Equilibrium- A Love Letter to France and the US

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For the past few years, I’ve spent almost as much time in France as in the US, and abroad in general as in the US.
My first real job, and apartment, was in France. There are some French things that just feel like home to me, and some customs and values that seem like common sense- even when they go against my own habits, like the French desire to know where their food comes from.

For years, I have felt torn between here and there, between my seemingly American, Anglo-Saxon, Anglophoney self and that of the person I’ve become when I’m in France, when I’m speaking in French, when my inhabitions are lowered by being a foreigner and I have the freedom of being an outsider, though at times constricted when I operate under other social codes and listen to rules that don’t exist for Americans in America. Overall, the experience of living abroad has been freeing- perhaps living well anywhere is freeing- and I feel simultaneously more American and more open/international/European though I haven’t really adopted French attitudes.

In the US, all my feelings of awkwardness as a child and more can come to the surface when people don’t know the movies I like or appreciate the music I sometimes listen to, and having lived abroad can only exarcerbate that. Yet there are times I feel nothing more or less than sheer love and not quite blind but truly fierce devotion to my homeland. Even the moments when what home means and more importantly, where it really is for me,has been called into question.

I always felt like I had to choose- America or French- that in order to move forward, I’d have to give something, and somebody, up.

But the truth is that hey complete each other.

We are not living in a bipolar world where it’s the US vs the Soviet Union in the final clash of civilizations. We live in a world where more than one thing can be true, but not at the same time.
And more certain that that, you can’t always have two things that seem mutually opposing at the same time, and yet all those categories of here/there, us/them, foreign/home, and America/France just get knocked around a lot like the broken shards of bottles that carried messages which have now been hammered into smooth sea glass.

The moon may seem to be overpowered by the sun, and we may think we can live without it, but who are we to live without the tides. And the stars, invisible during the day, only endear the moon and its night even more to us, not to mention how she changes. And yet the sun is technically what gives us life and brings growth to the world.

For me, America and France, while I can’t quite live in them both at the same time, exactly, are a both/and for me, not usually an either/or. I do fully believe that when the moment comes to return to France I will, no mater how many years it may have been since my last stay or what might have happened. And yet, I believe France is not always going to be my literal home, and there are times I feel pulled to the US. And there are times I admit the reasons for my pull to France, as o the US, are idiotic and childish, bu I have no doub I am right where I need to be, and I will end up wherever I need to be.
So finally, I have an answer to the question the soul has been askning itself for quite some time now, or erhaps it was my mind who prompted my soul.
In all events, I feel better about it now.

With courage, I hvae no doubt I will end up where I need to be, my cup will be filled, and lov eis all I will ever be able ot take back with me.

Namaste,
MJ

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How do I,
Why do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.

I love you because you listen
I love you even when your life is too loud,
And you can’t spare a moment to hear me speak.

I love you, even when you ignore me.
I love you, when you don’t have the words to say you understand.

I love you when you’re my friend
I love you when you’re my heart’s desire.
I love you when all I can think about is your flesh next to mine-
Just your flesh,
Not even the metaphor of all you are to me.

I love you though you’re not mine
I love you because there are no guarantees.
I love you because love is worth it.

I love you because this road is worth following,
Even when I can’t see the end.

I love you because someday
I’ll give you all my poems, in a box,
And say, take your time.

I’ll love you whether you are mine or not.
And I love you because you always are and have always been.

I love you like I love the mountains or trees
Things that can fall, or perish so long after me.

You’re like the sky, and I’m a dot, a bird.
And sometimes I am the ocean and you are a fish.

I love you because we count the same stars
I love you because we listen to the same music.

I love you because
You’re my hero
Even when you don’t save me.

I love you because my love is perfect
Because you are not.

I love you because you’re real and this is my real life-
I love you because you’re a person
I love you because you’re not my fantasy
You’re my dream come true, and much more.

