Dear Hattie,

Happy Anniversary? Who says that to their PT? Apparently, I do 🙂

I wanna thank you …

(Hmmm, most of my letters are thank you letters. Probably because I’m always grateful. Or actually I can always find something to be grateful for. Or someone.)

I do want to thank you for taking me on a journey to feeling better and stronger and more confident by going to the gym. Thank you for being my guide on this journey.

In the beginning, there was this 40+ year old woman who never touched a machine in a gym before, who never picked a dumbbell heavier than 2 kg, who went to the gym maybe four times in her entire life and only went on a treadmill, as it was the easiest thing to do, i.e. walk or run aimlessly until the magic number of 5K appeared.

When this latest stage of my fitness journey started (back in October 2021), I was finally in the end stages of recovery from a few blood clots that formed around my lungs the year before. A scan done in September confirmed that I am completely blood clot free, but the blood test still showed (and apparently always will) that I am more susceptible to having them in the future, compared to the rest of the world. Oh well, the Romanian tale of the salt boulder and all that (but that’s a story for another time).

So I said to myself … yes … what a wonderful world, but also that I should probably do something about those pesky three kg (or so) that I put on due to Covid lockdowns and blood clots over the past couple of years.

And while the weight loss wasn’t necessarily the main goal, it was definitely up there in the top three (#2 maybe?). Getting fitter / stronger, and doing something sustainable with the goal of reaping lifelong benefits might have been the main driver here.

BUT, as all women are crazy (and no matter how much or how little we weigh, we all want to lose weight or look a certain way), me too I wanted to lose weight. I disguised it as ‘fit comfortably in size 12 clothes again’, but basically I wanted to be again under a certain threshold in kg (easiest thing to measure, right?)

What I didn’t understand right away, and what I wish someone would have told me (or maybe they did, and I was just not listening?) is that you can’t have it all right away. You can’t have two goals at the same time and change just one thing (in my case, going to the gym once a week for a strength session with my PT). So here came my 6-month slump. Or wall. Or whatever you want to call it.

I was so upset that I didn’t see any results on the scale. I was so angry with the world because I didn’t see the results that I wanted but didn’t bother to share with my PT. I was so discouraged that I almost gave up thinking ‘what’s the point of all of this, since I don’t see results?’ There might even have been a tear or two. But, as always, I was lucky to be surrounded by wonderful friends and good listeners, who asked me the right questions so as to get me to the right answers. And it was simple. The first six months were about learning, perfecting the main lifts and the form, making sure I do them all correctly and safely, so I can build on that. Now, after having learnt all that, I was ready to do more and tag another habit on top of it, which was tracking, dialling down the number of calories ingested, while making sure I get the right amount of nutrients needed to sustain the increased level of physical activity. Because (another lightbulb moment!) exercise doesn’t work without nutrition.

Which brings me to macros. Hmmm, difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain. There are three of them: protein, carbohydrates and fat. And while carbs and fats can be stored in your body from one day to the next, proteins cannot. So you need to make sure you eat enough protein on a daily basis to sustain your goals. If you are a woman and your goals involve strenuous physical activity once or twice a week, I guess the rule of thumb is 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of bodyweight. (I know it’s confusing with both grams and pounds, but that’s pretty much accurate.) And, with the help of a nutritionist, I learnt what percentages are right for me (i.e. 35% protein, 30% carbs and 35% fats).

My overall fitness journey began a while ago. Maybe with those pretend Olympics that we used to play as kids when we were all gymnasts and got medals and prizes from my older sister. Maybe with stepping for the first time into a hot yoga studio more than 15 years ago. Maybe with doing the famous Vancouver 10k Sun Run a couple of times about ten years ago. Maybe with lockdowns and online classes of Barrecore and Pilates, with great teachers who became my friends. Or maybe all of them combined. Definitely all of them combined, as each experience taught me something new, something about my body and how flexible / resilient / aware / strong I am. Everything that I’ve done so far in my life, exercise-wise, fitness-related, has brought me here, has prepared me for this. So those were not wasted years, but preparation time. I always need to get used to the idea in my head first, then only after I am able to actually do it.

