A different Perspective…from my ivory tower in Granada

After the whirlwind of settling into a new continent, country, city, suburb and community, I have finally had some time to connect with family and friends back home in Australia.  I have had half a dozen long Skype conversations with my tribe and the differences between my new life here in Granada and the one I left in Sydney are becoming starkly apparent…many of my friends are so very busy, stressed and overwhelmed.

Why? What is causing all this stress? Is it the fact that we are at peak responsibility in life? With most of my friends in or nearing their forties, does stress naturally come with the territory of financial security, caring for children, ageing parents, career, owning a business and self fulfilment?  Or is it environmental, caused by the pressure of city living?

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A Sydney friend recently recounted the story of her attempt to fulfil a simple task: buying some bread on the way home. The multiple obstacles encountered for such a simple task made me want to curl up in foetal position. With her three kids in the car, she recounted the tale of traffic, no parking, road rage, frantically searching for coins to put in the parking metre and once a spot was actually found, the queues at the supermarket check out and rushing back to the car before the metre ran out. Meanwhile let’s not even mention what the kids were were up to in the back of the car.

If such simple life tasks require that level of mental, physical and emotional effort, what is the accumulated effect on our nervous systems, and that of our children who are absorbing it all?

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From the ivory tower (literally – well it is actually white lime wash) of my rented house in the Albaicin, Granada, I am hearing my friends candidly sharing stories of their exciting and exhausting city lives. From this distance, and with my adrenals fully rested, I am seeing my home from a different perspective.

My family and I have chosen to take a year off from the rigours of big city living and I am experiencing a joy of life that still contains responsibilities but without all the incidental stresses of crowds, traffic, road rage, parking metres and comparisons of haves and have-nots.  In this new Spanish existence, I am unfolding with life rather than forcing, pushing and shoving my way through.

Trying to get our friends here to commit to a plan even a week ahead is nigh impossible, because Spaniards like to go with the flow and “wait and see” how they feel or what else may arise in the meantime. At first this was frustrating for a planner like me but now I am slowly relaxing and trusting that life will be fine without plans. And it usually is, as you just never know where you might find yourself.

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A spontaneous trip to a cortijo for a feast
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A sunset drink on a friend’s roof terrace after bumping into them on the street

Most of us in Australia have 4 weeks a year for holidays to rest and recuperate so the idea of taking a whole year away from the life we know seemed extreme. I thought I might get bored, I wondered how I would fill my time, what would I do if I wasn’t progressing in my profession or contributing to our future financial wellbeing.  These are all real concerns but for now I choose not to worry about them as I see, hear, taste, smell and touch all the new wonders of this life in Granada, Spain.

Of course our life here is not all roses. We have our worries about finances, about how the children are adapting to school and life, and we dearly miss parks with grass for some much needed “earthing”. However, I can’t say that I am stressed as such. For the first time in a very long time, I actually have space and time. Time to talk to my neighbours and have a coffee in my neighbourhood café, time to create fun family excursions on the weekends, to be creative, to read, write and explore my new city of Granada.

I will worry about “real life” when I return to Australia, because for now I have too many wonderful new things to experience, to test myself against, and two children to support through the trials and joys of their Spanish adventure.

……

The trigger thin line upon which so many people precariously live in the big cities of the world is remarkable and I imagine will have long-term implications for us, and the next generation. I am not saying that big city life is all negative. Frankly, the exciting opportunities that exist in cities are unparalleled but how does one remove oneself to rest every once in a while for more than the 4 designated holiday weeks?

I still recall the last work trip I made before moving to Spain. I was stuck for an hour in a plane waiting to take off from Melbourne airport while a large thunderstorm passed overhead. For the man sitting next to me, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back after what must have been a big week of work. Understandably he was keen to return home to his infant son, but nature had other plans and this man proceeded to ‘LOSE IT’! The man, who was wearing a smart business suit, began loudly abusing the Qantas airhostess for their tardiness and for preventing him getting home to his son.

The situation symbolized so much to me: people living too close to their limit within a tightly controlled environment that if anything slightly alters from their expectations, they completely lose it. I remember feeling incredulous that this man was taking out his frustration on someone who had no control over the situation, yet I also had compassion for that man who clearly had a lot going on in his life.

I made a mental note to myself that I never wanted to live that close to my stress threshold. Perhaps, from some perspectives that means not “getting ahead” in life or “challenging” myself but at least it is an active choice on my part to live that way.

The only thing I am trying to say in all of this is, if you have choices (as many of us do in the developed world), go exercise those choices in the most authentic way that affirms a healthy, meaningful and compassionate life.

‘Our Year in Spain’ is an expression of living a different choice, of creating an opportunity that was important to my husband and me. I am very proud that we managed to pull off this feat without damaging (that we know of thus far) our children or bankrupting ourselves in the process.  So far we have only gained from this experience – a new perspective, a new language, friends, knowledge and understanding.

Whatever the dream is for you, use your mighty brain and resources to find a way to do it.

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11 thoughts on “A different Perspective…from my ivory tower in Granada

  1. Go get ’em girl. I’m proud of you. You are living the dream that so many people are afraid to do for whatever reasons. (Too many folk make too many excuses for not achieving their goals. Too many don’t have big enough goals. Some people don’t even try).
    You and your damily will expand and grow, learn and love more through this broadening of your awareness. WELL DONE! xx

  2. It is with great interest that I read each of your posts… We are an Australian family of similar makeup (1 Spaniard, 1 Aussie and 2 kids) also planning a year in Spain, to give our children the opportunity to experience the other side of their culture and heritage, and as you have described – take time out from the hussle and bussle of every day life and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle that the Spaniards do so well. Thanks for a great blog, you have made me even more determined to realise our goal!!

    1. Yay- good on you, go for it! The planning and departure was the hardest part, living it has been easy! Good luck and feel free to ask any questions along the way. Having a Spanish speaker in the family is already a huge head start! Happy planning!

  3. A well thought out and very readable viewpoint on a most important subject. Directly or indirectly, stress is a big killer – and even if it does not rob you of life, it certainly cheats you of living. Between the very real tress of poverty and the stress of rampant materialism there is a golden mean. Here, I believe, one can have purpose and healthy ambition and still enjoy the journey along the way.

    City living is certainly not conducive to peace of mind, especially with its congestion and sheer difficulty of getting around. Two days ago, Fuji and I set off for a couple of days in the country. Outside Sydney we were trapped in a two-and-a-half hour traffic jam during which we managed to advance a single kilometre. People were actually getting out of their cars to buy fast food and drinks!

    On top of that, I am convinced that a big stressor is that we are drowning in a sea of instant, omnipresent and unfiltered communications, a flurry of messages demanding attention and, often, instant responses.

    Say it, loud and clear: ‘Enough already!”

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