The Value of Rest

When I was a little girl – 100 years ago – rest was not a word that was spoken in our house. Idleness wasn’t something that was considered a valid state. If you weren’t occupied you would swiftly be given something to do. Hauling bark to the garden. Or stacking fire wood. If you wanted to avoid something along these lines you ‘made yourself scarce’. My go-to was heading to the woods and climbing a tree. I practically lived in trees until I was 11 or 12.

And as an adult? Well, I’ve lived as I was taught as a child. There have always been lists and things to check off. Sitting around doing nothing is a skill I have struggled to master. Always feeling – whether in my work or my home life – that I needed to generate value. My parents and grandparents would call that ‘earning your keep’. And it’s exhausting.

I have never felt like I should ask something of someone when I could do it myself. That didn’t seem fair. The art of delegation isn’t a natural state for me. I had to learn it in my work and as a parent. Otherwise you undermine other people’s confidence in themselves. They struggle to grow under your tutelage. So you have to let go. But even then, I was still occupied with other stuff. So much other stuff.

So this year of 2020, it’s been a challenging year for all of us around the world. I am not alone in that. But post-Covid in the spring, and now this latest health issue, has seen me struggle with value of resting. Taking the time to just heal and be. I’ve waited for the first sign of feeling better and then pushed beyond it, suffering set backs and further issues. Some of it I’ve done to myself because slowing down feels like giving up. Its how I was raised.

But this time, I’ve tried a different approach and Jeff has helped me get there. Half-joking with threats of taking my cell phone away.

‘You don’t have to justify your existence. You can just stop doing and be.’

I’m not saying it’s been easy but I have tried to embrace that concept over the last few weeks. I’ve tried something new and have stopped and rested – mentally and physically. Sorry if I worried anyone here who is used to hearing all the musings in my head. But the weeks I’ve let other people handle things that I would normally shepherd through or stay on top of has been good for me. And you know what? It’s all worked out. My new visa was approved yesterday – one day after the paperwork was filed. Yes. One day.

And the lawyer I hired in Lugo has been all over working through property details with a seller. I’ve barely had to do anything.

‘Don’t worry, Mrs. Kelli.’ He assured me. ‘I will let you know if there is any concern.’

So the world doesn’t need me right now. Other than to follow Drs. orders strictly, and to slow down. So I’m doing that.

Tomorrow I will make an American Thanksgiving meal for us, not because I have to but because I want to. A chicken (we don’t love turkey) with a Shawarma rub. And persimmon cookies for dessert. Nothing too stressful or straining or dangerous. Maybe this year what I’ll be most thankful for is learning the value of doing nothing. And that perhaps in the midst of this crazy year that’s the biggest lesson of all.

It’s All Good

After a tiny flurry of excitement I’m doing fine. No worries. Not a big deal. It could have been so much worse than taking meds, having nurses check and monitor stuff (because hospitals are no place to get rest), and lots more repeated tests. But it seems all the urgency, and scolding I received, paid off. So thats good.

Turns out, driving cross country for hours and hours in yoga pants? Yeah, not recommended by my Dr. Sorry Lululemon.

‘But they’re for yoga.’ I told him. ‘Yoga is healthy.’

I got an eye roll for my troubles.

‘Were you doing yoga while you were driving across the entirety of Spain?’ Eyebrows raised.

We both knew the answer. In Castilla-La Mancha I had actually tried. So it probably wasn’t Covid related. I likely did this to myself. A fashion injury. The worst kind. The clothes don’t just don’t just try to kill you, they bruise your ego on the way out.

So I’ll have to follow strict instructions over the next several months (like I haven’t had to do that this year), take meds carefully, watch out for side effects (try not to run into anything or get cut since my blood won’t clot well on this stuff), and a few other things. Jeff is hiding the knives. But its not the end of the world.

