Kid’s fears

Resultado de imagen para meteorite falling

I had an astronomy class last night. I learned that the hit of a 10 km asteroid on this planet can wipe out all humanity, that a 5 km one can destroy a continent, and that a 600 mts meteorite can destroy three countries. I also learned a bunch of stuff about black holes, supernovas, when the universe will collapse, and an Earth-like planet called Kepler-186F. Also, that a meteorite of 1 mt smashed a car in Russia, and that there have been more than 1000 meteorites falling on this planet. Oh! The most important part: There is a chance of a 600 mts meteorite falling on this planet in the year 2036.

My eight-year old teacher takes a deep breath and says: “I really hope that meteorite doesn’t fall here”.

 I did not take that comment lightly. I used to have similar fears when I was a kid, but instead of being afraid meteorites falling in the future, I got a bit obsessed about earthquakes. That fear was very real; I even remember making scape plans in the building where I used to live. More than thirty years later, immediately  after living through the 8.8 Richter scale Earthquake in Santiago, Chile, I got a strange feeling of relief. Finally, the Earthquake had happened. 

When my kid made that comment, I was tempted to tell him, “that’s not going to happen, don’t worry”. Instead, I asked him: “What’s the probability of that meteorite hitting the planet in 2036?” Without thinking twice, he answered: “2.7%.”

I thought about it for a moment, and asked him, “Do you know what a percentage is?” His answer was, “no”. Alright then, we had some space to maneuver. I roughly explained to him the concept of percentages, and he got it. Just then, I allowed my self to tell him, “there’s nothing to worry about. There’s 97 scenarios without meteorites colliding planet Earth, against 3, that include that meteorite hitting the planet”. He smiled, and then I knew he’d gotten it.

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My kids’ minds

I read somewhere that we are all artists when we are kids (until someone says a negative critic against our art work). Likewise, we are all philosophers when we are kids… or maybe I’m wrong, and I just used to be a kid philosopher, and my two children turned out to be even better kid philosophers than me. I wonder if that amazement from questioning themselves and their surroundings, will still be there when they grow up. I hope so.

I think the best time for kid’s philosophy (an euphemism for when the kids start asking ‘why?’ to everything and apparently don’t what to ever stop) is between the ages of four and eight. My younger kid, is at the peak at his best philosophy time. He came yesterday with these thoughts:

‘I’ve been thinking about people before they are alive. If everything was dark, how did colors appeared?’ The mom that is writing right now had to forget about the ‘real’ world, to focus in the child and his question: ‘Do you mean, about people before they are born?’, I asked tentatively, ‘Yes’, he said,  but I guessed that it was more than that, so I told him that at the beginning everything was dark, and that the whole universe was condensed in a huge ball. Then, a massive explosion occurred (called by scientists ‘the Big Bang’) and that all the debris from the explosion became stars, and planets. Suddenly I realized that I had left God out of the equation, so I added: ‘Some people think that it was God who made that explosion’.

He frowns, thinking, and asks: ‘And where does God come from?’. Oh no; we were going so well. ‘Eeehhh… God doesn’t come from anywhere, he doesn’t have a beginning and doesn’t have an end, is infinite’. When he heard this, he laughed so hard (and so cute) saying: ‘Hahaha, but everything has a beginning’. I tried to say something else, but it was obvious that he was starting to lose faith in his mom’s responses. Oh well.

A few months ago, while we were praying, I switched to Spanish to talk to him about God, and he realized that in Spanish ‘Dios’ (God) is male. He told me, laughing out loud, because it sounded ridiculous to him: ‘But God is not a man, is a woman’. While smiling inside, I told him that ‘Dios’, or ‘Diosa’ (female Goddess) didn’t have sex, confusing him even more, I presume. But I also guess that he’s making his own conclusions and that his mind is picking up, developing on his own.

I love that.  I want him to think by himself, and if something doesn’t make sense, even if it comes from his mom, he could argue it back.  I already learned a while ago that I can control my kids’ actions, but I can’t control their minds. I can lead them in the way I think is better, I can do that. But their minds are theirs, and theirs only. The best I can do is teach by example, and from there, I hope they’ll have some ground to grow and develop their minds however they like. It’s an exciting future to look forward to.

I am tall

 

‘Mom’, says my eight-year-old son, while staring at me, ‘you really are not that tall’. What a sweet thing to say. It so happens that I am 5’1″. But until yesterday I was tall to my kid. Sorry (cough…) I still am, I’m just not ‘that tall’.

