The Power of Disconnection

When we moved to Valencia, everything was different. I felt so bombarded by the differences that any subtlety or shades of grey were completely missed. The things we were dealing with were all primary colors and right in our faces.

Now that we’ve lived in Spain for 16 months, I notice other things. Jeff talked about some of them in his one year recap. Things like not being blasted with advertising. We really do find we don’t seem to want as much stuff, because we don’t know about it. But it goes even deeper than that. I still read news from the US, but I also watch the local news on TV in Spanish. And something struck me & it all comes down to ‘Fear’.

When I watch the Valencian news on TV, the stories can be about social injustice – there is plenty of protesting and there should be. And sure, there are the crime stories, and stories about the politics and government. Sport, human interest and fiestas loom large. Boilerplate stuff. But there are a lot less stories about the number of things that will send you running for the hills, or to your doctor or therapist.

When I read CNN or BBC or Reddit on my phone, the number of stories that ask ‘Could this be the next thing that…a) destroys your career, or b) kills or maims your children or yourself, or c) causes you untold financial ruin?’ is jarring. And those that just generally create a low level anxiety boggles the mind. And they do it sometimes by asking questions that you know you don’t have the answer for, so you read it. And then, often it turns out, they don’t actually have the answers either. Just more speculation. And even if you don’t read the click-bait, you’re still left wondering what you don’t know. My favorite story recently was ‘Is your Anxiety life-threatening?’ That question alone would ratchet it up a couple of notches. I don’t hear things like this except on English speaking media.

Living in the US, I had never really noticed this before. While living in Valencia, I never see that stuff because generally it doesn’t appear to me that the social fabric of Spanish life is based on fear, like it is in America or the UK. Anglo cultures seem to bucket everything in terms of ‘Winners or Losers’, but you can’t be both. Growing up, we had ‘The War on Drugs’, ‘Zero Tolerance in Schools’ and ‘Three Strikes You’re Out’ policies for criminal justice. None of that has worked and some of it has done immeasurable harm to real people, and secondary harm to our culture. It’s scary.

Fast forward, this summer, we’re about to go through the the process of college/scholarship applications for Emilie. But even in that there are ‘Winners and Losers’. The incredible stress every American and British parent/child feels in getting them into a top school, while competing against millions of other kids and their parents, doesn’t seem to be a thing in Spain. And I know a fair few parents with kids the same age in Valencia.

The recent highly publicized college admission cheating scandal involving rich and famous American parents hasn’t helped. Privileged people who were so stressed out and afraid for their children’s futures they would commit felonies on their behalf, would make any regular parent think ‘If they’re afraid for their kids future, I should be too.’ So many parents or their kids will go practically bankrupt – taking on unimaginable debt for fear of falling behind in the race. Higher education in Spain is first rate and won’t break the bank.

I get 10-20 emails a day from universities all around the US who are trying to get Emilie to apply there. And some of them are frighteningly alarmist in their digital messaging. Almost threatening me to prove I care about her by sending her to them, Top Notch University X, for four years. And if I don’t? Well, then what does that say about me as her parent? Now, don’t get me wrong – she’s an excellent student with the perfect set of extra-curriculars (Yes, I just used that horrible phrase); but if she said she was going to a Community College for the first two years I wouldn’t bat an eye. Although, the message seems to be I should be very stressed out about it. But me being me, I’m naive enough to believe her success or failure in life will not be decided between the ages of 18-22.

This type of social brinksmanship seems to permeate our lives in the US from preschool to the workplace, thru retirement, where the specter of running out of money in old age is waved in your face weekly on every news site. ‘How much is too much to save for Retirement?’ ‘Will you have enough?’. If I had to sum up the general mood of so many I know in the US it would be perpetually worried. Because if you’re not, you might miss something.

