The loop and thrill of change

Non-ironic post… I know.. how could I?

There is something quite exhilarating about new beginnings. It is a mixed roller coaster of anticipated “saudade” of what you will leave behind, and excitement for what is coming where daydreaming is almost a teleporting experience.

I am now in my 5th country! Moved this month to the Midlands in England from the rainy Wales. The reason: work at a new site for my company. It was a strange move, with lots of unknowns and last minute job demands that really didn’t allow the normal moving process to unfold. Didn’t have time to say goodbye to everyone, or know exactly when would my last night at my old house be.

When reflecting upon the subject, these are the consistent stages I face whenever change is on the horizon:

1 – The plateau

When all is too settled, the sea is flat, no wind, all is in cruising mode… but underneath a swell builds up, craving for novelty and bumpy rides. Calm seas never made a good sailor, they say. This is a very familiar sea I encounter after being in a place for a while. This plateau has a second phase called “the wait”. When you know a wave is coming, but you are unsure when and where it will lead. Time stops in this period. Personally, it feels like a limbo. Focusing on the current task needs becomes extremely hard, it takes a lot of mental power to stay conscious and not drift into a “wandermind” state.

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2 Land on sight

When you know where and when you are going. The level of difficulty to focus on present life increases. Your mind goes from a wander state, into an investigation mode. New tasks start to appear on the horizon and some juggling skills come in handy. This is a short phase, I tend to immediately jump to the next one.

3 – The hunt

My favorite. Research, research, research, house hunting, town hunting. Despite the excitement, there is this subconscious certainty that all will be good. I usually let the places surprise me and not plan too much (which plays in my favor. I suck at planning!). Still the research of the new place and of the mundane tasks that you probably never realize anyway (such as, I need a house close to the gym), play some weight in the decision making of house hunting.

At this stage, the first instinct of the place to live is usually the right one. It happened to me the last 3 times. Still all the hunt in between makes it fun and confirms your initial hint.

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4 – The shift

Again, my last house move was a weird one, but nevertheless, it still felt like the familiar paradoxal phase of extremes and calmness. It is surprising how quickly one adapts to its new surroundings. Must be the human nomad brain kicking in. Is like you feel at home only when change is present, but at the same time you embrace all the other changes you experienced. You miss some of those, but you do not wish to go back, for each change has brought you closer to some ideal, whatever that may be (haven’t figured out mine yet). Whenever you move, you leave something behind, a little piece of you is in the places you will probably never see again, and the friends you will speak occasionally, and you bring those places with you. It’s a nostalgic exchange.

The only downside of moving: packing and unpacking. It is amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in a single year. Maybe next time I will opt for a minimalistic way of life! However, my need for change has never reached the digital nomad way of life… yet. I’m still more in a “hermit crab” phase.

On a final thought, is not about new life vs old life, for each chapter is part of the same book, of your own story, and all of them are important trails that lead you here. Is not about running away from something, but towards your own quest. For me, the need for change is something deeper that I am not quite able to explain.

“It is what it is” series 1: mastering the fall

I’ve been falling all my life. Always in unexpected places, on flat surfaces, and in awkward ways. Many have confessed to feel embarrassed when associated to my person when I awkwardly lose my balance on the street. But there are some valuable lessons from being unbalanced on flat surfaces….

The calming life by the sea, with the boats swinging in the wind have brought me into a calm mindset every time I set foot out of my temporary house when I arrived in Wales 1 year ago. I was happily walking around the marina one morning and feeling energised by my new surroundings, when I noticed a bike shop. In a very personal impulsive way, I swiftly changed direction towards it. Not that I am a biker, or intended to buy one just yet… Then, 3 meters from the entry, this invisible chain was connecting only two small pillars amongst 10 unconnected ones. I stepped confidently forward and suddenly I see the sky disappearing from my eyes and metamorphosing into red bricks and textured gray concrete. Elbow and knee meet the ground in one perfect slow motion fall… and blank.

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I entered the shop not deviating my route after the event, and the owner looks in awe at me after witnessing this most amazing fall… I believe that was the first time I heard it is what it is in this country, this dreadful sentence that would mark so many more awkward moments the year ahead. Let’s just say I had a bruised elbow (dor de cotovelo as we say in Portugal) for the next month and a half.