When I was a kid, I was always mortified because everybody thought I was younger. ‘I am short’ was engraved in my brain.Wrong. In my kid’s eyes, I am tall. And that is the truth: I am tall. It’s a matter of perspective.

That reminded me of something that my older daughter told me a few years ago, when she was about nine (I was thirty-nine years old at the time): ‘Mom’, you are so old that even Katy Perry is younger than you’.

Perspective is an awesome concept. Change your place or time, and you see a whole different picture.  Is the concept that you have of yourself, universal? Of course not. You might discover a new reality of you, if you see yourself through the eyes of somebody else.

A life driven more by curiosity than fear

big magic

I enjoyed very much reading ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’, by Elizabeth Gilbert. As always, her writing felt as if I were reading a long letter from a lost friend, the one that I remembered as ‘the optimistic one’. We need optimistic ones, all over, and everywhere.

She talked about the poet Jack Gilbert, who she didn’t know in person, but her students did, since she replaced him in the position of professor, when the old poet retired. Referring to him, she writes, in obvious awe:

He told them that

they must live their most creative lives

as a means of fighting back

against the ruthless furnace of the world.

He asked his students to be brave.

What were they up to? (Both Elizabeth and Jack) . What does bravery has to do with creativity?

According to Elizabeth Gilbert, creative living means living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear.

Why? Because your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, since creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.

Is that how an optimistic is made?

Since fear hates uncertain outcome, does the confidence of an optimistic actually mean  loving uncertain outcomes?  Or that he, or she, has learned to love uncertain outcomes?

Or is it that every time fear attacks, the optimistic counterattacks adding up more curiosity in his life?

Is curiosity an effective antidote to fear?

Waiting for the red light to change

 traffic light_0

There’s a guy that has been asking for money by the traffic light next to my house in Mexico, for the last several weeks. One day, I was wearing a beige cap, while I was waiting in my car for the red light to change, and he told me, with a smile: ‘I used to have a cap like that, but green. It fell down when I was on the train’.

A chill crossed down my spine. I knew he was from Honduras, a small country to the south of Mexico, because he showed his I.D. to the people passing by. I remembered a documentary that I had seen once, about a net of trains called The Beast (La Bestia) that a lot of people (400,000 to 500.000 each year, Wikipedia) from Central American countries used to reached the United States.

I asked him, trying to appear unmoved:

– Where were you in the train?

-On the roof. That’s why I have this cast, – he shows me his left arm-, I fell from it and broke a bone.

-Are you going to stay here? Where are you heading?

-To Tijuana, and then, to the North.

-Do you have money to cross the border?

-A friend of mine is going to help me out, – red light changes.

-Good luck! – I wave and leave.

He is very strange looking, has blue eyes, and his face looks indigenous. He’s got a pair of teeth missing, and is always smiling. Another day I saw him by the traffic light again:

-How has been your day? – I ask.

-I’m leaving early to the shelter – he points his cast- this is hurting today.

-When are you leaving to the North?

-Nah, I’m going back home. My older kid, who is in the last year of high school, doesn’t want to finish it and wants to drop out. I have to return – red light changes.

Another day, he recognized me and asked how I was doing.

-Not so well, really- I answered.

-Do you believe in God?

-Yes.

-Ask him to help you. He will. He will go against your enemies. Things will be all right-and then he smiled.

Red light changes. I know his decision was not easy. Going back to his country might be more dangerous than riding The Beast and crossing the border to the United States illegally. I hope God remembers that he counts on Him.

Beauty without expectations

dud

I’m going to wash the dishes, but -what a boring task- let’s look up for something cool in YouTube, for the mean-time. So, I’m listening to the first part of Beethoven’s 9th, and then Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan conductor, makes a speech. I’m totally zoomed in, paying attention to it, thinking how nice it would be to translate it for the blog, when crash! I notice that I’ve broken the glass that I was washing, and I’m bleeding from both my right index and little finger. It took a long while for it to stop bleeding, but now  they are in the process of healing with two band aids (I’m writing without using them).

Translation of Dudamel’s speech: (partial)

There’s no need to be a renowned artist to judge as successful a life project, just as there’s no need either of fame or fortune, like instruments to measure the transforming capacities of art and culture. Art consists in different vital experiences, sincere expressions of human nature, but not because of that, it stops being a daily activity, carried forward by many people, most of whom, never abandon anonymity. I am convinced that a lot of you, for sure, are artists in your own way, and that daily you undertake creative activities, without any other expectation than participate of the sublime act of producing and appreciating beauty.

Hence, we continue trying. Bloody fingers and all.

