#don’t give me your evil eye

Growing up as a southern European is growing up with theories of superstitions, jinxing, evil eyes, bad eyes and blue eyes (good eyes), not to mention the interpretation of dreams and coffee remains at the bottom of the cup.
It takes a lot of spitting to deal with overcoming mental obstacles defined by others. So being welcomed to Greece, basically always meant to be welcomed to irrationality for non-Greeks. But in fact, those elderly women in Greece who knew everything about evil eyes, bad spirits and the like, all of them actually were aware (rather unconsciously) of the principles of quantum physics. Growing up in a Scandinavian country, meant also maybe less exposure to jinxing but it is not completely absent. Norwegian grandmothers do occasionally for example warn about comparing hands because it meant bad luck. But seemingly not to the extent that Greeks do.
Greek mothers, grandmothers, basically all women and some men always knew, they always sensed that something will happen without ever being able to explain or know why. Knowing that some things will eternally remain beyond the grasp of anyone’s reason, made them irrational in the eye of others. But in fact they weren’t. And because generations ago one grandmother while cooking her bean soup understood the whole concept of quantum physics, this knowledge went into the DNA of her daughters and travelled from generation to generation only to be misunderstood as superstitious.

Being away from all the un-jinxers in an Luxembourgish exile like we are at the moment, we are at the mercy of all the potential people with evil eyes and jinxing powers. Our dreams don’t get interpreted and our coffee cup remains are unexplored mysteries. A younger friend of ours tabled the concept of virtuous and vicious circles – and the importance of being in the first one. Which one are you in? And if you feel that you are in the latter, the vicious one – how do you get out of it? Our friend’s worries proves that the beliefs in powers that are somewhat out of our control also exist among other cultures and also non-grandmothers. The challenge of confronting one’s fate seems to be universal. Even in a professional context one can be confronted with jinxing when a report in the making was not possible to save just after the question of back-ups was brought up. Bad excuse or strange coincidence? Not easy to say.

What makes people resort to powers outside ourselves when explaining mishaps and misfortunes? It is very human – and probably makes us feel in some sort of control. If everything was haphazard it would be unbearable. To connect a bit with the rational part of us; don’t go over the top. Most things are in the spectrum of things that can – and do happen. Using one’s energy to worry about destiny and divine powers is maybe not the most constructive use of time in all respects. But to the extent it helps us cope with our lives it should be ok. And there are a lot of things that coincide and are too good to be true (in both positive and negative respects). Let’s just remain a bit open and practical about it  – and focus on our everyday well-being.  And let’s just accept that some things are in our hands, and some just don’t.

For everything else, we can blame it on quantum physics.

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#the end is the beginning is (not) the end

If one door closes they say – another one opens for you. Not sure this is true all the time. Sometimes, the door that opens doesn’t look like one. It needs to become visible to us, it needs our open-mindedness to be seen. But the end of something usually implies the beginning of something else.

In most people’s lives-  friends, colleagues, habits and opportunities come and go. Sometimes it is sad and other times it is actually a relief. One puzzling question is what is the right balance between constants and changes? What is needed to rejuvenate our minds and brains and make us aware that we stood and lied for far too long in our comfort zone?

Do you rearrange your living-room just because you are bored? Do you get a new phone or even car because you would only like to be seen with the latest & greatest? Do you change your clothes constantly because you don’t want to wear the same thing again (and again)? Or do you take up a new hobby to get to learn new things and get new friends? Does change inevitably drain your energy or inspire you?

 

More life transitional changes – for example moving can take its toll on big and small family members.  But even if change can be difficult – it sometimes just needs to take place – and could often also be turned into a positive experience. Saying goodbye to your friends at school is not easy – and slipping comfortably into a new social group is equally challenging. As a parent it is important to let your children air any frustration and being the grown-up; try to highlight the upsides of the situation even if that is not always the most easy thing to do. Old friends can be visited – or come visit you. Improving one’s “getting-new-friends-skills” is also good. Those advices are valid for us adults too.