The US is the largest single consumer economy in the world. If we get a Wall Street sniffle, the rest of the world gets a cold. But it’s not just about selling us products to make us more attractive or a luxury car to make us feel more powerful. Its the whole package. If we’re always on edge, afraid all the time, we’re continually trying to look for a solution to alleviate that anxiety. A shopping trip, a pill, a bigger house, a new boat, a self-help guru, a vacation. ‘Select sports’ this, and an ‘Ivy League college’ that. It’s got to be exclusive or we won’t feel special. And if we’re occupied with those things then we’re distracted, and, Whew! – we’re spending money. And the economic engine churns. Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve made a career out of it. I struggled to get off that hamster wheel.

Then I walked the Camino two years ago, and when I entered Santiago, 36 days after leaving St. Jean in France, in my back pack I had:

  • 2 sets of well worn clothes
  • flip flops
  • a sleeping bag
  • a rain poncho
  • sweatshirt
  • my trusty Swiss Army knife (my most cherished possession now)
  • and some personal products

I needed nothing else in the world. I’ll admit, initially I had brought a lot more because of the advice I had gotten on social media and most of it was ‘What if this happens?’. Fear again. But I left most of that stuff at the monastery in Roncesvalles after the first 2 days. I couldn’t carry anything more than I absolutely needed for another 780km.

Day One. Camino Fances – St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Orisson (French Pyrenees)

The entire time, except for the occasional text interruption, I stayed off my phone, news apps and social media. I didn’t read a news report or of any new studies definitively confirming that dark haired women who walk the Camino at aged 50, are 1500% more likely to be hit by a meteor than those who just stayed home and shopped at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. In other words, I didn’t know to be afraid – so remarkably, I wasn’t. It was the best gift I ever gave myself. They say ‘knowledge is power’, but too much information can be crippling.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t things to be concerned about in the world. Climate Change is top of mind for me. This should, very seriously, concern us all. But now that I look back, one of the biggest things I took away from my Camino was the sense of peace. And I think a big part of that was being disconnected. Not disconnected from those around me. I’ve never felt more present or the deep sense of connection than I did with those I met. But a large part of moving to Spain, I see now, was about continuing that feeling.

I’ve spent this last weekend (other than sleeping) polishing and finishing the final edits on my book. I had to cut out more than 25k words so it’s been quite the exercise over many months, but its nearly across the finish line. It’s a story set on the Camino Francés (I was in Burgos exactly 2 years ago today). And editing requires you read and re-read the MS so many times you could recite it from memory in your sleep. But another thing its done for me is that its helped me get back in touch with those feelings, and one of my most important lessons from 5 weeks walking in the hot Spanish sun. The awesome power of disconnection.

A Tribute to my Mother

Happy 80th Birthday – Candy Lou!!

I get to be the first person to wish you Happy 80th Birthday, as I’m the first of your children to welcome this historic day because the sun rises on this side of the world before it does over there. On this day, all those years ago, at the tail end of the Great Depression and just before the dawn of the worst war in the history of the world, a little, very harry, black haired girl was born to two people who got married after dating only 6 weeks. What could go wrong with that?! A LOT it turns out!!  But that’s a story for another time. Even with humble beginnings, something went right on that morning and it was YOU.

At that moment, you didn’t know it yet but you’d be poor while growing up. You’d only have 2 dresses total in your wardrobe, and the kids would throw rocks at you on the playground for being poor, at one of the countless elementary schools you would attend – one for only two weeks. Your parents would lose their farm and times would be very tough. But it would teach you compassion that you’d need later on.

As your daughter, I can honestly say you’ve made some whopper mistakes throughout your life that would require too many fingers and toes to count. And I don’t have that kind of time. But that’s to be expected over the course of 80 years. And it’s meant that you are chock full of, yup, 8 decades, or 4160 weeks or 29,200 days of wisdom .

