Life is Full of Choices

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So in the past week I have been contemplating my choices really (mostly whether, and how long to stay in France, if I should look for a new job here, go back to DC, where can I find true love, is this it?)-everything seems tied in to whether to go home or stay here or where is home, who am I who do I want to become,  etc, really hard. Possibly too hard. On deep level, I am afraid and anxious, not sure what will make me happy, not sure what’s the right thing to do, what I want to do, if my paradigm of the world works at all, and most of all, which mistakes I am willing to make.

And when one is motivated by existential sorts of things, that means nothing is straightforward. If I wanted to maximize my career, optimize for more time with my family, or for anything else, it would be simple.

Also, every time I come to France, i feel like it’s the last time. Or at least I enjoy it more when I think that way. When I think of it as my potential future and the wagon I have hitched my life to, then it becomes easy to despair, not only become homesick but become totally disgusted with everything here, and long for salvation in some other way.

TO be honest, I think it’s correct, as well as somewhat cutting, to admit that, as my mother mentioned once, I’ve never really been normal in America, so she understands why it would be freeing to go elsewhere where by default I would not be judged by normal standards. It is completely true. It’s also completely true that by being in France and not obeying anyon’e s social rules, I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin and feel more affinity with people at home, who in the past I might have felt separated from. I’ve never felt more American than I do now, or proud of my country to be honest, though that doesn’t stop me from being critical.

I’ve created this false dichotomy in my head that America=relationship/social happiness- family, hotter dudes, and easier to make friends, and nicer people. also better career prospects quite posisbly, more $$$, stability since I have the birthright to live there, expressing myself in my native tongue with all the witticisms you’ve come to enjoy from me,  and you know, not being a foreigner. Though I might feel like a foreigner after all the time I’ve spent here. And France= curiosity, exploration, freedom, isolation, travel, beauty, vacation, stagnation, speaking French, the language of my heart,  iffy on the career side, and nothing will ever be stable. Sometimes I feel like France, and living abroad, can be a kind of Neverland, and a permanent vacation, since there are no roots, and you know you could go back anytime. but like Hotel California, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. And everything remains kind of surreal, in limbo, or stagnation. I’ve met too many expats, especially Americans, who are just not well adjusted, period. Not least because all the ambitious people of the world, particularly the English speaking world, flock to New York, London, LA…

Another complicating factor is “the one that got away.” Albeit that of course, he got away for a reason. We are forever friends, and somehow no matter how friendzoned, always on the verge of love. Haven’t seen him for more than three years, but every time we talk it was like yesterday. I know if he really wanted me, he would find a way to be with me. But I also know true love waits, and he wants what is best for me (and himself). I feel like I would probably never get to live in France again if I were with him, we might go to another country but it probably wouldn’t be France. And if I did do France with him, it would be so different because he doesn’t speak French at all. And it goes without saying, there goes my chance of marrying into a bourgeois, well-educated, openminded, well-mannered French family, like those of some of my good friends, who have incredibly charming homes and despite being ssooo French, are very kind and incredibly sweet. And they are, Americainized or rather, able to speak English and think like Anglo Saxons (that is to say, logically, har har) when the moment comes. Careerist for sure, but also happy people who love what they do.

It all seems to come down to questions like, “WHo am I?” or more importantly, “whom do I want to beocme?” “What is the secret of happiness?,” or “What is the meaning of life?”

One of the biggest lessons I”ve learned from being abroad is that life doesn’t always have to be logical or make any kind of sense whatsoever. I’ve also learned that whiile thre are a few things that are bette ror worse, most things are just different. I wonder how I can maintain such faith in American ideals despite not living there, but then I realize that my ideals are my own human ones, and trying to fit them into the “american box,” much as I truly do love America and am always inspired by liberty and equality and tolerance, I am more human than American though it’s taken me a long time to realize that. And even though the realization that I am not French helped prompt that sense of identity, the boundaires are becoming blurred.  I’m super anxious about my American friend (why do I have to distinguish that she’s American?!?!) is coming to visit, and I am going to realize all the ways I’dhave truouble fitting into Amurca anymore. We are all citizens of the world, but not everyone has a global consciousness.

So it’s important to stop making false choices, and affirm where I am today, and who I am. I can’t go back to my uncomplicated, less sophisticated younger self, I can’t go back to that right person, wrong time and fix it (I gave it my all at the time and he said no),

I can give up one fairy tale for another

or rather, a story I liked to tell myself about how one day I’d grow up, become normal, and have a litle less wanderlust, and be the person I should be and go live in America and be satisfied, because there’s somethign wrong with me for not being satisfied with that, something disloyal and ungrateful and ill-adjusted; and live fully the fairy tale that I am already living, that of life in a beautiful, confusing country where people’s attitudes sometimes have an ugly side, and it sometimes feels like the land that time forgot and is certainly not winning any glbal race to the top anytime soon, but is beautiful nonetheless. And maybe to do that, I have to give up my false fairytale about finally convincing him to love me, even though I know he really did but he knew better than I did why it wasn’t the right moment, and maybe in anoher few months or lifestyle or two I’ll find him again. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never find love where I am at, being who I am now- giving up the narrative that I was somehow flawed, not ready, not good enough, not mature enough before, and nw I’m all better and fixed and normal-

And me, living in France, regardless of how sound or not my motivatiosn may have been, is a lot like living in a fairytale- despite the ogres and trolls. Just today I had some strawberries that looked exactly like the ones Red Riding Hood was tempted by on the side of the road.

