Nov 19, 2015

Those Alleged "God Lovers"

Recently my Facebook has seen an awful surge of people showing off their Christian spirit. Yes, there are usually your overzealous Christians posting their corny pictures with their corny phrases and all those things that make you think "Hell, I'm so happy I'm a Generic Christian". It's kind of curious how most of the Christian MEMEs go around the general topic of "I'm so useless, but God is with me soe He will make all good". However in the recent days I came upon a couple of MEMES that were down right disturbing. I won't address them all, because really, people have lost of issues, but let me concentrate on two that, in my opinion, really make more damage than good.

"I Hate Myself, I Hate Other, But I Love God"

A cousin of mine published on her wall this picture that said something like "If I look at myself, I get depressed, if I look at others I get disappointed, if I look at my circumstances I get desperate, but if I look at God I get happy". Now, before I go on about stuff, let me explain her circumstances. She's the third of like six siblings, I'm not sure whether she finished highschool, married young, lives in a peaceful, small country, is divorced, has some kids and makes ends meet through renting rooms in her home. Her family is insanely Christian, up to the point of bullying under the pretense of "spreading the gospel". Her family isn't tight knit, and last I heard, none of the children are in speaking terms with their mother.

So yes, now onto the quote. I couldn't resist and told her that I found her quote to be one of little self esteem and not very positive towards others. Evidently that could be considered an attack, so she attacked in "fashion" by claiming that God had helped me and been by my side even if I "rejected Him". Her whole family loves to think I reject God ^_^. It's what they do in order to be happy, and well, they have to. If they truly believe that God is a book called "Bible" and God is "Church", the idea of someone like me saying that God is God and He manifests Himself everywhere and in all Religions and believes and lives in the heart of all, and that though Jesus is our savior, Christianity isn't the sole path to God, for Jesus has availed it for all if they love their fellows and are good... well, yeah, my thinking deeply conflicts with the ravenous, dogmatic, aggressive ideas they nurture and which are the basis that allow them go bullying others and mask their abuse as "doing God's work". What? You don't believe me? Well, let me tell you this: I converted to Christianism at 12 (I was born and raised Atheist), but they kept saying I was Atheist and kept gospel-bullying me. Then, when I started taking some yoga classes a couple of years ago, they declared I'm Pagan.

The point I later tried to make to my cousin was that it was really sad that Christians making Christian MEMES found it necesary to contrats God's Love with the lack of self-respect, self-esteem or love for thy brother. I mean, wasn't actually Jesus who said something in the line of "thou shalt love thy fellow man as much as thyself"? Isn't there implied then that you should love yourself? I mean, think about it, God made us, God loves us, so why is the Christian message that you hate yourself and others - all of whom are loved and made by God - but love God? And how can you so easily discard God and God's love when is gets to you THROUGH you and through others and everything that surrounds you? A clear example of this self-effacing overzealousness by Christians comes in this "inspirational quote" I found while looking for pictures for this post. I mean really? "God, please erase all you did about me and just make me a copy of you?" Really? God made you and you are good just like that. If you are displeased with the way you are, well, YOU do something about it. God isn't there to live your life for you, that's your job.

However, as you check the circulating MEMES they all spread the same message "I am worthless, I can't do anything, I hate everything, I'm so depressed I'm about to kill myself, and only my faith in God keeps me up". Why is there nothing positive? Why isn't there a happy, motivational quote like "Hey, I'm so AWESOME! I learn from my failures, I enjoy my successes and God is there all the time holding my hand and cheering for me". He totally does, by the way. But instead, the spread messages keep hammering into the heads of the good Christians that their own life isn't in their hands, and all they can actually do is go to church and read the Bible and God will "take care". Their sole obligation is to "serve God". How? Again, go to Church, read the Bible and possibly volunteer at Church activities and give money. My cousin's family possibly include bullying and harrassing through the gospel also as a great service to God. And it is awesome! I'm one evangelizing away from definitively turning into Cultus Deorum Romanorum.

I find the message dangerous because it exposes those who live it and follow it to preying of unscrupulous people, as well as to depression and other emotional trouble. First of all, while you don't love yourself, you can't really love anyone. Not God, not your significant other, not your family, so start loving yourself. Let no one tell you otherwise, don't be conviced of how good it is to be selfless and self effacing, God made you, God loves you and He is God, so if He loves you, sure you are worth loving, don't you think?