I love you because
Even though I don’t know
If you will ever love me-
If you can ever have me, the way that I want,
If our paths will cross in the right direction-
I love you because you love me,
And I love you with all that’s real, and blessed, and true and free.

My Moveable Feast: The Gifts of France

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Paris ne vaut rien,
Mais rien ne vaut Paris
Postcard
Paris is worth nothing,
But nothing is worth Paris.

I think that postcard I found strolling on Montmartre today pretty much sums up everything I have learned about life.

Coming to France was always a second choice- it was never a priority. I came here first as an English teacher, and was suitably humbled to find that a minor odd job teaching English a few hours a day, doing something pretty much anybody could do, was an incredible experience. not only did I get a chance to share my culture and really learn another language, but I also got to see the world on a budget and do things I never really imagined.

I thought I’d be in Washington, DC building a career in politics. As it happened, I applied for an MBA and at the moment, am working in marketing. Same difference.

I fell so in love with Paris, or so I thought, that I became depressed and disenchanted with everything and could only think of moving back, thinking it was a huge mistake that I didn’t just stay after my study abroad, that I should throw all caution and other ambitions I had to the wind and just get on a plane and go back, that everyhing I was doing in my life was wrong. And eventually, realizing that I needed to make money and getting a visa to come to France wouldn’t be easy, I realized I might have to put my dream of living and working in France- Paris, actually- on hold. At least till I could get some marketable skills and money saved up.

More or less at the moment I opened up to life, life opened up to me.

I met a woman based in New York who introduced me to her counterpart in Paris, and here I am. And all the additional travels, the fact of finishing my mBA, are what made it possible.

After much paperwork and hassle and omnishambles and mroe than three months delay, I made it back to Paris, took up my maid’s quarters, realized the company I had been hired to work at was less than I had thought it was despite having a stellar reputation, and that my old flame would not be renewed . It was hard to get a bank account due to new regulations for Americans making money abroad, and with that the internet, phone, gym, etc.

At work and in my own personal life, I realized why the economy was growing at less than 1% per year and why so many French intellectuals claim their patrie’s (homeland) glory days are gone.

And I realized it myself, that so many come to Paris for her romantic past and the memories of Louis XVI, the Moulin Rouge, and Jean Paul Sartre, while French people today dream of Silicon Valley and New York.

Yet Paris remains an important center of Europe, the gateway and hub of Francophonie, and an eternal sort of city that’s stood for over a thousand years and is likely to keep on proudly standing for another three thousand more.

I thought Paris might be the place I’d start my life- and by start, I mean take root for a few years, or several, indefinitely. While obviously that’s up to God, I find myself a bit less than eager. At one point I thought I’d go home, but knowing I’ve made a commitment to stay, and that I have a unique opportunity, I will finish out my pilgrimage.

To what? The decline of a once decadent empire? Une vielle ruine enchanteresse? Homage to great lights now gone on to Elysian Fields au-dela des Champs Elysees? Or maybe, just another way of living, of thinking, of being Western than the now-dominant Anglo-American tradition to which I belong- to the most beautiful country in the world.

What has France given me?
A new language- a new way of understanding myself and how I think- not only a new world of people to communicate with, but consciousness of what it means to communicate
The opportunity to teach- and therefore to really learn and reflect on my own language, culture, civilization, and to be of service to others, to be their light and so be healed myself- an inestimable gift
Wonder at everyday marvels, curiousity in the little miracles, appreciation for the things I know not and the thousand things to learn that every day surround me
And love, not only of a person, but a country, and an understanding of what it means to love and to let go.

If I knew I would live in Paris forever, or to live anywhere forever, I might become as bored and fickle as a Greek god. But knowing how easily and how quickly my stay is wont to end, I can appreciate the good and be less righteously indignant about the bad.

France has become a part of myself, for the better.
What greater gift could I ask?

Amities,
MJ

To the One I Love

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The only thing,
That could tear me apart
Into a million more pieces,
Than my love for you-
would be your love for me.