In the grand scheme its kind of a nothing burger. Sure, it could have been bad, but it wasn’t. It’s a good thing, too. I have stuff to do purchasing my new 2021 wardrobe in neutrals. I hear white compression socks are all the rage this season🤪 Good thing its almost winter. And the upside, I learned a pro-tip: Never drive or fly long-haul in yoga pants. Who knew? Information is power.

Only 48 days left in this god-forsaken year. I’ll mark every one of them off, counting down until its finally over. Yoga pantless. But it’s all good.

Dreaming of a Beige 2021

It started like any normal day. Jeff and I had appointments with the Podologia. He needed steroid shots in his feet, just like the ones he used to get back in the US. I was ready to admit that maybe it was time for shoe inserts. We walk a lot.

I let Jeff go first. Unlike in the US, here if you have a Dr appt and your spouse has one too, you can both go in together. They’ll freely share your medical info with your spouse. No big deal. You’re married. Jeff needed to go to work, so I figured if my deal took a little longer he could hop the Metro home without me. No problem. I did the interpreting for him. I can do that when I’m not stressed out.

The Dr finished with Jeff, then took a look at my right Achilles. He had me lift my pant leg and did a more thorough exam. His face looked concerned as he went to his desk and began writing furiously on a notepad.

‘You need to immediately go to your Dr next door and get an order for Ecografia (ultra sound). I believe you have a blood clot in your lower leg. Go now and take this paper. Then come back here to have it performed by the radiologist.’

What?!? Jeff and I looked at each other. This was crazy. Jeff’s steroid shots were a distant memory in an instant. We were both in shock. We walked the half block to our general doctor and I handed the receptionist the note. She took me back to see my Doctor ahead of those waiting. This is the Dr who I would normally see for colds or an annual physical. He grew up in Florida and speaks English with a Southern accent, but he’s all Valencian. He did another exam and asked if I had been laying down or sitting for long periods of time.

I told him I had driven from Lugo on Friday and had experienced a fair bit of dizziness at points on the road. I’d had to pull off and I’d called Jeff at one point, a little concerned. People here think driving that far in one day is strange. In the US this isn’t any big deal. Maybe because our country is so big. But even if I had wanted to stop for the night in Madrid or Castilla-La Mancha I couldn’t. They are locked down to outsiders. I’d gone through check points on the Autovia. I couldn’t get off except at service areas that had gas and where I had to get right back on. The Dr got angry with me.

‘You should have been seen days ago. Its crazy you didn’t seek medical attention right away! You need to go to the Emergency right now. I will call the Director of Emergency at the hospital and tell him what is going on. But you have to go now! This s dangerous.’

To be fair, I didn’t have a clue what I was feeling was serious in any way. I just thought.. well, I didn’t know what I thought. Maybe its just that I’m tired of emergency rooms, and Drs in general. I started crying. He seemed to soften. ‘Don’t worry. There will be a solution. We will see it taken care of.’

But I wasn’t just crying just because of this blood clot. I was crying because Fuck 2020!! I was crying cause my Dad died this year. Cause Covid messed with me so hard and keeps hanging around like an ex-boyfriend after a bad break up. I cried for lost houses, and important missed milestones with my kids back in the US. For fucking javalies in the road. None of the people at the Drs office knew all that crap. In Valencia people might shout, wave their arms and raise their voice in anger. But they don’t cry in public, and they don’t cry in waiting rooms or in a taxi. The driver of the taxi they called drove to the hospital faster than an ambulance. Yes, it wasn’t safe but I barely noticed.

I’m much too familiar with hospitals this year. This time I was taken to one I hadnt been to before. The Dr had called, like he said he would. They were waiting for me.