And me, single, but not alone, confused but far from quitting, is not the ending but only the beginning of the fairytale. It’s not this or living my youthful ambition in Washington, which always feels like home, complete with a wedding and eternal bliss with Captain America, complicated and sensitive soul that he is.

Because the truth is I am neither American nor French, I will never “end up,” anywhere, or really be tied down, because nothing in this life ever is-

The illusion is not the way we define our choices, or even that we have a choice.

The real illusion is that there’s ever going to be anything but the here and now, whatever choice we make. And that here and now will always give way to another, and we have the power every second, though life might seem to get brittle and dried out and hard, but rather, it is the river itself.

And life is not but a dream, but I’m going to go back to living, and I happen to just be living my dream. Right now.

Namaste

Self-Awareness: Life is Simple if You’re Willing to be Honest

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A few days ago, I received news that I would have thought would make me happy, but instead felt a weight in my gut, like a let down, and I felt claustrophobic, trapped.

Basically I find out that it might indeed be possible for me to spend another year in Paris, although due to certain regulatory restrictions, it will be a little complicated and I”ll have to go without working for a few months.

Nothing to complain about, unless you want to talk about how many things don’t seem to make any sense here, but when it comes down to it, it’s all a matter of perspective.

These days, I’m trying to figure out what mine is. Knowing that it is likely to change, but it’s only through taking action and finding out the reality- of what I feel, and the situation- that I can take responsibility for my life. That said, knowing what you want and going for it does not guarantee that you get it, but living consciously is a pleasure, well more than a pleasure, deeply satisfying, in itself. It’s also good to aim for targets you truly want to hit.

People may say your twenties are all about self discovery and finding self knowledge, but the truth is that a lot of self knowledge is in the moment, and can only be gained through mindfulness. We can’t learn everything we need by reflecting on the past or imagining the future. Sometimes you need to think deeply, but knowing what your body thinks and feels is pretty critical to good decisions.

So I am taking this pretty seriously.

Conversely, when I thought about going back to the US instead, I was pretty happy, although to be honest I feel shocked at giving up the thought of the benefits and vacations and access to culture I have here.  What I crave is community in all its forms, and besides a few good friends and colleagues I like, I haven’t really found that yet.

I tend not to get too deep in my feelings and try to remain independent, but I do have to admit that I miss my family, and that does take a toll, even if it’s mostly hidden. It’s nto that I want to go back to living with my parents, but I do enjoy their company.

Not to say that I have scraped till I hit the bottom of the barrel, but I have not really had a feeling of affinity with any French dude. Being in a relationship is not something you can order up like a croque monsieur, but kissing frogs has just made me long for some grade-a American beefcake to be honest. There’s no guarantee that if I were to go to America, I would be in a relationship , or even that being in a relationship would make me happy(though that’s an experiment that I’m willing and interesting in making), but it’s an experiment that interests me.

I think the biggest sacrifice would be all the things I do can do just by virtue of living in Europe. The culture, the travel, the food. There is nothing similar in the US. THe beauty alone is priceless, though I’m not exactly sure how much all of it is worth to me.  Having more people to share it with would probably help, though it’s not just that I”m sometimes getting tired of taking vacation alone, much as I can’t really fathom how I would be able to stand most people for uninterrupted periods of time. I love people in general and I am outgoing, but in general I prefer to surround myself with a few people I really feel I can relax with.  And I do tend to see travel as sort of a mystical journey. Usually just getting on a train and seeing something new soothes my soul.

Speaking of newness, I ordered a detailed personality profile- how scientific, I don’t know- and it fit me to a T. Actually, to an ENTP, although my Thinking and Feeling were very close. I htink my natural inclination is more thinking but through experience I have become more feeling, or at elast, I have some compassion for the feelings of others, though actually, there are a lot of illogical things I have trouble empathizing with.

Basically, novelty, variety, what is different- all that drives me. And it is soo true. It’s great to be open-minded, but sometimes I feel like it’s a weakness- just another drug. It’s true that I often get excited about something and don’t follow through, but that doesn’t really bother me because for the most part I follow through for most things in life. The truth is that some of the novelty is wearing off here, and though it will never be home, it is my current normal. Which is incredible, and why I don’t want to leave, and yet it also feels kind of sterile here. Another year of not “starting my real life,” or rather, having the mentality that it’s just another year, basically looking at it like an extended vacation, a novel experience. Although sometims it’s kind of strange because there are many, many things that I have never experienced in America that I have experienced in France, and honestly I have no idea how things would be in the US. Less endlessly fascinating yet inscrutable? Would I find any less food for thought? Would I actually enjoy it without all the cultural hurdles to navigate through?