I love you
Like a child adores a distant star
My most intimate companion
Your sweetest admirer.
If only you could come down and play with me.
You feel so near-
Your light shines upon my face,
and I am wholly renewed.

I was a virgin when I met you-
Though I’d known and loved before.
No one can make me feel the way you do.
When you came to me,
You destroyed my world,
And when you left,
Seeds grew in the ashes.

Dear love,
I do not know what I am asking for,
I do not know if when the hurricane comes to stay
It becomes only a gentle breeze,
And the ocean of my love
Could shrink to a babbling brook.

I don’t know how many more worlds you will destroy
Or what world we could create.
I don’t know what will be left of me
If you make me yours.
Certainly, I will not be as I am now.
Doubtless, like the ground when the rain falls upon it,
Tiny shards will pierce my body when the green grass grows.

And when you love me,
With your soft kisses and your tender hands,
The sword you thought you gave up,
That fell from its buckle about your waist
Will cut me apart,
And I will die, leaving this world for heaven,
Returning only for the ecstasy of your embrace,
Transformed- no longer my self.

But dearest, what is life without you?
A ripe vineyard concealing a barren wasteland,
So thirsty despite the wine flowing freely.

To be with you, to leave the richness of my father’s house
To give up the freedom of a maiden,
To know however gentle a man you might be
However much consumed by love for me-
By accepting your love, you will become my master?

And yet to stay, is to partake in a feast with no appetite
To own all the beauty of the world,
With no one to share it with-
No one whose eyes are my eyes,
Whose heart, shared, beats in my breast?

The truth is, when you love me,
you set me free from all the opposites,
You break and liberate every rules,
Until there is nothing left but the fullness of me,
The wholeness
Until there is nothing left but everything and nothing,
and you and I,
And the goodness of it all.

The Maiden and the Beast

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As a beast,
Like a tempest rages through the dark forest
As blood drips from his mouth and from his flesh-shredding claws
Seeks satisfaction
Fruitlessly
From his aggression-
Corpes shrewn about, trees trampled in his anger.

So I too, stagnate
In my peace and innocence
I long to heal, to save
My tenderness stifles
like a river flooding the plain
Or worse, the grove within my soul of surpassing beauty
Timeless, ever spring, unchanging.

O come find me, wretched,
I wait for you, with a virgin’s unpracticed patience
Not knowing the joy you will bring me,
When you surrender to my innocence
And lay your head upon my lap.

I am so complete, so perfect
Dead despite my eternal youth-
What of my beauty, without your eyes to look upon it,
Even if, when you make me flower,
My body begins its decay?

I long to heal, to save you
But it’s I who crave you-
Your barely concealed violence,
The way you restrain yourself from tearing me apart,
The way your tenderness exceeds your aggression
As an ocean is greater than the sea
Just the thought of your sweets cuts into my soul.

Are you looking for me too-
My crazed, tormented monster?
I know you exist as I know
Light follows dark, rivers flow into the sea-
If you are afraid, my love,
Know that you could never love more than me.

La Belle et la Bete

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Does he know,
Trampling everything in his path
Making his way through the dark forest,
That she is waiting for him,
Longing overflowing her soul?

As his violence gives him no peace,
As his brutality leaves him torn,
As he destroys, leaving blood and fear in his wake,
Does he know how his power excites her?

She waits,
Wrapped in piety like a white cloak,
Innocent,
Without guile or subterfuge,
A cloud waiting for thunder and lightning,
So she can bestow her blessing,
Hurtling hopelessly beyond control,
Her ecstasy of the storm setting her free.

Does he know,
How she longs for the light of his spark
In her ancient and timeless (deep and ancient) darkness,
To set her life/time/her world in motion?

She waits for him,
Pure trust that the wild beast won’t savage
Childlike, innnocent knowing he means no harm
Hoping only that he will see, reflected in her eyes,
The beauty within.