Loving yourself can be hard if you are constantly surrounded by negative messages or passive-agressive behavior, but if you allow me, perhaps this can help you find your love in yourself, or fall in love with yourself. First, take stock of who you are. Find everything that's good and pretty about you. Not the things others praise about you, but look at you and look at what you like. And everything goes. If you like it, it counts. ^_^ Like maybe you like the way you can heap up a tall and really delicious ice cream serving. Or you might like how you have discovered the way to make a perfect peanutbutter sandwich. You might love your style or how you can combine colors so well, or how you always find something truly unique to do or wear. Pile up on all those good things and reward yourself for them. Dedicate time to yourself. It doesn't need to be much, but you could go and take yourself to the movies or to a walk on the park, or separate a moment in your day to curl up in your favorite sofa and watch TV or read.

Cut back on any self-scolding or any need to fiercely defend yourself against something you might perceive as a flaw. You fucked up? It's alright. Say "well, yes, I look awesome, but I'm just a human. I'll fix that in no time". You regret not doing something when you were younger? Well, do it now. There have been people geting their highschool diploma at 95, so sure you still have time to follow your heart and get that diploma in History of Arts you always wanted. Really, you are awesome and you can do it and God is with you, so really, what are you waiting for? Go love yourself!

Then, as you learn to love yourself, your eyes will be kinder to those around you. Nah, you won't automatically love everybody around you, and that's alright. Some people are just hateful and it's alright to not like them, but as you open your heart you'll find that you start to love people around you. ^_^ That's how it works.

So, when you find messages that invite you to dislike yourself, erase yourself, take a moment to think why they want you to do that, what's their purpose, specially when God loves you exactly the way you are.

"Churches and Hypocrites, Gyms and Fat People"

The second message I'd like to discuss is one shared by a friend of mine. His message said "Not going to Church because it's full of Hypocritical People is like not going to the Gym because it's full of people out of shape". I didn't even replied to this one because, really? Evidently I think the people who did and shared this MEME have never been to a Gym. Not like they need it, mind you. Gyms are full of forbidden, Pagan and Heretic stuff like yoga, pilates... not to mention that it's a temple to worship the body. Uhum... they don't go to the Gym, so they don't know any better.

Now, have you been to a gym? Let me tell you about gyms. Gyms are places where people with different body shapes go in pursuit of different purposes. Mainly all of them seek to be phyiscally healthy and fit, so they attend different classes that are offered, like zumba, yoga, pilates, tae-bo, aerobics. spinning and other stuff like that. Gyms usually also offer the chance to do some weight and machine work to enhance muscles. If you start attending, you'll see people of all shapes and sizes and of all ages working out, trying to improve. You'll also see instructors. Instructors are the people who help you with your work out sessions. They impart the classes, lead them, and if you do machines, they plan out a routine for you considering what your goals are and in what kind of physical condition are you. Also, instructors are fit, because after all, you don't want someone out of shape telling you what you need to do to get in shape.

People around can be in any shape, and well, if they are constant and comitted in their workout, you expect to see results in their bodies, but the instructor needs to be in shape in order to give you the confidence about their capabilities to get you in shape. After all, if the instructor isn't in shape, how would they ever know what to do to get you in shape? Like a nutritionist, would you trust a fat nutritionist to make you lose weight when they themselves are obese?

If your gym is filled with fat people and out of shape instructors, well, you won't be going there because you won't be able to get your goal. If your nutritionist is obese or anorexic, you won't trust them to plan out a healthy diet for you that will get you to your right weight. If your psychiatrist is crazy... well, that's Hannibal, and you rather leave before he makes a dinner out of you.

The point with churches and hypocrites at churches is that we agree that there's a lot of people who need help going to church and that's alright. We all are sinners and hey, that's how it is, BUT when the people preaching say one thing and do the other, are quick to pass judgment and then act in a different fashion  or try to cover their mistakes instead of being responsible about it, then yes, sorry but that's not a church to follow. And here I'll lash out, so be warned.

Churches are often tarnished by the very testimony their members give. And here is really curious how people actually expect to judge a whole religion like Islam or Judaism or Christianity even for the actions of a few idiots, but can't take the same measure for their churches. Yes, churches shouldn't be judged by the actions of a few rouge extremists or ignorants, but what happens when those who dictate the message are the idiots? The priest that rapes children, the evangelist that washes money, the preacher that beats their spouse, those that steal, divert resources for their own pockets, those that lie and cheat.

