I'm teaching another travel writing class for Catapult, starting Feb 29

Slowing down in Lisbon

These days, I take small steps. After my fall down the stairs and the breaking of a bone in my spine, I’ve only ventured out of the apartment on a few occasions – theater, a dinner and drinks, and a Saturday afternoon walk to the farmers market on Principe Real square. On that spring-like day, the sun lured me into walking on and on, ignoring the pain until – three hours later – I could barely move. That meant a few steps back in my recovery, more painkillers and a sprinkling of pretty miserable moments.

So here I am in Lisbon, a sojourn I was anticipating for quite some time. The vision of me exploring every nook and cranny of the city, climbing its seven hills, discovering hidden alleyways and hiking steep staircases seemingly leading to nowhere – it all vanished with one wrong step I took down the just-washed stairs of my five-floor Bairro Alto walk-up. So, here I am, a hardcore traveler, a tireless adventurer, an eager seeker of new experiences – watching the magical light of Lisbon change colors through my windows as the day waxes, and as it wanes across the rooftops of Alfama.

There’s been a thought flashing through my mind. We all have an idea of ourselves, of who we are and why we’re here. But what happens when an external force, an unexpected event, throws you off course? Do we refashion this idea of ourselves? My friends and family have always said I run instead of walking. You’ll usually find me many steps ahead of whomever is trying to catch up with my pace. You should see me now – I am as slow as a snail! It runs against the grain of who I am… yet this is me, now. As slow as the aging clad-in-black Lisboeta ladies that I see walking around my neighborhood. Sure, I’ll be running again soon enough, but learning how to slow down has been… hmmmmm…enlightening.

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