After a full week of 9-5 routine, Saturday comes and the last thing you want is to wake up early.
But today I did it and I got out at 8 AM to join a conference.
I arrived there on time, actually even earlier than the starting time. And that’s when the magic happened: I started to have a new feeling of awareness about myself.
I felt productive for waking up early on a Saturday. I felt excited for doing new things that would teach me some new skills (I think that’s a wonderful use of my time). I felt I was taking care of myself by arriving on time, because that gave me the time to get a nice coffee, to collect myself 10 minutes before the conference began, and in general I was giving myself some no-rush experience, a rare joy in London.
My mood often fluctuates. People around me know that very well. Waking up early during work days doesn’t really improve my mood much. But waking up early on a weekend had a tremendous effect on it.
I realised that it’s a very good life philosophy: “wake up early and get out” means make the best use of your free time and make your life more rewarding.
That was my realisation today and it really made my day.
Malala is a young woman who is speaking up for girls education and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Today I watched the film about her story, “He named me Malala”. It’s a beautiful, inspiring story. It resonates so strongly with me and I wanted to share some thoughts.
The first one is this: she is who she is because her father is a special men who understood the power of believing in his children both boys and girls. That proves to me that in the path towards equal rights for all human being, men are as important actors as women. It’s not possible to achieve equal rights if men are against it, or even if they’re silent and don’t speak up for it. It’s moving to see how a father is speaking against abusing traditions. Tradition in his region was that girls wouldn’t study. As a result, they’d get married when they’re very young and simply raise children without having access to education, without developing their own critical ideas and awareness. I love to see men fighting against these traditions and challenging the status quo. Change can only come if men join forces with women toward a world where all human beings, although all different, have equal rights.
The second thought is that she’s an extraordinary example of focus. She’s been shot, and she could have spent the following years just blaming the shooter and crying on the disgrace. But she instead focused on what to do next. I think this is a lesson for us all: blaming will not bring any change. Even if there actually is someone to blame, blame will keep us stuck in the past, and impede us to keep working in the right direction. She did it when she was 16 so we can all do it, we have no excuses.
So to wrap up, the film is moving, and if nothing else, it will make you think, will inspire you and give you hope for a better world.
For a person who lives outside her native country, going back home for holidays is a mix of joy and pain. I just got back from 2 weeks home and I still feel both. Joy for seeing my family, and pain for leaving them. Joy for being back in the wonderful London, and pain for being far from home. It’s all there in my heart, it’s all together.
Life is more intense when you live abroad, because you’re always leaving something: whether you’re going back home and you’re leaving your new house or coming back to your new home and leaving your old one. Joy and pain are always in my heart at the same time. It’s very intense. And it gets very lonely at times, because your family and friends are far away and you can count only on yourself. Yes, you’ve got new friends and a new home, but you’re still alone and far from your roots. Sometimes I feel like when I was 6 and I got lost in the mall.
And then suddenly that feeling of loneliness starts transforming and becomes strength and excitement. Yes I’m still feeling the 6 year old lost in the mall, but I also enjoy the adventure. And that’s when a enormous sense of gratitude comes to my heart.
I’m grateful because life is a wonderful adventure.
I’m grateful because I can choose where to live, while many people can’t.
I’m grateful because I’ve had so many beautiful experiences so far and I know that many more will come.
I’m grateful because I look at future as an opportunity, while many people are not so lucky.
And I’m grateful because I have a wonderful family who loves me no matter what. Thanks for being there.
Being aware of gender-related issues is part of the solution, not part of the problem
I happened to be questioned a lot about my “feminism” lately. I put “feminism” between commas because it’s a term that is no longer historically relevant. It is like saying I’m an “anti-colonialist” when colonialism is no longer in place. It made sense to call oneself a feminist when women were completely oppressed, and this is no longer the case.
Feminism has brought amazing progresses around the world. For example the right for women to vote, the right to divorce, to have an abortion, to decide whether they want to have children or not, the right not to be considered a property of their husband and all sort of positive things for the life of women.
Feminism is, however, an historically old term.
But does it mean that with once feminism has done its part and it’s buried in history all gender-related issues have disappeared? This is the big problems of the 21st century: some people think that society is now perfectly equal and there’s no need to talk about gender-related issues.