Going back to my cousin's family, her mother - my aunt - is a really aggressive person when it comes to her evangelizing habits. She can make people dizzy with her never stopping speech about religion, and she swats her Bible up and down and covers all her basis. Oh, she is a sinner, but she faithfully reads the Bible and has read it many times and goes to the church and practically lives there. She despises her own mother. My grandma is in very poor health and she requires a lot of attention, which her daughters have taken upon them to take care of. Her children all chip in to cover her expenses and help the aunt that houses her, but this aunt seems - I've been told - bitter that she's not receiving the money, so she mistreats my grandma and often also shimmies out of her responsability to attend to her. Evidently she reads her Bible but doesn't feel like "Honor thy father and mother" is a commandment that particularly apply to her, or that it shall be enforced in ways other than going to church and preaching.

Personally I believe that you should go to church when you feel like going to church, when something call you there and when you feel happy attending. It's not something you must do because that's what good Christians do, I mean God can meet you anywhere, He doesn't need you sitting in a bench, looking forward all bored while your mind is racing a mile a minute about other things.

Many churches have very nice preachers and very nice people. I've been blessed to always find awesome preachers in the churches I've attended, be it Lutheran (which is my faith), or Catholic or Baptists... and I must say that I have found very cool ritual leaders also among the few Pagan rituals I've attended. I've also encountered stupid preachers, but those were mostly those that holler on the street and aim to disturb the peace of the passerbies. However others have had bad experiences, and well, that needs to be respected. Others simply get bored in church, and so that needs to be respected as well. Your connection with God isn't measured in the money you give to the church or to charity, nor in the hours you sit listening to preaching, or the songs you sing or the number of Christian songs you know. Actually, you don't even need a religion to be with God. Just be happy, follow your heart and listen to the Divine around you. Be true and kind to yourself, kind to others and be happy. As happy as you can be, and then a little bit more.

Nov 17, 2015

Rush and Muse and Whatnots

Well, I hope I don't really make a habit out of running late with my post, but then. this sort of thing happens, and it's not like the world ends because of it, right? So yes, what has been happening these days?

At The University

Well, there isn't really much I could tell you about that. After pretty much like... a month? Yeah, like a month - give or take - since the last forum of the seminar (this forum thing is basically a forum from four scheduled online, where the tutor published a question, we have a week to answer and then the professor has two weeks to grade), but - as per usual - it wasn't graded until the night before the last session or class, which was this past Saturday. Basically all of us - and I mean the whole group - did so-so, but then you can't expect anything else since it's really difficult to nail the right answer when it seems that the right answer is whatever opinion of a case the professor has, and not what you can prove as your opinion. It's even more difficult when it seems as if from forum to forum the opinion of the professor changes.

Adri and I have been working our asses off with the final project. We had a little break but then we've got the grade for the last advance - we are doing rather well with the advances - and so we started working up on it. Saturday after the session we stayed around to work some and did quite some progress. Some stuff needed to be reordered, and we filled up a table that the professor wanted to see, even though all the information (and more) was already in the text.

Adri and I have been feeling like the other two kids are leaning too heavy on our necks. It's like we do so freaking much and have to shepherd them around to get things done. It's kind of hard also how they don't seem to render the same kind of results as we do. Adri has been organizing the whole workflow and giving out directions, working really hard on the letters we must include while I've been compiling and formatting the previous three advances into one document, making the indexes, formatting titles, and then designing the slideshow background and the format of the content. Took care also of a larger load of findings, Financial Estates and conclusions. Adri was right there with me, step to step, like two oxes pulling the cart. And that's all I cana say.

I know both Ara and Serge have their stuff in life and it's not easy, but damned, it's the last effort and others also depend on them! They can get sad and overwhelmed and depressed all they want later on.

The Muse

I have never written as much and as fast as I had since September. Then, from the end of October on, I!ve been literally on fire! I found myself working on "My Liege" and turning an originally long, slowpaced story (like all of mine) into a fast paced, short chaptered story. It was going so fast I actually became desperate for a beta-reader. Not like I found one, mind you. The topic of the story is rather sensitive and difficult as it swings from very violent and gory to sweet and homely, so most likely it will be a story that really won't find many followers. Not like I mind, since I'm not writing with commercial purposes, just for my own entertainment, but yeah... very hard to beta-read.

However, as the University struck again, well, the Muse was forced on hold and now I wonder if I'll be able to pick up the story once I'm out and over with all this.