A lot of what it comes down to for me, at this moment, is my career. Gaining skills that I can use anywhere, and mostly, getting paid to learn as much as possible, through doing, observing, and being mentored. I just read that work, at least in the corporate world, is school for grownups. Can’t say it’s not true, bu I do end to view life as school, at least things I like about it. I know, I ‘m so strange for enjoying personal growth and learning and not wanting to sit on the couch watching Jersey Shore in my pjs all day. Maybe reading articles in the New York Times and all the random internet sites I stumble upon is just as lazy in a different way, but I’m not interested in apologizing or being judged.  It’s been difficult for me to understand that many pople don’t have a growth mentality, and I”m sure that it must have some benefits for society since evolution and modern life allow it to exist, and maybe I do need to stop and enjoy the roses more. However, you can’t stop planting and tending them either, and the joy is not only in the scent. It’s in the dirt too.

The implications for all these meanderings are enormous. I think balance in all areas in life is important, and I still agree with that, but the mentality behind work/life balance that work is something to be avoided or is somehow separate from life is totally erroneous. Work is an adventure, just like everything else. The stakes are high, which is why you should play to win, and play well. As Mary Poppins says, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” Going about work believing it is just travail to get money is not a good way to approach life.

ALso, I have found that the feeling of making a difference in my team, and doing good in a small, private way- is really satisfying. I do not need to work for Greenpeace. I’d rather have a fun job in a dynamic environment and send them a check.

Speaking of money, it does not buy happiness by any means, but it helps with many things. Reently I feel like my money has gotten away from me and I’ve overspent, despite not really radically changing my lifestyle from when I was a student. However, life is expensive. THough your wants and “needs,” seem to expand when you have more money, being able to generate income with a bit of surplus (most o fthe time) is huge. A major stress affecting pretty much everyone on the planet, I can’t say how freeing it is to know that if I wnat to buy strawberries I can- even if they are 4 euro a package. Delicious. Having some leeway in the little choices is awesome.

I also fee a bit less judgmental of how people spend their money and live their lives now that I have experienced it. I would rather get a massage, or buy some meals out, than go blow money on overpriced drinks, but if that’s what other people want, so be it. Sometimes we take spending money a little too seriously.

The biggest takeaway of these meditations prompted by a gut feeling is that it sort of implies I need to take other gut feelings seriously. One in particular is inexcusably illogical. Also, to be honest while I remember the intensity of the feeling, I’m not sure if I remember the message as I want to remember it or as it actually was. I guess I’ll just have to shut up and listen to my body to see. And maybe take a real emotional risk, instead of gunning for something I know from the beginning is impossible. Certain, planned failure is not exactly romantic or putting it all on the line. I’m sure I know the answer to my question deep inside, I’m just going to have to cut out the blah blah and let the answer surface presently, rather than holding on to a presentiment from the past, when I was an entirely different person.

Action is no scarier than reflection. Reflection is not easy, especially when you realize things are not as they seem.

Also, I just want to point out that it’s through appreciating what I have, and finally being satisfied with my life at this moment, that I”ve been able to uncover my deepest wants.

I also accept that I will change my mind and desires, but I have to go with the flow and just be ok with the little dance. and If I listen to my body, that might save me a little bit of back and forth.

And the most important thing in all of this is that I am finally learning to trust myself, believing that my own judgement has value and I don’t need everyone else’s opinion. If worse comes to worse, it’s ok to be wrong but it’s worse not to live because you’re scared- at least that’s my belief.

And it’s best to enjoy it all, even the turmoil along the wya. This day will never come again, but I’m excited to see what’s next.

Even more excited to see what the voice within has to say about all this.

namaste,

MJ

Enough: The One Thing I’ve Been Missing All My Life

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I read a Quora response to the question “What are some things that money can’t buy?” that really touched me. Basically it said that when Joseph Heller, a novelist, was asked why he wrote instead of making money like a much younger man he met at a party who had amassed a large fortune, he said, “Enough. And that’s something that guy will never have.”

I went on some solo travels to the South of France recently, and I just adore the region, more than I anticipated from previous visits to Cannes, Nice, Grasse, and Monaco.  I love traveling and seeing new things. I love solo traveling. I have a weakness/strength for novelty. Sometimes I feel like I can never stop exploring, and sometimes I feel fundamentally flawed for my insatiable curiosity. Even if I saw all seven seas, I don’t think I would be able to stop. And there’s been nothing more painful than my recent realization that all that I have ever seen or read in a library is starting to all sound almost like each other, much as summer seems to be summer whether it’s Shanghai or Cassis or Somerville, NJ. The beach is the beach and the sun is the sun, and my constant companion of myself has changed a lot thankfully- very different inner monologue than my last trip to the South of France a few years ago.

