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Here it is, the good life

mostly-coherent ramblings about existence, post-transition from what is hopefully only the early-middle bit of a new era. emphasis on “hopefully”

April 2nd. It’s April already. April of 2015, no less. The first quarter of this 15th year of the 21st century is complete and I…I am happy to report that it’s shaping up to be a year that stands in stark contrast to 2014 by being pretty damn good. I am happy to report this…because, on the whole, I am happy.

I spent the majority of 2014 not so. An extended bout of depression, my first run-in with anxiety attacks, a number of unexpected life curveballs in regards to relationships, friendships, work, and health…it was A Big Year and not in great ways. I had moments of happiness, many of them in the last few months of the year, moments mixed in and around the drama and the pain, but on the whole…I was ready for the mental reset button that we collectively ascribe to the 31st of December.

There are days when Hanoi is a struggle. When all the lights turn red as you approach, when you’re running late already and then notice that you’re on empty with the nearest gas station the opposite direction from where you need to go, when the torrential Vietnam rains start just as you’re leaving the house, when all the things you point to on the menu are mysteriously “het roi” (finished), when you wake up to your usually-adorable dog vomiting on the one bit of carpet in your whole damn flat, when students are rude and when – more than anything – you just want to stay in your apartment in comfy sweatpants…and cannot. There are days when everything around you seems like a hopeless uphill struggle for which you most certainly do not remember signing up, when the to-do list is exhaustingly long, when you realize your wallet is on the counter after you’ve walked down three flights of stairs, and when the milk pours out of the container and into your coffee in chunks.

And then there are days like today.

I woke up at 8:30 am – no alarm – with the arms of a big sleeping British man of whom I’ve grown quite fond, wrapped around me…and motley dachshund snoring at an indelicate volume against my legs. Given these two…going back to sleep seemed the most appropriate use of my “early” morning. Ethel can, however, sometimes be a good alarm clock, stomping around the bed with her awkwardly large dachshund feet, snorting, wiggling in excitement to see you awake. Today was one of those days. 9:45 was one of those times. The kettle was put on. “Acuppatea” was sipped on the couch as we adjusted to the bright sunlight pouring through the windows: it was supposedly hitting 97f/36C out there today. The tropical heat had arrived.

I took the mutt for a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, stopping for a latte in the shady park overlooking Truc Bach lake. Unlike the motionless humid heat of July and August, it was breezy. Beautiful. Palm fronds rustled and other such things. Binh, my cleaning lady…the bringer of fresh flowers, the cooker of beef stew for Ethel, the maker of delicious fruit plates, had located a long-lost piece of a stuffed toy, and Ethel spent the late morning re-murdering Raccoon. I went for an early lunch.

Lunching with friends is an easy top-five contender on the Best Things About My Work Schedule list. Easy. This time it was over sweet hibiscus iced tea and pho cuon, fresh rice paper rolls full of herbs and veggie “beef”, dipped in a savory sauced. I migrated 2km to the pool, book and pile of student essays by my side, and spent the early afternoon alternating between the heat of the sun and the cool of the just-opened-for-the-season pool. I rode home…no…meandered… home on the Cub, picked up an iced coffee on the way, and sat in the shade on the roof with Ethel sniffing through the flowering trees for the tennis ball I’d thrown. I felt calm. Happy.

Quick shower, back onto the Cub, as it was almost time for class. I spent two hours with a small group of smart 17 year olds, discussing The World is a Beautiful Place by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, sarcasm and dry wit in poetry, Beatniks, current social unrest in the US, and the form/style of a critical review. They were pleasantly surprised to read poetry they didn’t hate. On the way home, I stopped by my local liquor store for my current favorite bottle of white, stopped at a veg restaurant for a glass of tea while they put together a to-go bag of my current favorite dishes. I sat on the balcony with said wine and said food and the aforementioned dog begging for said food…and just…was. I didn’t watch anything on my computer, I didn’t read, I just watched the neighborhood, got a little wave from the lady across the street, absorbed the day. Some nights I’m out, bouncing around town, laughing with friends over delicious meals, drinking gin & tonics by the lake, flirting with Jules to the chagrin of the pack of British men he’s inevitably with…all good things. All fun times. But tonight was mine. Later on there would be tea, the book I’m finishing up, some writing, an episode of something or other…and sleep in my deliciously soft bed.

So here I am. I’m smiling more in 2015. These are the good days, this is the good life. Healing is difficult. New ways of being…modi operandi matching intention and ideals rather than habit, rather than comfort…not an easy hill to climb. But I’ll tell you…the gin & tonic tastes all the sweeter for the trip.


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