This appears to be the motivation behind this trip: “No stress”. Even when given a 90-mph stress ball pitch the moment I landed, the “no stress” meme was in full swing. It is for this reason that everyone needs to find some way to take a regular break to unwind as it is something I have not accomplished in 5 years. I have let work be the driver, the motivating principle in all that I do. I sure noticed the change the minute I unhooked, checked out, hopped a plane, and left my regular life behind for awhile.
Brussels! What a huge difference from Reykjavik and a perfect next step on this journey that will take me to many parts in western Europe for the next 30 days. Happy June a tout le monde!
The airport in Brussels is quite modern and very bright. Unlike the slower pace in Iceland, everything was rush-rush, hustle-bustle and I had to step it up a notch so as not to be mowed down by my fellow international travelers. Awaiting my arrival were two wonderful people whom I came to know during the weekend of their daughter’s graduation from the program I teach. They invited me to visit some day after our fun-filled evening out on the town in San Francisco a couple of years ago and they meant it. “Come to Europe and stay in Brussels. We are at the center of everything and it’s easy to go everywhere from here.” When my work this year far surpassed being “too much”, I knew I had to disconnect from the mothership for awhile. Here I am.
In the home, Spanish is spoken as the family hails from Barcelona originally but have lived in Brussels for 20+ years. In Brussels, everyone speaks French so I’m deeply entrenched in my two favorite languages, thankfully both of which I speak some. I say “some” because it’s been well over 20 years that I’ve had sharpened practice in either and suddenly I’m thrust into both. The wonderful “Lala” of 90-years-young and the mother of my hosts is full of life and happy to chat with the newcomer: “Entonces, esta bueno si tu parlez le Francais aussi parce que hablo los dos tambien.” Perfect. I understand this and today I was caught with my mouth open speaking both at the same time when a shop owner quizzically asked where I was from since I’m speaking two languages at once. His eyes widened when I told him San Francisco. Um, yeah. We do a LOT of things in a non-traditional way there. (Malheureusement, hablando en dos lenguas al mismo tiempo est pas un d’entre eux.) OK. Enough of that. My Auntie already outed me on Facebook to please translate for her when I attempt to make a funny post using bits of language. The best part is it prompted an old pal from school days (“Hey, Darlene!”) to pipe in about our teachers in high school and we’ve gone off on tangents about Señora Lopez (our Spanish teacher) and Mr. Weill (our Geography teacher) both of whom she reminded me but whipping up a scan from our yearbook, tout suite, for me to see. THIS brings me to my next thought here and the reason for the title which one of my buds and fellow colleagues used as the subject line in an email to me about my trip.
“One Degree of Dana” (thank you Denise!). Can we take a pause here to marvel at how amazing it is that I can instantaneously keep my people informed and in discovery WITH me right up to the minute on my trip? I am an ocean, a continent, and 9 time zones away from home and we can all input and have a laugh at my excursions and multiple daily missives as I “postcard live” on Facebook and post occasionally here. (It was supposed to be a daily occurrence, but my Shannon Air is in Ireland until Wednesday when she will be delivered to me and I will, once again, be reunited with my best writing buddy I have ever known. See previous post for details. And yes, I’m a dork and WILL BE LOUDLY SINGING the Peaches and Herb classic hit “Reunited” when FedEx delivers while I sign for it.)
It blows my mind that I can post a picture in one second and have friends comment on it immediately. It is both amusing and amazing that I can tease a friend with text verbiage from my phone simultaneously in the moment I’m having an experience. (Yes, there are finally plans available for you to actually USE YOUR EXISTING CELLPHONE when traveling…see AT&T’s Global Passport and whatever Verizon is calling theirs. These just started Mar 2015, and are worth every dollar–I have a 30-day plan or you can purchase a 3-month plan) So, your people are literally there with you which is why I refer to my phone as my spaceship. Are we not traveling through space to hang out together now? 🚂🚞🚅🚊🚀🚀 Ready? Blast off!
And this brings me around to my more solemn realization that I’m learning on this trip from all of the signs presented to me daily. I have spent more time with people I love in this “spaceship mode” on my trip than I ever do in person, and THIS is an awful tragedy! I’m always too busy to get together with people. I almost never accept an invitation anymore or I say “maybe” knowing that when the weekend comes I will want solace and downtime for me alone. How has it come to this when I’m one of the most gregarious people I know?? I’ll tell you what: WORK. I have enslaved myself to my work as it’s never-ending and it’s all I do 90-hours-a-week. I blame myself because I take this on and put it on my own shoulders to make this choice and I can tell you that this trip (even in its nascence) has shown me the signs. Most people here do NOT live like this. Family, friends, and joie de vivre come FIRST. (I’ll be blowing my stack about this and other America(n) crASSbackwards thoughts and our f’ed up situation on my other blog that I save for rants at wordpress.danajae33.com when Shannon comes back) so let me stick to this point: I can and will no longer subject my self to all work and no play as this goes far beyond “makes Johnny a dull boy” as it literally kills Johnny from head to toe in self-inflicted illness called stress.
One last sample of a moment here to hopefully tie this all together: I took a walk last night to be sure that I understood the neighborhood and my whereabouts here in the very cramped and wonderfully busy Brussels. There were cafes and bars galore all beckoning me in for a nightcap. People enjoy beer here but I was in the mood for something stronger, so I entered a busy spot filled with the vibrant living of young people (I’m staying in the university district) and proceeded to order a Blue Lagoon. I was a bit uncomfortable in my first foray alone speaking French and making sure that no Spanish crept in. I thought I did fine until TWO tall ice-filled glasses of blue swimming pools arrived at my solo table. I stopped the waiter with a simple question “Two?” I was sure I hadn’t slipped the word deux in my order! He replied quickly which was difficult for me to capture, but I believe he said that it was a two-for-one special and proceeded to request money for one. I paid. Laughed for a minute, and reached for the book I’m reading as I knew it would be awhile. What unfolded in Rebecca Solnit’s next three pages in “A Field Guide To Getting Lost” blew me away. She began a discourse in art history and the use of the color blue in the first paintings that started to open up with the use of sky and space in the beyond as a connotation to the viewer of “being there” along with the subject in the artwork. She discovered in life that being somewhere in the blue of the “beyond” in a picture and in life never allows us to actually arrive because blue is always moving further beyond. It is not anywhere to arrive at; it is a moving target, if you will. (I’m totally paraphrasing here and you must find this book and read it because it is one that nurtures the soul, for sure.) So there I sat, sipping two Blue Lagoons, reading about the ephemeral color blue, hearing people chatter in French in the background while also listening to some quietly-playing Birelli Lagrene, a protégé of Django Reinhardt and guess what? a Blue Note Records recording artist.