And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. We're going for 2 AFD's in a row!!!! So far I haven't started shaking, so that's a good sign.
Today was a quiet one with all the colonists celebrating their departure from the Empire and the Commonwealth, but that was good for me, as it enabled me to roll through a lot of stuff and have a productive day. In addition, I logged a 10K WITH A NEGATIVE SPLIT, BABY!!!! I was SO excited, as the first half did feel a little rough but then I found my rhythm. I'm not ready to call it a runner's high yet, as I'm DEFINITELY not in that kind of shape. However, I will say that it felt GOOD and the foot was pain free - knock on wood that continues. Tomorrow I really think I'm gonna try that Versa-climber thing. I feel like a total moron doing it, but I have always wanted to pick a height from the list and try to scale it ever since I saw Michael Bein in "K2." Yes, I'm totally comfortable with you saying it - I AM A LOSER.
As I sit here typing tonight, I definitely feel as though I'm having one of those "expat moments" that I would imagine anyone who's ever lived overseas has experienced. I think it's a fair comment to say that assignees live perpetually in two worlds, virtually separate realities that rarely coincide. In me, at least, it leads to an often unsettled feeling - not a "grass is greener on the other side" type of thought but more a "am I making the most of my time here whilst being a good friend, son, husband, godfather, colleague" type of thought that you find creeps from out of the recesses of your mind and into the front when you've got 20 minutes on the Tube or can't sleep at night (because it's 14 BILLION DEGREES AND THEY DON'T BELIEVE IN AIR CONDITIONING IN THIS COUNTRY). I've found myself thinking about it a lot more since we found out that we were extended, and reconciling the two halves of our existence has proved elusive to me at best. However, today (reading an email from the Mad Peruvian, no less!), I think I finally had the breakthrough that every expat eventually has, and I count myself fortunate to have had it on the front of the extension vs. the end when it's too late.
The truth is that, try as one might, a person is always his or her own worst critic. I think being a project manager for a living doesn't necessarily help that, but the reality would exist regardless. There are always things that I'll want to do better (stay in touch with folks better, email more frequently, start volunteering), but then I find myself letting some of those desires (tied to home) slide to ensure we pack in every experience we can during our time here. There are so many things that I want to do still (and thanks to another 6 months will be fortunate enough to have that chance), and lately I've found it an internal struggle to ensure I strike the right balance (or even define a balance, as I've been pretty bad about checking in on the home front). However, as we move into these last six months, I think we're finally going to be able to find the happy medium. Today Jenny and I resolved to ensure we soak up EVERY SECOND of our time here and leave nothing behind. However, in that same vein, we've also vowed to take things slower, make more time for ourselves, ensure that we've got week nights in or weekend nights with nothing on the calendar, to ensure that we can talk to friends back home, enjoy each other's company, and take a break in the action (which will ensure that we appreciate the action all the more). It's like a basketball game or a marathon - make sure you don't leave anything on the field of play. Wow - this is really starting to sound like a Miley Cyrus song (IT'S MILEY! EVERYTHING SHE SAYS IS INTERESTING! KJ - that was for you) - sorry about that...
I'm not really sure why I'm boring you all with this, but writing has always been how I best lay out my thoughts, figure out what the hell I'm thinking about, and figure out what to do next. Having written it out (just like thinking about it throughout the day) has reminded me that, while I definitely miss home - the people, most especially, but also a thousand other little things that make America the place we want to be - this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity (Eminem-style). And whilst we have loved EVERY second of it - the travel, the beer, the theater, the architecture, the cheese, the runs along the Thames - lately I don't think we've truly appreciated it for what it really is - the BEST YEAR of our lives. That doesn't mean that I want to put friends and family and thoughts of home on the back burner, because, if anything, I want to make amends for falling off the grid the last 3 months. I simply want to make sure that I see this time in our lives for what it is - livin' the dream.
When you can say that about a timeframe, you have to stop and take stock of that, as by definition there will be years that aren't nearly as good as this one. Terrific, to be sure, and I pray that all of them will be, although some obviously not without their hardships. And that is why this time is all the more important - you take the sunshine from this time, and you remember them when the skies get black and times get tough. In short, this weekend and today have been my "No Rain, No Rainbows" epiphany - just perhaps the other way around.
That's why I walked a little slower on my journey home today - I wanted to see all the buildings that I'd noticed when I first arrived. The black brick building with the ivy, the "Prague Building" on Wimpole, the windows and the decoractions, RIBA, with it's pink and purple lights illuminating the statues on the facade. It's why I plan to do EVERYTHING a little slower these next six months - to make sure the memories of our time here not only stay with me, but stay fresh in my mind's eye. This is an AMAZING city, and it seems as if lately we've found SO MUCH more to it that was hidden from us before, either because there were too many other things to see or because we'd found a routine. Either way - I'm glad we've discovered another side of London - just one of its many facets, I'm sure.
People have asked us if, after this experience, we'll just be able to return to Charlotte and settle back into our old lives. I think the first answer is no, as this experience has brought Jenny and I closer together than ever before, and, like any major life adventure, it's shifted and refocused our priorities. But that doesn't mean that we won't LOVE life in Charlotte again - it just means we'll walk to Hawthorne's Pizza on a Monday night vs. driving there on a Sunday. It means that we'll appreciate even more our pool in summer, Fat Tire with Tom, Mandy, and the boys even more, watching Sam grow up to be a beautiful little girl and knowing how tough it was to be an ocean apart and how we want to be active participants in her life. It means that we know now more than ever how precious time with our parents and family are, and that we've got to find a way to have more of those moments. In short, will we be able to return? Absolutely. Will we settle back into our old lives? I'd say probably not.
And there is the other reality of living abroad - part of you wanders (as everyone does I think) what's next in the Great Wide Open. That much we have no idea about, but as we get the chance to have some more experiences here, see some more of the world, and then find our place in Charlotte again, I feel pretty sure it will come to us. The trick for us is not rushing it, but enjoying the moment, knowing that everything has a season, even if we never really know when that season begins or ends.
That was a lot, I know, and most of you are probably bored to tears. Sorry about that - I think I should have put a disclaimer on this one at the front - "Only to be read with beer/wine/spirits in hand and Black Eyed Peas bumping in the background." All the same, if you've stuck with me this far (this post and throughout the adventure), let me just say thanks again, as always, for reading.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print (THANK GOODNESS I hear you say). Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny