The Price of Perspective
Two moms ditch their kids and their husbands for a recalibration in Italy and France, in the spring of 2015
This past fall I’d been a stay at home, self employed working mom for a year and a bit. I co-run a charity (Ladybird Animal Sanctuary), run a busy freelance website and graphic design business, and I was still actively playing music live, writing, and rehearsing with my band The DoneFors, and fretting, freaking, mothering, wifing…. It all felt like too much.
Despite being a bit of a worrywart by nature, all of my hats started to weigh quite heavy creating growing anxiety which I was having trouble coping with. My perspective seemed completely lost in the hamster wheel I was running in. My husband and I had also been in two pretty serious car accidents in the span of less than two years. Making it all work (even though everything was working out just fine) resulted in a great deal of self-inflicted pressure and mental torture. So, I did what some moms in crisis do, and planned to escape! But not the permanent kind. Or the kind that requires copious drugs and alcohol. I just asked my husband if I could get away for a bit and take a break from reality and the sometimes burdensome feeling of being “needed”. Without hesitation, my husband granted me my wish. Wherever I needed to go, go! I was prepared to go on my own, but asked my cousin Jess if she would come with me. She also showed no hesitation in her willingness to come, and after the nod from her equally generous husband, Jess and I started to plan our trip.
We chose backpacking in Europe in the Spring; Tuscany and Paris. Two thirty somethings, pretending to be twenty somethings, but in actuality coming off like a couple of Italian nonnas.
We’ve been abroad, and returned, and I have to say that it really made a massive difference. Remembering how big the world is, and how small we all are, is somehow comforting. This puts some many trivial day to day worries into great perspective. Seeing beautiful art, buildings, people, natural wonders, and witnessing how other people live, and how they prioritize things differently was just the reminder that I needed.
But I also came home with something that I wasn’t at all expecting. No. Not a venereal disease.
I was also reminded of how lucky we are to live and be born in Canada. And, dare I say it, to be white. During our travels, Jess and I saw and met many illegal migrants, fleeing unsavory political and economical crisis, terrorism and civil war in their home countries. Many of these people hadn’t found asylum, were unwelcome by the European governments, and were just surviving in desperate situations. We saw this first hand in Paris, as we unknowingly wandered by an African refugee tent city that had cropped up underneath a train bridge near Gare du Nord. Many of these migrants had perilously crossed the Mediterranean via Spain and Italy, no doubt losing friends and life savings along the way. Many were making their way to the UK, which seems to present itself as a bit of a promised land, at least in their minds. “Small work, big money” was how a young Pakistani man we’d met had referred to his perception of life in the UK and Canada.
Seeing these people filled me with feelings in equal measure of fear and sadness. Fear, because I can only imagine how desperate they are, and perhaps how disgustingly pig-like we Westerners might appear to them, what with wanting for nothing, and having it all. Who knows how they might exact their desperation… a terrible scam, robbery, or worse…. And then sadness, at baring witness to the serious human suffering and feeling quite powerless to alleviate it. The solution to the problem seems like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube where every single square is a completely different colour.
I felt guilty for being born with privilege. Why me? Why not someone else? Why do I get to take a break from my ‘painful’ reality. Where’s my fucking gratitude?
I think of the fragmented refugee families, and the children who suffer while their parents just try to do what they hope is best for them. I worry about the future of those kids. I worry that the human damage done to their parents can never be undone. I worry about where their next meal will come from. I worry about the danger they will subject themselves to in a play to get to a better station in life. I worry about the consciences and humanity of those who abhor the sight of these people, and would rather not have to deal with them. I worry about how we don’t see each other for who we really are, just common people who need very basic things to survive and thrive. I worry about the impact of those whose greed and ambition trumps their human compassion. I worry about how we can be our own worst enemy when people as seemingly well off and ‘happy’ as Robin Williams can take their lives, while people with no hope, somehow keep on hoping.
But one thing I don’t worry about, at least today, is that my router is on the fritz, my ankle is a little sore from all of the walking I did, I’ve got a giant pile of work to do, and that they didn’t have Chardonnay on the plane ride home. Thanks for that one, Amy Schumer.
I don’t know what the solution to the bigger problem is. But I do know that tiny strides can be made by each and every person, even if it just means being thankful for what we have rather than wanting more, and putting more value in human relationships than in belongings. I, personally, will try to remind myself that kindness is immeasurable currency.
Oh, and headless-chicken moms in a rut?! Take time for yourself. Don’t lose your mind being a saint. Take care of you first so you can continue doing what you do awesomely in taking care of others….