Kind of related but not, my friend Carrie has been acting strange, to the point where I've been questioning our friendship and if it will last any longer. She has been consumed by all sorts of issues that she keeps close to her vest, which she is entled to, but then, there's something about her, a shift in her demeanor that gives me the impression that a fracture in something has happened and now she'll be shifting away from me.

The thought first struck me with a dab of concern, as suddenly I was wondering about what would I do, how would I arrange my days without Carrie and the costant presence she had become. This lead me to realize that I'm actually none of my friend's best friend, since, well, my very peculiar nature. I'm more like a cat that spends time sporadically with others, rather than a dog that represents more permanent, constant presence in people's lives.

Then I realized that there's nothing to worry about. I like being alone, and if one friend leave, well, there will always be eventually a new one taking their place.

Pagan Festival

As a well deserved little break, and just because I love it so much, I attended Sunday to the Pagan Festival organized by Costa Rica's Pagan Alliance. I wasn't there as much as I would have loved to, nor did I partook of all the activities I had intended originally to, since I went with an acquinance who claimed to know nothing about Paganism and spent more time browsing around the artisan posts than paying attention to rituals.

I still enjoyed myself very much and met with dear friends. Also had the chance to talk a little with Costa Rica's Cultus Deorum, Tribvs Opalina. Last year I missed their ritual and I wanted to check it out this time, but due to the time we arrived there I couldn't. But next year I sure as hell will attend! What can I say? Romans strike my fancy more than the Hellenians - though my friend Athenea (I like to refer to her like that) is, as you can imagine, Hellenic.

The guy I talked to would be the Cultor, as they call it, and we shared a couple of thoughts on the matter. I loved it how open and sharing all of it was. In a very university-like style, he was quick to share knowledge, and also had for sale copies of books hard to get (clones) and DVDs with Roman music and all sorts of Roman and Witchcraft inspired documentries and series. I found it sweet, to be honest, how he put his own books up for sharing, even if for a price, but knowing the cost of reproduction, it was easy to guess he was hardly making any profit from it.

One thing I really love about Pagan Festivals is the richness of them. People from different religions gather and expose their faith to anyone willing to learn of them. Artisans share their art and there's a wonderful openness as Wiccans, Hellenics, Romans, Druids and Asatrus come together respectfully to share their views. None of them shy away from a ritual or lock arms in Celtic dances.

The most curious and beautiful things are showed, and you can walk home with mead, Roman bread and several pieces of jewelry you'll never see anywhere else. It made me smile to remember this guy I went out with recently, who once mentioned how he found it fascinating that I always wore something so "random". By random he actually meant absolutely unexpected and never seen. I held in my hands galaxies, a moon, a bottle with stones and an owl and a life tree blooking with red stones, and I thought to myself: "it's the result of my wanderings for paths unwalked by the masses that I am so filled with beautiful and unseen treasures".

Nov 7, 2015

Reaching My Ideal Weight

This week something incredible happened to me. I actually didn't expect this to happen - so soon at least -  but now I'm here: after some 16 months I've reached my ideal weight. Wow! That's like... mindblowing! I mean, yes, of course, that was the point of going to the nutritionist and suffering through the Hell Weeks and all those regimes, and then dictating my meals by carefully measured monthly plans, but then, when you arrive to the result... How can I tell you this? I certainly don't look like a runway model or anything, but now I look at my body and think: fuck bitch, we are so freaking hot! I fit again in jeans I couldn't put on a year ago, and I'm parading a body with a weight I haven't had in fifteen years! My confidence is again up high but I'm also being careful and watching what I eat, scouting already for options to exercise since the programm at the Metropolitan Park I've been attenting will be suspending activities shortly, hopefully to resume them next year.

To give you a little idea of my progress, in 16 months I've lost about 25 pounds or a bit over 11 kgs, and my measurements went down in total 41 cms or 16 inches. In those 16 months I also learned about healthy eating, laying down carbonated drinks and invite veggies to my plate, and to keep all my meals instead of skipping them and eating whatever whenever I came about it. In those 16 months I also learned discipline to exercise, and though I've been slacking big time with archery - a combination of lack of time due to the unversity and sometimes just not feeling like doing it - I've been careful to make sure and put some 30 minutes of cardio in my daily routine.