What issues am I even talking about? Women can do anything they want, right? They can choose whether to get married or not, to have children or not, to study engineering or language (that’s me…)
That’s true. The possibilities are laid in front of us. But there are things that haven’t changed yet, and the biggest one is our mentality. Our mentality hasn’t evolved yet, and it’s showed in how we raise our children, how we condition our children to behave in a gender-related way. Even though the biggest inequalities between men and women have disappeared, the effects continue.
Think about it with an example: even if pollution stopped completely today, would earth already be cleaned tomorrow? If war stopped today, does it mean the country is in peace tomorrow? Anything that is done long enough modifies not only the present, but the future as well. As pollution and war will continue to affect in the years to come long after they stopped, so will the centuries and centuries of inequality between men an women. And ultimately it’s not a surprise that some people don’t see this, because they got used to the status quo, they’ve been (we all have been, I should say) brainwashed into not seeing the inequalities any more. We just live in it.
I have to say I’m very grateful for my life, for being born in Europe where inequalities are not as life-disturbing as in other parts of the world. There are parts of the world where women get raped and they get jailed if they report the raper, they get genital mutilations, upset people through acid on their face, there are women who get sold, women who get killed as they are born, because they’re women. I suffer for those women as if this was done to a sister.
On the other hand, inequality in Europe is expressed in more subtle forms, for example in the fact that often women are the only one who do the house-works, even if both men and women have a full time job. It’s expressed in the fact that often children are considered a responsibility of the mother only instead of a couple’s responsibility. It’s expressed in the fact that if I’m 30 and I don’t have a family people will simply think “I told her she was to strong and she would have scared men, she should have been more humble and feminine, now she’ll be alone forever” while if a guy is 30 and unmarried… I mean, who does even need to find a reason for that? It’s considered perfectly fine.
These limitations are not important, and at the end of the day we can very well ignore what society thinks we should or we shouldn’t be. What scares me is the limitations that we women have inside our hearts as a consequence of centuries of inequality. I’m talking about:
we have a sense of guilt the size of a continent, for anything.
for example, we have a huge sense of guilt any time we do something for ourselves instead of something for others. Is it because biologically we’re programmed to give, in a wider sense, with maternity? Probably, but this affects our life when we sacrifice our time, our health and ultimately our identity for someone else.
we don’t perceive our identity as defined as men. When we get into a couple our identity starts melting with the other. Did you notice that often women start talking in plural after they get a partner? “We like this, we like that..” But what about your identity as a single person? It gets lost in the couple.
we don’t know what we want as much as men do, because for centuries we’ve been taught not to ask ourselves what we want. I know, I know: now we can choose anything we want so why should we blame the past? But again, we’re like a country after a war that lasted years. We are still rebuilding after years of destruction.
we teach our daughters to be humble and not to have too much aspiration, because men might feel intimidated by strong women.
These are just the first examples that come to my mind when it comes to psychological effects of years of inequality. I want to think that I struggle because I’m 30, and the years of inequality are just one or two generations behind me. Hopefully for next generations will be easier and easier.
Many men will say that things are not this way anymore, that everything is fine now. My answer is this:
That many men do not actively think about gender, or notice gender, is part of the problem of gender.
Being aware of gender-related issues is part of the solution, not part of the problem
Below I collected some of the most amazing TED talks about feminism and gender-related issues.
Tell a woman your problems and she’ll empathise with you. Tell a men your problems and he’ll try and fix them.
Every person is different. Or so they say. But when it comes to communication, almost all men communicate in the same way, and almost women communicate in the same way which is, you guessed it, very different from men.
One of the things that strike me the most, and continues to surprise me even if I’m 30 and I talked with a lot of men in my life, is how they react when you share a problem with them, or simply how you feel.
When you share something bad you’re going through with a men, he’s immediately thinking of possible solutions, better ways to deal with it or ways to improve the situation. And it’s fine, it’s amazing that they are so practical and they want to help you. However, women brain works in a different way. Most of the times, if a woman shares a problem with someone it’s really just to get it out of her chest. It’s a way to analyse the problem by laying her cards on the table. It’s a way to open up and ask for empathy. Sometimes she already knows the solution, she just need the right space to confirm what she feels.
I haven’t read the book “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”, but someone told me a similar concept is explained in that book as well.
