I just got back from vacation (and boy are my arms tired). My head is filled with incredible memories, but my heart is ready to come back on your screen, as I love sharing my story every week with all of you. So I set a timer (I have this handy new app that makes you work for a certain amount of time and then you get your reward….so after typing like crazy I will reward myself with a new vegan cheesecake recipe…) which means I am forcing myself, whether you like it or not, to get back into your lives. And fast!

Many of you wrote to me personally and wished me a wonderful vacation. Thank you. Remember, if you have not used English today, WRITE ME (this means you, name) and I will WRITE. YOU. BACK. I promise. Now you have no excuse to not use your English every week! I’ve developed quite a lovely pen pal relationship with many of you, and there’s always room for more. Do tell. How was your vacation? Did you use your English? Did my PASSPORT PROOF PODCASTS help you?  (You can still get them here – tell all your friends who are still going away – these passports will save your ass when it comes to difficult situations abroad, I promise! www.businessenglishcommunication.com)

I know you didn’t ask but I’d like to share with you 3 things that I took back with me from my vacation. (Hint: they are not shells. Or an STD.) Some pretty powerful stuff happened, and you know me, I cannot keep it to myself. The first one was that I went to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. “No big dealio”, you might think. But it was to me. 25 years ago, on August 3, 1990, I held the hand of a tall, handsome stranger on those steps. Being afraid of heights (but not afraid of handsome strangers) really changed my life that day. There was this hot Dutch man who I met 2 days before- he was also travelling on holiday- who asked me to join him there so I said yes. And I fell in love that day. Nothing made sense as I didn’t even know where the Netherlands was, and I was in a semi-relationship myself with someone back in NYC, but I knew my future was sealed with this amazing stranger that day on those steps. 25 years later we walked up the same steps, but now joined by our 2 teenage children, who were so embarrassed that mom and dad kept hugging and mom kept crying on those steps. I was so very grateful for my wonderful family and for following my gut in the most illogical of situations. (We had to get our kids huge ice creams afterwards to compensate for their trauma. Oh, and did you know you can get Mojito ice cream in Spain? Very handy information.)

The second thing was that I was part of the pilgrim procession in Lourdes. This has been on my bucket list forever. I was raised Jewish, have developed Buddhist tendencies, got married to a Catholic, and I cannot say that I prefer any religion over the other, as there is so much I don’t know or understand, but I really wanted to go and see what all the hype was about the water and everything. The pilgrim procession was amazing. They do it every night at 9 pm, just when the sun is starting to set and the orange and pink glow is mesmerizing. Huge throngs (great word, this is what it means – try to use it today!) gather outside the enormous cathedral and they walk slowly and mindfully around the central square in an elegant procession. It takes well over an hour. There’s a kind of hierarchy. First the people in stretchers are brought out. The stretchers are on wheels and are supported by nurses and nuns. People lie there, looking up to the sky, often clutching a candle if they are physically able to. Then people in wheelchairs are brought out, also pushed by nuns, nurses, and volunteers. All holding candles. Then those who can walk follow afterwards. Each step, whether it’s taken with ease or with excruciating pain, is drenched in grace and dignity. You could actually feel the air vibrating with hope. I stood there and was filled with gratitude for my health and felt the hope, but also the desperation that surrounded me. I learned to never (ever!!) take my health for granted. I have 2 chronic diseases and I am legally blind in my left eye, but my god, how lucky I am to have the health I have!! So grateful. More mama tears. More traumatized kids. More ice cream. (Oh, and I did drink the water. The only effect was that it made my menstrual cramps worse. Hmm….)

Third lesson and then I’ll let you go. As I said before I am scared of heights. I share my life with people who are not. So when we bought tickets to go up a mountain in a cable car in France, I was scared but relieved that we were in an enclosed space with walls and a floor and I could scream my head off if I needed to and no one would mind too much. However. Um. Well. We went up a mountain in the little cable car and at the top we got out and (after I kissed the ground) my wonderful people said “Hey look we can go up another 3 kilometers in a SKI LIFT! FUN FUN FUN!” I have no idea what idiot gene these crazy people inherited but IT WAS NOT FROM ME. Shit. So. Um. I decided that my love for my family was greater than any fear I had (HUGE fear of heights and an even HUGER fear of being high up IN AN OPEN SPACE OMG) so I took a deep breath, tried not to vomit, wiped the tears welling up in my eyes and said “Ok let’s go NOW before I change my mind.” And you know what?

I. LOVED. IT. It was scary. Really, truly scary for me. And it was beautiful. I saw things I would never have seen otherwise. I felt the crisp menthol air blowing through my hair. I looked up AND I looked down. And I looked (a LOT) at the faces of the people I was with and I saw absolute joy and wonder. No one lost a shoe. No one fell out. We could even make a selfie and live to tell about it. I learned a lot that day. I learned that if I let my fear go, a whole new world would open up to me that I would never have seen otherwise. Makes me think about other fears I have. What would happen if I just.
Let.
Them.
Go…

I’m going to work on that. I’ll keep you posted. And hey, keep me posted! Have you ever been afraid of something and then faced it head on? I’m so curious! Share your story with me, sweet name. I can’t wait to hear it!

Lots of love, and thanks for reading this super-long post! Now I’m off to check a new cheesecake recipe in 3…2…1!

Wit lof from Buffi (who would even coach you in a chairlift)
XXX