I've learned that eating healthy doesn't mean to stop eating, or declaring war on carbs, or embracing the veggan lifestyle, or eating kale or whatever other fashionable veggie or fruit like crazy. Being healthy isn't either a cult to water drinking or weird stuff like that. Eathing heathy is finding the right balance for your body, learning that you need everything: carbs, proteins, dairy, veggies, fruits and fats, and also that you need to move your body, find those moments when you can squeeze in a little bit of exercise. Just to give you an idea, my day is packed and I tend to be really tired by the time I finish at the office. Sometimes I manage to go to the gym, where I have to drive, but some others I don't. Sometimes I have to come home and work on a project for the University, or I meet up with friends. What I do is that I wake up 30 or 40 minutes earlier and use an old elliptic machine we have here and then do some ab work.

Other times, when I'm meeting my friends close to my gym, I drive to the gym, do my routine and then meet them. The gym is a great way to spend your time while waiting, instead of shopping or sitting at a café stuffing your face with sweets, for instance.

I've reached my ideal weight and I'm very happy, but my work isn't over. I still have to work on lowering my  body fat - which is at a good level, but could be better - and then I'd like to lose a bit more of weight - under the supervision of my nutritionist! - and aim for a fitter body. :-) Now I can aim for a bit of muscles.

This journey has been amazing, but it's not over yet. I have new goals now and I'm full of hope and enthusiasm about succeeding in this. And I think this should be celebrated. ^_^

Nov 1, 2015

A Little Bit of Clarity

After a good night's sleep, a problem that had been troubing me since Friday, suddenly seems to clear before me. I've come to a decision, one to end a cycle that no longer brings anything positive to my life. It's not an easy decision, and I'm not sure what will come of it, if I can make a clean cut, but now I'm seeing before me the steps I need to take to make things bearable in the short run, and taking the decision to set in motion the change of cycle, in order to break from something that goes against what I believe to be right.

After yesterday's plea, the clarity coming now does feel like a "Halloween Miracle". That feels cool, doesn't it?

The last two months of the year are starting and with it the end of the year. The god has descended to the underworld and the pregnant hoddess is widowed now, waiting for the next sabbath for the rebirth of the god. So, in these widowed days of expectancy, we can start summoning up our year, counting our harvest and making decisions.

This year, so far, hasn't worked out entirely as planned, but then it hardly ever does. However, it has gone better than I expected it, I've achieved stuff and I'm really proud of myself for that. The year isn't over yet, so I still have two months to go, and there are things I still can work on. For instance, yesterday as Lau and I went to the movies, I realized I haven't been going to the movies as often as I used to. Ok, there haven't been so many films worth watching, but then I decided that I'll take up on that again. I'll try to squeeze a day a week for movies. :-)

The past months have been stressful due to this last graduation seminar and all the work we've had to do, but then - though we haven't finished yet - maybe it's also time to remember that there's more o life than just studying an working. We also have to remember the things that make us happy, and remember that only we can make ourselves happy. So let's work on that.

Oct 31, 2015

Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain!

Finally, my  favorite day of the year, Halloween!! I had plans to spend the day with my friends, baking all sorts of goodies, but that couldn't be done since one of the girls had to cancel on us. But things didn't fell throught as Laura and I went out to the movies. We had gone a couple of weeks ago to watch The Crimson Peak, and then we saw the trailer for The Last Witch Hunter, so we went to see that one. Hell, that was bad. Not too bad, mind you, but it wasn't a good movie at all. The plot was too predictable, and it had such a "Fast and Furious" flavour to it, you nearly expected Paul Walker to appear any minute on he screen. It had every heroe-antiheroe cliché all wrapped into one. I nearly fell asleep on it. Twice! But Lau and I had a great time, and that's what matters.

This year Halloween has been quite wonderful, with a lot of support from a lot of people I didn't ever expect to be so involved in it.There have been a few negative notes as well, though not related with the Halloween or Samhain and honestly, from a part from which I haven't been expecting anything good. I'm thinking this might be my cue to move on, get away from this place from which I can't expect anything good anymore. As the wheel of the year turns, a cycle is completed and the veil thins for us o glimpse through it into the world of spirits. What wisdom can we learn from them? Maybe one that says: "Move On".

Oct 25, 2015

Much Needed Mental Notes

I actually had this great idea for a post, which I didn't write down and now I forgot completely about. This has been happening a lot lately to me, probably due to the fact that I'm going insane with the project we are working on for the University, going over number, filling up chapters and lots of work papers for the auditory we are doing and on top of all that, I still have work to do at the office.