Sometimes life just seems like a giant circle, and living in Europe, in the Old World, has really reinforced this. No, you are not special- you will live and and get old and die just like anyone else, your life passes through stages, you belong to a certain category or class or ethnicity, and life will go on, civilizations will rise and fall and your life is just part of a giant wave.

As a special snowflake child, sometimes its hard to realize that my destiny, though its exact details might include a wrinkle here or there, basically takes on the same contours of so many before me, and I find my archetype in others- my mother, Montaigne, a philosopher or saint. I take a personality test and say, O yes, that’s me.  And all that seemed unique and special and part of my journey of self discovery seemed a bit typecast.

But this life, this awareness, this body, is mine and no one else’s. I find it comforting to feel a part of something greater yet so resistant to think that I am not distinct at all in the cosmos and I’m just some recycled soul or stardust or what have you, some bit of cosmic ectoplasm or evolutionary soup that is just a little speck in all of Nature. Just an insignificant dot.

I think that stands in direct contrast to all that is great about Western civilization, the great triumph of being modern, the huge burden of creating a self, a la Nietsche or what have you, and Christianity, with its focus on Jesus as a personal savior. It’s not the tribe you are born into , but your individual conscience that is everything, no matter how much that fundamental truth is cloaked in dogma or hidden in ritual. We are both the dancer and just part of the dance after all, and maybe the watcher too.

It’s all very hard to explain, much lss to kknow. 

But what it comes down to is that I, <insert name here>, have always striven for more and greater and newer and better. I have never been content, which has fed my success but also led to my anxiety of being constantly a failure because I wasn’t there yet, and disillusionment when I realized I would never arrive, like limit in calculus.

And when I try to be whole, still, in the moment, wanting nothing, when I don’t try to change (often the best method for getting there), when I am so accepting of all that is and even of all that I am, hwen I say it’s ok that I gained weight or am messy or lose things, to admit that life is slightly unsatisfying yet perfectly as it is, doesn’t sit well either. it feels stagnant.

I think this is what they mean by the middle way.

Personaly I have never felt like enough. I have never felt ok about celebrating anything. I have never felt like I am ok as I am, honestly. I have always felt there’s work to be done- and I delighted in doing it, to a certain point, but because I never felt the fruits of my labor, I eventually became discouraged. And I evenually stopped committing self flagellation (mentally) in order to get myself to do things that might or might not be effective, I saw the whip as the problem, and ignored the underlying disatisfaction with the status quo that provoked it. FOr the most part, no goal was achieved from a place of peace, but a feeling of lack, believing that if I can only recover this missing piece, the puzzle will be whole. And what wholeness, what completion, what happiness looks like, just seems to be a moving target at best, a hydra of dissatisfaction at worse.

They say those who chase happiness or try to define it will never find it.

I have this fear that nothing will ever satisfy me, no amount of worldly goods or pleasures, no amount of accolades or fame or fortune or what have you. Not a ton of chocolate, not a sky raining men, no amount of validation or praise from the people I crave it from. 

I have grown afraid to dream a new dream, because the most recent one seemed a bit sour at several points along the journey, much as I have come to love my life here once I accepted it.

90% of happiness is going with the flow- getting what you want is a gratifying part of it, but sometimes it’s about getting what you need and wanting what you have.

And wanting what you already have soundslike a pack of lies and utter bullshit. Who am I if not my wants and desires, my unfulfilled needs, my secret, most painful yearnings? Who would I be if my “problems” were solved one day? What if all my inner conflicts sorted themselves out? If I had inner peace, what the hell would be left of me?

And then I realized that, today, I am kind of there. I fucked up on a major thing and still enjoyed my day, realizing that done is done and it doesn’t make me a stupid person, I am overweight, was explicitly told by a guy that I was too round for him, and admitted I too was dissatisfied but didnt’ need his consolation when he tried to tell me he had friends that would lov eme , and I just told him I can live with myself and still love my body anyway, didn’t need his attempted pick me up and thanked him fr his honesty. 

I saw a picture of my ex, my real ex that I was in a serious relationship with for 3.5 years, with his arm around someone (I can tell it must be his girlfriend), and it was really ok. Even though I am fatter than I ever was when I was with my ex, who always told me he wanted me to be thinner, and I am not with anyone.

And today is ok even though a friend who I have fantasized about being more htan friends with and had real feelings for for years hasn’t gotten back to my gchat about when I’ll be around again, and he’s always the person I felt like I would “arrive,” to, who I imagined seeing shocked and applauding now that I”m a traveling solo badass like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider and all that’s missing is thd hot, fit, bod to go with it, which honestly I can admit to myself that I would like regardless of social pressure to look a certain way, who, like being thin without effort, would be the prize that would finally come around when I reached the finish line.

