Joie de vivre.
This is a French phrase that means a cheerful, hearty or carefree enjoyment of life. Don’t ask me to pronounce it – I can’t seem to manipulate my tongue properly to spew forth such elegance (I’m Polish, remember?) – but I can embrace the philosophy. And I do.
Over the past year, I have been to a lot of far-flung places, ranging from Seattle’s Pike Place Market to the Spam Museum in Minnesota, Buddy Holly’s crash site in Iowa, and the Mandalay Bay Resort in Vegas. I’ve visited Mount Rushmore and Mount Bachelor and Mount Hood. I ate a buffalo burger in Deadwood, fried pickles in Ely, geoduck in Seattle. Rocked out to some of my favorite bands live – Built To Spill, The Black Keys, The Shins. And, of course, I published a novel. These grand adventures began a little over a year ago – on my own at first, and then accompanied by the woman I love. It’s been a fulfilling and exhilarating twelve months, and I have taken advantage of this prolonged stretch of freedom in a way I would never have imagined possible. In a way, I feel like this past year I finally started living. Joie de vivre. And I’ve found a kindred spirit who is equally passionate about squeezing every last ounce of juice from life. We only get one go-around (unless the whole reincarnation thing is more than just a big ol’ pile of wishful thinking), and I am all for living life to the fullest in the meantime.
Naturally, this being the 21st century and all, I’ve shared these updates and check-ins via Facebook. And gotten a lot of comments along the lines of, you two sure get around – I’m WORKING and can’t afford to do half the stuff you do! Don’t get me wrong, I love and respect these friends and family members and appreciate their feedback. But for whatever reason, those comments put me on the defensive. I want to respond, get out there and have fun yourself – you don’t have to spend a fortune to do so! But I get it. I’m still looking for work, and the perception is because I’m jobless I’m destitute. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though. I “paid” myself a year ago with a withdrawal from savings that has enabled me to survive comfortably. Add in a sizable tax refund and weekly unemployment checks and I’ve barely felt the sting. I’m actually very proud of the way I’ve handled my finances during this time. You know, the great irony is, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this stuff if I had been working. Tara and I might never have gotten together (although, being a big believer in Fate, I’m pretty sure it would have happened eventually regardless). Granted, this won’t continue forever, and I’m at the point where I’m more than ready to return to the workforce, even if it’s doing a job I don’t love. I’m shelling out 9 or 10 applications a week. I’m no longer playing the part of Mr. Picky. Something is going to fall into place soon – I can feel it.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue celebrating life.
Plus, while it may seem like we’re jet-setting all over the place, most of our entertainment has been cheap. We get free room and board when we visit Seattle (thanks, Tracy!). Take advantage of coupons and two-for-one deals. Many of the live shows we’re seeing are the cost of a movie ticket. It costs nothing to stroll around farmer’s markets or go hiking in the woods. I didn’t buy the dogs playing poker tapestry I so coveted (damn it all). We shop at Winco (cheap groceries) and thrift stores (cheap everything). Sure, occasionally we splurge. But we are living well within our limited means.
As soon as we’re both working, though – world look out. I see a trip to Paris in the near future.
I kid, I kid.
So naturally, we had a mini getaway the other day. Drove to Bend, Oregon on Friday. Strolled through the quaint downtown district, pretending that it wasn’t cloudy and windy and 47 degrees because we had an engagement at the Les Schwab Ampitheater that evening to see The Shins perform. Checked into our cheap motel with the hard bed. Hit a place called Fox’s for some pool and inexpensive but good bar food. Enjoyed the concert without freezing our butts off. The next day we drove up to Mount Bachelor, where it was snowing. Hiked around Smith Rock State Park, watching all the crazy people with death wishes rock climbing. Drove up to Timberline Lodge, where it was snowing. And came home to a wild thunderstorm and flooded streets. Sunday was mellow. Today we’re having my parents over for a barbecue.
Tuesday we’re seeing a fave local band, The Moondoggies, in Portland. Wednesday we’re having a friend over for dinner. Friday we’re seeing Dark Side Of The Rainbow, a Wizard-Of-Oz-meets-Pink-Floyd show at a local theater. Saturday, we’re heading downtown for the Starlite Parade, Portland’s kickoff to the Rose Festival.
Another full week.
Joie de vivre.