It's kind of sad that this actually happened to me on October, which is my most inspirational month of the year. I actually had been flying on an amazing wave of inspiration for INAT (you don't really need to know about that) and... and I had to do work and had to stop my fickle muse midflight. Sometimes I'd really love to forget about everything and just write or read or do only the things I feel like doing, and not the things I have to do, even if those things are things conducive to stuff I really want and set my eyes on. I guess my mind tries to escape my reality in these moments.

Perhaps it is due to the mind acting like a bird trapped in the cage of a million tasks, all of them requiring much mental and physical energy, that it starts shedding all the ideas around.Something comes up and it quickly lets it go. So, how can we actually try and capture them? Well, the basic idea any organizational guru or anyone with good organizational skills would tell you is: record the idea the moment it comes to mind. Have post-its handy, jot down the idea when it comes to you, or the thing you can't forget, the task or whatever, and then stick it where you'll see it.

I'm big on using post-its and often stick them around myself to remind myself of things I might be prone to forget. When I'm more on top of my game (and my mind isn't working against me), when ideas about some project I'm working on come up, I take a post-it and write it on it and stick it on some surface right before me at the place where I work on that project. For instance, at my workplace I've two huge picture posters on my cubicle walls. One is next to me and the other in front of me. You can´t see the pictures themselves anymore as on the one to the side I put post its and notes about reference information: phone numbers, reference information, notes about regulation I must keep at hand and stuff like that. On the poster in front of me I stick post-its and notes about tasks and things I need to tackle.

Another method used by many people, and which is quite good for a lot of other types of ideas, as well as the mobility it offers, is using a notebook to record those ideas. The notebooks can be of any size or any kind you like or can find. The idea is to keep that notebook with yourself at all times - along with a working pen or pencil - and take it out everytime an idea comes to mind or you think of something you need to tackle or do, and write it down. The system you use for it can vary depending on what works for you the best. For instance, you can write your notes and ideas from the front to the end of the notebook (depending on what you see as the front of the notebook), and from the end forward you write down your to-dos and tasks and stuff you have to deal with. That's just an idea. You could also just open the notebook and write in it and fold the corner of the page if you wrote down something you have to deal with later, like a grocery list or a note not to forget paying your utility bills, for instance.

I use notebooks for ideas, and also for taking notes, when, for instance, I'm with my classmates and we are making decisions about what to do with the project we are working on. Like the minutae of our meeting. I'm quite forgetful, so my tasks and to-dos go into post-its at work or at home on my weekly wall planner. I use these planners by post-it, which you can use flat on your desk or stuck to a wall. I put it on the wall, and try to remember to fill it every Sunday night with the stuff that has to be done the next week. Sometimes I forget, which is OK, because my filofax has all my appointments and tasks. This wall weekly planner is also my board where I stuck my post its. Some are recurrent post its, like appointments with my friendsor stuff I should remember regularly, so when I don't use them I keep them to the side. Others are one timers, so when I stick one of them on the white calendar they stand out and I read them all the time. However, this is how it works for me, If you want to try it out, you should do whatever works for you.

One thing I've noticed in the organizational world is that there are people who are more concerned about the notebook or the whatever they use than the actual use they give to them. Something important you need to know about the notebook you'd use is that it most be a notebook that works for you. Honestly, a flashy, expensive notebook would do nothing for you anymore than a cheap notebook could do. There are a few fashionable brands like moleskine, which is really beautiful and has nice colors and all, but it works just as well as simple staple or glue bound notebook. Some do choose moleskine notebooks for their durability, as it would take better being stashed into your pocket or your bag, pulling it out, pushing it in and so on. Stiffer covers also give you a better surface for writing in those cases you have to hold the notebook in your hand. However there are plenty of cheaper options that also give you a stiffer cover.

Another system is the midori. There are these midori traveler journals or something like that is a leather cover with a string in the middle. The idea is that you use this cover to put in it a notebook, usually a midori notebook, which has a special size that fits the cover. The system also allows you to amplify the number of notebooks you can fit in the cover. I've seen videos for fitting up to three notebooks. The  advantage of this system is that you can carry more notebooks, all in one cover, and you can use them to organize better your notes. You can have a calendar or planner in one, another for notes and another for to-dos, for instance, BUT if you are looking for something simple, not a huge system with many notebooks and stuff like that - and trust me, the simpler the system, the better - get one notebook and make it work.

If you are new to this and the idea interests you, let me give you a piece of advise: before you start think what would you really want, what is your goal. If what you want is to remember things that need to be done but a planner don't work for you because you forget to look at it, go for post its. Stick them on the fridge, on the window, on the mirror in the bathroom. Hell, put the most important ones of the coffeemaker! A notebook won't work for tasks and notes that are time-related if you are not going to open it, so don't even go there.