Just as much as burro velho não aprende línguas, or literally translated, old donkey doesn’t learn languages (how I love the nonsense of literal translations), the sentence “it is what it is” is the perfect example of an excuse to not change what you can. You may not avoid a fall, but you can totally manage how to react to it, because it is what it is, until it isn’t!
How to master the art of falling in 3 steps:

1. If you have to fall, do it gracefully: Those who have witnessed, more than I like to admit, these countless (un)expected moments, have said I fall in slow motion. Somehow I will unconsciously predict it will happen a few moments just before it does, almost like a muscle memory resulted my long experience mastering the art of the fall. If you have to fall, react quickly, do it calmly, and embrace gravity for the natural law it represents, even if it doesn’t feel like that when you are in mid air.

2. Get support: When you fall, the slow motion effect will assist in getting support. Avoid falling face flat on the floor. The only time your face interacts with the floor is upon seeing it coming dangerously close. It is ok to show you are human in the moment of the fall, as terror will run through your veins and you will most likely show a deformed expression mirroring your immediate unbalanced existence. However, your existence is the one of a warrior, so fall on your knee and elbow / hand. Fall as it was meant to be and conquer the floor. The pain will be sharp but you will not feel it just yet. Accept it is natural and inevitable, which brings me to the most important part: the cliché – it doesn’t matter how you fall, but how you get up!

3. Get up in a single motion: Never stay down for long. With the same speed and calm you fell, get up in a single movement. Almost like break dancer, make three synchronized movements that end with you standing tall with feet on the floor. The expression on your face must also transform into normality again. You will be a bit bruised, and so will your ego, but a small period of temporary amnesia will help you get through the initial shock and social embarrassment, allowing the pain to build only in your body. Then laugh it out to disguise the pain, and carry on reacting as if nothing happened. Others with you, may feel as embarrassed as you are, so it is in a way a social sharing experience.

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One year ago “It is what it is” quickly passed through the bike shop into the work place. Everyone at work uses it to justify the events resulted from running a complex and fun operation where every day is different and the unexpected happens. Despite the healing and comfortable benefits this sentence brings to ones acceptance of surrounding circumstances, it is what it is… until it isn’t, and won’t settle for anything less. The unexpected never truly is!

Life is better upside-down

I have always envy ice skating gymnasts. To my naive young dreamy child eyes, they represented the ultimate freedom. Ruthless, strong and mesmerizing humanoid forms who swiftly cut the ice and levitate with a grace that elevates them to some sort of godly state.

I could not have been further from this ideal… No levitation, no godly state, cutting only my fingers in clumsiness when trying to cook and reaching humanoid status by having some alien life logic. Regarding sports, let’s just say I was never the athletic type…

While growing up, gym classes were a sacrifice I had to endure. My poor classmates dreaded picking me for their teams as much as I did dribbling… or should I say tripping, a football into this square space. It made no sense to me, and I hated the competition. I stood alone on many occasions, stubbornly manifesting my disscontempt, or sharing the goals keeper net with another school gym striker, before magically disappearing into the school cafe. With time, I became an escape artist.

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5 years ago I discovered freediving, and at the same time yoga came into my life. These are the perfect sports for my slightly introvert self. Both of them are personal mind games that literally make you jump head first. Here is why I love them:

1. Being under-pressure

In Freediving, self-sabotage is directly correlated with poor performance. Mind and body must become one. Trust is key! On the surface, breathing techniques calm your body and mind and help you slowly focus on something easy. You cannot start a dive tired or overthinking. Then the duck dive needs to be done in a single flow movement that gets you to 5 meters deep with the minimal effort. Afterwards, you synchronize the swim with your heart beat and ear decompression at a slow rhythm. No need to rush, rush wastes energy.

After 15 meters deep, your lungs are less than half the volume. No more natural positive buoyancy. Pressure takes over and you slide down motionless. At this point you feel your body transforming. At 20 meters, your lungs are 1\3 of the size and your stomach is glued to your back. You need to build reserve air to decompress your ears. At 30 meters, your lungs are at 1/4th of the size, you are close to your residual air lung volume. Instincts kick in. Then you feel the compressions. Your diaphragm is pressuring your lungs to recycle your air. Your body is triggering your brain to scream for air. Blood leaves your legs to protect your heart and brain. You need to control the impulse to panic, to control fear. . . you may feel living a sort of a dream and no it’s not the eternal one! Compressions are fine. They are the trigger to turn up slowly. They form a sort of a loop where mind triggers your body to make you believe you need air sooner than you actually need. Mind over body and time is extended. You are in total control at the same time you are letting go. Very paradoxical feeling in freediving.

(it is not me in that video… not yet!)

