20 things I’m thankful for

  1. The golden ribbon of light along the curtain as the bedheaded sun peeks beneath the shade
  2. The perfume of dirt, black with rain
  3. Voices in harmony: “Come to my heart, Lord, come with anointing!”
  4. The blue blue blue of the Mediterranean from my bedroom window
  5. Talks that mean something
  6. Streets that are mine
  7. Second-hand clothing that smells good
  8. Fat babies in strollers, new and content
  9. Libraries of musty books
  10. Old men with hats and canes, lined up on park benches
  11. Rest beneath the late shadow of a palm
  12. Church bells
  13. Harmonious trails of busy ants
  14. A terrier grinning at me from the driver’s seat of a parked van
  15. Teenagers breakdancing in the park, conscious and proud of curious passersby
  16. Bright vests against black skin that whiz by on bikes
  17. The sweat and paint on a laborer just leaving work
  18. The echoing jingle of keys in an otherwise silent stairwell
  19. A real letter in a real mailbox
  20. Weary clouds in silver pajamas for bed

Night at the beach

It is evening as I descend from the bus stop to the beach. Red-faced, dripping families are ascending after their rigorous seaside adventure. Is it too much to hope for a quiet evening, alone with God and the waves?

I get closer until I can smell the salty water. Brightly colored towels hang from the balconies of a beachfront hotel.

Despite those who have left, there are people everywhere. I am not the only one who thought of enjoying the post-sunshine beach. Laughter punctuates the dull roar of voices.

I slip off my shoes and enter the chaos. The thick sand is rough against my bare feet. Each step half-buries my foot. I find the quietest spot available, spread out my towel, and shake my head at an African vendor who is trying to make a sale.

The waves froth over the rocks. A jet-ski roars past, spinning to dance in its own wake. A boat skims along, a child in an inner tube bouncing and shrieking behind. Another boat passes, this one with less drama.

The sun disappears and the air is almost cool. But the sand still sticks to my sweaty arm as I reach down to adjust my towel.

I soak in the moment. Just as it is.

The night thickens and so does the salty scent of the waves. And finally, I pick up my things and start the uphill plod. I can’t hear the waves anymore. A bustling restaurant is playing Caribbean music while customers sit in wicker chairs shaped like hard-boiled eggs.

That fades too. And it’s just me and a few other panting stragglers going uphill toward home.

Transitioning with olives

All I wanted to do was buy olives. It was the perfect idea to reward myself with a short walk to the store between secretarial tasks. The weather was full of gentle Mediterranean breezes and I loved walking. Then why was I suddenly anxious?

What should I wear? Some of my clothes were stored in boxes. Others were stashed in suitcases, ready to make the final leg of the journey to the States. Somehow the outfit I had on no longer matched. The shades of blue were all wrong.

“Trish,” I reasoned with myself. “This outfit was perfectly fine before.” But not now. Not in Europe. Not in public. I changed and then changed back when the second option felt even worse.

How do I say olive in Spanish? Olive? No, that’s French. Zitun? That’s Arabic. Why can’t I remember my Spanish anymore? Should I take my own bag or do stores give out plastic bags? I can’t remember. What were they doing the last time I was here? Where did I even put my shopping bags?

Why is this so hard?

I didn’t want to take that short walk anymore. Every decision looked big. Nothing was familiar. I battled my anxiety all the way to the store. I felt everyone’s eyes on me. Am I even walking down the right street? Why is that car stopping for me? Thank you, sir! No, don’t wave at him; you’ll look even more like a stupid foreigner. You’re in Europe now.

Transition. Have I exaggerated my trip to the store? Yes. But the exaggeration was in reality, not in what I just wrote. It sounds ridiculous to say that I almost panicked at the thought of buying olives. But transition is hard because nothing is familiar. Everything requires extra thought and effort. No matter how insignificant, every decision feels big.

I am not the only one who feels the pressure of transition. Maybe everyone else I know can confidently buy olives, but there are different responses to transition. And there are different types of transition. Do you know of someone whose spouse has passed away? Someone who has lost a dear friendship? Someone who has moved to a different community?

Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re feeling a bit like me right now, or worse. Whether it is you or someone else, give that person time to grieve and transition. Remember that we are not alone. There are others who understand… especially the “man of sorrows” who was “acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3).