Spanish Stories: Not quite painless

“Well quit bitching! You would have shit yourself to be where you are now five years ago!”
-Kevin Saladino

“Sensible decision-making and intelligent planning are a part of every well-lived life, but these things are accomplished by sitting down with a pen and paper for ten minutes now and then, not by perpetual worrying.”
How to Worry Less by Raptitude

I suffer from chronic migraines, which means I am accustomed to a base level of pain in my head and neck. Generally, I have a headache at least once a week: some small dull ache or soreness radiating down my shoulder or up my temple. I can deal with it most days. Some days I end up in bed with an ice pack. I don’t take medication for it because that shit will destroy your insides and I am quite fond of my insides. In regards to what I can control, I eat well, do yoga, sleep enough, and imbibe caffeine and alcohol in moderation. I exercise as much control as possible and will probably still end up in pain at some point in the week. I’m in the management phase of migraine life. I know how to deal with all degrees of pain without a narcotic. Few days find me unable to work. I always manage to push through. Something I am very proud of. I never quit. No matter how unpleasant, I know for a fact, it will pass. I will wake up the next day pain free and ready for a new day.

This is the exact thing that happened today. I woke up energized and feeling better than I have in months. I’m not sure what happened overnight, although, I imagine some sort of happy and forgotten dream leaving a subconscious mark. I discovered that I am alive and healthy. I am able to be here, in this beautiful city by the sea in Galicia, and not just by accident. I chose this. I want this experience and I want the challenge. I have faith that I made the right decision for myself. It was made for no one else and I wouldn’t take it back for the world.

Living and working abroad is not perfect. Admittedly, I harbored a fantasy of what my life would look like. How I’d change into this glamorous expat speaking fluent Spanish and smoking a cigarette in a fancy holder. How I’d never return to the dullness of American life ever again. How I’d have an affair with a handsome surfer. The cost of living well is low and the beauty rate is off the charts: why wouldn’t you want to leave the boredom and drudgery of a regular life for all of this? Or more pointedly, the possibility of a comfortable and luxurious life away from the soul-crushing norm?

Yet I notice the cruel elements of expat life. For example, the fact that I am here from another country working where the unemployment rate is absurdly high is a bit disheartening. Teaching English, while a noble profession and one of great importance, is not the solution to the fluency issue in Spain. Hiring native English speakers is a superficial project. The one-hour I spend playing BINGO or singing songs doesn’t change the fact that the system is flawed. Of course, the system works perfectly for me, or any of the other teachers who fall in love with the travel life and want a life of adventure, but it does little for the students. This is an ideal situation, even when there is no support from within the school and you just start singing “Wheels on the Bus” instead of having a real lesson planned. I get to live in Spain and work less then 30 hours a week. However, I have no idea what I am doing half the time.

Ok, that’s not entirely true. I do a great deal of prep work and store it in my brain for later. Even though I prefer off-the-cuff I need the cuff to be knowledgeable. I have to know the rules before I can improve an hour of class. This is how I manage my overthinking mind yet it took me a few weeks to get to this point. Perhaps, that is where this feeling of robbery comes to be, as if, I am getting away with something, because I play pretend as the charming and quirky teacher. Or maybe just faking it until I make it. Or some other platitude about being a first-year teacher.

Where is all of this coming from? I was faced with another fantasy, recently. One where a man would save me and I’d have a future very easily. And love, of course. The real deal born of immediate shock and surprise. This man forced some of my doubts to the surface and provided a valuable mirror. In him, I saw myself clearer than ever: not this wobbly doe fumbling through life but a curious wanderer who might land in one spot long enough to fall in love the right way. Not with the idea of a person but their entirety. My next adventure could be the type that grows roots. I say could because I have one foot out the door, because it hurts to open your heart after so long. The phantom pain pumping regret and sadness through the body. No matter how much I’ve grown and how much I’ve healed, my heart remains this fragile thing.

This is why I woke up feeling so good: my heart is open now. There is no reason to hide and fret and worry. I have faith that if I can open up, even a little, then nothing but love will flow in and out.


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