Every time I zip up my suitcase I’m cramming it shut trying to fit in my runners.
“I’ll go to the gym this time for sure,” I tell myself. Nope, never have. I seem to always regret not going but I shy away at the idea of running on a treadmill next to coworkers in my terrible shape these days. Thankfully this hasn’t meant entire days sitting in a hotel room. I give myself a swift kick in the behind to at least go wander all these unknown places and spaces for fresh air and a little exercise. I’d like to think it was the uncomfortable feeling of my thigh-high compression stockings rubbing together that has been part of the change but I suspect it’s only a small part of the equation. Giving it my best guess it has been the realization of how valuable my time is and how many things I want to be doing with my life and the feeling of distance I was having from all of it bringing me crashing to a cold, hard pavement. I told myself, before even leaving France, I’d try to get back by October but instead I moved into the prairies and began a job that others saw as exciting and I saw as interesting, but a roadblock all the same. I remember months before even coming home taking the bus into Nice and having this deep sadness at the core of my being knowing that one day I’d see this landscape passing by on the way to the airport one last time before finding myself on Canadian soil afraid that the day would come, yet again, that I felt trapped. So as I got a job, everyone else was cheering me on and yet I got caught in this sad, heavy-hearted memory.
Now that I’m finally settling into the position my perspective has changed and while I occasionally feel the distance from the south and the Jasmine blossoms, the winding roads I longed to drive visitors along and the stone buildings I loved so much, I realize how fortunate I am to have the vast gift of time and flexibility. I’d like to say the words come easily, but they don’t. I know that France still feels far but it is feeling more attainable than it did in October. Sure my bank account cries a sad lament, and my body sees the affects of a job that can beat your body down to a pulp but one thing I finally see is the great gift of time and flexibility.
Does this mean I’ve used my running shoes in the last two weeks of this change? Nope. I wish. I’m sure I will eventually and, in fact, when I don’t pack them I’m sure to want to go, as I do right now, but instead I have my bathing suit. The old friend that is more packable and that provides a workout where I get to tune others out and listen to the sound of moving water, the rhythm of my breathing and sweat without being seen. I don’t go for long, just long enough to run short of breath and a little further as I ease myself back in the water. It’s still like pulling teeth to get me to the pool. Last night I arrived 5 minutes before the pool shut down and, with lead in my shoes, I slowly walked back to my room, but the point is, I got downstairs ready to go and in a few short minutes I’m going to do it again today. I do it to feel better, to get my heart pumping, and make the most of the perks. What else? I’ve been taking time to learn European Spanish. Even when my heart isn’t getting a workout, my mind is. When I’m just in the mood to wander, I’m finding ways to stretch the experience without straining my wallet. Last week my ventures took me to a taping of the Strombo tonight show and a trip to the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. While I would usually worry that I’m making a mistake in sharing in such a new “joie de vivre,” this time, I think I just need to say it, believe it, do it and continue to feel better. I may still be in Canada, I still have a full time job working for someone else, but I am finding ways to invest in myself that I’ve never had the chance to do. I only hope I can find a way to be happy with little, with shared apartments, many new faces, many familiar faces (now that I’m back in Vancouver) and lots of fresh experiences. Perhaps one day I might find myself doing this job from another part of the world, equipped with language skills acquired in my spare time or investing in the things I love so I don’t forget that, wherever you go, there you are.