I’m trying to look at this like I’m a tourist at another hotel. What’s different than the others whose doors I’ve darkened in Valencia? How are the staff? Is the signage accurate and readable. Are the porters efficient, and do they take care not to bang you about when wheeling you for a CT scan? You know. Usual stuff you concern yourself with at any Four Seasons. They assigned me my own interpreter. That’s pretty amazing. But this was after they grabbed the young guy in the tie from reception when my stress Spanish hit its limit. My Podologia Spanish is fine. Urgengia Spanish? Yeah, no. Poor guy got to cover his eyes and try to disappear himself into the corner of the triage room as they suddenly they pulled off my pants and opened my shirt to stick heart monitor leads to my chest. I felt sorry for him. He was mortified. Soon my new female interpreter materialized. Voila!

I’m sure it will all be fine. I can definitively inform you the I’m not pregnant and don’t have a brain tumor. Whew! That was close. Not that I woke up thinking about either one of those things as a remote concern. Everyone is very thorough and the facilities at this medical Four Seasons are pretty slick. Jeff is impressed. They let him see me once for a few minutes. Even in Covid times.

I’ve made a big decision laying here. When 2021 rolls around I’m going to wear beige. Just beige. It will be the year of neutrals. No bold moves. No adventures. I’m going to do nothing interesting or unique. I want no surprises. Boring sounds so lovely. Safe. And you, dear readers, can hold me to it. If I do anything outside my beige lane you have my permission to call it out.

‘Now, Kelli, don’t you think you’ve had enough excitement for one day at the Spanish Mattress Museum?’

And I’ll respond in monotone.

‘Perhaps you’re right. Maybe a nice safe nap is in order.’

I close my eyes and imagine it. Sweet, beige 2021. Now I just gotta get from here to there.

Working Together

A big day for America. We’ve elected a new President and VP. It’s always a big day, no matter who is running and who wins. It’s big for so many reasons. Sometimes it means a change in direction for the country. Out with the old and in with the new. Sometimes it means 4 more years of the same stuff that was happening before. Whether you like those things or not. But today there were firsts, like when Obama was elected.

On that night in 2008, we sat as a family on our big bed in Snoqualmie and watched Obama and his young family walk onto that stage in Chicago. They were the youngest family in the White House in a long, long time and the very first Black First Family. I cried watching them and my daughter, Emilie, asked me why. I told her that it was wonderful to watch a smart, capable person of color achieve the highest office in our country. I explained his mixed race, his background and the long hard road he had to tread. She was 6 years old and she nodded.

‘Do does that mean I could be president someday?’ She asked innocently.

I broke down. ‘Yes.’ I told her. ‘You can be anything you want to be. No matter where you come from.’ And I meant that.

Today after seeing the speeches given by the new President on unity. And seeing my first choice for President, Kamala Harris, speaking on the long road so many have tread and our choice of democracy. ‘[this is for] women who could see what could be, instead of what came before.’ And it’s made me remember Emilie’s question to me that night. Kamala is Black and Asian. Our Emilie is Black, Asian and Irish. I look at Kamala and I see my daughter, who wants to go to law school and run for office someday. VP-elect Harris delivered a message to the children of the country tonight ‘Dream with ambition and lead with conviction. And see yourselves in a way others may not. Simply because they’ve never seen it before.’ I see a future full of inclusion and strength. Hope for a brighter future.

And I’m not alone. Europe, who has been holding it’s breath on the outcome of our election, so far from it’s shores, breathed a collective sigh of relief. And then they started celebrating. I know it may be hard to believe how invested, and deeply impacted, the rest of the world is in our elections in the US. But they matter, as much as their own. El Pais devoted the last few days, not to the virus raging the country, but to our election in the US. These is just a few headlines below the fold.

And in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland – where we spent Christmas of 2018 – they’re a proud, happy lot. It’s the birth place of Joe Biden’s great-great-great grandfather and they’re celebrating in the village like it was Joe himself as their native son. Irish diaspora runs deep there. See my posts from the area here, here and here. It’s a wonderful place but the history is brutal for those who lived under plantation rule, as Biden’s ancestors surely did. Cheers, Ballina! A plucky little village on the dramatic West Coast of Ireland.