You’re a terrible typist and your handwriting is atrocious. And your spelling? Oof! Its crazy bad, but these days I think it might be auto-correct in WhatApp, or you can blame not wearing your glasses (that’s my excuse now). And don’t get me started with you calling actor Robert Redford ‘Robert Redfern’ my entire life. Like nails on a chalk board.

But luckily, you did a whole ton of good things too. So I thought I’d take a moment to call out just a few.

Mom, you’re a ‘Make Lemonade out of Lemons’ kind of person. And some of those lemons have been sour, a little past their pull date, and tough to choke down. But you never give up. That’s probably the biggest thing that defines you – You are like if the energizer bunny and that inflatable Toy clown with the sand in the bottom we had in the back yard in 1970, had a baby. You just keep going and bouncing back.

Slowly but Surely

I found this plate in my favorite antique store in Valencia recently and it made me think of you. It says ‘Sin Priza Pero Sin Pausa’. Literally, ‘No Hurray But No Stopping’ or ‘Slowly but Surely’. I had to buy it.

Your dream was to go to college and teach Home Economic after graduating high school in Los Angeles at barely 17. But your Dad said girls didn’t need college and should get married, so you did that. But that didn’t stop you from pursuing the things you loved in your every day life. When I was a kid, you made cupcakes, cookies, or full on cakes for every school holiday frosted with each child’s name in the class, so they wouldn’t feel left out. If there was something to sign us up for, you filled out the form and drove us at 5am. Or picked us up after midnight, if need be. You never missed a school event.

You sewed all my clothes every year until I was in High School when I suddenly ‘needed’ IZOD alligators on my shirts and factory installed ice cream cone logos on the pockets of my jeans. But my taffeta Prom dresses were the envy of every one I knew. And they were custom made ‘Candy Originals’.

You took classes to learn how to do things you were interested in. Painting, calligraphy, cake decorating. Thank God on the cake decorating front, as you made the cakes for every table at our wedding and they were each a different flavor, perfectly delicious and gorgeous. Everyone commented on those masterpieces. And you were determined that Peggy and I would go to college – because you didn’t get to.

When you bought the store when I was 12, I hated that place. It was in a bad area across town in Portland and frankly, there were times it scared me to death to go down there and stock shelves or work the slushy machine. I’m not sure you much liked it either getting up at 4:30 every morning. The place was full of hookers, drug dealers and ex-cons. And a lot of future cons-in-training. There were gang fights and drug addicts living in public housing across the street. But this is where you shone.

You went to work there every day for more than 3 decades and you made a good living doing it. But that’s not what I remember the most about you then. I remember that even though the area was the worst in 3 counties, you got up every day and put on nice clothes (including pantyhose under your elastic waist jeans – Yes, it’s still a fashion No-No) and your Keds tennis shoes, and you went to work amongst people that the rest of the world had already thrown away. Humanity’s refuse bin. Yet you treated them all the same – with respect, no matter what.

When someone got sent to prison you wrote them letters of encouragement for years. When addict’s kids came in the store barefoot in the snow, you’d make sure to get their shoe sizes and bought them shoes and coats. People didn’t go hungry if they were a little short one week, because you just wrote down what they owed on the back of cigarette cartons and kept it behind the counter with their name on it. And they would pay at pay day – maybe. I remember being little and big scary guys covered in gang tattoos from the carnival would come in and you treated them like they were wearing business suits. Calling them by name. And as a result they did the same. When the store got robbed they would find out who did it and come in and tell you – because they liked you.

You always saw past the dark veil that the people down by the store showed to the world. You looked into their hearts and saw what they could be – even if they never saw it themselves or reached their potential. Sometimes I think it broke your heart more than theirs.

I remember that one summer the war between those two rival Criminal families happened and they wanted to have a battle in the parking lot. They all showed up with knives, baseball bats, chains and guns; like Westside story, only there were no ticket sales and it wasn’t a Broadway show. You went out and shouted ‘Hey! No Way! Not in my parking lot!’ and shooed them away. And they just left. Candy – in her red Keds and flowered sweater – had told them they couldn’t fight in front of the store. So they just didn’t. They respected you. And ‘No! Weapons Stay Outside!’ if they tried to come in with anything more than a pocket knife. That’s when I knew you were crazy fierce. I used to call you ‘Betty Crocker with a Butcher Knife’ to my friends, but it was no joke.