So, the question now is, what’s next? Where do I go from here? Do I cut down more on calories and refine the macros intake, so I can lose more weight? Do I strive for a personal best in deadlift (BTW, 14 kg above your own weight last week was pretty good, right?) Do I enter a competition? (Sorry, that will probably never happen, but I have learnt the hard way to never say never, so, you never know …) Do I focus on a different part of my body? Do I add pilates or hot yoga back into my routine? Or swimming?

I think the main goal remains the same: keep doing something sustainable that will bring me lifelong benefits. Whether this means doing 2 (or 3?) weight-lifting (is this the right name for it?) sessions in the gym every week, and doing one week a Barrecore session, and one week a (hot) yoga session, or something else that I haven’t yet figured out, it needs to be something doable, sustainable throughout the short days and dark and cold mornings/evenings in winter, and enjoyable in the summer, and something I can take with me when I travel. It will definitely be a combination of exercise and nutrition, as neither one works without the other. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I finally get it, I finally figured it out (and believe me, you need to figure it out on your own, no matter how many people tell you) that consistency is key. Sounds obvious and self-evident, but in some cases, it takes a whole year to get it.

I don’t want too much. I don’t want to dream too big. I don’t want to bite more than I can chew. If I will be able to consistently go to the gym a couple of times a week and do some other physical activity every week for the next six months (and beyond), then I’ll be happy. And the results will come. In the shape of a lower number when I step on a scale, or a higher number when I lift / push / pull something in the gym.

Dear huggers,

Can there be anything more harmonious than a hug? When two bodies come together for a hug, they each give up a little bit of themselves to the person they’re hugging, and receive in return a piece of that person back. The heads are in harmony, one to the left, one to the right. The arms are in harmony, some up, some down. The smiles are in harmony, both uplifting. And the breath and the heartbeat will come to be in harmony, if the hug is long enough. 

The only unharmonious thing about hugs is the end. There’s always someone who wants to linger a little longer, and someone who wants to pull out first. Which one are you?

Dear Rain,

I guess it takes one living in a tropical climate to appreciate you. Vancouver, to be precise. Where you visit almost on a daily basis for about nine months out of the year. 

And while you bring on umbrellas and wellies, and rainproof apparel, you also bring clean air and dark green living vegetation everywhere. And when in May you finally stop to show up on a daily basis, you bring beautifully coloured flowers that smell amazing.

I learnt how to love you, eventually.

Oh, hummingbird

One moment she’s here, then next she’s somewhere else

Now she’s frozen in mid-air

Then flying away

The most elegant of movements

Now you see her, now you don’t

Hummingbird and strelitzia flower

Both colourful, both aiming for the sky

One free, one connected to the earth but wishing to be free

Dance like Nobody’s Watching

Enough about this whole pleasing everybody. Enough of Instagram and the rest of social media. Enough of being so self-conscious that you can’t even enjoy being you anymore.

Allow yourself to be you. I said to my partner the other day that I am most me when I’m with him. And then we started dancing in the kitchen to some imaginary tune. And I thought to myself ‘Dance like nobody’s watching.’ But apparently he thought to himself ‘Sing like nobody’s listening.’ And the magic was gone. Sorry, babe, a singing voice you do not have. Let’s just stick to dancing, alright?

The Wonder of Your Being

It is the wonder of your being

That holds my heart.

 

It is the wonder of your being

That makes me smile.

 

It is the memory of your being

That carries me through my away-from-you days.

 

You being is a wonder,

Your being is a wonder,

Being yours is a wonder.

 

Two souls, apart, but coming together.

Two hearts, different, but connecting.

Two minds, curious, about each other.

Two bodies, intertwined, to make one.

