I still had our precious tickets to the Alhambra, however, so we climbed the steep hill with empty bellies (no money left for the tasty lunch I had budgeted for) and high expectations.
After queuing for ages, we reached the ticket desk, and I was asked to show the debit card I had used to book the tickets. The one that had been stolen, along with all my current worldly wealth, such as it was.
I tried to explain, but was met with a stony-faced refusal to allow us through. On top of the hostile treatment we had experienced at the police station when I tried to report the theft using my phrase book, this was too much. I burst into tears, and was hustled into a side room, where a kind Spanish lady comforted me, pulled some strings, and led us into the grounds through a separate door.
The astounding beauty of the Alhambra could not escape me, but my daughter was upset by the events of the day and, being twelve, not as moved by beauty as by meals and treats, which she had been denied. She wanted to get back to my uncle’s to be fed and fussed.
I too was distracted by lack, and although I gasped at the incredible sights around every corner, I did not feel the awe they justified and, after exploring the palace, we trailed back down to the city and employed our return tickets back to the solace of family and food.
My life is very different now from seven years ago. My children have all left home and are doing well in their very different ways. I have work that I love and am no longer a poor single mum overwhelmed with responsibility. I have a wonderful husband and the love we share is all the more precious for its contrast with those many years I spent without it.
When we had been together for a short time, I travelled some distance to help with a family crisis. When I arrived back on Alan’s doorstep, wrung out from the trip, he pulled me into his arms declaring “Repair Time”, and proceeded to nurture me back to emotional health.
I have long understood the value of “repair time” and often fought to claim it during my years of poverty and stress. Back then, I learned the hard way that selfishness, despite its negative press, is an essential criterion in a life. If we have no resources, we cannot give to others. Sometimes we have to take what we need in order to just keep going. My attempts to keep giving to my children without tending to my own needs when my resources were long spent resulted in serious mental ill health, and separation from them. Following that crisis, I made sure to meet my own needs first, knowing this was the only way I could then meet theirs.
Revisiting the amazing city of Granada, and the Alhambra, at this very different stage in my life, is also repair time, on a deeper level.
Following difficult circumstances, be they six months of family illness, twenty-five years of poverty, emotional challenge and cherished but stress-filled single-parenthood, or a bad week at the office, consciously taking time to repair is a gift to ourselves and the world around us.
This time every gasp around every miraculous corner of the Alhambra’s Nazrin Palace was filled with awe, and more. Revisiting a place in which I had been devastated, and knowing myself changed, brought waves of joy that, for all its beauty, the palace alone could not have summoned.
So it is with life.
My early life was difficult and wrought with pain and challenge. This latter part has brought me love, enough income to live carefully but comfortably, and more riches than I can describe. And it keeps getting better.
When we have suffered scarcity, and move on to “enough” or even “plenty”, the richness of appreciation can be greater than that of the Alhambra Palace. After twenty-five years of challenge, (interspersed with fine adventures, wonderful people, deep learning and beloved children grown strong and inspiring), I find myself experiencing a new, incredible life that is all “repair time”, and I want to share my riches with others who have yet to achieve their own.
To the degree that we have suffered, so may we transcend.
My suffering has been trivial in comparison to that of many around the world. May “repair time” come to them, and to all of us, and may we all transcend our hardships, transforming the world with the riches of appreciation.