have experienced all of these three aspects:

To begin with, I went for a massage. I do so monthly, to help keep my back in shape despite a sedentary job. I only recently realised that it also helps supply the physical contact humans require to live. I am not particularly keen on being randomly touched, despite growing up in Spain. However, I do miss how much more I used to hug friends and family. It is important to let down some of one's physical barriers, I am learning, and we are becoming less able to understand how it all works. I guess that is why there are even events like cuddle parties, where people can re-learn how to exchange simple human contact.

When I left the therapy place, I got on a bus, only to sit right next to a friend I had not seen in years - despite living a mere 20 minutes from each other. She used to be my flatmate, and we 'kept in touch' over the years, mostly thanks to virtual means, but also in person, meeting up for a cuppa (or coffee, in her case) when I visited the country. It was interesting, to not have planned it yet come across one another like that. Catching up with what is behind those FB posts, having a giggle, updating each other about work. Encountering, reconnecting, and nattering away with her for a bit was a wonderful surprise.

I have many friends and family all over the globe, which is a blessing. On the other hand, 'keeping in touch' with them is not as easy as one might think. Technology notwithstanding, one has to take into account time zones, work schedules, family lives, etcetera, thus being able to see the other person, to feel their actual presence right by you, gives all words an added dimension, an extra truth. I also had the chance to share some video-call time with such a physically distant but ever present friend later on today, after months of trying to get it organised. Her little boy was feeling a little under the weather, hence in need of her solidity, her hugs, her kisses, her warmth. We cut the chat short, but it was a victory to get it to happen at all.

Finally, I was touched by the stories surrounding the fire that broke out at Notre Dame in Paris. In general, tragedies do indeed bring out the extremes in people, be it good or bad. What touched me this time was everyone's muted sorrow at the loss of a shared beauty, of communal experience, the link to culture and values. And then, the small joys at the positives: the fact that the structure was saved, as had been the statues and other artwork; the drive to bring it back; the appreciation for the firefighters who worked for so many hours to save the building.

Touch affects us in many ways. We're all just lucky that way.

What touches you? Who have you recently kept in touch with? Whose caresses do you enjoy, or whom do you caress (human or otherwise, all gentle contact is a blessing)?

For more information...