Well, there is no finish line. And even though I love him, maybe I only still want him because I can’t have him. And maybe I know he’ll never be satisfied with me, because I love and accept him as he is for the most part, and he can’t love and accept himself and would rather chase people that don’t feel taht way about him. And yeah, we live on different continents.

Last year, I let myslf gain a ton of weight and get “bad” grades- Bs- to see what would happen. I remember when I was young, and liked to read instead of playing sports and just generally felt like I didn’t fit in, I felt like people only accepted me for my gifts and accomplishments, not for who I actually was. Now that I have let the real me show- hidden behind landscape photos and inspirational quotes on facebook- I have gotten to see that for most people, it doesn’t matter. ANd they can even stand me when I am depressed and selfish and a total pain in the ass. Not everyone can, but some do anyway. And yes, guys do still like me, and some probably lov me more, while others don’t go for a few extra pounds.  All are entitled to their opinion.

And what do I think? Well, its more fun to play games to win, in general, but getting over perfectionism is worth mroe than an A in my book. And finally, I have my own book and my own values and I can break away from the normative values of society when I need to. Which is huge, huge, possibly my biggest accomplishment yet since now I can ick and choose which rules I want to play by, and finally play a game where when I win, it means something to me.

Not that empty feeling of “is this all there is?” when you cross some other fiish line, be it high school or masters graduation, getting into a relationship, or as I imagine, getting married. Milestones worthy of celebration, to be sure, for everybody, as long as existential goals are fuflilled by them. Adn to go in the opposite extreme, personal achievement by subjective values ie bucket list, as also sort of empty. Yes, it’s great to have visited City X, and maybe it will change you and give you a peace of what you really needed, but in the end it is just a city, and you could have gone o CIty Y instead, although it would have been different. Or you have stayed home, and who knows what would have happened then?

But yeah, for the most part, if you don’t really have it, you don’t really need it.

And if you get more money, at some point you will make yourself have more bills too, your wants will tend to expand with your salary.

And if you meet someone, no, they will never be perfect, they will never reach your expectations.

And life might go exatly to plan o wait, it never does, but you might feel completely different about it that you expected.

 

These things have sort of killed my libido, not in the sense of sex drive but as in semi self actualization, goal setting drive.

I’ve been a bit cynical, thinking I was better off eating pizza and doing whatever I felt like since goals are pointless anyway.

 

But here’s the thing- they are not.

At least 1) if you set the right goals tha are actually in line with what you want

and 2) if you don’t try to hate yourself into getting there. I’ve been so meanto myself everytime I tried to do anything big, eventually I withdrew even from myself.

3) you let yourself celebrate, all the while knowing this just moves the finish line to a different place.

 

The thing is, I’m already there for a lot of my goals, still working on others. I don’t really ahve much of a plan these days, preferring to go with the flow, and my life circumstances/feeligs about thigs are changing. 90% of happiness might be going with the flow, but that doesn’t mea nwe shoudln’t ut in the effort for things we think we want. Without that, life can feel kind of sterile and pointless. Serendipity is great, but so is hard work.

Frankly, I am enough today. I was enough yesterday. But at least now I realizez it. I can be enough yet still reach for me, a paradox, a contradiction, a truth.

Without being a little dissatisfied there’s no room for hope. But without satisfaction in the present moment, there’s no basis for joy, and the only thig we’ll ever get to feel is anxiety and fear for no reason, becasuse it’s already pretty good.

Can we have dreams and still be happy? yes, indeed, and without them we will just be dull.

But chances are if you are not satisfied with what you have, you won’t be satisfied with what you get in the future. So better to be happy, then leave for the greener grass.

I find myself an American in Europe, the has-been continent where life is chill and free and almost inconsequential. Where people get lots of vacation days because besides that it can be hard to find meaning. more or less instead of wanting to “make it” at work like  n american. 

So I’m here, I’ve arrived. It feels good, like a solid foundation to build osmething on, and yet, complete in itself.

I know who I am.

Sometimes I feel like my life is still so many question marks, and I am afraid to get rid of the question marks, which makes me even more afraid and self doubting. 

I’m still struggling with this question of “enough,” and I realize that path only goes on, sometimes I am happy that I got here and that i have already trod so far.

And I realize there is no path, just here and now. sometimes w ego in the wrong direction, yet still the path will always find us again if we dare.

so here’s to satisfaction ;)

 

 

 

 

Parisienne?

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Today I went to McDonald’s for dinner. I do that a lot, sometimes. I thought I was just cranky and it was PMS, and I could feel a bit of neuroticism and anxiety rising up in me, seeming to confirm it.

one of the big draws to McDo’s is that there is a tv going, and I don’t have tv. it’s a chance to watch the new, which takes on a whole new level of meaning and satire when you do it in French, especially when they make fun of France’s current president.

Seeing the news makes me feel good about not going into politics or public policy- there are no easy answers to the world’s problems and to push for systemic change just seems so vast. Sometimes I am happy to be a humble marketer, not least because I am no longer an unpaid intern and having McDonald’s for dinner, even in overpriced France, while not exactly in my most ambitious is not going to break the bank either. And I enjoy my work, and basically do the same stuff as I did when I interned in Washington. 