And then he will rest his head on her lap-
She’ll stroke his thick coat of surprising softness,
She’ll look into eyes that have caused terror and feel nothing but peace.

His gentleness will excite her,
The way his glistening fangs, so sharp, only graze her skin
As he licks her hand like a puppy.
The way he contains the agression that destroyed worlds and broke so many hearts,
To love her
To treat her with tenderness
To soothe her in her lack of understanding
Like a mother comforting a child.

And so she waits,
Weeping for his pain and her own,
Knowing her complement is roaming the world without her,
Sensing his existence as sure as her own being,
Feeling the hole in her heart as she waits for him.

Does he know,
The pain of his absence?
Could he guess
The power of the maiden’s love?
When he comes,
Who will she become?

L-O-V-E, Fat, and Paris in the Spring

So love wasn’t waiting for me in Paris, at least not in the way that I hoped, but love actually is all around. But first I have to find it within me.

For my whole life, I have found a feeling of self worth only through a feeling of competition with others and with myself. I have vacillated between trying to accomplish everything, halfassing things and derogating the competition but still buying into it, and basically being a slave to results and the ideal of self-perfection. Whether I gave it my 100%, 80% or 20%, I still believed I was defined only by what I accomplished.

I have rarely, if ever, found validation of any kind within myself. Even as I have had a impressive life on the outside, I’ve never really felt like I was enough on the inside.

I never valued myself for the effort, I never saw or cared for who it was tha was making the numbers go in the direction that I wanted, the being that toiled and struggled and dramatized everything, the voice in my head that didn’t just berate me when I didn’t attain the goal but rather gave some strange sense to the things that I did.

And finally, that is changing. In the midst of what is among my seemingly greatest triumphs, finding a job in Paris and finishing an MBA by the age of 25, I realize that I had it totally wrong. Accomplishing things does feel nice, and it is important- but it’s not everything. And the process, instead of just being a never ending torturous quest for somethign that doesn’t exist (perfection), I can just be happy with what I am now. I can accept, and move forward with love. Because self-flagellation eventually stops losing its effectively when the sting just becomes so routine and you begin to see the emptiness of it.

And the fullness of life, and the beautiful gift you’ve been given to be nothing but yourself.
Not an ideal, but you.

I don’t think I ever would have found this solid center of gravity, equilibrium of active and passive force within myself, if not for the excess weight I gained due to excess eating due to excess self-imposed stress.
I thought I was miserable in business school because I didn’t like busienss, it wasn’t idealistic enough, I would never fit in with my colleagues, and I was just doing the wrong thing- even if it seemed like the best choice I had, I still felt like I should be doing something different and more and if only I had made a different choice somewhere along the road, I’d be happy.
And now I realize that was all bullshit- at least 95%.
My feelings deserved to be heard, but they were dead fucking wrong.

Because I had gained weight, and kept gaining weight, and couldn’ seem to control myself- or the world around me, or where I would find a place in it- I eventually turned to CrossFit.

And I loved it. I haven’t lost a ton of weight or ton of inches (yet), bu tth eresults on the inside are amazing, and I truly do feel better thna I ever did ebefore.
For the first time, I see the previously tortured, now radiant soul, who is struggling to do her workout, and I appreciate her and her efforts. I know she is more than her personal best that day- I know she is so much more than a score. She has heart, she has guts,. She is funny, has a brain, and is a great workout partner.
I am proud to be this person.

And I am so blessed to have met people who saw this person, instead of what my distorted brain always saw: a fat, lazy, single, desperae schmuck who could’ even do a pushup, the lowest of he low.

Oher people just saw me, and that I showed up.

And eventually i started to see myself in that way too, and was happy witht he person who showed up.

Now I do hope to release he exra load I’m carrying around- both mental and physical. I has taught me is lesson.

Yes, being fat helped me find myself worth. Achieving my life’s most obsessive dream so far made me realize that achievement isn’ everything and getting what you wan is not the most important thing for happiness.

Liking yourself is.

