Alentejo and Lisbon Regions, Portugal

My last week in Portugal.

personal growth

It’s been more than 2 years since I began living in Portugal and in the blink of an eye it’s time to return. Of course, this remark is slightly tongue-in-cheek, because this journey certainly has had its ups and downs. So it does feel like I’ve been here forever on occasion.

Nonetheless, the time I’ve spent Portugal has been enjoyable overall and I’ve been blessed while I’ve been here working for the church. God always takes care of His children. My experience here has been so rich in both the mountaintops and the valleys that I can say that I’m moving on to the next phase of my life back home a lot wiser and much more determined than I used to be.

What I have learnt.

One of the benefits of doing something out of your comfort zone is that you get new opportunities to learn more about yourself. Since the pace is a lot slower here than back home, I had the time to reflect and scrutinise various aspects of my life. And upon doing so, I realised there were a lot of areas for improvement. The concept of minimalism also had the greatest impact on me and while it wasn’t something new to most, it was fairly new to me. After burying myself in some books and informative videos on the topic, I decided to adopt some of its principles into my life and it has reaped tons of benefits so far. Deciding what is most important to me and prioritising how I use my resources has been a great lesson that will continue with me through the years. My only regret is that I didn’t discover this sooner.

In addition, I’ve noticed clearly the things I like and dislike, what I can accommodate and what I can’t. The Janet of the past would have bent over backwards or just kept things in. This meant that I rarely said what I truly thought and censored my words for the sake of being “politically correct”. There’s nothing wrong with being tactful in your speech, but I think I went to the other extreme at times. It is important to be able to say no and to express your opinions gently but firmly.

I gained a clearer perspective on my values and greater clarity on my purpose in life. We are all created differently and what is one person’s cup of tea may not be mine. And that’s okay. None of us have to feel like we have to fit into the box that someone else tries to put us in. I am me and very proud of it. I became who I am through my beliefs, encounters and experiences. Finally, I can say that I have settled into my own skin and it’s such a glorious feeling.

Take the time.

The society that we live in is way too fast paced. It’s very easy to lose yourself in the daily grind. Life gets cluttered up by appointments, work and information. When you’re in the thick of things and fighting fire all the time, there is absolutely no room to breathe. That, eventually leads to burnout. I’ve faced burnouts multiple times, brought on by physical or mental exhaustion, or at times simply not knowing what to do to solve a problem or how to proceed. It made me mildly depressed and all I wanted to do was to sleep all day. We all know that it’s not a healthy place to be.

One of the things that I’ve found while dealing with the burnout issue is to take the time to slow my pace down occasionally. It’s absolutely essential to devote some time to caring for yourself. And what you choose to do is totally dependent on what you require to unwind. Personally, this usually defaults to spending some time in nature, a good cup of coffee and a book. Lazy days outdoors exploring with my camera or spa dates are the best. There are some habits that I’ve added to my daily morning and evening routines that help immensely. By pacing myself, I can go the distance. Life isn’t a sprint after all.

 

Be present.

One of the characteristics of the media generation is the tendency to be distracted. Whether it’s a text message, phone notification or the endless media hole that is YouTube, I’m one of those people that eschewed physical vices for a rather digital one. I’m used to multitasking. In fact, if I wasn’t browsing the web, trying to type up a report and listening to music or watching TV all at the same time I didn’t feel productive. But the truth was, my brain was always constantly torn into a myriad of directions. The result of it is less focus on the task of true importance that I am doing.

When I do focus, however, I have the ability to block out ambient noise so everything fades into the background. Sadly, I concentrate the most when I’m watching something on TV. I remember my parents would have trouble getting my attention as a kid whenever I sat in front of the one-eyed monster. Terrifying, isn’t it?

The best way to be is to be present and focused on the task in front of you. Perhaps it’s a conversation with someone, an assignment, work or even relaxation – put all your attention to it. That’s what I’ve been trying to do (and at times failing miserably). But I think it’s one of those practices, that when honed, lead to heightened efficiency and better quality of life.

And finally a note on Alentejo.

The southern parts of Portugal were relatively new to me since I live further up north, but I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to visit my friend who stays in Setúbal before I leave. She took me to a lot of places nearby and also in the Lisbon and Targus Valley area. In comparison to the area where I live (Ribatejo), the south feels a lot more arid. The air is much drier than it is in the north. Most of the towns I’ve been to here are quite distinct, each one with their own flavour. My favourite out of the towns I’ve been to in Alentejo is probably Èvora and in the Lisbon and Targus Valley area, both Ericeira and Cascais (can’t quite decide). I’ll have to explore the southern tip when I’m back here again to visit but until then, I can wait.

Thank you, Portugal. You’ll always be in my heart.

 

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