You hired ex-addicts to give them a shot at turning their lives around. And you helped their kids learn to read. You went to countless graduations, weddings, funerals and baby showers for the neighborhood. You’d take at-risk kids out to lunch to talk to them about the potential you saw in them – sometimes enlisting me along to help with the pep talk or to be a human visual aide. And if teenagers got pregnant you made them baby quilts and helped them know what programs they qualified for. You were THE neighborhood social worker without the Masters degree or the pay. I’m amazed that you still see so many of these people after all these years. Some of them even have grand children now and they send you pictures and artwork that you hang on the fridge.

I’m not sure I would have become a foster parent if I hadn’t had you as an example. Believing that no matter how tragic a child’s beginnings are, they have the potential to do great things. And you made me believe I could help make that happen.

We haven’t always seen eye to eye, you and I. I guess we both can say we’ve had good reasons for this over the years. My siblings and I have put every grey hair on your head (Dad helped his fair share too). But at my lowest ebb, during dark and scary times, I knew you would be there, and you still are. And I’ve learned many things from you. Here are just a few:

  • Never give up – fall down 1000 times but get up 1001
  • There is always something more to learn
  • Forgive but look for the lesson
  • Re-invention should be practiced daily
  • You’re as good as the boys, just don’t let them know you know that – good advice in the 80’s
  • You can accomplish anything you set out to
  • A little lipstick never hurt anyone
  • Spend good money on good shoes – you’re playing my song
  • Carry tic tacs, butterscotch lifesavers and those little tissues in your purse – There’s always a runny nosed kid with low blood sugar at any school event, airport, on a train
  • Wear sunscreen starting when you’re young
  • Treat the person who empties the trash with the same respect as the CEO
  • Save cottage cheese cartons, they’re as good as Tupperware when you’re poor
  • Re-use foil
  • Laugh at yourself and talk to people in line
  • Be a good neighbor
  • Old friends are the best kind of friends
  • Hand write Thank You notes – it really does matter
  • Marry someone kind – You’d agree, I finally got that right
  • And the biggest one ‘This too shall pass’I’ve needed that more times than I could count

They say in life, you should strive to leave the world better than you found it and you’ve done that, Mom. There are 100’s of people whose lives you’ve made better, if for no other reason than you showed them you cared and respected them as people. And there are others whose lives you’ve transformed just because you showed up. So here’s to you, Candy Field. To the rich life you’ve lived so far. Your energy is contagious. Happy 80th Birthday. Or as they say over here, Feliz Compleanos – I Love you very much and I’m lucky I get to call you my Mom.

Its About That Time

When I lived in San Francisco in the 90’s, there were earthquakes. A lot of earth quakes. Some larger. Some smaller. You took them in your stride. But you started to be able to understand the difference between the various kinds. ‘Rolling’ was better than the ‘Jerk and Snap’. That did more damage to people and property.

But I remember one that happened on a Sunday Morning when I had moved out of the city down to San Mateo on the Pennisula. It was a rolling quake and I could hear the roar – kind of like a lion – coming towards me and it was getting rapidly louder. It came in a wave, shook the house during the loudest bit, and then roared away. When I saw the first Harry Potter and Voldemort’s spirit goes through Harry holding the sorcerers stone – that’s what it was like. I later learned that the sound waves of a quake often precede the shaking.

That’s where I’ve been since last Summer. I’ll be 53 this July, so as a woman I’m at that age when it all begins – or ends, depending on your perspective. The symptoms started like that distant roar from the earthquake. I heard little warnings – but nothing big. Then, starting last Fall the roar has gotten louder and some of the symptoms more worrisome. So much so that I couldn’t ignore it anymore and last week decided to get some medical advice.