So as I walk around Paris in the spring, loverless, a size 16W, I hear in my head the L-O-V-E song, and it’s the song I am singing for myself.

For the beautiful eyes that behold the flowers,
For the feet that jus keep walking,
And for the beautiful soul who can appreciate the beauty, and what’s more, inspire it in others at times.

I love you too.

Namaste,
MJ

On Love, first month in Paris

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I thought love or at least a variant of it might be waiting for me here in Paris.
I thought I moving away from it as well.

I had a mec when I was here as a student a year ago, known on my blog as Y. I met him, one night out with friends when I determined to let go of someone else, the someone I was afraid of moving away from this time around (too).
A stranger in the night became a lot more than that. He was the first person I was really intimate with, on a daily basis, in years, who asked me how my day was. With whom making love was a routine like wrapping oneself in a comforable blanket.
But who didn’t quite inflame my soul or ever capture my closest confidence either. No matter how many times I tried to open to it, no matter how much I tried to stretch my mind around the fact that maybe it didn’t matter that we didn’t share a mother tongue or religion, that it was ok that he just just like a leaf on the wind and a happy camper while I am more of a thoughtful philoospher who more than occassionally goes wild. And he never really let me in, either. No part of me ever thought he was the One.
But I loved him.
And so we kept in touch, for about a year. Then I got the job, and somehow I made less effort, got a little disillusioned, he didn’t call when he said he would and I didn’t care as much as I would have in the past. and I didn’t even let him know really when I was coming, and wasn’t in such a rush o let him know I’d got here until I got other things in order.
Nd I was basically in love with someone else, the someone I tried to forget or at least let go of when I met him.

So basically me and Y played phone tag for a week. Then I tagged him last and he didn’t call back for like a week. Then I just got tired of it and wasn’t even sure if I wanted to see him (I got to see him last June after my departure last December and things were awkward even though I wanted so much to love him and to beleive he loved me). So I sent an eamil basically saying thank you for the good times, I know we aren’t right for each other, but if you still want to meet I’m down. Haven’t heard anything, and I lost my phone like the day after sending it. Maybe that was a sign to stop me from calling him.

And as for C, my love, who just isn’t ready for me yet and has two serious relationships in the past year and sometimes he loves me and tells me his deepest darkest secret but then we go for a while without talking and I feel like he doesn’t care and then we talk again and I know he always cared he just didn’t want to hurt me because he couldn’t give Me what I wsnted . But I still love him he’s m’jy intimate friend and three years without seeing it haven’t changed that. I sent him two emails and he hasn’t responded so I’m worried but I want to give hum a chance and the benefit if the doubt and ill soon have internet and free calling to the us at my apartment so life will be easier
and where is he now but DC where my journey began.
And where I want to see the cherry blossoms myself and probably live there some day. Its my first city love and I’ve only been there as an intern. I always thought I
d end up there and it was where io belonged but the idea if spending my whole life long therr seemed boring too.
I think I might be coming to a point where io want to travel a lot but not always live abroad.

And I hope someday chris and I will have a chance. Because I think wed hit it out of the park and I’ve never felt like this about anybody else.

Would that mean im ready to live for a year in paris without romance? Idk but I’m not ready to be in a relationship with him either.. so yeah
And I’m so afraid we will fall out of touch again but he did get in contact with me first pretty much si idk .
I think this is at least a big part if what love us and u hope thfeeling shared
I feel like I’m taking a leao off a building unkniwn nit just with Chris but with;the the whole paris thing

And the truth is that finally I love myself and paris is my gift.
It doesn’t have to have a reason or make sense to anyone else .
It doesn’t have to be forever to be true love .

But dear God, I hope I find a love that lasts forevef to love and be loved
to be true and beautiful and good
I’ll wait here planting my own garden and decorating my own soul

Until someone does to me what spring does to cherry trees

L’Arrivée: On my first 26 days In Paris

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So I made it to Paris. For a very real job, a corporate job, to live and work in the city of my dreams.
After much struggle and hardship, loss of hope, self doubt, questioning, and a pretty good sum of money.