Lo que nos hace humanos

empatia-comunicacion-485x373

He estado escuchando los videos de la autora Lisa Romano, quien dice que lo que nos hace humanos es la empatía que tenemos hacia las demás personas. La empatía  es esa capacidad de ponernos en los zapatos del otro, y sin ella, no hay conexión posible.

La empatía varía de una persona a otra y hay quienes somos más empáticos que otros. Curiosamente, a muchos de los que somos más empáticos, se nos olvida hacer un chequeo de los sentimientos propios, y se nos hace difícil verlos, o sentirlos. En mi caso, tengo que hacer un esfuerzo extra para saber qué estoy sintiendo. Muchas veces tengo tensión muscular, o el corazón acelerado, por ejemplo, antes de darme cuenta de lo qué me está pasando. Incluso he llegado a tener ataques de pánico, en los que vengo a descubrir qué fue lo que los disparó, mucho después. A veces pasan días sin que sepa ponerle un nombre a un sentimiento. Se me hace difícil ser empática conmigo misma, pero insisto en ello.

Las personas como yo tenemos que repetirnos una y otra vez, que nuestros propios sentimientos son importantes, y que el hecho de que uno no entienda el por qué de ellos, no los hace inválidos. Debemos recordar que el hecho de que uno tenga una voz inconsciente que dice: “pero no puedes estar triste; dada la evidencia mostrada, debes estar feliz”, hay que dejarse sentir.

Los sentimientos no tienen un origen racional. Están allí por alguna razón y hay que dejarlos ser. No dejar florecer un sentimiento es como matarlo, y cuando lo hacemos demasiadas veces, nos vamos matando por dentro.

Cuando sentimos empatía, vemos al otro, o a uno mismo, tal cual es. Si no hay empatía, solo vemos lo que nos conviene ver, y escondemos lo demás. Hay que tener coraje para ser humano, para ser empático hacia el otro, y sobretodo, hacia uno mismo, porque eso quiere decir que vamos a tener sentimientos incómodos, fuertes, con los cuales probablemente no sepamos qué hacer. Sin embargo, no hace falta saber qué hacer con ellos, solo darles validez y darles derecho a existir.

Cuando una persona se percata de que sus sentimientos son vistos, reconocidos, aun cuando el oyente no sepa qué hacer con ellos, la persona que habla se siente viva, vista. Si sus sentimientos son rechazados, se invalida esa parte que nos hace humanos y nos sentimos invisibles.

Cuando mi hija tenía unos dos años más o menos, y no  sabía hablar todavía, se desconsolaba y lloraba como si hubiera pasado la tragedia más terrible sobre la Tierra cuando otro niño le quitaba un juguete. Era suyo, por qué se lo quitaban? Cómo podía ser la vida tan injusta? Para mí era fácil imaginarme qué pasaba por su cabeza, y la consolaba, haciéndole ver que iba a poder seguir viviendo, aunque en ese momento no supiera cómo. Yo estaba allí, y la iba a seguir queriendo.

Es irrelevante el hecho de que yo, como adulta, nunca hubiera reaccionado así, si me hubieran quitado un juguete. A mí no me importan los juguetes y obviamente tenía muchos años más que ella. Pero el hecho que para mí no tuviera sentido esa reacción, no tenía nada que ver con que sí tuviera para ella. Mi empatía, esa capacidad de imaginarme cómo una niña de dos años podía sentirse en esa situación, fue lo que me permitió ser compasiva con ella.

El hecho de que yo jamás hubiera reaccionado con ansiedad, rabia, miedo o tristeza ante un evento X,  o un comentario X, no invalida el hecho de que otra persona sí lo haga. Una persona tiene derecho a su sentimiento negativo, así sea la única persona en un salón de 100 personas que reacciona de esa manera.  Su vida es diferente y sus sentimientos también lo son.

Muchas veces me he sentido como mi hija cuando le quitaban su juguete, cada vez que me he mudado de ciudad o país, por ejemplo, y ahora con el divorcio. Es mi ciudad, mis amigos, o mi matrimonio -por ejemplo- por qué me los quitan? Cómo puede la vida ser tan injusta? Entonces me imagino que Dios, o la Diosa, me está viendo, igual que yo cuando veía a mi hija de chiquita, con compasión, y amor. Así como mi hija no podía entender en ese momento por qué le quitaban el juguete, yo a veces tampoco entiendo el por qué de lo que sucede. Pero confío que voy a seguir viviendo de alguna manera, y que hay un sentido detrás de todo esto, aun cuando no lo pueda comprender en este momento.