life in bucharest

“Life checkup”: a routine physical of the mind

Indian flute music plays in the background. Chest breathes heavy, then soft, lungs seeking incense that isn’t there. My tongue, tingling, takes the hot iron straw of the yerba mate and draws in the vibrant green liquid. I look out the window at a beautiful Bucharest dawn, today a paisley aquamarine, unlike the cotton candy pink of yesterday, or the violet of last Monday.

Today is Wednesday, the most weekday day in the week. Last weekend now is a fading memory, wrapped in saran wrap and left in the fridge. Next weekend is a delivery pizza not yet ordered. Just a hope, a sure hope.

Meanwhile, what’s a life update without mentioning half my life? Ela sits in the living room, back to the red sofa couch, legs supporting the gray fire of her laptop, as screen light washes her morning face. One hand on the external mouse, the other calmly at her side. There’s a smile on her. I know she must be viewing a funny clip of our winter vacation abroad — she’s been editing those clips into 10, 20, 30 minute videos online. It warms me to see her so happy, like this mate water, waking me up. As she brings her vision to life.

While she has moved to waking up an extra hour before me, I’ve maintained the same morning ritual. Open eyes, slip into flip flops, scratch out morning pages, yawn awake through 20 minutes of calisthenics, chew breakfast, and then sit at this here computer for a good hour, before ironing a shirt and leaving for work.

Work’s good. Very good actually. It pushes me to act in areas where I perform well but I never would have ventured on my own. Meaning, I was never the child once who said, “When I grow up, I want to teach myself Excel!” And yet, after droning through a handful of videos to learn the right shortcut to execute the right function to open an older version of the pivot table, then crunch 100,000 lines of data across 12 months of spreadsheets . . . by Jove! I cannot but smile at the silly pale blue and egg shell white work of art before my eyes. Another pair of clicks later, and those numbers crossing human lives with cold hard capital produce a 2-D line chart! Like a rainbow of stats.

Another example of pushing myself to where I perform best but never would have tried: interacting with teammates. The only sport I was ever good at in high school was cross-country, the one where it was just my scrawny pair of legs hitting a dirt path, for miles and miles. “The rawest sport,” my high school history teacher used to say. Because running didn’t involve any ball or flashy plays, just your body against itself. To win you simply had to not give up. That was me, and my personality. And yet . . . now I visit, make calls, and send emails to dozens of client representatives, hold morale high internationally among 55 professionals, coordinate solutions with tech wizards, but also hold meetings with the company leadership and seek engaging conversation among coworkers at the water fountain.

Just today we were pitching each other riddles! (I hate to admit it but I couldn’t stand not knowing the answer to one, so I looked it up. Could you guess without cheating? “Those who buy it don’t need it, and those who use it never see it. What’s the item?”)

Here’s a third conditional for all y’all: if I had been granted my number one wish back at the age of 22, then I would have magically become a lonesome writer warrior, city hopping from one ancient city in Europe to the next, writing books, and developing spiritually. Because all I wanted back then was to go back to Europe and write.

I guess we can’t have everything we want in life, eh? Hah. And for the better, I’m realizing. What I did instead at 22 was all the opposite of what I thought I wanted. I read more than I wrote. I interned more than I worked. I turned down publishing opportunities because they weren’t paid. I remained single, despite wanting someone real. I stayed in the US, when I wanted to go to Europe!

But now, what, Mr Life Update? Hah! Inject me with a few years and life’s not all that bad. “You made it to Europe,” said Ela, over a toast and honey breakfast last month. She was right. Check that box off. Moreover, I made a bit of a splash with the first novel. Enough to motivate the second one. Let’s see if it isn’t better.

I cannot believe how hard this following sentence is for me to write, some sort of insecurity, or some form of imagining what the reader must feel, or other false modesty attacks me . . . but, in a word, things are awesome today, plain ole awesome! Life rocks.

Let’s keep on hitting the dirt road.

Say what you want. Then listen.

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