I went to Germany last month on a real vacation. No work, no real planning, no agenda – just me and a good friend, and a chance to experience a new place. It was relaxing and tiring and amazing, and I though I fully expected to return home with renewed vigor and blog ideas burning my fingertips, I experienced quite the opposite.
In my week away, the first like it since I got married and had my baby, I was able to step away from the noise – bills, meals, housekeeping, landscaping, marketing presentations, rides to and from here and there, seeking tiny windows of repose, and being professional “on” for strangers. I kick myself into overdrive and get things done, because it’s in my unrelenting nature, but sometimes it’s difficult to see the ocean through waves.
In fact, I felt bad – I may have been a terrible sightseer and houseguest. My first day in Düsseldorf, Germany, I slept in. And the second day. And the third. Full nights’ sleep. I drank wine, ate rich foods, had great conversations with one of the smartest, funniest people I know, ate a year’s worth of gummies straight from the factory store, and was pretty much self-indulgent in every regard. Each day we set out, not with a busy to-do list and a cluttered mind, but with a slate of possibilities.
My husband and daughter got on just fine without me, and to be honest, they probably needed a real break from me. I assume they consumed more greasy, golden, and sugar-laced food than I would allow in the house, stayed up too late, and had a chance to miss me, if only fleetingly. And I missed them the whole time – granted, while sipping a chilled Hengst white from Salzberg, and eating pfeffer salami.
From over the froth of my cappuccino in a café window at sunset, I became relatively insignificant in the big wide world where people went on about their business, regardless of where I was sitting or what I may have been responsible for or worrying about. I gained perspective.
My friend was happy to indulge me on a daytrip to Aachen – my first visit, though it is home to a great technology company for which, a decade ago, I was PR manager. We also visited the throne of Charlemagne and saw the sites. We went to Sölingen where my family had a scissor factory before the turn of the 19th century when they came to homestead on the U.S./Mexico border. There, we saw a peacock made of scissors and went to the Haribo gummy factory, and I quickly understood why my family took their chances against Apaches and bandidos. And we went to Berlin – a soulful, sorrowful, hopeful city of complex and rich history, art, and humanity. A city, much like my own, divided by a wall, but unified in history and culture.
Seems as though I’d have many stories to spin as a result of this amazing trip, right? Well, when I got back, I felt the mighty squish of my daughter’s soft arms, and didn’t want to let go. And I didn’t want to miss anything from that point on because I was preoccupied with matters of inconsequence. For the first time, I sat patiently at bathtime, blind to the ticking of the clock, paying little mind to my to-do list. I learned to sit still and breath.
Four months after setting my New Year intentions, I began to pursue both balance and space. Partly because my lymphedema therapy holds me captive for 45 minutes each morning before the baby wakes (aaahem…I mean, it gives me the opportunity to sit quietly) and partly because I am taking advantage of my current lack of momentum to dedicate my attention to what’s really important.
Sadly, during the last month, my blog side hustle which is a hell of a lot of hustle (and to-date an $11 check from Amazon) has taken the backseat while I cleared my head. Bad blogger, bad – I know. I missed you all terribly.
In the life of an introvert, we create universes in our heads, so to step outside and observe is quite a feat of planetary exploration. Travel is good. Seeing new places, creating memories, and experiencing new cultures deepens your spiritual and intellectual understanding of yourself and of your place in the world. To grossly oversimplify, it makes you a better person.
But the more you travel, the more you realize that no one place is better than any other. All the buildings, historical sites, streets and alleys, waterways, fields, and open skies begin to resemble one another, but what makes a real difference are the people. People are fundamental in the stories you are told and the ones you’ve yet to write, and in the memories you hold onto deep within your heart like perfect treasures.
Being home, with my people, I’ve made a concerted (sometimes seemingly Herculean) effort to turn the volume down. I’ve begun guided meditation ten minutes a day, and it brings amazing peace and clarity the rest of the day – another of my intentions for 2017. I’ve moved all the furniture, cleaned all the closets and the garage, and made physical space because sometimes the body needs a clear path in order for the mind to be free. Will it last? Definitely not, but I’m going to keep on praying and meditating and being a bubble-bath bystander, wading thoughtfully through the waves and gazing across the water at what matters most in this life.
All photos by Genevieve Gil