I realized that sometimes I eat out because I feel lonely and want to be around people, and because I’m afraid that once I climb the staits to my bedroom I’m just going to stay there and while away the night mostly on facebook and reading random articles. I also realized that planning a trip wiwth a friend who’s coming to see me has made me aware of just how far I’ve come, and just how little desire I sometimes have to go back. And hings are just going better and better here.

So then I went to monoprix, a grocery store here, and I bought a reusable tote. Which is something of a staple item here, the ones from Monoprix in particular. So French. And I look at the things I buy in my basket, and I realize, so French, or at least so not what I used to eat. Salad because it tastes good, wine because I know how to pick a good cheap one, a good cheese because cheese, and I also picked up some american mini cinnamon rolls that I HAD TO have,e ven though I had already eaten well at McDonald’s. These were the goodies that I couldn’t stop myself from stuffing down on more than one occassion, that come in packs of thirty from Costco and have haunted me during family events when we buy goodies in industrial size contianers.

So I walked back home, remembering just how much I like grocery shopping in France, and really engaged my surroundings. Just really enjoyed them. And realized I have no real desire to go to India or anywhere else for that matter, regardless of if it’s the thing to do careerwise hot topic wise or not. And at this moment, I have no strong desire to go home either. I really could stay here forever, and want to stay here for the near future. I really could have kids with names like Guillame and Manon, really could be shocked at my own reflection in a shop window-elegant, classic, and rapidly slimming with very little conscious effort on my part. You look more European every day, said a facebook friend of my most recent photo- I made it my profile pic.

 

I ate the mini cinnamon rolls, even though they were disgustingly too sweet and the pastry was just gross. Not up to my textural standards and they gave me a real sugar and fat industrial production high. They did taste better the more I ate. Why did I keep eating them? I could have just thrown one or two of the three away. I just wanted to fully satiate the craving, and I fell into the old habit of not wanting to stop what I had started eating. I had the feeling this was a situation where a stop back would springboard into two steps or more forward. My awareness was flooded with these remembered as tasty, delicious, uncontrollably scrumptious snacks but they were actually horrible, and you had to eat more in order for them to taste good, somehow. And I just remembered all the holiday parties and days and nights of temptation when they were just the best thing I could imagine at that moment. And I was almost sad to realize I’d lose my taste for them. To be fair, they were slighly past the best by date.

I don’t see disliking some of the things of my youh and that I associate with home as a sign of rejecting my roots- if anything, on a subconscious level I’ve been trying to keep some American in me if only in the form of junk food. In fact, I feel like a child again and more aware of my love for my parents especially than ever. But I do find it hard to imagine going bak- although I’d certainly be seeing my native home with new eyes. 

The truth is, I’m happy where I am. 

Now I don’t know if that has to do with self acceptance, or maturity, or the fact that things really are totally awesome when it comes down to it. Is it the inner or the outer happiness, or is there really any differene between them?

Honestly, I have found a way of life I like a lot- enough that many of my earlier fears and cravings-believing the perfect partner, job, or body would fix everything and I couldn’t be happy without everything in place, perfectionism fueld by a real lack of self love- have sort of faded away, and for that I am graeful.

 

And as my shell cracks away, I realize I may have ugly duckling moments, but when it comes down to it, I see in myself a swan. And that has made all the difference. 

 

Why I am single, and why I won’t stay single for long

I am single because it’s almost 3pm and I haven’t left the house yet, haven’t ventured out of my nest since I didn’t hav a close friend to accompany me.

I am single becaus I am brash and outgoing when speaking to he internet, when it comes to posting on facebook, and in general don’t hesitate to scare people away in the guise of being myself, but hesitate to open up when it comes to actually makeing a connection with new people. Outgoing, but shy.

I am single because in the one long term relationship I was in, I realized at the end how many of my own dreams I hadn’t yet discovered and hesitated to get involved with anyone before finding my real self.

I am single because that relationship ended in a tragic but transformative way, and in the hopes of avoiding a messy breakup, I haven’t taken the chance to be with anyone.

I am single because I have an exacting checklist of who I want the person to be, how I want to meet them, and exatly how they should interact with me- rather than general guidelines of kindness, respect, and shared values, I have an entire script they must act out- I feel I can stop myself from getting hurt if I can force it all to go according to plan.

I am single because nothing in life goes according to plan, I have trouble sometimes letting go and letting God, especially in matters of the heart, and because for the past few years I’ve been searching for the perfect plan only to find that no such thing exists and life is changing too quickly to make far-out plans anyway.

I am single because i really wasn’t until this moment or thereabouts that I forgave myself for not having the impossible plan I was supposed to have, and the right person who is likely to turn everything upside down for the better hasn’t had the space to arrive. 