If you'd like a way to record errand thoughts you have, ideas, stuff that don't need to be dealt right away, a notebook is perfect, even if you are not in the habit of checking it everyday, because when you are looking for the idea, you'll remember your notebook, and page through it and check your notations. For instance, say you have a project of making a business. From time to time ideas ocur to you about what would you like for your business, how could you develop this or that, ane even note down data for possible investors, providers, or tips on legal stuff, things you need to consider, requirements you better fill... you get the drill, right? Well, when you sit down to work on your project to get it working, you can take out your notebook and get all those ideas, discards those that don't work for your project and use those that do work. You don't have to remember the whole thing because you notebook does that for you.

My advise for you is also not to go shopping for a notebook, spend in something fancy that migt end up unused in some box or drawer or something. Start with whatever you have at hand. Sure, maybe you are not like me, with tons of unused notebooks and journals laying around, but sure there's some small, old planner you've got years ago with something you've bought, or a promotional notebook... and if not, really, go for the cheapest you can find that's functional for you. If you have no idea what should you look in a notebook for it to be funtional, go for the size: find something that's not heavy and which you can stash in your bag or your pocket. And really, any old planner that went unused or still has space would do. Take a rubber band and hook a pen or pencil to it and you are good to go.

Try it out first, see if it works for you, see if you get to use it, if you are comfortable with it. Who knows, maybe you work better with an app on your phone, and not a physical notebook, so let the first be a cheap try out, something you won't mind spending in if in the end didn't work for you. I, myself, are very old school, and I'm a kinetic, very tactile person, so the physical stuff work better for me, as my journals, notebooks, post its and my filofax can testify, so this is what I use (not with a glass quill, mind you, but with pen or pencil)

Now, having a system doesn't mean that the system is bulletproof and it will work every single time. Sometimes I still forget to make my notes, sometimes I mix stuff and do new things, like sticking post its in my notebooks. I have a notes section in my filofax that does have notes but probably I'm taking it out next year since my filofax is very stuffed and I prefer taking notes in my notebooks anyway (I work with two, one for notes on anything and another to organize more literary notes, though sometimes the notebooks have other notes as well in them). Sometimes you forget to use your system, and that's ok. It doesn't matter, as long as using it isn't a drag for you. Remember, you don't have to work with the system, but the system has to work for you. Yes, you have to get used to it and use it, but make it exactly the way you want it. Nothing more, nothing less. And it can change anytime you want it to change.

So yeah, try it out, what could you lose?

Oct 22, 2015

Emotional Blackmail

I bet all of us know at least one person who resources to this kind of thing in order to get what they want. Most likely we have ourselves have used to get something, either because we thought it was the easiest way to do so, or because that's how we've learned that certain things must be done. It's sad but none the less true. Just look at children: basically instead of teaching children to voice clearly and rationally their needs, parents one way or another enforce in them the idea that if they want something they must cry and throw a temper tantrum. How? Parents ignore the child when speaking but agree to their terms in order to have it shut up or stop making a scene. Parents also use this sort of blackmail when trying to coax children to do stuff, for instance when they tell the child that if they don't do this or that, mommy or daddy would be sad.

The thing is that as we grow up the emotional blackmail grows along and becomes an encroached thing that many find hard to escape. You actually have to grow what looks like a heart of stone in order to deflect most if not all attempts at emotional blackmail.

We hear of a lot of cases of emotional blackmail within families or significant others, where often this sort of behavior might seem part of the normal dynamics. Just think of the times someone could afford to do something by themselves without taking the blackmailing relative or significant other. And think of the reaction when the person actually follows through with a plan that actually excludes or goes against the wishes of the blackmailer. Just to put the picture ahead: imagine that you want to go to have a coffee with your friends, so instead of going home after work, you go to some place and have a blast with your friends. Perhaps it's not an impromptu situation, but you told your family, or your significant other that you have this date with your friends. The emotional blackmailer would either make coments like "you go out with them all the time", or maybe say nothing but start acting sad or withdrawn. Maybe acts like it has nothing to do with them, but you can feel the tension, the sort of tension that says the person is angry or displeased, then, at one point, the emotional blackmailer comes with some plan, which enforces on you so you "make up for going our with your friends the other day".

