I’ve always felt a smugness about my low requirements for maintenance. Makeup is an avoidable chore rather a necessity. I don’t fuss over my hair. I don’t obsess over clothes. Shopping is not my pastime. My demands are few, my opinions rarely strong. These facts led me to believe for a very long time that I don’t require much effort. But I was wrong.
Years – decades, really – have passed as I’ve pretended I don’t know that I need to try at living to feel like myself. I succumbed to the expectations of my career, allowing them to dictate who I was. Before that I couldn’t resist the simple temptation to numb the nagging uncomfortable voice that tried to tell me to figure this all out sooner. Before that I decided to just follow along for the sake of being a part of something, to avoid the vulnerability of being honest with myself in the presence of others. Of course this all has led to me being lost more than a time or two.
This past weekend I visited Lisbon, Portugal, with a friend who carries a kind artist’s spirit. It was a chance to break away from the grind, to take in art and wonder without the interruption of motherhood. No extraneous butts to wipe, no whining for snacks, no tiny people to heft up and down the stone walkways. Just us, open to what the city had to offer, looking for a chance to breathe.
Over the course of the weekend I discovered the pleasure of following whims with a compatible travel companion. My friend helped magnify what we really wanted out of our adventure and steer us toward it. As we talked and marveled and wandered it occurred to me that what I wanted was exactly what I needed: to feel revived by a weekend of novelty, discovery, inspiration, laughter, recognition, relaxation, nourishment, rest. My deficit in these was great. I learned I’m high maintenance after all, and I count myself lucky to have been able to take a few days to fix that.
Saturday morning we stopped at an artist’s stall along the main square. The tile painter regaled us with a brief history of Lisbon, explaining the significance of the various black and white sidewalk patterns (the sea, fish nets, mermaid scales). He also explained that the compass rose, each unique, is a cartographer’s signature – a logo for the map maker. My little logo came to mind with a little lightbulb illuminated over it. While my sister-in-law drew it for me, it’s my signature as I chart this map of life. And so my blog-writer self gasped for air and was resuscitated.
Glennon Doyle Melton’s “Love Warrior” was cued up for the trip. I devoured it. Some of her story echoed mine (other parts rung out for people I love), and bits of it I’m still mulling. Since returning a friend recommended her interview on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast. I downloaded it immediately, and there was exactly what I was looking for: the bare truth that giving light to just one person with this tiny blog, by sharing the things I need to share, is everything.
So I’m back. I’m here so I won’t make this journey through motherhood, or life as a woman, or in a foreign country, alone. I’m here to leave a trail of lights for myself as I chronicle our travels and these days, for that time when it’s all a pinhead in a haystack of memory. I’m here for you, too, if that’s what you need. I hope to see you around.