I am single because it ook me this long to experiment with life and find a way of life I love living, for the moment at least, and its taken me a lot of time, a lot of lessons,  and a lot of courage to get here.

I am single because I am still in the process of accepting myself and probably always will be, but it wasn’t until just recently I felt enough love for myself to feel comfortable attracting someone else’s love.

I am single because I am afraid of hurting anyone, because I feel too responsible for their feelings and for having control in the relationshipand that I should take care of them before myself, so I have avoided being in a relationship. No more. 

I am single becaus I refused to take responsibility for how I was blocking my romantic life with all kinds of conditions like knowing the person would be mine forever and would have to make sure I’d never feel loneliness or heartbreak again- I won’t be single for long because I accept the possibility of getting hurt and know that even the most amazing partner won’t be able to make me happy, because only I can do that.

I am single because I was afraid to let anyone into my life who might influene where I go, and I didnt trust myself to have proper boundaries-now I know it’s a balancing act and that I can be a devoted partner while remaining true to myself.

I am single because I chose to “love,” men who were unavailable to me, and I preferred the fantasy of a perfect future with men who were not there for me to the ups and downs of a real life relationship.

I’ve been single because I’ve been afraid to make mistakes, and I’m happy to say that now I am willing to fully join in the dance of being human, missteps and serendipity and all.

I am single because I took the time to find friends who inspire me and support me through thick and thin, who will be there to cheer me on when I’m in a relationship.

I am single because it took me a lot of time to find my sense of intrinsic self worth, regardless of what others think of me, what I achieve, or whether I follow “the rules,” or not- I won’t be single for long because even though it takes a little reminding sometimes, I am happy and proud to be myself, and treat myself with love as much as I can, and know that  I deserve the same from others.

I am single because I wanted to be, because it’s been a great adventure. I won’t be single forever, because I want to be in a healthy, loving, compatible relationship, everything chances, and a new horizon beckons.

I am single and I am happy, and ready to share my happiness with someone special. 

Namaste,

MJ

 

On Dreams, Meaning, Depression and Heartbreak

For Robin Williams

Have you ever had a long-awaited dream come true? Was it everything

you hoped for? Yes, in a way, but probably not. Probably there were
moments when your dream became a nightmare, probably maybe waking up
to the baby crying in the middle of the night was the biggest regret
of your life, maybe the once dreamy eyes of your spouse have become
dull now that their starry/stupid gaze is all yours, maybe moving to
the City of Lights got you into the psych ward for Paris Syndrome-
where when romantic dreams meet reality, minds are broken with the
weight of expectations.
And there are moments when we finally get that degree, and it still
feels like nothing. Just a piece of paper, a total crock now that you
have it. As Groucho Marx said, “I wouldn’t want to be in any club that
would except me as a member.” When you get that first real corporate
job, and you find that white collar professionals are not actually
that smart, that organized, that neat, or as perfect as you imagined-
that standards are low and not always met, that a name brand doesn’t
guarantee good management. And then you realize that there is chaos
and confusion and Brooklyn bridges, Nigerian princes, and a false bill
of goods everywhere. This is when you grow cynical.
And you think you should stop dreaming dreams, that you were as
foolish as anyone ever said or didn’t even dare to voice, you are just
as stupid as that mean little voice in your head always tells you, you
are a loser no matter what you’ve won or how much you’ve packed on to
your resume, it isn’t enough. And it’s time to stop dreaming, to grow
up and pursue the things that “they” say will bring your life meaning.
Hell, anyone probably knows better than you do- who are you to dare
question conventional wisdom?
Go to school and spend your life’s savings before you make it, get a
job, get a better job, get a better job, buy a car, buy a better car,
buy an even better car, buy a big house to impress the neighbors you
don’t have time to meet, have a big wedding and a messy divorce, make
a baby and send it to the nanny, take a family picture while they are
still magazine-cover cute then spend them to the most expensive school
you can.
And then, like a thief, Death knocks on the door, rattling the window.
Maybe it’s a minor sprain, a fall in the bushes that takes you off
your feet for a few weeks, or maybe it’s the death of Robin Williams,
the kindest, wisest, funniest man in the world, by his own hand. Or
maybe you read in the paper about the parent of someone you know
passing, died too young, and all of a sudden, everything changes.  The
finiteness of your mortal life gives you a glimpse of your eternal and
infinite gift of life.
You breathe a sigh, thankful it’s not your time yet, thankful you
still have a few moments with the ones you love, and the chance to see
the Pyramids and the Eiffel Tower, and maybe fall in love, for real
this time, and start your own family.
Suddenly the grass is no longer greener on the other side, and life is
so incredibly good, despite the mosquitoes that weren’t there in the
garden of Eden you’d created in your mind. The life you imagined is
actually pretty great, and you’re incredibly grateful for having the
chance to realise it, to have seen it become real. Even though you
think, suddenly cosmically Zen and one with the universe, that even if
it hadn’t worked out the way you wanted, it would have been good and
you would have made it good.
And your life is just this mosaic of incredible moments like beads on
a string, even though the big story line isn’t the one you had
envisioned. Even though so much of it was out of your control, and the
best parts happened when nothing went along with your plan. And the
best moment of all is right now, when you realize it and love life
more than the meaning of it, as Doestoevsky admonished.
And the next dream is worth dreaming, and this moment is worth living
even though it’s far from perfect. And all that has come in the past
can stay in the past, but you’re grateful anyway. All that really
matters is that you live your truth and make sure the important people
know you love them, anyway. Somehow all that wondering about who am I
and what do I want seems to fade away in an acceptance of all that you
have become and all that you are becoming. “Think not God is in your
heart, child, rather you’re in the heart of God,” sang the prophet
Kahlil Gibran, set to music by Jason Mraz.
The moment of acceptance, of receptivity, is also the moment when you
finally get to say, “I am,” and like the still small voice in the
breeze after the the hurricane, the fire, and the earthquake, all is
well.  All Creation is groaning in labor pains, and the powerful play
goes on, and you are swelled with joy and pride, that you may
contribute a verse.
You turn back to the daily heartbreak of life, and sigh with joy.

