Great Expectations

Ahhh, yes.

You know you’ve seen the images in the movies…

The woman in France who hops on her gorgeously retro bike, tosses her baguette, wrapped in a red-and-white checked cloth napkin, into her wire bike basket and rides down cobble-stone streets.

As she rides down the streets, still puddled from last night’s rain, but drying from the cloudless early morning sky, she splashes the young handsome tourist, just arrived with no place to go. She catches his eye…

Or, image two:

The villa in Tuscany where the sun is always just-setting or just-rising.

Or, image three:

The park bench in the foreground, the centuries-old buildings in the slightly blurred background, the young lover waiting, reading a book, for her someone to arrive…and when he arrives late, it is only because he’d been helping a crippled cat down from a tree, and to make up for it, he brings a shabby-chic bouquet of flowers.

This is Europe to this American.

I have written about this before and I will probably have to continue writing about it until I somehow burn it in my brain that this is not real life! (Unless you live in that really cute town that we saw last weekend. But even then, as the children’s book title says, Everybody Poops. Everyone has their deal.)

Real life is reliably unexpected, occasionally embarrassing, often rewarding, with some frequency, inane…But for some reason, I am really good at expecting that it will be fully comprehensible, endlessly meaningful, and almost always happy.

These, dear reader, are nice aspirations, but unrealistically great expectations. And, I realized this week that they are are burden to me, so I’m here to reclaim the ordinary, defend the senseless, approve of the dull, hole-y, and tattered moments that get an unduly bad rap. I’m deciding that they are okay too, that they are our bread and butter and the truly exciting things are just sprinkles on your toast (yes, I’ve read that some kids eat toast with sprinkles…If I could just get away from my PB & Js maybe I’d try it.)

So, I’m going to make a list of some ordinary things I’m grateful for.

1. Getting 2 coffees this morning, because the first one was decaf so it didn’t count. Both of them were pretty average coffee, but they did the trick.

2. Finding the drinking glasses I’ve been dreaming of made of a really sturdy glass, lovingly demonstrated by by an old Catalan shop owner (who’s probably owned his store since the dark ages) smacking them against a metal hinge.

3. The coffee bar guy giving me back the extra change I accidentally gave him rather than keep it himself.

4. The bakery lady asking me for 5 extra cents so she could give me back the more highly desirable 50-cent coin rather than the minimum three coins she would’ve have to give me back to sum 45 cents.

5. My mom sending me an email with a link to a skirt she thought would be cute. More than the skirt, I liked that I could see her eye for classic pieces that would stand the test of time. I also like e-window shopping.

6. Rediscovering a list of new podcasts to listen to, which remain my almost-favorite way to take a walk.

7. The couple that scolded the woman who stopped in the crosswalk as a woman with an (empty) stroller crossed it. I was reading today that society takes over community in big cities…but sometimes community strikes back.

8. The fact that I am mere days away from being done my first reading list. Ho.Ly. S. Ch. MoKeS.

9. The very very patient ears of those who I talk to and write to when I’m here and feeling overwhelmed by my great expectations (both domestic and international) and the good observations they’ve had.

10. Opportunities to exercise this week. Yay pilates!

11. Making good progress in my Catalan textbook and having a teacher who lets me talk about whatever’s on our minds for at least half of every class.

12. The luxury of time to sleep, eat, read, with little anxiety about having to do something by XX: am or pm.

13. The delicious September weather (and the happy fact that I will miss the coldest months sans-heat at home in Barna).

So here’s my goal for the rest of the trip (or goalz, plural):

Accept the ordinary. Don’t be scared of less-than-terrific moments because they’re perfectly normal and certainly not horseman of the apocalypse. Recognize that each day is a both a gift and an accomplishment, regardless of what happens in it. Look perfection in the face and tell it to go back to the sunset villa it came from because I don’t need it here.

Cheers to sprinkle-toast and ordinary things.

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