I find that this different communication style is one of the most common reasons why couples argue. I think the better way to deal with it is first of all to acknowledge the difference, and then to take action based on that knowledge. Here’s my suggestion:
Men, when your mum, sister or girlfriend tells you something like “I feel that friend is not behaving nicely with me”, “I’m thinking I should change job”, “I feel down today and I don’t know why” or things like that, pause for a couple of seconds before activating the automatic driver inside you that tells you to find a solution. First of all sit in front of her, look at her and listen. Resist the need to reply immediately, leave a bit of silence and space for her to feel comfortable and share what’s in her heart. Have the courage to bear that silence and stay in that space together.
Try and empathise with her. That’s what most women want. Ask yourself: what’s is she going through? Is she scared to admit that she feels insecure about her decision? Most women feel insecure, all the time, although we’d never admit it. But you know it, so with that knowledge ask her how this problem makes her feel. Listen and hug her. Ask her, very gently, if she would like a suggestion or she prefers to take the time to think about it on her own.
If all this process makes you feel very uncomfortable, tell her. There’s nothing that make two people closer than sharing what makes them uncomfortable, shy or embarrassed. And yes, I know you guys have a hard time sharing your feelings. It’s against your biological instinct. But if hundreds of years ago it made biological sense for men to show themselves as invincible and hide their emotions because they might have been killed by their enemy if they did, let’s all agree that it’s not that time anymore. You can let go. Please, do it. You can open up, you can share what you feel. Not with everyone, bear in mind. But with people who love you, you can. Do it please, and the world will become a better place.
When they say women are complicated it’s not true. We’re complex beings, but it’s quite easy to deal with a woman once you learn the code. Programming is complicated, but it’s doable once you learn the code, right?
Women, this part is for you though. We’re not innocent, we do the same mistake men do: we don’t take the time to learn their code. If you knew that most men are programmed to find solutions to what you share with them, you would probably choose more carefully what you share with them. In a nutshell: if your washing machine is broken, tell them, because they’ll do everything to try and fix it (this is a thanks for you, dad
But if you feel down because your period is coming and your hormones are all over the place, please, I beg you: call a girlfriend instead. You’ll get what you need (empathy) from a person who can do it naturally (another woman) and you’ll not ask a huge effort to your sweet half. At least, not more often that he can bear.
On the other hand, if your husband or boyfriend shares a problem with you, he probably wants some help coming up with a solution. They’ll rarely ask, because again, they’re conditioned not to ask for help. But if they do, please don’t do the same mistake: learn their code and reply in their language, or if you’re still learning it, ask them gently what they need from you instead of guessing they just want a hug as you do.
We’re conditioned to think that couples should meet all their needs within the couple itself, but it’s a huge burden to put on it. Include more people in your life, family and friends who can meet different needs of yours, and you’ll not put all the responsibility on your partner.
But, that said, wouldn’t it be heart warming if we could all commit to learn each other’s code? Imagine how much pain we could avoid to each other and to ourselves. Imagine what a wonderful world it would be. I hope we’ll all be able to make this little effort one day, that brings a lot of rewards. Bless us.
About Love, Health and Happiness. And many other things that make your life complete.
I’ve always been interested in health. When you start having painful symptoms you normally get interested in health and that’s what happened to me. I had rheumatic fever when I was around 10 years old (yes, can you believe that?) and I had to get painful injections of cortisone every week. I had to take numerous blood tests and to cope with it I started to train myself into believing I actually liked it.
When I was a teenager I suffered from eating disorders. I often had stomach ache, it was actually the normal condition for me, a permanent stomach ache. On top of that, I was incredibly sad, all the time.
I’ve always been introspective. I started to have a journal as soon as I could write decently. I’ve always observed myself and the way I was experiencing my life very sharply. Nothing was “just fun” or “just a mood change”. No no no, everything had a deep meaning, had to be analysed, dissected, categorised. My feelings, my experiences, my relationships, my choices. I was living every day of my young life very intensely, the good and the bad ones. I couldn’t filter, I was just absorbing every experience (with the emotions they caused) as a sponge.
Many people might disqualify the picture saying that it’s normal, that everyone during teenage feel depressed. But it’s not normal when it endangers your life balance. Sometimes I was so depressed that I would just go to sleep in the middle of the day because it was the only thing I could do to alleviate that pain I felt inside. It was both an emotional and physical pain, and the two sides were so interconnected that I couldn’t tell which one caused the other.
I didn’t know what I had, but by the age of 17 I felt that my life was very, very wrong.
I started to look for answers. My dad is passionate about TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and holistic medicine. So I was lucky enough to have the house full of books about Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, Bach Flowers and so on.
I started to study Bach Flowers, and I liked the idea of using a flower instead of a drug to solve problems. But I was expecting a miracle from these disciplines and the miracle never happened. They didn’t solve my whole situation as I was expecting. I still wasn’t happy, I still wasn’t balanced.
In the meanwhile I was constantly arguing with my parents, to a point where I wasn’t feeling comfortable in my own house anymore.
It was around the age of 19, when I left my parents’ house to move into a “commune” (we were 7 people in a house, some studying some working, some both) that I started my real spiritual journey, a self-discovery path that brought me to understand the deep interconnection between the relationships you have, your mind and your body. I discovered the connection between physical, relational and emotional health. Mainly, I discovered that one is not possible without the others.
As soon as I moved out of my family’s house I realised that I had to take care of myself by myself. And not because my parents stopped loving me, on the contrary. But I simply couldn’t blame them anymore, or the school or the teenage or anything else, for my problems. If you think that the problem is the environment where you live, but you find yourself with the same problem after you move to another environment then you realise that the real issue is not outside, it’s inside you.
But so it the solution.
In that moment I made the conscious decision to start taking care of myself with love, thing that I had never done before. It was thanks to that decision that I started to heal.
I started reading about meditation, and I started practicing meditation 10 minutes every morning. It was the first step in the right direction. I also started to look for healers of every sort. Not doctors, but healers.
A wonderful friend of mine was studying massage, and I she did some shiatzu and craniosacral treatments on me. I also found that another friend of mine was studying kinesiology and neuro-training, and I did some sessions with her as well.
In the meanwhile I received a book from my lovely cousin: “The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self“. In the book the author describe an exercise to get in touch with your inner self: when you wake up in the morning write 3 pages of stuff. Just write down whatever is in your mind as soon as you wake up. 3 pages, every morning, before you do anything else. It connects you with your inner self, but more importantly it works as a trash folder. You empty your mind of all the “trash” of the negative talks that we sometimes start our day with.
I realised that the way I talked to myself was really, really bad. If I had to say those things to a friend of mine they would have never called me back. But I was saying it to myself. And I was wondering why I wasn’t feeling healthy and happy..
I also started to build connections with the people who were living with me, and the deeper the friendships the more rooted and healthy I felt. We humans are healthy when we live in communities. With no real friends, with no real love, there’s no health.
I started singing in a choir. Singing is for me a form of meditation, a spiritual experience that makes me feel connected with my soul. But singing in a choir is even a stronger experience. Hearing my voice crossing other people’s voice and making a harmonious melody made me feel part of something bigger than myself.
So really health didn’t come from one way. It came firstly from the decision to take care of myself with love, and that decision made me take actions in the right direction. It came from balancing my life on all levels. It came from having good friends. It came from expressing myself creatively. It came from nurturing my soul.
As the video above describes, health is not related to the body. At least, not only. Your body is really just the expression of your life. And life health is measured by how good your relationships are, how stable you feel, how well can you adapt to change, whether you express yourself creatively or not, whether you got in touch with your inner voice, whether you take action to modify what’s not working, and whether or not you talk to yourself with love.
So really health, love and happiness are so intimately interconnected that the more you start having of one of them, the more you start getting of all of them. For a strange magic it’s enough to start from one little step, and the other will follow. Start by deciding to take care of yourself with love. Start by taking that decision. And then take it again, and again and again. If you forget for a day, a month, a year or even several years, as soon as you realised you didn’t take care of yourself with love take that decision one more time. And with love for yourself, the health and all the things you need to get your life balanced and healthy will follow.
In my family I have examples of women that are hard to match. They take care, they put others first, they’re able to love others no matter what, and in doing that they sacrifice for the good of their families and the ones they love. This is what a woman was supposed to be in the generation just before mine. I’ll probably never be a good wife in this sense.
