House of Freedom…One Year in Casa Libertad

We landed in Barcelona 1 year ago and one day after I turned 40. We had a small window to choose dates to fly and it so happened that the best price was on my birthday. This was fitting since I like good deals and new adventures. What I really mean is that I like the concept, the magical idea of new adventures! We felt confident and knew that this decision was right for our family and although sad and missing comforts and friends, the kids were on board and we were off. photo_house_in_barcelona copy

The house we were moving to was sight unseen for me. Tom had six days in Spain to find a house, a school, and get all the paperwork we needed for our visa. I only knew it had enough bedrooms, a terrace, some balconies, ugly cabinets and a fig tree. I grew up with a fig tree in my yard when I was young so that felt warm and enchanting :). The other thing I had known was that the house had a name which I loved: CASA LIBERTAD…House of freedom. FREEDOM….what American doesn’t love this beautiful word?!!

We arrived in Barcelona in the late afternoon and it was HOT. We came to discover that it was the hottest summer on record in 30 years. We had to take several taxis from the airport since there were 6 of us and 12 suitcases and miscellaneous bags, guitars and pillows.  I ended up in the same taxi with my then 15 year old who was weeks away from turning the magical age of 16. This “mythical”, All-American age for birthdays and high school and all the things that are cultural norms for this handsome, athletic, music- loving American teenager.

We rounded the corner through the narrow, one way streets and suddenly the car stopped on this colorful, graffitiesque, OLD street where all the houses and buildings were glued together.

I could read the mind and the eyes of this boy of mine. The age that you shouldn’t move a teenager and we had unsettled his world. I had a pit in my stomach and he had a cold look in his eyes…never one to complain.

It was shock and “How could my dad lie to me about this place”? You mean our house is CONNECTED to another house? Where is the grass? Why does everything look so old? Tell me this isn’t our new neighborhood?

He was silent but I was the one who couldn’t breathe.

This decision we made had gotten real and was about to get even more real. It took 45 days to get an air conditioner installed in our steam room of a house…days away from summer turning to fall. Amazing how extreme sweating and heat can alter the moods of the happiest of folks! Then, there were many trips to the dumpster to remove “non-essential items”. The 100 year old fig tree which had seemed so magical began RAINING down figs that would splatter and bake and stick to everything in their path. It became like our miniature “farm” in the city with complaining and bemoaning who’s turn it was to “gather the crops”. The kids all slept in our room (the only place with A/C) for weeks. The element of first world “suffering” and lack of anything comfortable or familiar was beyond.

What had we done? Our kids were happy and SETTLED, COMFORTABLE in their large and beautiful,  childhood home. They had family, teams, schools, health clubs and a big house at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. They had GRASS!! Amazing Grass and a dog and bunny with 3 legs and a trampoline! Oh, and they travelled in cars….away from odd smells,  and the “sex-ed lessons” public transport brings!

YET, beyond any shadow of a doubt we knew that this life was in the past and THIS…this city life in a foreign land was our next place of being together.

Here is what else got real….All that was hiding from plain sight in that big house by the big mountains. It wasn’t like we were dysfunctional…I would have said we were very functional in fact. It was just that there were these subtle things that we could not see when everything was so big, comfortable, vast and busy.

When everything got compressed into close quarters there was no choice but to see, look and listen. There was nowhere for anyone to hide. NOWHERE. The only places to go were too hot. What emerged over the next year was nothing less than the raw, hilarious, tearful road to deeper bonds, honest relationships and FREEDOM.

The Davis family reckoning was unfolding…the anger that was masking sadness, the quiet compliance that was hiding fears, the ones who needed to get more quiet and the ones who needed to be heard. It was all bursting out. I could not rescue myself or anyone. I could not ‘buffer’ enough to make it all ok. There was no way forward but through.

I wanted to rescue. Even when I tried to reattach my “cape” in certain situations I couldn’t speak the language so it was FUTILITY.  I bought hundreds of freshly baked croissants to try and make it ALL better but then came my personal reckoning…THIS was Casa Libertad…The House of Freedom…freedom for OUR house.

I had forgotten for a moment how  “expensive” freedom was. I knew better and I know better.

FREEDOM in any area costs.

So, here is the main thing….

For all of us that are getting uncomfortable in our daily lives, fighting personal or public battles that require constant daily courage, watching our children or others face hard things (whilst choosing to not obsessively rescue), letting go, choosing the unconventional, getting brave and unstuck, choosing vulnerability and faith over fear…..CHEERS, hugs, support and emoji clap hands to you!

We all have our own “houses or places, opportunities for freedom” that come our way. It doesn’t matter if we’ve taken a pass before…the chance will come again. It doesn’t always mean a change of location or something drastic. It WILL look like COURAGE though…and for some it will mean a significant “re-routing”. What is most important is that we do not take a pass again and we say YES because often and usually THROUGH IS, in fact,  the only way forward and there is indeed the best light at the end.

Those sweet and loud, rough and shaky, angry,  sometimes lazy and entitled kids (and parents) are more free, more fearless than ever before. We are rough around the edges of course, there is nothing boring or buttoned up about our tribe but all of us see, smell, taste, talk and hear differently. This way of living more free, sacrificing for real freedom (the kind where you emerge with wings) is not cheap and not for the faint of heart but it is GOOD and YES…it is worth it.