Here are some other scenes from around the EU.

I think it was the church bells of Paris that really got me. Like it was VE day and the war is now over. But, of course, it’s not. Democracy is a fragile thing. It must never be taken for granted or ignored like an elderly relative. Something old fashioned and out of date. Today, Democracy is cool again. And just in time. Those in the EU understand that. Too many are still alive who have lived under dictatorship and fascism, not just flirting with it as we have. It’s a slippery slope and they know it when they see it.

Henry Havcock Ellis wrote ‘All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.’ It’s time for a new chapter in America. It’s time to let go of the last 5 years (yes, I’m including the election season of 2016) and grab hold of our future. For coming together and working on the very grave problems facing our country and the world. This is the first day in a very long time that I think we can do it. All of Europe agrees. Let’s get to work. Together.

My Cup Runneth Over

Kelli has left the building! Whew! Let’s hope my drive today is javali-free. Fingers crossed. But I’ve enjoyed my time in Lugo. Staying two weeks has been educational and I’ve been able to get the lay of the land. Yesterday I went and explored the greater surrounding area before looking at the final house. I have pictures and videos to show el Jefe and decisions to make.

I also got some good news. Our Valencian landlord messaged me. They have decided not to sell the apartment. Apparently the middle of a pandemic hasn’t coughed up viewings or interest and perhaps waiting is best. It’s no wonder. I’m probably the only person looking to move right now. We’re lucky we don’t have a property to sell. If our purchase was contingent it might not go through until 2022. Our lease was up in January anyway, but now we will sign a new lease that allows us to leave anytime with a 2 month notice. Since the lawyer here in Lugo said that depending on the conditions of the land documents – certificates – it might take upwards 6-7 months to close. We should be prepared. I’m not interested in buying a property with the caveat that the sellers ‘fix their documents’ with a land office sometime in a nebulous future. Nope. It needs to be done before we sign. Now the pressure is off to pack up. We can have a peaceful Christmas and take a breath.

In Melide, I spent the day with my friend, Conchi, at her cafe, with 3 French Peregrinos who walked from Toulouse. 1000 km from their front door. Last time we were here the Lady Bug mural was just starting. Now it’s all done. I love it. Over lunch we were all glued to the television reporting the US election all day/all the time, and in full agreement on the dangerous situation in the US. The world holds it’s breath. They are all visibly afraid. Europe knows what life is like under fascisms. It’s why the EU was born – to ensure it never happens again. They need the US to stand with them or it’s all over. They said they would pray for the world when they get to Santiago.

After too much coffee and lots of discussion, and Conchi gifting me with a bunch of kiwis from her trees, the sellers called to tell me they had arrived from Coruna to show me the house before dark. They are such nice people. I swear the people of Galicia have the biggest hearts. And ironies of ironies, the people with the house on the lake that we loved so much but was sold out from under us, messaged me. The sale fell through. ‘Before I list it I wanted to let you know in case you’re interested. I know you were sad.’ I swear, I should buy a lottery ticket.

It was a quick trip back to Lugo, to say muchas gracias and hasta la vista to new friends. I stopped past the taxi stand out front and said a socially distanced farewell to the guys. The tow truck driver and his wife, my new friend, showed up at the hotel and she handed me a box of beautifully decorated cookies she had baked me for the drive. ‘Call me if you get tired and want to chat.’ If we move to the area its nice to know that when we arrive sometime next year we would be surrounded by people I already know and truly like. A soft landing. In my experience, hardship breeds blessings. And this trip has been filled to the brim with blessings.

The manager of the hotel helped me take my bags to the car. ‘You’re finally rid of me.’ I told her. ‘After two weeks!’

‘Well it has been our pleasure.’ she assured me. ‘It’s been good for us, too. Especially at this time.’

When this is posted I’ll be on the road. Here’s to a blessedly uninteresting uneventful weekend in Valencia – in my own bed! Only 9 hours to go.