But I made it.
The people at my office are great, one of my best friends lives across the hall from me, and things are coming together bit by bit.
My renovated maid’s quarters room is getting homier and homier, no matter how small, and the administrative bs that is not atypical of France is coming together- I have a bank account (Hallelujah- it wasn’t as easy as one would have thought or as it was in the past), a first paycheck, I have a phone, a monthly metro pass, a gym membership, and soon I’ll have internet in my apartment. Tomorrow!

It wasn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

One obstacle I didn’t expect was the homesickness and longing for my own country and my first ity love, Washington, DC. WOrking in France in a business setting is not like teaching ENglish or going to school here. I have to say, based off what I’ve seen, I am not shocked that France seems to be steadily slipping from its former grandeur and its economy is lucky to grow by 1% per year. Went to a poetry reading at the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, once frequented by Hemingway, TS Eliot, and other famous expats, and the lead presenter read a poem about the decline of Europe. As I am struck by the beauty and majesty of every corner, the gorgeous Boulevards Haussman, the generously scattered monuments, scupltures, gardens, and other sumptuous works, and the advertisements in the metro recall to me the cultural treasures that are so lavishly available here with every one of my trajectories though the attractive and convenient metro, I sometimes have the strange sentiment of living in a working museum. That I am here not to much for what is going on now but what has happened.
On the other hand, France continues to be the center of la Francophonie. Immigrants throng from all corners of the world that France once conquered and many places where it did not. It is one of the most important cities in EUrope, and despite the economic malaise, this more than 1000 year old city and long time center of the world knows that it will last, it is not going anywhere any time soon. But the signs that it is going forward- like a friend of mine’s startup- are not always so evident. France seems to be taking on the persona of a first world, first class, but somehow second rate country, content to see to the welfare of its citizens and the continuation of its heritage but no longer a place that pushes the borders of its civilization. A fashionable brand that was once among the world’s greatest of empires. And is caught fighting the battles of right vs left, socialist vs slightly less socialist, and above all, the old guard of the white, Catholic, franco-francais heritage of France versus its multicultural future with Muslim Maghrebins of the former colonies providing the population as well as the energy of the future.

If France could combine its various flavors like the US does in the giant melting pot, or to use a more integrationist metaphor, salad bowl, it would be among the richest and most dynamic of countries. French may be to some of my Maghrebin friends the langue du colonisateur but at the same time, there is a truly global community of people who not only speak French, but also to an extent, whether they want to admit it or not, also think to some extent like the French, or at least use the same metaphors-which are not common to the Anglo Saxon part of the Western world. THe ideals of laicite (more or less, secularism) and solidarity are among those idioms that I don’t really think we have an equivalent to. I asked my friend the French entrepreneur, a great admirer of Steve Jobs by the way, how France managed to conquer more or less half the world and administrate a global empire, when I see all the seeming bureaucratie and taxes and hierarchy and everything else weighing French corporate life down today. He said, that was in the king times when only one person took a decision and everyone else just followed. A colleague of mine agree that when the boss is away, everything goes to shit.

There’s a lot I still don’t understand despite my years of study and immersion in French culture, which is very latin. There are certain social codes that I don’t understand operating because no equivalent exists in American culture, like the grammar rules that govern the more complicated, and some would say rich, French language. It’s hard to understand when to use the subjunctive when it just doesn’t exist, or at least no one thinks of it as such, in your mother tongue. Before I leap to any conclusions or go to far in propagating my current impressions, which are of course likely to change, it should be well noted that there’s so much I just don’t understand.
And just as I lament the lack of integration in France, of course I see a mixed race couple sitting next to me at MacDonald’s where I am hogging the internet with their adorable children.