2. Balancing out:

Turning now to yoga and handstands in particular, I do not do it to find some soul enlightenment and mindfulness zen state. I do it because I love the challenge, and to observe how my thoughts affect my practice. Parallel to freediving, overthinking is an enemy of handstands and any yoga balance. My first handstand felt like a log. I was struggling to balance on my neck (should be on my shoulders), my face was in lobster mode, I could feel blood pounding in my eyes… I thought my head was going to explode. I lost balance and slowly fell to the side, in slow motion but brutal fall on the ground. Not very graceful… Yet, that feeling of being upside down was addictive, and I haven’t stopped since.

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So what is so special about being upside-down? Is it the illusion of control, power and the humility that comes with it… Is it feeling unbalanced and learn how to remain whole or is it the growth pains felt when faced with adversity. Perhaps is about solving puzzles, celebrating small victories, having the freedom that comes with expanding your comfort zone. Whatever it is, all of the above or none of them, I’m addicted.

How I miss freediving and the being under pressure… for now, handstands have to do it. As I like to stay, 1 handstand a day, keeps the doctor away.

Would I like to swop places with anyone?

Absolutely not!

Ok, maybe teleport into someone who is currently diving with Whales and had a good night sleep!

The utopia and mind traps of “what if’s”, and the delicate change of life course with simple decisions in the past, is a mind-trap I felt dangerously close to fall into a few times in the past. Leaving 5 minutes later from home, would not led you to meet someone, know about some work opportunity, witness some event. I like to imagine it as a route of synapses in a brain. They follow a certain logic, but possibilities are endless. There is this strange biased force called instinct or “gut” feeling, some sort of intrinsic knowledge that mixes your life experiences, survival skills and a dash of rationality: my very familiar auto-pilot.

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Fly away!

I have embedded in me a culture of complaint that is so characteristic of my beautiful country, but I’m happy for everything that happened the way it did. All were valuable lessons. I feel extremely lucky and grateful for what I have, where I am, where I am going (whatever that may be).

Despite being grateful for where I am, I battle with wanting more. Once a boss of mine told me I want to grow too fast, that it was a recipe to be frustrated with life. I’m glad for this impatience, I like to be in constant pursuit. Yes, I’m super tired, sometimes I feel mentally drained and just want to insult people around me, but hey who doesn’t?

There is also value in knowing how to stop, be present for a moment, but it is so hard to do.

'So the yoga classes are working out pretty well for you then?'

This is what happens when you sleep little, you completely lose your mind in a post with unrelated topics that make sense in your head only. Let’s see what the morning brings!

Stay tuned folks!

Second: Chasing tails and catching tales

Something I have been questioning and obsessed about since 2010, maybe earlier. What am I supposed to do with my life? How will I make my life matter?

I asked this question to numerous people in the past years, and everyone has a prompt answer: create a company and become a millionaire, have a safe family, save dogs, save whales, save sharks, save the reef, dive the world, become a yoga teacher, travel the world, live off the grid, be an accountant, be a lawyer, be a teacher, be a psychologist, sleep with as many women as possible, have as many kids as possible, become a famous actor, teach handstands for a living, run an NGO, watch Benfica play…

I wanna be part of some of these (uuu got you thinking now? Go Benfica!!!), but none resonates with whatever is my life goal. I suffer from severe distraction and procrastination and at the same time I dream big, and some say I’m an idealist. Not sure what that means.

Purpose-of-life

People ask me constantly what is my life plan. It is very hard for everyone to understand that I do not have one. It is extremely hard for me to understand people that do know exactly where they want to be and how to get there.

My short history on this planet has presented me with constant unexpected change (not complaining). Perhaps the fact that I do not know what I want, allows me to be open to every possibility, which contributes further to not knowing what I want.

This blog reflects exactly that, no specific plan, no intentions with it, just make sense out of nonsense, and program synapses to a specific direction, whatever that may be.

Meanwhile, I know what my life purpose is not:

  • Not to be one more lost in the crowd,
  • No specifically be a mother,
  • Fame is something that scares the hell out of me

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Tales I once believed to be building:

  • Wildlife photographer: National Geographic or BBC. I’m still amazed and inspired by how they capture those unbelievable images.
  • Criminal profiler – Once I thought I found out who Jack the Ripper really was. Still fascinated by twisted minds and underlying human motivation for good and bad.
  • Writer – Poet, storyteller and opinion writer – It is hard for me to make sense of my own mind, imagine translated into words (you can probably guess this by now)! Will read more Fernando Pessoa…
  • Freediving Instructor – or just tag sharks for a living
  • HR superstar in developing teams – my current job is proving me I have a long road ahead
  • Social Entrepreneur (I still want this one, by the way! Have many ideas!!) – save the world and all that jazz.

So here I am, chasing my own tail…

After achieving his biggest accomplishment, Fido struggled to find a new sense of purpose to his life.