Yes, I have a doctor that speaks Ingles, but she referred me to another specialist whose ability to communicate with me is less than what I need right now. And her nurse just points and grunts – not even in Spanish or English. I mean, my ability to speak Spanish under medical stress isn’t where I want it to be, but normally I understand a lot. If they speak more slowly than normal. Otherwise, I’m forced to use my powers of observation. And that’s ripe for misinterpretation.

So I took myself to the specialist appointment yesterday and they were right on time. I must say, the offices are like a nice Spa and there are no complaints with how they do the business of medicine and patient privacy. I was taken back and then told to disrobe. This is where the trouble started.

I’ve encountered it before when getting massages here. In the US we take off our clothes to get a massage – all of them. Here they don’t do that. So the nurse at the Dr. office was taken aback that I disrobed completely – even with the robe for modesty. It’s a freaking doctor! Whatever. I wasn’t the mood for it.

Then as they’re checking my various lady bits, they start making faces to each other and speaking in rapid fire Spanish. The nurse looks at me nervously and then the Dr. says something to her. Now I’m freaked out.

‘Is everything OK?’ I ask the doctor – looking at the nurse’s face.

No one answers me but they keep talking to each other so fast I can’t understand, and still the faces looking at me. Grimaces and wide eyes. Like cartoon characters. There was no mistaking it. ‘Oh that’s not good’ isn’t said out loud in English but their faces are yelling it at me.

‘Seriously? Is everything OK?’ I ask again. Nothing.

Finally I try ‘Hola! Por favor.’

This seems to break their exchange and they realize I’m a human over whose body they are discussing things with faces that look like I’m not long for it. The nurse nervously leaves the room and the doctor smiles at me a weak smile.

‘It’s fine. We are going to order some tests. It will be fine.’ But her face is the one I gave Emilie after a serious bike accident that required hospitalization. I wanted her to remain calm, while inside I was freaking out!

I try to ask more questions but she clearly doesn’t understand me enough to answer in a way that is helpful – for either of us. And then I realized, with everything I’ve overcome moving here – navigating travel/transit, ordering food, driving, getting our visas renewed, etc. – when I need to understand the most important things about my time of life health, I’m lost. And with all the other stuff I’m experiencing, I’m more emotional than normal. So I teared up. This makes her more uncomfortable and she clearly wants me to get out of there as soon as possible.

She tells me to go out to reception to get the information on the scheduled tests right away and then tells me.

‘Next time I see you, you will know more Spanish.’

I asked her when I would be seeing her and she told me right after the tests on Wednesday. I’m not sure if she thinks I’m some sort of language savant or if there is some magic they put in the water they gave me, but she’s in for a sad disappointment.

I’m not going to say I ever loved my doctors in the US, any more than this specialist. It always felt like the Burger King drive thru when you went to your appointment back home. They barely looked at you. But the one thing they could do, when it really mattered, was speak to me in my own language and answer my questions. Because God knows, no one wants me Googling this stuff. Least of all Jeff. He’s made me promise.

I do understand that I’m just at the beginning of this journey. It will get worse before it gets better. And no one knows how long it will take. There are people who tell horror stories (Yes, I mean you Mom) and others who tell me it’s really not a big deal. But no one I know have ever gone through it in Spain, in a language not their own. I guess either way, I can hear the lion and the roar it getting louder. But I can take comfort that it will eventually, after the really strong shaking, roar away.

Mis Amigos

I have 5 new Spanish boyfriends. Well, not exactly. Don’t get too excited. But the way Jeff is reacting to my new crew you’d think I did.

There’s a bar in Benimachlet that I go to in the mornings sometimes. I’ll bring my laptop and write at an outside table over a cafe con leche. They make a mean one. Here, everything is a bar – so no, I’m not drinking booze at 10am. I’m pretty sure the local children’s hospital probably has a bar in it too.