I struggle on a daily bases, trying to figure out how to take care of others without forgetting to take care of myself. It’s so easy to forget to take care of ourselves. Personally I’ve done it for so many years that for long I didn’t know who I was. I took care of others until I completely lost the energy I needed for myself. I just recently started to love myself as I loved others, to take care of myself the same level I take care of others, to trust myself as or more than I trust others.
It’s probably a past of too much giving that made me fear giving away too much now. And now, to avoid that risk, I feel unable to give myself completely.
That put me on the edge of two generations: the generation of the women who gave too much and the generation who give too little. The generation just before mine is leaving us with a memory of sacrifice for the family, the generation ahed is giving me a dream of equal care for ourselves and others. I’d like to find my balance between these two historical moments, but history pops up in my daily life: sometimes I try and be like my mum and her generation, sometimes I want to break free from that vision.
Some say feminism brainwashed us all. I don’t know and we’ll never know. What I know for sure is that my generation lost its identity, and we’re still trying to build a new model of woman who’s able to love others as much as she loves herself, nothing less. A woman who’s a good wife because she’s ambitious and smart, not because she knows how to sacrifice. I know, for some of them it wasn’t a sacrifice. But for some of them it was. No one is technically asking women to sacrifice for the family, nowadays. But 30-something women like me have this internal voice that tells them everyday how they should sacrifice more. It’s an internal voice coming from a cultural heritage that is always there, at least for some women who are juggling between two identities.
I’ll never be a good wife as my mum and grandma had in mind. I compare myself to them sometimes, and I feel I’m not even close to them, not even half as good. The way they gave love unconditionally will always be an example for me, and I feel the pressure of the comparison sometimes, I feel I disappointed them. But unfortunately, I’m simply not like them.
So I know I’ll never be a good wife as my grandma and my mum have been, but maybe I can be a different kind of good woman, just by being a presence in the world who proves how women can be happy and bring happiness by loving others just as much as they love themselves, not more than themselves. Maybe instead of good wives we can simply try and be great and loving persons.
Say thanks before asking for anything else, because you already have everything you need.
Life is amazingly beautiful, and it is also incredibly painful.
In moments of pain, we tend to forget the beauty we are already experiencing, and to ask for more. We turn to God, or our Goddesses, and we ask for that pain to leave us. We ask for joy, peace, and love. We ask for an immediate relief. We don’t want to grieve.
Over the years I found that one of the best medicine for a painful soul is to say thanks.
Say thanks for the simple fact of being alive.
Say thanks for your family, near or far.
Say thanks for all the love you received in your life, in any form you received it.
Life is a miracle, and it always amazes me how often we forget this.
Throughout our life, sadness knocks at our door for many different reasons. And at that point we might even start hating life for all the pain it brings. Say thanks for that pain. If you suffered, it means you got something amazing before, otherwise you wouldn’t suffer for its lost.
I don’t consider myself a very religious person. But I find myself saying thanks in my mind very often. I don’t even speak it out loud sometimes, it’s just a quite feeling in my heart that takes the shape of a thanks. I find that saying thanks a lot makes me a better person. I think this is religion.
So I recently happened to have a conversation about women.
It started watching a film where a woman, whose husband cheated on her, was not letting him speak with their children.
At the comment “Why is she acting so bitchy?” I got offended and snapped. My immediate thought was: a woman has no right to act bitchy after her husband cheated on her? A husband has the right to offend her but she has no right to reply in a harsh way to him?
The point is: I always get defensive when it comes to women. Before judging a woman I always try to put myself in her shoes. Actually, I do this with anyone, it’s just the best way to understand other people, but with women it’s even more natural. Before blaming a woman, I try to think of the reasons behind her action, of what she had to go through before getting to that point where she is maybe acting bitchy. Is it coming out of nothing? Is there an emotion behind her action?
I’m maybe wrong to feel so protective towards all women. It’s maybe wrong to identify myself with every woman who I meet on my path. But there is an empathy I can’t avoid. I feel them. I know exactly what they’ve been through, even though I haven’t had the exact same experience. If I close my eyes and feel her with my heart, I know exactly how she feels and why she acted that way. And this happens for me with any woman.