But sadly, while every culture is ethnocentric, I think that in France it is a bit more apparent. That kind of pride, or arrogance and attachment to certain ways of doing things, is just part of French culture and perhaps just Latin cultures in general. The hierarchy, the centralisation, le cadre of acceptable behavior and difficulty understanding the others just don’t understand. That the box you have been taught to think inside is just a convient fiction, and your social codes, however important to you, are just constructed and aren’t real for some people.

I think the best example of the problems facing France is the school system. At a young age, around 13, children have to choose essentially between going to college or learning a trade. It is very difficult to change tracks and causes you to have to repeat years of school. Same thing if, once you have chosen a “major” rather a sort of diploma in either college prep high school or vocational high school, you have to repeat. People are put into their boxes very early.
ANd diplomas exist for extremely specific jobs, and without having the right sort of diploma you are obliged to go back to school and start from scratch more or less. Groundskeeping and retail merchandising come to mind. So the workforce isn’t very flexible, even before you factor in the laws that make it difficult to fire people, which also make employers reluctant to hire people, and the risk averse mentality that keeps people in their safe jobs rather than looking for something better. In France, insurance is mandatory for many things, and available for nearly everything.
For those who go on to university, there is a very rigid testing system that determines who goes to which school. And getting into a top school effectively guarantees and certain salary and good jobs for the rest of your life. Some jobs explicitly advertise for only graduates of top schools. Though school is a lot less expensive, it’s not easy to get loans, so for the top schools that are, by French standards, “expensive” they are a lot less accessible. Also, the preparation courses for the tests can cost around $20000 per year, so the meritocratic system of testing definitely doesn’t help out the poor. I have even heard that some material on the tests can’t be learned in school and without going to a preparatory course, you could be the best in your class yet fail to get admitted to a top school.
And the elite of France are chosen from the people that do best on a test, because they are clever and/or their parents had the means to pay. Which effectively came from succeeding on the same tests. So it comes out that if your parent went to one of the top schools, you are about 90% likely to go as well. It is an elite that reproduces itself without much challenge, though school is free and the masses have access to social protections that Americans can only dream of.
It seems that life is more forgiving though, with great unemployment insurance and many social protections if worse comes to worse. Yet these guarantees exist because people are in such need of them, in my opinion due to the inflexibility of the system, because it is normal for it to take 2 years to find a job.
There are many things I admire in France. THe beauty most of all. The publi gardens, the historical artifacts, the courteosy and culture that come from the remnants of aristrocracy. I dig so many affects of the system even as the ideals that created them couldn’t possibly be at greater odds with my own. A strange dillemma.
It took all of my American “any dream can come true,” belief to get me here, yet that belief is definitely not in evidence here. I appreciate the scenery, much as I haven’t adopted the beleifs of the natives- if anything, my Americanness and classical liberalism have only gotten stronger. yet I find so much happiness here, if only because there is something new to learn every day and the challenge of language and bridging cultural difference. An outsider by choice, a visitor, a long stay tourist who feels a frisson of familiarity and loves doing my grocery shopping here even as I don’t acknowledge France as my true home.
And so many of the great people I have met have been other outisders, or French but not Parisian, and we make a community of people who don’t quite fit the social order.
Enjoying the food, the architecture, the joie de vivre. The language, the travel, the culture.
yet not really adopting it. Finding a freedom in being a stranger unlike any I have ever known, much as the Europeans who came to the New World must have felt in imagining their new communities.

I think I will go back and face “reality” as I have constructed it, knowing that when I come back even stronger and stranger than before, France will welcome me, my second home.