Changing jobs – especially in your forties – is a situation where it is beneficial that someone points out the upsides. At that age your acquired experience should manifest itself into some great creative task-solving, project leading or whatever ones line of business is. It is time to harvest. It’s time to shine. You have to show yourself – not only as someone with potential to rise to any needed occasion like in your twenties and thirties – but someone one expects to do the job. We both love Clay Christiansen’s hiring milkshakes example about understanding the job-to-be-done. Do we understand  the ‘job’? It is very easy to doubt one self. But change demands you to find the edge. And very often it is worthwhile – and you land on your feet. The process resembles the first time you open the maths book at the start of the semester; you cannot believe that you will understand what all the pages say. But after a few months you will. With ease.

Equilibrium can be truly hard to find. New experiences, new people often provide personal development. At the same time – it is sometimes good to hold on to things that are of value. Could it even be an aim to find comfort in your set ways. Strive to appreciate what you have at the moment and what you have achieved.

Some type of change is inevitable. Embrace it. If possible try to leave the old, the bad and the ugly stuff behind. But make sure to keep the good parts.  Maybe some spare ones too. You never know when you might need them..

#the devil is the keeper of all details

While looking out for the small things in life might sound like a good strategy, it takes away all possibilities for being pleasantly surprised, or rather not (in life). So if you’re a damn good orchestrator of things and lists, it helps  reducing the risk of surprises, be they good or bad.

While some surprises are pleasant, those planned by the devil are generally not. Messing up with him (such a personality, we assume can only be male) usually ends up in big trouble. But why does it always have to be this way?

While some of us love being detail-addicts, others just prefer to see the big picture. They disguise getting lost in the detail. They see the forest but can’t identify single trees, whereas the first group is soo much focused on the trees, they live totally unaware of the forest’s existence.

Digging deep into detail and bathe in all the single – especially difficult elements – of an issue? It is truly difficult to humor someone with such inclinations. But is it better to insist  on keeping the wider picture at hand? When interacting with people who have a slight myopic approach – is the best approach to go along with it? When the working culture is based on managing and surviving today by getting lost in details, while the vision, the bigger picture, drowns, gets out of sight, is it worth standing up/out and make the point, or do we just go along, hoping for a better tomorrow?

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But let’s return to the (d)evil. Sometimes missing a detail can become the root of a big problem. But at the same time one’s not really efficient and effective when giving meaning and importance to every single detail. Which ones do we need to pay attention? What is the real impact of ignoring details in our daily life? Of course – forgetting your wedding anniversary can be quite bad, especially if the other party has put a lot of effort in celebrating it. Sending an email at work by mistake to the wrong person, thanks to auto-complete, can have consequences depending on the content and receiver of the message.

So even if we are mostly tuned into seeing the overall situation – having the details more or less intact in the back of our heads – what would be the direct benefits for us to sit down and take in, assess and act according to each facet of an issue? The world around us would probably at first be a bit astonished – but would it also increase the trust in us in being good observers? After all, wasn’t this the success of Sherlock Holmes? There were no trivial details for him. But he didn’t spend too much time in analysing details. He was just self-aware and was noticing details, putting them together to see the bigger picture.  No time wasted in over-analysing details. Analysis, paralysis they say.

So maybe the devil is not the keeper of all details but our sub-conscience. Ourselves.

Maybe by becoming more self-aware we manage to pay the attention each detail deserves, while making sure that it fits, that it helps us seeing the bigger picture in life, at work, and in our relationships. And when things go wrong occasionally, when a detail or two is being ignored and it eventually leads to catastrophe, we can still put the blame on the devil. Because he keeps all details after all.

#lost in suburbia

Searching, being on the look-out is a common denominator for a lot of the things we do. Mostly searching for the best and most effective ways of getting our daily work done and managing our personal homospheres. And sometimes, searching for a way not to break down while trying to manage ‘everything’.

