'I Had Crushing Anxiety, One Trip Changed Everything'

When I stepped into the courtyard of my small apartment, café con leche in hand, a petite woman with curly hair was hanging laundry. I had just arrived in the quiet

working-class neighborhood of Triana in Seville, Spain, where I hoped to calm my crushing anxiety and maybe even start writing my next book. I watched as the woman arranged

and rearranged her colorful blouses. She introduced herself with a big smile, as her green and yellow house dress swished around her knees. I asked in Spanish whether she

spoke English. She shook her head. My Spanish was nominal at best, having learned mostly from reading advertisements on the New York City subway. I caught only that her name was

Carmen. The night before, when the Airbnb host showed me around the apartment and pointed to a laundry rack in the back of the bedroom closet, I laughed. I hadn't come to

Seville to do housework. In fact, it was something I was actively trying to escape, along with the rest of my life back in New York. I had tragically lost a close family

member, was struggling with writer's block, and my marriage was going through a rough patch. I no longer slept through the night, often waking in a panic that inevitably turned

into overwhelming sadness. Barely making it through each day, I waited for the moment I could collapse on the sofa and mindlessly watch Netflix. It felt like I had

forgotten how to breathe. So when my teenage son was invited to Seville to play soccer, I jumped on the opportunity to rent a place nearby for two months.