The Sight That Saves Me

Another fall from grace. I dread getting blindsided by suffering…any suffering! Even the kind where you smack your little toe against furniture. It unsettles every bone in my body as I go from cloud 9 to somewhere near the end of a black hole in the galaxy. Excuse me, I’m getting carried away. But yes, it sucks to be in pain. The morning after the fall my muscles ached, and I replaced breakfast for a coffee and then chamomile tea with honey. “That should carry my anxiety through the day,” I thought. Here’s the tough side of moving abroad by yourself: I’ve only been here 3 months, so

“I was left to my own devices. Many days fell away with nothing to show. And the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love.” -Bastille

I have not yet established the same kind of support system I have in the U.S. So when any sort of emotional crisis occurs (and this is only my second one, mind you) I am often unable to reach loved ones because of time difference. I also never want to cause alarm unless I am getting kidnapped, or experiencing a terrorist attack. But a breakdown is a breakdown. And a breakdown abroad enhances the feeling of being so, so, so far away from home. The details of it don’t matter – though you must be dying to know by now. I’ll just categorize it as “romantic love” and then let your imagination run wild with it!


On the bus to school I began brainstorming, “How can I get myself back to happy?” “Get the hell out of Spain!” yelled a voice in my head. All of a sudden I questioned every decision I have made in the last 2 years. “Listen to happy music and watch a feminist movie.” Mmm, not a bad option. “Beauty.” That was it. It seems as if when I am broken most, all I know to do is fill my heart up with beauty. This is where Spain’s role comes in. I opened up my eyes and stared out the window. I looked at the mountains, the bus stops, the road. My mission for the day was to find beautiful things to fill my heart back up again.

It was the last day of school, and the whole day was pretty much a Christmas party for the students. Easy day, yes…But it did not give me many opportunities for true distraction. I stood in the 4th grade classroom, waiting for the kids. A lovely, smiling 9 year old walked in and looked me in the eye: “You are beautiful,” she said. Time stopped. This little Aristotle was basically saying that I was the thing I was looking for. I am the thing that can fill my heart up and take me back to happy. “Oh thank you! You are beautiful, too!” I replied. All these children were suddenly the most beautiful people I had ever seen. I had to look no farther than right here. Then another beautiful child walked up to me asked, “Vanessa……mmm…next year…you here, in the school? We in 5th grade?” Without hesitation I said yes, and she jumped joyfully. I will gladly return for those smiles.

After school Talia and I went up to the hill where we normally take siesta. She is also an auxiliar, and a great person to talk to when in crisis. She is the kind of person I can picture saving the world with the UN during day time, going to concerts during night time, and surfing on the weekend. SDC19886“Hey, do you want to go to Ávila tomorrow?” she said …Wait for it…wait for it…”YEEES!” Traveling on top of traveling is what the doctor ordered! It was settled, then. My next trip was to Ávila with Talia and her 3 friends I had never met.


The following day we met up at 10:00 am near Madrid’s center, and drove far northwest. The drive was curvy, and it was cold outside. I don’t know how long it took to get there…I did not look at the time the entire day. This beautiful medieval city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. We spent most of the day walking its surrounding muralla.

“Hope when the water rises, you built a wall.” – One Republic

The wall provides you with countless picture-perfect spots, and it is well worth the 5entrance fee, and the exercise (you will go up and down more steps than you can think).SDC19873IMG-20151224-WA0109IMG-20151224-WA0063


The truth is that I did not know anything about this city. But I was having a wonderful time! I was lucky to visit with such a fun, carefree group of people, and to share a day of laughter. I was back to myself. Back to silly. Back to happy. Back to confident. Back to being okay with not having a clue what to do next!


We had lunch at a place I probably can’t go back to because I don’t remember where it is or what it’s called. In fact, I am not sure I even remember what it looks like. The meal was great! We had the Menú del Día, which is usually a course meal for about 10. By the time dessert came I was pass the point of being full, so I went with the “fruit” option. In Spain, I find it a religion to eat fruit, especially after lunch. I did not know what to make of the apple that was served to me on a plate, with a napkin, knife, and fork. An entire, uncut apple with its tag still on it. Ha!

We walked off the heavy meal and wine, getting sillier by the minute. I still had to look at the time…It was getting darker outside…But…you know…when you have absolutely nowhere else to go time does not matter one bit. I was so immensely happy again! And I know that sad things are bound to blindside me again and again. But there is no victory like the one you get when you return to being yourself.


We hung out while the sun set behind the mountains, not really sure when we’d go but making conversation in the cold, cold air. It was a beautiful sunset. The sky turned bright red, and towards the end the color outlined the mountain, heavenly. In a matter of seconds, it was gone. Like anything else in life, really.

It seems as if when I am broken most, all I know to do is fill my heart up with beauty. This is where Spain’s role comes in. I travel. I keep my eyes from closing because I don’t dare miss a thing. I look for beauty and stare at it until I feel whole again. I don’t dare miss the act of looking…for fear I’ll miss the sight that saves me.

“The world is awake for somebody’s sake, now please close your eyes. Now please, get some sleep…and know that if I knew all the answers I would not hold them from you, no.” -Jack Johnson





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