I played tourist in my own town this weekend. (Sorry, no pics. :)
"Playing tourist" arose spontaneously (which is always good :), but if truth be told, more because I had a really stupid fight with my husband, huffed out the house and checked into a hotel for two nights. The first evening's worth of brooding over my own life for a change, as opposed to workworkwork - plus a good night's sleep - found me clearer-headed and more than a bit sheepish in the morning. A quick apologetic phone call, followed by a zip down the freeway, and I'd absconded with my dearly beloved for a night away from it all.
(Ah, the secrets of a long marriage: shit blows up, shit blows over, and then it's time to start planning what's for dinner. Thank goodness we're too old and tired to hold grudges. And too old and forgetful to even recollect the original reasons for a fight, more than half the time...:-P )
I know that at least some, if not the majority, of that stupid argument was spawned by stress. By having lots on my plate and feeling like I should be able to handle all of it effortlessly: a huge deadline looming at work, scurrying around to get things in order for my first semester at university, finishing up our vacations plans, being a wife (if a distracted one) and mom (if an often clueless one)...
...and within each of these situations, a myriad of interpersonal dances that require a certain amount of energy and finesse (never my strong point) to deal with. I never feel as if I've done any of those situations proper justice. Never. When you're in the vortex, you can't see the swirl; stepping away from it, if even for an evening, you get a much better bead on it: it feels chaotic because it is chaotic. What a concept!
So we did something I've been meaning to do for a while (but never "had time" to do): I took my husband to a little Italian restaurant not far from my workplace. It's very small and unprepossessing from the outside, but the inside is a wee miracle of space and light balanced with intimacy and coziness. Our server, bless her, made sure we got a nice table in a quiet corner, and lit the candles right away. We ordered a decent bottle of Chianti and some antipasti to start. Two hours later, we were lingering over cappuccino and still chatting and laughing.
When was the last occasion I had the chance to spend that much quiet time with my husband, sharing a nice meal, relaxing and talking? Honestly, it probably hasn't happened since our first trip to Italy in 2005 - which coincides with my initial introduction to the "slow movement" (in particular, with the "slow food movement"). As our hotel was a 40 minute walk from the historical city center of Florence, with its eateries of varying degrees of dodginess - we opted to wander around the local neighborhood on foot, till we stumbled on a restaurant called Pane e Olio.
It was quite the mind-blower on a lot of levels for hubby and I, accustomed as we are to a culture that celebrates "efficiency" and "speed" as core virtues. There were maybe 6 tables in the place, including one set for a larger party of diners. The son worked the front of the house, politely and unobtrusively; the mama worked the kitchen, devising one incredible plate of food after another with a great deal of care and thought, with long pauses in between courses for diners to sit back, sip a bit of wine, wander outside to smoke or to stretch their legs, and meander back in to chat, drink and eat some more. At some point during the meal, she personally visited each table, sat down and chatted with the patrons for a spell, shared stories, a glass of wine, and a smile or two. At the large table, a group of Florentine young'uns, who looked to have been there long before we arrived and were still lingering over grappa and coffee about 3/4 of the way through our dinner, were an instruction in and of themselves. They ate heartily, drank slowly, laughed almost continuously and appeared in no big hurry to be anywhere but exactly where they were, in that moment, with each other.
Last night, the Redhead to Whom I Am Espoused and I did a pretty good job of recreating that experience. We shared a lovely salad of arugula, golden beets and feta, dressed in a tangy viniagrette, as well as a yummy, thick lentil soup; enjoyed some house-made bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip and ooh'ed our way through a heavenly light plate of gnocchi in a half-n-half of airy marinara and creamy pesto sauces. Happily, everyone around us seemed to be in the same leisurely mode.
NZ Marginalia Lynsey's wife, Marica, has written a much, much better post about shifting into the slow lane in this fast lane world than I could ever manage - please go read it, it's really awesome (and welcome to the Blog Lagoon, Marica! :) Pull up a chair, set a spell and I'd be most happy to fetch you the beverage of your choice...:)
Other than that: how about you try doing nothing for the next few hours? (You have my permission, for whatever that's worth. :). Take a moment to look at whoever/whomever your loved one(s) is/are, grab him/her/them by the scruff of the neck or the seat of their pants...have a little nosh, a little something to drink, slow down, and enjoy a moment of gratitude for the amazing gift that is your life...