Whenever I see women abused or humiliated a part of me feels abused and humiliated with them. Any time someone makes stupid jokes about women I feel offended as if the joke was directed towards myself. Any time someone lacks respect towards a woman, I feel he lacks respect towards me as well. Because we are a sisterhood, we are united in spirit. We, women went though so much suffering during history for the fact of being women. And this sufferance is also what connects us. We are united in souls, and offending one of us offends all of us. This is, at least, how I feel about it.
I often have to debate about the fact that now women are free and have all the possibilities. Very true. But this is very new. This started only few years ago, and my generation is still trying to understand what to do with all this freedom. While men have had hundreds of years to learn how to decide about their lives, women started 50 years ago. We are still at the beginning of our learning process. We CAN study medicine, engineering, programming, business…but many of us still don’t consider this as an option because it’s too new to us. No one gave us toys about constructions or mechanics, no one told us to play football. We didn’t consider these options available to us, and although they are now available our brain still struggle to see them.
My generation, the 30-something, still struggles with our education. The education we received came out of the post-war mentality: the woman stays at home, the man goes to work. In these picture, if the woman goes to work, she still have to take care of the family much more than the men has to, because if she puts her needs before the needs of her family she is consider selfish and arrogant, a bad mum and a bad wife. Our background is still rooted there, because this is what our mothers and grandmas showed us. No blame in here, I’m just looking at facts. So although we are now aware of having all the possibilities open in front of us, we are still scared to take them. There is a cultural heritage that holds us back. Some of us, thanks God more disrespectful of traditions, managed somehow to get rid of that chain, but many other women are still struggling.
There is a constant battle between the tradition that our grandmas taught us and our desire to get rid of it. The battle is not between us and society, because society lets us do what we want now. The real battle is in our heart, where we feel like we betray our tradition, our roots and thus our families if we do take those chances, put our needs before everything else and believe in ourselves.
I personally think that tradition is not always a good thing. Tradition means keeping the “status quo”, keeping things as they are because it’s more comfortable to deal with something we already know rather than exploring the unknown. So the tradition that comes from our families tells us to be good girls and good wives. But our heart tell us to be strong and take responsibility for our happiness, and that’s where the battle starts.
Tradition comes in unexpected forms: it’s the little voice that tells us that we’re very bad girlfriends or wives if we don’t take care of our husband, is the voice that tells us “Don’t be proud, don’t aim that high, is bad for a woman to be proud”. Is the voice that tells us we have to forgive things we shouldn’t forgive because we’re women and women have to suffer. It comes in the form of the common sayings or common jokes about women repeated over and over, with the excuse that it’s only a joke. Tradition is, ultimately, our fault when we listen to it and we let it block us. It’s true, we have been powerless for centuries, but now we have power over our lives. It’s true we were forced into one single role (the good wife) for centuries but now it’s not like this any more. So we can now really take charge of our lives and our own happiness.
I will still suffer for every act of disrespect towards women, but that same empathy will also make me feel more and more fulfilled and proud for every woman who really takes charge of her own happiness, building her life as a free, smart, and valuable human being.
I read them on the back of a book I’m readying lately, although I have to say it’s nothing new to my ears. Of course, I know the Italian version I heard many time in my childhood. Never really got it though.
When I was younger I used to play treasure hunt with my grandma. We would create amazing treasure hunts in her small apartment, where one clue would lead to the other. Sometimes I would create the clues, sometimes my grandma was, and she would repeat this refrain when I would complain that she hid the clues too well. “Seek and you shall find” she said, “Chi cerca trova”. I would get upset and reply “I am looking everywhere, I am seeking, and I still find nothing!” Funny how children get pissed at such tiny things…
Now, a little bit older, I look back and I watch that film in my memory with tenderness. Not only for the great fun I was having with my grandma who is no longer with me, but also because I notice now words of wisdom where back then I saw nothing.
So now life has become my treasure hunt, and I still hear my grandma’s voice: “Chi cerca trova”.
For me this now means first of all that if I want to find something I have to start looking. Obvious? Well, yeah, but not that obvious, given all the people who sit and complain because they don’t find what they’re looking for. Maybe they think that you can win a treasure hunt by sitting and waiting the treasure to come to you.
But it also means that if I don’t know what I am looking for I might just stumble upon it and not even notice it.
And finally, it means that if I really want something it doesn’t matter how long I have to look for it, because if I keep trying I will, eventually find it.