It’s a hot summer’s day in Bucharest

And Bucharest is terrible on hot summer days. It looks as if a dragon’s breath has run over it at light speed, several times.

And I’ve just got off the tram on this long boulevard lined with tall, grey communist apartment buildings and I’m looking for a newly opened bookshop. It is part of a very elegant bookshop chain and it’s supposed to be here somewhere.

I finally find a passageway between these two dusty buildings and there it is. Behind the busy boulevard, a dirty plot, with holes in the dry mud and plastic bags flying around like in that famous scene in that American movie I forget the name of. You know, almost, just almost art. Garbage everywhere. I make my way to the door of the bookshop.

Inside there is a bourgeois atmosphere. Elegance, the scent of connoisseur’s tea, of freshly printed books, the polished squeaky wooden floor, the carefully chosen, well placed warm lights. The place feels like a lonely member of an aristocratic family that’s lost his way in a blue collar neighborhood.

And nothing happens. I don’t meet anyone special. In fact, I don’t meet anyone at all. Apart from the shop keeper, I am the only one there. I don’t remember buying anything remarkable, though I probably did buy something just to make the shopkeeper feel better (yes, I often did that and still do it sometimes).

How in the world have they opened this bookshop in this horrible place?

And why the heck does this memory keep popping up in my mind, more than ten years later, while I’m out playing with the kids, doing house chores or whatever? Nothing happened! Why do I keep seeing this? When I was there, I never imagined I would remember anything about that experience. Because it was totally unimpressive. And, again, NOTHING happened.

And as I’m talking to a friend about it the other day and as she’s really listening, I hear myself asking THE question: what did I feel then?

The answer was already there and it struck me like a bolt of lightning:

A deep lack of belonging. A sense of the outcast, the margin, the uninvited guest, the rebel.

Story of my life.

In a rush to slow down

It feels as if I’ve been running a marathon since the beginning of 2020. Lived in three countries, moved house five times. I’m not sure I know how to stop or even slow down. Only lately do I surprise myself taking deep breaths again, looking into my children’s eyes – I mean really looking, stopping all else. It’s fascinating to watch them descend on earth one day at a time. Only to find their way back up again, as we all do, when the time comes.

I’ve managed to stick to the habit of writing letters to them, through all the changes and challenges. I already miss their early days and months. I miss myself in those times. I miss their father in those earlier times. I miss feeling so carefree (yes, that’s the way I felt in those times). We didn’t have our families close for help, but I felt so cared for, so loved, so protected, so safe. Having very young kids is definitely one of the most tiring and difficult times in one’s life, but it is also probably the most beautiful time. Or so it has been for me. I wonder if I can ever be that happy again in this lifetime. Is it allowed?

I’m definitely in my mid-life crisis. Reevaluating my life. I’ve lived so many different lives in this lifetime. I’d got used to having no regrets. If I learnt anything valuable from my first lover, a rough lieutenant ten years older than me, is that it’s better to regret something you’ve done than something you haven’t had the courage to try. So I’ve tried e v e r y t h i n g I’ve ever been curious about.

And I have never been curious about conforming or fitting in or about living the same day over and over. So now I’ve discovered regret. Having left the most beautiful house and the most beautiful village I’ve ever lived in, in the most beautiful neighborhood. Regret has such sharp teeth. It deepens wrinkles and dries up skin. I often find myself lately wishing I’d been curious about living a comfortable life for a longer time.

2020 threw us out of the life we knew. Not just us as a family, but us as humanity. To me it felt like I lost a whole world. It set me out there, looking so desperately for that place. Home. Looking for it out there as if it ever were to be found out there. Looking for that place where freedom can never be taken away. As if freedom were ever given to us by an outside authority to be taken away as they please. Looking for home as if home were not the whole earth for as long as I’ll be around.

Reminder to myself: stop moving, start traveling. And travel light. You are everything you need and everything you will ever truly have.

What now?

To be continued. Soon.