 

The wonder of you,

And the fortitude of me having met you.

Dear mother,

When I was a child,

my mother told me,

Anca, don’t be afraid

to let go of my hand

and go play with other kids.

 

When I finished high-school,

my mother told me,

Anca, don’t be afraid

to leave your hometown

and find a life for you out there, not in here.

 

When I became an adult,

my mother told me,

Anca, don’t be afraid

to live your own life,

to carve your own path,

to build your own reality.

 

My mother always told me,

Anca, don’t be afraid.

 

Dear mother, I am finally unafraid.

 

My dear family,

I have been feeling very grateful lately. When I realised that, only this year alone, I have been (and sunbathed and swam) to ten different beaches across Europe. I proudly display a nice tan that I’m trying hard to maintain by either not showering on a daily basis or by lying in the sunny bits of my flat during the day, until sunset.

How fortunate am I to have had three different summer holidays, to have been to Portugal, Croatia and Greece this summer, to have join my sisters and their families there, and to have spent endless days of summer walking in the sand, swimming in the sea and eating gorgeous food? I am grateful for the love I keep finding in my sisters and my niece and nephews, the unconditional love when they come running to me when they first see me after a while. I am grateful that I can re-connect and re-integrate into the lives of my sisters so seamlessly every single time we see each other, even if it’s been a year. I am grateful that they want to spend time with me and make some sacrifices to be with me, come pick me up from weird airports (or bus or train stations) around Europe. I am grateful that I now live closer to them and I can afford to take a short flight to meet them somewhere in Europe. I am grateful that the novelty of seeing one another never wears off. I am grateful for all the long hugs and deep love I feel whenever we see each other. I am grateful for the calls and the messages and the photos. And most of all, the love.

I didn’t mean to count the beaches I’ve been to this year. It’s not the beaches. It’s the quantity and quality of love I receive when I’m around, especially after being away for so long. This year marked my 14th anniversary of being away from my home country, but the connection I have with my family there has never been stronger. It’s not the miles, it’s the feelings. And the feeling is definitely love.

While it’s difficult to say it in front of them, either when we first see each other after a long time, or when we say goodbye until next time, I do love each and every one of them deeply and cannot imagine my life without these wonderful connections that we call relatives. I am grateful for all of you and cannot wait to see you at Christmas, this time at home!

Love always,

Bambi

Dear Europe,

So, I’m back. Back home, sort of. Back to Europe after more than eleven years spent in Canada, half on the East coast in Montreal, and half on the West coast, in Vancouver. It gave me a very balanced view of Canada, I must admit.

But I am back to Europe now. For good or for a while, I don’t really know myself. I doubt that I will ever move back to Canada again, but then again, life has taught me a valuable lesson so far: never say never.

I came back to Europe because I missed the European culture, the short distances to travel to discover different people, different histories, different foods. I missed the 2-hour flights between my home and “home” (Sibiu).

My home base is currently London where I intend to spend some time and get to know this beautiful and vibrant city. I must find a job first, but before that, I must apply for that NIN special number that magically allows you to work and get paid in the UK. And then have a bank account to get paid into, which seems to be, so far, an insurmountable hurdle, due to missing proof of address for now. I did have some small victories along the way: the travel Oyster card, the library card, a UK mobile phone number, and a few replies to my frantic job searching efforts.

But dear Europe, you could have been a little bit more welcoming at Gatwick Airport (I had to drag my three suitcases by myself from one end of the airport to another, just because I didn’t have a coin to fit into the luggage carriers …). And dear London, you could also have been a little bit more welcoming and not stage an underground strike on exactly the day I was flying out to Sibiu. Welcome to Europe and to the possibility of a strike at any time!

