Several months after we were married my husband offered me an extravagant birthday gift: a trip to Europe. I was unemployed, just having finished a year of sessional teaching at the university. We had a bit of money in the bank that might have been used for loan payments but could be used for travel. My only upcoming obligation was a conference presentation in June. As he pointed out, when else would I have the free time to travel? Once I had a job I would be tied down again. Bowing to this logic, to the desire to be spontaneous, and to an abiding love of Europe I booked a ticket leaving from Vancouver 5 days into the future. I was off!
With such short notice, planning was limited. I knew I was flying into Frankfurt and was luckily able to connect with a friend from 10 years earlier who now lived nearby. I knew I wanted to visit another friend in Paris. Beyond that, my schedule was mine to make on the fly. While this sounds romantic and fun, it actually added a certain stress to the trip. Trying to coordinate potential visits with friends around the continent, comparing the pros and cons of train versus flight, airport options, cost considerations and travel time, added up to a lot of research and decisions. All that and not wanting to overstay my welcome, as well as attempting to gauge how welcome a visit from me would be, meant that I was constantly thinking and sometimes second-guessing (I still regret not leaving Switzerland 12 hours earlier to connect with old friends back in Frankfurt).
When I finally settled on a third stop on the trip – Lake Como, to meet up with a friend from Switzerland – I was delighted. I had seen the area in countless movies and friends’ vacation pictures and couldn’t wait to be there in person. So when I received an email saying that the flight I purchased somehow had got lost in the system, I was furious and frustrated. After all that work and emailing and finally tracking down a flight, I had to start all over! More expensive, less choice, monkey wrenched-up plans. Argh!
After checking with my friend, we agreed that the simpler solution was for me to take a train and visit her where she was living in Bern. So I did that. And it was a much, much better choice for this trip than what I had planned. The flight option was stressing me out. The additional travel there – bus, taxi, etc. – were stressing me out. The potential cost of that leg of the trip was stressing me out. But getting on a train to Switzerland and staying with an old friend: simple, direct, on the ground (I always function better on the ground, I think), no stress. The train ride was gorgeous. I had a wait in Lausanne for 5 hours and I walked down to the lake, up and down the promenade, found some Roman ruins, and legged it back to catch the rest of my trip. Bern was unbelievably beautiful, and I wouldn’t have gone there if I hadn’t had the excuse of visiting my friend. Our visit was wonderful and relaxing, including reading Persepolis, viewing Gilmore Girls, hiking in the mountains (unbelievable!), making food, and many other fun adventures. What had seemed like a disaster turned out to be a gift.
I was supposed to visit a friend this morning. I wanted to see her. I was looking forward to seeing her 5 great kids again. But I was stressed. Today was feeling like too, too much work. Too many people, too many appointments, no time to do what I wanted and needed: hang out with baby and take a nap. Baby has had a cold for the past week and she’s still snotting it out. This morning I made a connection between the cold and the proposed visit: maybe not so good. I talked with my friend who confirmed that based on the colour of the snot she is probably still contagious. I bowed out and we agreed to try again next week. So baby and I went for a walk in the neighbourhood. She fell asleep on the first block and I got to cuddle my sweet girl for a lovely meander. After a visit from nana I heard from my sister who was supposed to come by with the fam – that wasn’t going to happen. I was sorry not to see them, but it meant I could slow down and put baby to bed. She went down a bit after 12 and I lay beside her, reading, then curled up for a nap myself. I think I got in a good 1.5 hours. Bliss! Then a quick nurse and some more reading before my in-laws were here. Dinner out was followed by another walk and baby went straight to bed when we returned after a nurse & bottle. The day I had been dreading turned into a day of rest and rejuvenation.
Sometimes things that are nuisances or problems turn out to be blessings. Sometimes when you just aren’t up to a particular task, or simply ask the universe to provide something you need, there it is. Presence and peace in everyday life.