Doing backpacking in Asia, the big search concerned the best and most unspoilt beaches. As a student it was  all about searching for the most central but still cheapest flat, the most economic way to get as far away as possible in the breaks.  And of course a way of getting through the studies with flying colours and managing to have a lot of fun.

Searching for fun in our (early) forties needs a slightly different planning than back in those days. It’s no longer the cheapest and best, but the best value for money. And organising a girls trip can get complicated. It’s about finding the same free time-spot as well as the right time to let husbands enjoy time alone with kids without feeling guilty leaving them behind.

A short while back we decided to take such a trip. Three friends going on a girls’ trip! Setting out to enjoy a couple of days – we were planning to plan carefully so we would not miss anything – while at the same time making sure we would be impulsive and explore the surroundings of (O)Porto. And although we kind of kicked off the impulse-thingy from the start, we didn’t really manage either to plan ahead of the trip. The only thing we managed was to get enough material to make informed choices. We thought.

Obviously when you visit for the first time a place, you’re naturally a tourist: travelling for pleasure, sightseeing and staying in hotels. But what to do if at least one of us is unwilling to be seen as an ordinary tourist?* How to disguise as quasi-locals? So again – searching for something; for worthwhile places, insider tips and coolest bars that ordinary tourists wouldn’t discover even by chance. So our tactic was to ensure somehow that our experience would be real and genuine. Not do exactly the same things as every other tourist would do. We made sure not to stay in a hotel. Instead we booked an apartment in the old part of the City. We avoided typical sightseeing. No way to catch us alive on a double-decker tourist bus while in Porto.

Somewhat paradoxical according to our “travel-value-compass” we ended up the first night and for various reasons including low blood sugar and lack of stamina by some, in one of the most touristic restaurants by the magnificent Douro-river. The duo that was playing very loudly behind our backs well-known songs in their own way (took us at least one minute to realise they were playing/singing every breath you take by the Police) did not help with the mediocre food and the really bad wine that was exclusively reserved for tourists like us. The reason of course we ended up as tourists, was that the best hotspot restaurants were fully booked until late in the evening. First free table might have been available after 23:30. This is where the low blood sugar and the lack of stamina came in.

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After this first experience, we were even more set on our search for the real local thing and tuning our radars towards places locals would go and things they would do.

These ambitions lead us to be literally lost in suburbia. So for those of you who thought this blog would be about the void of living in suburbia or something in the lines of that – think again. Ploughing through dedicated in-magazines and online resources we had found this restaurant outside of the centre, in the suburbs of Porto – recommended for its rice specialties with sea food. Sufficiently off the beaten track for our taste. So after having a very quick & hasty look at the magnificent Casa de Musica we headed off to the metro. Restaurant was supposed to be 10 minute walk from the last stop of the metro line. Easy, we thought. This was supposed to be the real experience. No way a tourist would have done the same. Leaving the great old city with the plethora of sights, to go and see how the real people of Porto live, in suburbia.

Around the last few stops we started to get an iffy feeling. The surroundings outside resembled wilderness more than a concrete suburb. We didn’t really print a map. 10 minute walk we assumed wasn’t going to be a problem. When we got out of the metro we didn’t have a clue which direction to take. This was suburbia.

After asking 3 times for directions we eventually managed to find a bistro instead of the restaurant. Turned out information on the magazine was not very exact. The bistro was the spin-off of the restaurant we were looking for. No exotic rice dishes on the menu, just sandwiches. But real people, real experience and we were visibly the only non-locals.

Have we learned something from this experience. A lot. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you manage or not to get things done, visit a place, get a table at that fancy restaurant. At the end of the day, what counts is the experience, and the good friends you shared it with.

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*= don’t ask now why it is so important. The short and psychoanalytical explanation is most probably the need of belonging to the right group namely the locals or cool strangers, but most definitely not the group of ignorant tourists that don’t really care about the local culture and real cuisine.