Europe is diverse and different from one country to another, from one region to another. London is not the same in Harrow and Central London or Farnborough (some might argue that Farnborough is not even London). There are different people, different sorts of cars and roads and stores, but essentially, Europe has changed in the past decade and I am excited to start discovering it again. I will probably complain a bit about people driving on the wrong side of the road (yes, there is a reason for driving on the right side, because it’s the “right” side, no?), and also be a bit frustrated about learning (once again) new English words (such as pants and chips, which mean a completely different thing in England than in North America). I also might complain a bit about the high cost of living, although I should have been used to it by now, having lived in one of the most expensive cities in Canada for the past 5 years. Once I start work, I will probably complain a lot about spending hours in transit, because I won’t be able to afford living within walking distance from work anymore. And so many other things to complain about, like weather, and new coins to learn, and no friends close by, BUT, and this is the important part, I want to do this and I will put all my efforts into making it work somehow. I know that the pieces will eventually start to fall into place, one after another, maybe a job, then a few outings with colleagues, then becoming friends, then a bit of weekend travel to Amsterdam or Bruges, then a date in a museum or a bookstore, then a walk while it snows just in time for Christmas. And everything will come together nicely in this new life I’ve chosen for myself.

So, dear Europe, I am back home now. Be gentle and offer me all the opportunities I’ve dreamt about from the other side of the world. And let me enjoy it immensely.

As always, with love,

Anca

Dear Isabel and Katharine,

I guess your personality test was right. I’m INFJ – Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging. Apparently, we are known to be great listeners, big dreamers, and deep, complex people. As the rarest personality type, INFJs only make up less than 3% of the population. I like being special. Here are some of the signs of a classic INFJ with my own twist to it. My friends will recognize me in these descriptions, I’m certain.

1. I’m always in search of a deeper meaning. At work, in relationships, with friends, and interactions with strangers I’m continually looking at life and situations in an obscure way to discover what’s beyond the surface. I thought everybody did that. Silly me.

2. Although people have an easy time connecting with me, sometimes I can be a difficult person to really know. I value my privacy and often feel like I can only be my “true self” around those closest to me. That’s why, throughout my life, I’ve always chosen best friends to confide in. It’s a very select club. Again, I thought everybody had that.

3. I’m a highly empathetic and sensitive person with an innate ability to understand what people are going through. My care and concern for others is always genuine and I feel deeply for others. Yes, empathy has always been a characteristic of mine.

4. I find it easy to connect with others and exhibit both introvert and extrovert qualities. I love meeting and interacting with other people and at times I can be the life of the party, but eventually I have to go home and recharge. I like both being with people and being with myself.

5. Even beyond high school or college, I still enjoy learning, particularly about society, other cultures, languages, people, literature, and art. I’m always excited to learn something new and find my interests are expanding as I’m getting older. I guess I’m a traveler at heart.

6. I strive for the ideal in every aspect of my life. But my ideal could be different that most people’s. I have very strong opinions and I am driven by my values. I will absolutely fight for what I believe in.

7. I’m a complex person but at the same time I also tend to live a very simple life. It really doesn’t take very much to make me feel happy and content with my life. Those who know me can vouch to that. I see things on a larger scale and put more emphasis on my relationships with friends and loved ones over possessions or money.

8. I have a strong sense of idealism but I’m not simply just another dreamer. I realize and understand my goals can have a lasting impact and so I take the necessary steps to make my dreams happen. My dreams can be crazy, but they are dreams nonetheless.

9. The true measure of success to me is based on the condition of my relationships with others and my own level of accomplishment.

10. My insight is one of my greatest assets and it regularly helps me solve problems. I notice the small details most people seem to overlook. By being able to find patterns and meanings in the world around me, I’m able to look at a problem in a number of ways and generate various possibilities. I guess that’s why I chose to do what I do.

11. I find joy and fulfillment out of expressing myself through the arts. I have a talent for language and writing. Self-expression helps me release everything that’s going on in my head. This blog is the proof of that.

So I guess I just wanted to say thank you for putting together such an accurate personality test and helping me getting to know myself a bit better.