-CHAPTER 8-
A bit more about Portugal

When I declare to be ‘awake’ I mean that I’m aware; that at least I have my eyes open and am able to receive wonder rather than walking around with blinders on. This doesn’t mean I waltz the streets with an insufferable “high-on-life” (or “high-on-something”) attitude. Every day might be a miracle, but you won’t hear me exclaim “hallelujah,” when I wake up on Monday and no one remembered to buy eggs. Nor do I have the time or mindfulness to stop and smell every rose. And while spiders and bugs fascinate me, my awe stops the second I encounter one that insists on living indoors. 

I’ve also never needed to ‘wake up’ to little wonders. Noticing them, and staying curious has always come easily for me. So regardless of where I live, I’m confident I could find a speck to marvel at.

But after the tsunami we had forgotten about big wonder altogether. We had a deficit and we didn’t realize it until there we were, minding our own business in Lisbon, when suddenly Big Wonder shows up and chases after us screaming, “HEY! We used to be really close, REMEMBER?”

Everywhere we looked, she was there. Which was to be expected being that we were on her home turf–– aka an exciting foreign land, but we had to ignore her from time to time. We were there to heal, after all. We were still in The Black sorting out our mess, and in order to do that we needed space, and rest. 

The savvy among you might be thinking “But isn’t wonder part of the healing too?” 

Yes, it is, it was…in time. 

“So why fly all the way to Portugal if your purpose wasn’t to enjoy Portugal?” 

Well, in a nutshell, Portugal was the gift that fell into our laps without much of a request on our parts. I mean it. It really was a gift; doors opened, and everything from finances to vacation time worked themselves out in remarkable, mysterious ways. And when a mystical gift like a month away in Lisbon presents itself, you take. the. freaking. gift. (and write a really really good thank you note. (we’ll be writing (praying) that thank you note for the rest of our lives.))

So we accepted the gift, and said “Okay God, we’ll go.” But Clay and I agreed that if we needed to sit and cry in our airbnb everyday, we would, regardless of our exotic setting. And we did. …Not every day, but there were certainly mornings when we’d wake up to beautiful weather and wouldn’t leave the apartment because our hearts still hurt. 

This discipline taught me so much, but mostly this: the heart knows how to heal itself; the trick is we have to listen and let it. On paper taking a trip to Lisbon might seem like the last thing we needed but it turned out to be everything and more; the cure beyond our wildest dreams. Somehow our hearts, guided by Spirit, knew that before we did. Other times in that season of grief, I admit, ‘my heart’ needed to eat three donuts in one day because sugar in the form of candy bar sprinkles has never let me down. And on those hard days in Portugal, my heart was saying, “Save the castles and the beach for another day. Today, we weep.”

Again, we didn’t do this everyday. We saw the castles, and our fair share of european speedos eventually, trust me. But stepping aside and letting our hearts call the shots (instead of guilt, or expectations) proved to be one of our best strategies for getting the hell out of Hell; and it empowered us.

Eventually, “Is going to the beach actually what we need today or do we just feel like we should because we’re in Lisbon?” turned into “What do *we* want out of life?” and other convoluted questions like, “Do we actually want kids right now, or could it be peer-pressure, fear of being old parents, or that we’re mindlessly following cultural norms?”

We answered each once-laborious question with clarity and ease because our revival from The Black had heightened our sense of identity. We were wide awake; more confident in who we were, more aware of what was working for our lives and what was not, and we knew exactly what we wanted with crystal clear certainty. 

For one, our reunion with Big Wonder left us wanting more. Grand Rapids offered respectable options but none of them filled the void. Our annual 5-day ski trips to Park City weren’t cutting it anymore either.

So when we finally stopped searching for marrow and asked ourselves, our hearts, “How do we fix this deficit?” …The answer that kept insisting itself upon us was, “You need a more permanent dosage.”

Posted by:Katie Brinks

Seattle and the great outdoors. (Sometimes I write about my feelings.)

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