***These words are dedicated to my 2 sisters who are “freedom fighters” and Carolyn Twietmeyer who is an inspiring example to myself and others and is the ultimate  “freedom junkie”:)!

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Pressing Publish:Saying No to Fear and its Friends

I have felt for years that I was supposed to blog. I have known it is part of my personal journey towards becoming a deeply free, wholehearted person. However, even in the midst of so much writing and words….I could never push the publish button. There was always this subtle voice saying, “this is a pile of crap and nobody really cares”.

Then, this lying seed would take me down the rabbit hole of wild horses (perfectionism) and self serving justifications and I would cave. Regardless, there is a persistent knowing deep inside that there are those that desperately need the encouragement and perspective that is uniquely mine to give. And here is the real truth….THIS is true of all of us who choose to walk forward into the brave lands of freedom, less and hard traveled roads and are still choosing to wake up, fix our eyes and press on. Others need us and this is the point of this first “publish”. Photo_girl_in_swing copy.jpg

Here is THE thing and the main thing. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances of our life are right now. We need others and they need us.  There are those we are standing, sitting, and living right next to that need our brave, courageous effort (usually in the form of intentional words and actions)  to intersect their lives.

I mean, if we do not follow that prompting or urge inside us to either reach out for our sakes or theirs….life will not have that piece of the puzzle of hope THAT connection could bring. Instead, it will be one more moment of choosing our supposed safety and comfort at the expense of our deep aloneness (in our unique struggles or joys) and theirs.

Why am I writing about this? Well, I’m in a country now that is culturally unyielding about their acknowledgement and greeting of EVERYONE. I’m in this almost daily reality  where the language stands in the way of deep conversation yet I AM ALWAYS acknowledged and seen. I always get kisses and hugs. On average, if the whole team of parents are at a particular event (for example)….I will get 48 kisses on the cheek (one on each side). Everyone is acknowledged and greeted. This may ebb a bit where the greeting is more general but it is unacceptable to sit in your car or stand away from the group for too long. Even and most importantly as a FOREIGNER…an outsider. This simple act has had this incredible power to ease loneliness, bring laughter, connection, perspective and seeds of community.

The guys will congregate sometimes alone and toast a beer (there is a bar with food and drinks at every facility)  and the ladies will join or sit apart and chat about the silly and the serious. Regardless, they will save me a seat and struggle through my bad Spanish and WE WILL CONNECT.

Mostly, I do a lot of listening. Sometimes I want to just be alone because of the noise of my life that day…this is ok too but I will always always be reached out to. This small but powerful act helps halt my momentary “insanity” about whatever seems to want to bother me that day and I come up for air. It disrupts the runaway thoughts and persistent lies if I’m having an off day or shadowy season. It brings laughter and seeds community. Yes! This small act of acknowledgement has that kind of power.

How much more if we CAN speak the same language and we can use our shaky words (written or verbal) and risk being perceived as ____ (insert your own word) and reach out and engage? Even if awkwardness ensues or rejection is your first vibe. Who cares? We are the better for it and so are those we find on our same path.

***As a side note…it is imperative that if we cannot get uncomfortable for our sake that we consider the next generation. Especially if you are a parent or have influence over someone younger. The young DO WATCH and they learn and our getting over our debilitating judgments, fears etc. towards ourselves and others and stepping out in simple human kindness…This teaches those that watch us. This will be a huge determining factor in whether they reach out to the ones in their class or on their teams who are on the fringe  where acknowledgement and being seen are everything.***

Because of the difficult story in the background of my life…I have been wired to see others differently. Orphaned in America at the age of 13, forges you in a certain fire. The way you see is from the other side of the glass often wishing your reality were like those on the happy side. This changes you.

I ultimately emerged (am still emerging 🙂 with the sadness changing me in empowering ways. I was compelled to see others. I have ignored this at times and certainly don’t set myself up as a bright and shiny example. I have fallen into the ridiculousness and the powerful trap of jealously  and judgements based on my own insecurity, etc.

When we are self focused (not in the healthy but habitual, stuck sense) it is easy to succumb to the huge lie that “they” have it all together and “they” are probably even  judging me. Haaa and they probably ARE!!!   AND hence, the circle of isolation and non-community continues. The power of being hurled backwards into junior high thinking and behavior cannot be understated.

Regardless, this breeds a cocktail that is the opposite of where most of us actually desire to head…the direction of connectedness, support, safe relationships and freedom. I’ve learned that most of us are so hard on ourselves that generally we, nor others, need a pistol whipping or “stank eye” when we are already on the hunt for our own, long lost oxygen mask!

So, today I’m pressing the publish button and here is to all of us being mindful and brave this coming year (in Spain the year starts in September 🙂 ! Cheers from Barcelona to those reading this who are starting a new school year, adjusting to our “babies” heading to college, at home with babies, juggling work and family,  meeting the new parents on the team or building life in a new place, new country or job.

It doesn’t matter…the most important tasks are often hidden and the most lasting are personal and simple! Risking that hug or awkward foreign kiss (not awkward anymore 🙂 or whatever simple words of intentional connection….it matters and we know it. I believe that this one simple thing causes our own lives to brighten and cracks the doorway for hope and connection to return to others. It is, at least, a more human, more loving way to live.

* This first blog is dedicated to my lovely friend, Lidia, who welcomed me from the first moment we arrived here in beautiful Barcelona!

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