A friend recently shared an article that I needed to read that day. It was called “The Disease of Being Busy” and can be found here. It carries an important message that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. I have long championed the benefits of self-care and taking time for oneself, but I haven’t thought much about our epidemic of business. I think it’s easy to get lost in it, especially as a college student, because day-to-day at Notre Dame is unbelievably jam-packed and it can feel like you’re doing something wrong if you find yourself with free time.
A quote from that article struck me, and it’s been on my mind since then:
In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?
What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.
How is your heart doing?
I found the article to be a gorgeous reminder that we are human beings and as human beings we need to feed our souls and our hearts and not just check off to-do lists or fill calendars. When was the last time your heart felt as full as the week you planned? I know for a fact that mine rarely does. I always thought I would be happy when I did more things and boasted an extensive laundry list of accomplishments. I’m not usually happy when I do, I’m only exhausted. The article urged us to connect with others, but more importantly with ourselves.
Reading this article came at the perfect time for me because I had just spent the last weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a relatively spontaneous trip, and due to my last-minute planning I was on my own for the majority of Saturday before meeting up with my friends for dinner and adventures on Sunday.
Traveling alone was a strange way to connect with myself.
I was definitely nervous but I knew it was something I had to do while I was abroad. For the rest of my trips this semester, I’ll be in a group the whole time and will rarely be on my own. I loved having Saturday to myself. I spent the entire time wandering around the city and getting used to the layout. I stopped in several cool vintage shops and found my heart in the most amazing bookshop. It’s called Armchair Books and had floor to ceiling bookshelves overflowing with second-hand book deals. I picked up three great ones for only 7 pounds! I blew through Every Day by David Levithan in a day, and I 10/10 recommend it. It oddly put life in perspective for me, and reading young adult fiction was a welcome breath of fresh air.
It was freeing to be on my own. I had no one’s schedule or desires to adhere to other than my own. If I wanted to go into a shop to try fudge, I could. If I wanted to try on a quirky dress from the 60s, I could (and did). If I wanted to spend an hour in a teeny tiny but fabulous bookshop, I could (okay, several tiny bookshops).
I hadn’t had much time to focus on myself and reflect on my time abroad since being here, but taking that day in Edinburgh was exactly what I needed. I needed it to recognize the extent to which I struggled on some days and how much more I needed to focus on myself. I needed a day to remind myself that I was something to be proud of because I could maneuver a strange city and because I could find peace in a mocha and A Return to Love. The week before, I led my first group yoga practice and it made my heart burst. Nothing beat the feeling of looking around and seeing everyone flow together and I almost cried while I led savasana and told everyone to welcome peace into their hearts. I want to teach yoga and I want to fit the 200-hour teaching training into my life at some point before I die.
Now, back to Edinburgh.
I met up with Abby, Maggie and Sarah for dinner after their tour of some Scottish towns and the Loch Ness. We ate at a fantastic Spanish restaurant and all of us nearly peed ourselves laughing (okay, I think Maggie did pee herself).
Sunday was a GREAT day. It started off with breakfast at the Elephant House, which is where J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books, and the walls covered in notes from HP lovers made me tear up. I grew up with Harry Potter and I am forever grateful that I did life with a few brave but awkward teenagers fighting the Dark Lord. We moved from the Elephant House up to Edinburgh Castle, which was truly a beauty. We met up after the castle to grab cake (the strawberry cake paired with a mocha at Patisserie Valerie is to DIE FOR) before leaving to hike up Arthur’s Seat.
We chose to do a tougher climb up the mountain, and while it was long, and strenuous, and I didn’t wear the right walking shoes, after an hour and a 400-meter elevation difference we made it to the top. The other three girls put up with me and my desire to scamper around a flat plateau for my glorious Sound of Music moment. It was arguably one of the most amazing moments during my time abroad. The view at the top of Arthur’s Seat was INCREDIBLE. It was definitely worth the hype and the pain from my old lady knees later in the day. After our climb, we stopped in a shop to load up on shortbread cookies (also worth the hype) and began the trek back to Dublin.
Three hours later, we touched down in Dublin town and the happy sense of being home made me smile so big. I love the fact that coming back to Dublin feels like coming home now. It is truly a special city and I only realize how special it is when I spend time away from it. I’m grateful for its friendly people and that I can navigate it without Google Maps and the lack of aggressive touristy attractions and shops. It’s my home, and I love it more with each day and coffee shop that I pop into.
The weeks to come feature 14 days of travel: Prague, Vienna, Budapest, County Kerry, Madrid, Valencia and Lisbon – oh my! I am so lucky to be on this journey and for all the laughs, tears, gelato, sangria, bubbles, wine and books to come.
There will be more quiet time, more yoga, more laughter and more freedom from a packed schedule. As usual, I’ve attached some snapshots from this weekend.
Final note: I recently received an email from an anonymous old friend that actually made me cry. They included this quote at the end: “And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you and wants the same things too.” I don’t know who you are, but I want you to know that I’m praying for you as well, and that I would love to know who you were so we could re-connect. Your love is mutual and reciprocated, and your heart is beautiful and kind. Thank you for your gentle reminder, and I hope you know I walk with you every day.
The light in me honors the light in you,