And this might seem normal to many, after all we are taught that "family is the most important thing in our lives" and also that having someone, a significant other, validates us socially as people who are worth loving. Just think about it, basically all chick flicks, all romantic comedies and a large portion of movies sell this idea, and let's not talk about novels here. We live in a society where the ultimate goal of every person is to have a significant other, where "finding love" is a valid goal in life. And once found, you have to keep it, you have to work for it, because someone could steal it away or it could wilt away and then you'd be a failure. So yes, we are already set in a scenario that enables and promotes emotional blackmail, and that's expected. After all, we are being emotionally blackmailed into buying these ideas. The promotion of any rational, independent behavior would be counterproductive. I mean, can you imagine society if people were to decide that they actually don't want to have a partner, nor want to go to school or get a job, but go into the wilderness and live from homesteading, internet be damned and all that?

Ok, I'm running ahead of myself here.

What I wanted to land on was that, actually, emotional blackmail, believe it or not, actually happens everywhere, and sadly, also among friends. This sort of thing I resent quite greatly. People who actually dare to call you their "friends" and yet have no qualms to laying on you teary stories and your baggage in order for you to pick up the pieces of their messed up lives and rearrange them over and over and over. These friendly emotional blackmailers will often frame the whole thing under "I'm just venting out to you, but you should know that [INSERT STORY AIMED TO MAKE YOU FEEL BAD AND EXTRACT FAVORS FROM YOU]"- pretense. Their family bullies them, their coworkers or bosses bully them, they are so sad, they are so unlucky, nothing goes as planned for them... And curiously, you offer them solutions that mean that they have to take some sort of action and their reaction time and again is to shake their heads sadly and assure that "it won't work". Then they'll get money from you because they make you feel so sad you start paying for every going out to make it better for them, they start hogging your time because you feel obligated to either keep them from the people hurting them or make up for the hurt they receive. Slowly they go on sucking up just about everything about you.

They might be doing things for you too, and that might be the thing that makes it hard to untangle, because it might feel like it's an equal relationship in some cases, when it's not. You see in a healthy relationship with friends, things you do are because you WANT to do them. They make you happy and you don't feel compelled to do them. Compelled being the operative word here. You are not doing them to fix something in your friend's life or perception, but you do them because they make you happy, they make them happy BUT if they don't happen they don't make you unhappy. See it this way: it makes you happy to have a trip to the beach with your friends, but it also makes you happy to go alone or with other friends, or with family, or even if your friend goes without you (and you are not paying that trip). BUT if you go to a trip alone or with other friends and feel guilty because you are not with the friendly emotional blackmailer... well, you know where you stand.

If you have to hide activities you like from your friends, because they'll resent you didn't do them with them, you are being emotionally blackmailed. If you need to hide your income, your new clothes, or anything you have because your friend will resent you didn't give it to them, or spent that money on something you said not to, which they wanted, you are being emotionally blackmailed. If you are doing something, a project or anything fun with a group that doesn't involve your friend, and your friend realizes and acts sad, mad, resentful (jealous), do I need to say more?

When you realize you are being emotionally blackmailed by a friend, the solution is simple:

1. Face your friend. Stop hiding what you do, "protecting" them, and tell them, "hey, I've a life. You are my friend and I love you, but I don't have any obligation with you, and even if I did, that wouldn't be grounds for you to come and make me feel guilty or try to make me feel bad about you for things you could fix yourself. Really, grow up or go blackmail someone else, because I'm not taking that crap anymore". Yes, your relationship might end after that - emphasis on MIGHT, as some emotional blackmailers actually don't know what they are doing - but then again, what are you really losing? A leech. If you lose someone because you've confronted them for emotional blackmail, trust me, they neather loved you nor were your friends. So now you have more space for more friends! Do try and make a better one.

2. Get the hell away from that friend, as fast and smoothly as you can. Friend-fade. Maybe not the nicest thing to do, but it happens, and it happens all the time. Just think of the number of people that used to be your friends and then you lost contact with them and are no longer friends. See? No biggie. Losing a friend hasn't killed anyone.

Now, whatever you do, DO NOT TRY TO FIX YOUR FRIEND. You are not a shrink, you can't help them, but even if you are, you are not being paid for that, and you should know better than to work on people you are involved with. Suffering through it... it's an option, but a stupid one. It's not like they'll stop or get better. People don't change from a position of comfort, and people who blackmail are comfort seekers. They won't stop, but they'll evolve, so you'll never get used to it.

Be warned.