Thursday, July 13, 2006

An Ascetic's Struggle in Prague

I’m not ashamed that, somehow over the last twenty years, I’ve become a secular ascetic of sorts. It happened gradually, I first gave up smoking my senior year of college, then saturated fat for the sake of Jim’s heart. Most recently, I said bye-bye to alcohol, but I still cling caffeine, only reluctantly doing without that drug when I was pregnant. I exercise as much as I can, cook with olive oil, take vitamins, ok many vitamins and follow good sleep hygiene. Since I live on the East Coast and hang out in yoga classes, I haven’t felt like that much of a freak, or struggled with temptations.

I was too smug to think that just by bringing bottles of fish oil, a yoga mat and a list of vegetarian restaurants, that I could seamlessly integrate my lifestyle with the Prague Summer Program.

The first hint of trouble came when I e-mailed my next door neighbor’s son James, who has been living here for over ten years. Which, I asked him was the best vegetarian restaurant, and who was the best yoga teacher? James graciously reminded me that maybe I might think that Prague was a little more like home than it really was. It’s only been 17 years since the Communists left. I knew that, but realized that I probably did come off as an ass. Why were those things so important to me and why were they the very first things that I asked James when I got here?

Two people in my writing class read essays about living big, or not worrying about living forever. Die young and leave a beautiful corpse. I thought about this a lot the last time I was in Europe. It’s hard not to, when so many people smoke and seem to eat many more pastries than we do in the States. Plus, I’m married to a fatalist, so I’ve heard all this before, no need to quit smoking, I’ll die when I’m sixty anyway. Love them while they last these heathens.

I don’t live like this, because I want to live forever, God no. I just feel better, less muscle ache from yoga, clearer head with no hangovers, steady blood sugar from whole grains. So, why am I sliding? How is it that 20-year olds can convince me to hang out in the bar after our readings and drink beer until the bar closes? Why am I eating chocolate croissants with lattes made from real milk (no soy!). Will I still fit through the door into yoga class when I get home?

I’m not that much of a pushover, so here’s the thing, it’s fun to talk to other writers, and when I do I get filled up with ideas that last long into the next day, make it into my journal and keep me from feeling hungry all day long like I do at home. I may have to rethink my boring resolve and dump the judgments that I’ve had of others wasting their time talking in bars. Maybe when I get home I’ll go out more and have more fun.

I'd love to hear what you think about this too. Send in a comment. You can use the link below.


Jessica said...

Hi Kim,

In regard to your wonderings about giving in to a more hedonistic life-style (a rather restrained one, involving pastries and beer), I say: "Go for it! Enjoy every darn crumb! Lick your fingers clean and then order another beer!" Really, you know the whole drill of 'When in Rome, blah, blah...'. Now it's 'When in Prague...' and that involves mandatory consumption of cream pastries, real sugar, butter, meat and beer. By the way; do the Czech chicks strike you as having anything but fab bodies? I just saw a bunch of them in Provincetown and they all looked like super-models...

I suppose a lot of it is due to miles of daily walking/bike riding, not like here in the US where it would be nearly suicidal to attempt to bike ride to the Stop& Shop (even though the distance might be manageable).

Have you gone off to Budapest and/or Berlin yet?

I love to read your blog and it seems you're having a most interesting time. Let's go wild and go out for a drink and decadent dessert when you come back!

Happy and safe travels!


Anonymous said...

I have a huge smile on my face reading your posting. Not because I'm right and you're admitting it, but because you are such an admirable person, and I'm thrilled that this experience has been good for you in a whole variety of ways. I like having you for a suite mate. You're a rock, but in a good way. Greta

Anonymous said...

Kim...I think you did remarkably well not going too far off your normal lifestyle. I think it's a much better approach to let loose on vacation/trips and walk the line most of the year, than to let it all hang out most of the time-- with occasional stints of exercise/accidental vegetable ingestion. I've missed you, lady. :-) Your cross-country trip looks like it was amazing! I never got over my fear of blogging to actually publish my musings, but so grateful that you do. Hope to see you soon! All best, Kamilah