I was enjoying my morning coffee one sunny day, when a voice beside me seemed to be directed my way. I looked over and there was a table of 5 older gentlemen and they were pointing at my laptop and speaking to me in Valenciano. I understood, maybe, 3 words. But I answered in my pidgeon Spanish. Thus began a whole new relationship.

It’s well documented that I’ll use any means possible to improve my Spanish. This means I’ve joined groups way above my Spanish language pay grade. You gotta put yourself out there and be willing to make a fool of yourself and fall down – A LOT. I have an abundance of those things in spades. But one thing I hadn’t tried was the ‘Old Man Morning Coffee Klatch‘ down at a local bar

I’ll admit, I had observed these multiple groups from afar. They always seem to consist of 4-5 retired, well groomed older men who meet at the same bar, at the same time, almost daily. They’re usually smartly dressed and cologned. Would I have ever been so bold as to approach them in their natural habitat? Never.

But on that day, one group decided to approach me and now I’m In-like-Flynn – as my Dad used to say. Paco, Jose, Jose, Francisco, & Javi are my new crew in the 75+ crowd at our local bar near the space. At 10am every lunes, miercoles y viernes (that’s Monday, Wednesday & Friday to you and me) they meet up, as they’ve been doing for decades. And now they insist I come and speak with them each of those days.

One of the Jose’s explained ‘We need to improve our Ingles. And you, your Espanol.’ Yes, improving their Ingles at over 75 seems like a just-in-time for heaven kind of strategy. I mean, I’m pretty sure God speaks Spanish – but who am I to judge? Never stop learning, right?

The other Jose proposed marriage today. I told him I thought he had a Portuguese wife. He said ‘No. Today finish.’ And he gestured a karate chop.

‘Does she know yet?’ I asked him

‘If you say YES, I go home and tell her.’

We all just laughed. Silly man. His wife is fierce and he’s 5 ft 2  and maybe 120 lbs soaking wet. She’d run him over with her loaded grocery trolley and take him out. Or maybe pay me to take him off her hands.

Mostly they treat me like their daughter and explain Spanish customs and social conventions. The other day, Paco explained in Spanish that Valencian men are too macho and their wives suffer for this. I have no idea if this is a universal truth but it’s certainly a perspective. I do know learning Spanish through humor and laughter is so much more fun than worksheets and a whiteboard. I much prefer the classroom of life in Benimachlet.

Most of these guys have known each other since they started kindergarten. Here, when children start school they stay with the same classroom, and the same kids, all the way through until graduation. So they’re friends that long. Impressive. One of the Jose’s didn’t move to their class until second grade and they still call him ‘The new guy’ after all these years. But their wives do not like each other.

‘But you, Kelli. You are muey simpatico, I think. You join our group.’

At first I thought I might just be a guest star periodically, but am now appearing in the opening credits. Its a standing 10 am date 3 days per week to intercambio with ‘Mis Amigos‘. And one of them always buys my coffee – which makes me feel sort of strange. I think it’s the macho thing because they fight over who will do it that day. But since coffee is a whole uno euro setenta, I guess they won’t run through their pensions too quickly.

Jeff just shakes his head.

‘Heading out to meet your boyfriends?’ He asks as I grab my keys.

I give him a kiss on the cheek ‘ Not enough Viagra in an entire Costco pharmacy. So no worries there.’

Sometimes I stop and wonder ‘Am I the strangest American in Valencia?’ But then I remember I was strange for an American, IN America. So I probably am. I guess nothing has changed one bit. And you know what? I find I don’t really care.

Quieting the Mind

The last two years have meant constant change for me. It’s been two years since I quit my job in the US. Nearly two years ago I walked my Camino. Fourteen months since we moved to Valencia. But while those are big things, I’ve always believed its the smallest things that make the biggest difference. A click in a new direction can be a watershed moment that changes everything that comes next.