There’s Nowhere To Go

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I’m about to leave. It’s a very exciting time, one that feels triumphant, nostalgic, hopeful, and also has an eye to the future. Wondering when I’ll come back exactly.
I love France. I’m about to go live there, again, and this time work as a professional. My contract is for a year, and so far I think there’s every indication it may well be renewed. I could perhaps stay in France indefinitely, and yet…
I am, as always, just about settled in to where I am now just as it’s time to leave. Time to leave the beginnings of a routine and the newfound feeling of community and being well-adjusted to my circumstances to start a new adventure. One that I have desired more than so many other things, one that I thought was the only key to my happiness.
I know now I was wrong. Paris was not the only thing in the world that could make me happy- many other things have. And yet, I do think that gaining the opportunity to come, and to live there and may be even decide to reside there for a long time, is part of my Personal Legend.
Yet even before I leave, I realize: there’s no where to go.
I am always with myself. France is an awesome backdrop, but ultimately it’s me who decides whether I will be happy or not. Environment is a huge key, and there are certain adventures in France I couldn’t have in the US. There are so many cities I’ve never visited that call out to me, so many sites to see, and a way of life and thinking and beautiful language that resonate deep in my soul…and yet–
What am I really looking for? A long vacation? An experience? Yes.
But what is my heart screaming for, bursting for, making its will known so loud and clear, even though it just faintly whispers? I feel it, whether I dare to name it or not.
The feeling is not an emptiness, it’s not a lack. But it is a profound realization of the limitations of my independence, of just how much I can’t do alone just as I am about to go on another independent, heroic, leavetaking and adventure.
My heart screams for love.
For that one force which would make me less than entirely self sufficient. For the thing that makes even castles seem dry, and which makes the pyramids crumble into dust. A proud civilization, a long and mighty tradition- me, myself, and I- just gone, in a heartbeat.
But I have to go to France, where love may or may not find me, I have to be alone- to experience where love is not. I have to miss him, so that I’ll know when I’ve found his hand to hold. I have to miss him this much, because so much will be required of me.
Love.
Paris, pyramids, castles in Prague- they are empty without love. I will tremble in wonder, my soul will thrill to the subtlety and grandeur of existence, my heart will ache with the mystery and romance of the past, of the lands yet to be explored. And yet-
Even though I’m the most kick butt independent woman in the world, the ambitious MBA, the lone explorer, the solitary wanderer- I realize the kingdom I most yearn for is not my own, but to find someone’s to share.
A lover and best friend I can’t hide from.
A fellow wanderer, conspirator, conqueror, adventurer, hero-
I am Penelope, waiting for Odyseus by the loom, except that the tales that I spin are my own, the yarns are dyed with the richness of my first-hand experience. And I am also Odyseus, circling the world, in search of his love, yet carried away by adventures beyond his understanding or control, and always missing her in spite of them.
Love requires absence, it means that there is someone you are missing in spite of it all.
So much to see, and all I want is someone to share it with.
And sometimes, secretly, I just want to retire, not to the suburbs, but to the warmth of his gaze, and sit on his knee, and watch our favorite tv show in the evening, to rise in the morning to go sit in an office and do work for a while, and then come home to do it again. Maybe I’ll read a French novel while he watches baseball, but still-
Wherever you go, there you are.
I’m so afraid to give up the world for my love, to give up my independence, and to lose my attitude of nonchalance, but I hope that in finding love, I will find a whole new world, a companion, the most loyal and sweet of friends, and someone to enjoy throughout it all.
Wherever you go, there you are, and that’s just what I feel right now.

So there’s nowhere to go, where I can escape myself, my real feelings. There’s no excitement so profound, no deed so mighty, nothing that can be consumed that can compare to the genuine adventure of love.
The adventure you can’t just buy a plane ticket for, that sweet subtle confluence of time, place, person, and that moment in two people’s lives when they are ready to say, YES, to something other than themselves, something other than the beauty of this bright blue world, something sweeter, and more gentle than they’ve ever known. Something that is the complement of this subtle sadness, these fatigued arms stretched wide to embrace, this heart that says, where are you?
I don’t need a man to make me happy. I don’t want a man, or a boyfriend, or even simply a husband. I want LOVE.
And there’s nowhere to go to find it, no place it can manifest but here, and no time it can be found than NOW.

Wherever you go there you are.

Each adventure leads me home.-anon.

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