If you have been following me in this great space we call the internets or in any other for some time, you know that in 2015 my family, namely my son, experienced a significant mental health crisis. We were traveling when things that had scarcely been hinted at before gathered at a peak and tumbled over the edge into a boiling, bubbling cauldron of fear and anxiety, nothing short of terror for our small family.
It’s been a long four years, and as you know, Cal is healthier now; we’re all healthier now, and rather than putting those days behind us, they inform so much of my present. Not a constant hum, but in ways, big and little, that pop up and surprise me.
It happened this week when a friend of mine posted some pictures from her recent trip to Chicago. While she bemoaned missing some of the must-sees, she acknowledged that she was definitely more present on this most recent trip than in the past. As soon as I read that, my mind went straight back to our ill-fated trip to Sweden.
We had so many great recommendations for our time in Sweden. The Abba Museum. Gamla Stan. The Nobel Museum. The Royal Palace. But as soon as it was clear that Cal was essentially non-functional, then all that went out the window. He was ultimately diagnosed with profoundly severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and when we were in Sweden, his every move was marked with extreme anxiety. It is a quite literal statement to say he could not walk down the street with out his arm wrapped around one of us.
So we stopped trying to do things. We sat in cafés and city squares and watched the world go by. We worried and fretted and wondered how we’d navigate the next few days not to mention the rest of our lives.
But something else happened too. We had some fun. We told stories and ate good food and watched the sun go down late, late, late, late. We took a ferry to a tiny little island and we sat together there and Neel and Cal ran out of gas in a tiny little motor boat. We missed the ABBA Museum and the Royal Palace, but even in the middle of the scariest time of my life, we made some memories.
I travel a lot more now, both here in the US and over to the UK, and I realized after reading my friend Jackie’s post that our time in Sweden changed how I feel about travel permanently, for the better.
Gone are the days of rushing from museum to historic site to recommended restaurant. Gone is the dash to fit everything in and the worry that we’ve let someone down if we don’t make it to the spot that they suggest.
Instead, we make haste slowly. We have favorite coffee shops and find restaurants to return to time and again. We linger in neighborhoods and get to know the places we visit. We may not make it to all the must-sees, in fact, for sure we don’t, but we’re more present in the places we visit. More present in the moments we’re sharing.
OCD took a lot away from my family, mostly from Cal, but time and again we find things crop up that OCD has gifted to us. I’d wager to say that new way of spending our travels is one of them. We slow down on road trips. We stay in one spot. When I’m in London, I’ll happily hit up the same pub over again even if it means missing out on a visit to a significant historic site. To me, that’s where the memories are made.