After I quit my job two years ago – sure, that’s kind of a big thing – I took a Meditation, Mindfulness and Essential Oils class at the local community college in Arizona. When people think of Arizona they think of either red-necks with truck nuts, old people, or mysticism seekers. So a MM&A class is right in the sweet spot on the mysticism side of that equation. I hadn’t been sleeping well after all the drama of quitting my job and I needed to try to remedy it.

WOW! Life changing. Meditation is all that and more. I had tried it years before but never really got the benefit from it. Quieting the mind seemed too hard with so much to do. This time was different. We practiced mindful eating and using essential oils to quiet the mind and to relax the body. It was just what I needed. I was so relaxed that driving home on those evenings was sometimes a challenge, and I would sleep like the dead.

Fast forward to Valencia in 2019. We’ve lived here over a year and I hadn’t really been keeping up my practice. Rather hit and miss. So much to do and see. But with the Creative Space – as we’ve taken to calling it – I’ve been inspired on many fronts. My writing is benefiting from my painting. And Jeff bought me a hammock so I’ve spent time lolling about – contemplating things. It’s then I realized I needed to get back to my Meditation and Mindfulness practice.

So on Friday I signed up for another class to kick start myself. It’s in both Spanish and English, and they also do Mindful Movement. Not exactly yoga but there are similarities. It was wonderful hanging out with mostly chilled out people. And then Friday night, I again slept like the dead. So there really is something to this.

As luck would have it, I had signed up for a new yoga class on Sundays held in the sun on a rooftop near the Mestalla – Valencia FC’s futbol stadium. Although there was a match on Sunday during the class, there were times I felt like they were cheering me on in Chair pose. Sun salutations are better in the, well, sun. And the class includes some meditation, too. Last night? Slept like the dead. If I doubted the prescription for a restful nights sleep and a peaceful mind I can’t do that anymore. So me and meditation/mindfulness/yoga are back on and stronger than ever.

I was having a conversation with someone in the mindfulness class before it started. She’s English from London and has been having a really hard time coping with the culture of Spain. She’s working here and having 2 hours for lunch is throwing her off.

‘I don’t know what to do with myself? I mean, I’m used to eating lunch in a conference room. I can’t get a coffee to-go anywhere here. And everything they do at work is so inefficient.’

I laughed. ‘I know what you mean. I lived that life. But maybe this is better. No rushing about. Actually digesting your food. Sitting down and eating when it’s time to eat, instead of trying to do more than one thing at a time. So much so that we don’t do anything really well, with our full attention. In the US, we favor efficiency over peace of mind.’

It made me wonder where all this ‘efficiency’ was trying to take us and I flashed back to the Frenchman in St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France at the beginning of the Camino. He pointed at Emilie and told her ‘This is not a race. Just like life, you can not ‘win’ the Camino.’ Although there were days, I swear she tried. But he’s right.

The woman in the Mindfulness course snarled a little. But there was a reason she was in the class. She’s looking for something she knows is missing. The same as me. I couldn’t judge her. I’ve been where she is. And not long ago. And I’ve even done that in Valencia thinking that multi-tasking is the path to happiness. ‘Getting things done’ instead of enjoying the doing of them. We’re all mirrors for each other.

After the class, we were leaving more slowly than when we entered. Kind of like church. Enjoying the feeling of slowing down and connecting to ourselves. And I looked over and the woman from London was smiling.

‘Maybe you’re right. Maybe there is something to all this.’ she admitted.

‘Maybe. You’ll figure it out.’ I told her. She nodded.

So today, I sit here ready to to pursue some of my passions and I need to take a moment and acknowledge how grateful I am that I have this space and this time to pursue them. That finally, I live in a place with people in a culture who appreciate the value to doing one thing at a time. Wait – I think I just heard the click. And suddenly everything is changed. Smiling. Namaste