We are back from long-planned travels in celebration of some milestone birthdays and a 25th wedding anniversary, which we took with our dear family and friends, Rosie and Michael. Our trip across the pond to London and the Cotswolds was, as they’d say over there, “brilliant!” Full of wonder and history and walking and spring blooms and rain and laughter.
It also involved a challenging dose of high stress. Note to all: Do not lose your favorite, red-leather travel backpack containing your passports and your driver’s license within half an hour of landing in Europe!
This was a whole saga, which I will abbreviate. The amazingly good news is that my travel companions are absolute champions of patience and unconditional love, and that the loss brought into our lives a couple of humans who also brought their A+++ games of kindness and optimism. Shout-out to Mary B., the Heathrow employee who should get five raises for her warm caring and dedication to Solving the Case. Mary spent so much time with us—reassuring and problem solving like we were members of her family. She kept in touch all while we were in Britain, and I’ve had four emails from her since we returned to the states. She is still pursuing leads!
The second wonderful human was our hotel concierge, Morey, who day after day assured me in his mellifluous island accent “I promise you! You will have your papers in time for your flight! God is watching over you! I promise!” He was so convincing in his near-daily reassurances, that I was able to successfully set aside the paralyzing worry about PASSPORTS and GETTING HOME, and thoroughly enjoy our British holiday.
Now, safely back home, I am thinking about Mary and Morey and I am thinking about resilience. The loss of the backpack set off a cascade of reactions for me, and while the experience did not come close to that of acute grief, it was nevertheless a loss, and I have been working on getting over it ever since it happened. The shock, the flush of self-blame (Oh, how could I have lost track of my pack??), the numb pushing through of all the necessary steps it took to replace our papers, the anger—this was supposed to be our holiday!—and the guilt about the impact on my travelling companions. The full Monty, hello stages, or more accurately, cycles, of grief.
And yet. And yet. When we focus on and talk about those cycles of grief, what often gets left out is the power of human love to hold and soften all of that challenging emotion and help it to find a new frequency. In the midst of this truly, deeply inconvenient circumstance, as the four of us huddled over a laptop in the hotel café desperately trying to decipher the obtuse bureaucracy-speak of the U.S. State Department, we ended up at moments laughing so hard we were crying.
We know it in our bones, we say it in all our best songs and poems, yet it is always sort of amazing: love changes everything.
Love certainly of course cannot wipe away the pain of losing a beloved. But it can soften a moment, it can help us to get through the next moment, and then another one. It can sit quietly with a cup of tea and just let us know we are not alone. Enough of these moments, and enough time, and eventually, on our own—sometimes very long—time, we can breathe again.
Stuff can be replaced. Beloveds can’t. But the acceptance and patience and hugs and wisecracking humor of my companions, the deep kindness of Mary and Morey, combined with a lot of sleep after our return, allowed for resilience to get a foothold. So, cheers to love and resilience and to the extravagant kindness of strangers. Which we now get to pay forward.
Sticking together and offering each other shelter, not blame, allowed us to deal with the inconvenience and distress as it came,, and then go forward into our trip with full joy.
Our very first outing, after a quick ride on the tube, was to take Grace Street to Abbey Road! When I say this visit was an instant anti-depressant, you don’t need to take my word for it—I think it’s all over my face! For so many of my generation, the Beatles represented inspiration in its truest sense.
Tony and I spent a lovely morning hanging out at Waterstone’s Books in Oxford, having scones and tea and enjoying the view from high above the street.
We got a little giggle out of adding Grace Street to Oxford’s best-selling non-fiction pile!
We walked all over London, blowing through our 10K steps on several days, taking in all of the sights. We then spent a glorious few days out in the countryside of the Cotswolds, amazed to find ourselves in March surrounded by the green new-growth and lambs of early spring. Another reminder note to self: Life is full of beautiful surprises like thousands of daffodils in mid-March, to offset the lost backpacks.
We hesitated about taking the trip. Should we? For so many reasons, we could have talked ourselves right out of it. But we’ve learned—who was it that said this? Erma Bombeck?—It’s rarely the things we do that we regret. It’s the things we don’t do. On the other side of it, figuring out how to take care of the visa bill? Zero Regrets! Only gratitude!
Speaking of travels, Grace Street will be making an appearance at Turtle Studios Open House this weekend, April 29 & 30, from 11-5, at 213 California St.
It’s part of Newton’s Open Studios, so we are “on the map” for that event. The whole weekend is quite wonderful and our studio always manages to rise to its funkiest, most beautiful self during these events. Stop by, if you have a chance!
We are also in talks for some events over the next few months in North Adams, with the Cancer Connection in Northampton, and with the Private Practice Colloquium on Boston’s North Shore. Stay tuned!
And in case you missed it, a new piece of writing is up on Medium, “In Praise of Grace, CPR, and Landlines.” Here is the link: https://medium.com/@maureencallahansmith/in-praise-of-grace-cpr-and-landlines-7199ce906819
(And if you like it, you can “clap” up to 50 times using the icon at the bottom, to raise it’s visibility.)
Thank you as always for your love and support, and wishing you your own “Abbey Road” moments this spring!
— Maureen www.maureencallahansmith.com