I’ve returned from Barcelona to piles of mail, oodles of laundry and a yard full of toys left out in the rain. Ted’s piano books are by the front door, unpracticed since last Tuesday’s lesson, and Gus’s night-write journal is still opened to the page he wrote the eve of my departure. My bedroom comforter is stained, and my beautiful African basket is mildewed from a pot of coffee spilled in it last Sunday. The patio flowers are shriveled from the Midwest heat, and the basement is full of granola bar wrappers.
But I don’t care.
This stuff isn’t bothering me like it normally would because I feel so
My meals In Spain consisted mostly of jamón serrano, bread and cheese and (depending on the hour) were accompanied by coffee doused with milk and sugar, cava or red wine– and they were often followed by a cigarette. No matter the carcinogens and skimped greens and water, it was the unhurried pace and the deep mealtime conversations that nourished me. It was talking about ideas that we were passionate about, making connections that only distance allows, and really, really listening. I’m nourished because I felt so heard.
The love I felt wasn’t the familiar kind of home and family. (I didn’t kiss anyone good-bye before school. I didn’t do tuck-ins. I slept alone.) The love I felt was the sweet love of real and active friendship. We created it when we asked each other with genuine concern how we slept and how we woke. We expressed it with the tenderness in which we prepared for each other café con leches and late night snacks. We demonstrated it when we repeated what we’d heard each other say in subsequent conversations, coming back again and again to the themes we each valued most.
I feel rested despite walking great distances and sleeping very little. Rest came in the form of letting go of the part of my voice that is so accustomed to directing, reminding, urging, threatening and scolding. Instead, I used my voice only to create connection, to praise, to encourage and to empathize. Rest also included being released from a chopped up schedule and incessant to-do list. In their absence time was allowed to lengthen. It stretched and softened between long walks throughout the city and leisurely breaks in her parks, plazas and cafés…
I realized this morning, waking in a house full of energetic boys, just how different I feel. Before I returned I had thought that once I was back in my suburban home I’d be snapped right back into reality, but I can still feel the warmth from the hug that was my time away. I feel transformed, like I went on an organized spiritual retreat. I’m not naive enough to believe that the after effects will last, but I’m hopeful that having a week to practice giving and receiving love without the strains of daily life (and the habits that come with 13 years of marriage) will make doing so easier now that I’m back to caring full-time for my family. I’m hoping that a week of both listening deeply and telling my truth will make not doing so not an option. I’m hoping that a week of following the example of the those who created la siesta will help me to continue to make rest and conversation over food and drink an integral part of my daily existence.
Gracias Barcelona y gracias Candace.