An America(i)n(e) Based in Paris

As paradoxical and confusing as the title sounds, so has been my life
in Paris. There are moments when fond memories of America’s capital
(designed by a Frenchman) seem to merge into the Hausmannien facades
of posh Neuilly, and even more crazy moments where a song takes me
even further away to Bangkok or a friend I knew in Tokyo passes
through town. I’ve reconnected with an old friend from my hometown who
I went to middle school with, currently stationed in Naples, though I
haven’t met up with my sort-of boyfriend bon mec from the time I
studied here, incredibly in love with the city and sad that I would
have to leave before I ever even met him.

And then there are the innumerable moments when I see beautiful
children and their parents and grandmas and babysitters, older couples
sitting side by side, and little boys play fighting. I miss my family.
What’s more, I dream of having my own family someday, but what my
children’s life will be like, or what the nationality of my future
husband might be-I’ve kissed a frog or two as some might say, but the
last person to really break my heart was something of a Captain
America, and my last romance was with an Algerian. I can only hope to
give them the same unconditional love and support my parents gave me
when they helped me spread my wings and fly away to live here, and
even helped me to believe in myself and stay the course when my dreams
of living in Paris, once attained, seemed a bit of a nightmare in the
first few months of transition. They even loved me enough not to let
me fly back to the nest.

I have had days where I had no meaningful in person interactions, shy
and sad, and trying to find someone online to chat with in a different
time zone was more than a bit of a struggle. Not to mention that it
can feel a little crazy and ungrateful to complain when living here
was all I wanted for a year.There are other dayswhere I am so
connected and human, so simply present, particularly in the metro-
giving diretions to a tourist, getting babies to smile at me, or
crammed in during the daily rush just another body contributing to the
heat inside.

It could be that it was the ultimate illusion of chasing happiness
outside of myself, rather than realizing I could have ended my
suffering with a simple change of attitude rather than continent. Or
maybe, this is the place where I had to learn that lesson, and the
feeling I get from being here is just incomparable. Je repars a zero,
as Edith Piaf sings, I have no regrets.

I live in a city of contradictions, becoming a law unto myself- Paris
has a Socialist mayor and is the capital of luxury, fine living, and
all that is haute couture and high culture. I have a “real” job making
my living as a white-collar professional at a giant company, while I
live in a chambre de bonne, American for broom closet, in one of the
richest neighborhoods in France,  where I share a toilet with
strangers with whom I have not really becoming neighborly- because the
French typically require a French cosigner and their pay slips and
bank account information, as well as pay slips and a promise of the
first born child of the renter. Which is reasonable, since you can’t
easily kick someone out once they have inhabited a space- the Rue de
Rivoli, one of the”fashion avenues” of the city, has an art gallery
created by squatters who pay no rent. The mix of boho/bobo and bougie
can be infectious, not to mention joining the ranks of all the Lost
Generation expats who have come before me, enchanted by an ancient
city as they sought to define modern values for an age of insecurity.
I glory in my minimalist luxury.

In this city of aesthetic perfections and classical proportions, I
finally feel comfortable in my all too human, flawed skin, taking in
the delights of youth in a place dating back past the Romans. I go to
mass on Montmartre, once reversed by Druids, in 91% Catholic country
that is really atheist and claims to have complete separation of
Church and state, though I get Ascension Thursday and All Saint’s Day
off by law.

I got religion in the palace of Louis the Sun King, the one who
believed in absolute monarchy and divine right. One of my most recent
adventures was falling INTO the garden, of Versailles that is, dressed
in 18th century attire for a costume ball.While I had the feeling of
being entirely forgotten in the Emergency Room by the staff, had no
one to call to pick me up (didn’t help that I had also lost my phone),
and had to haul myself up six flights of stairs despite a badly
sprained ankle, the loneliness was abated when a close friend and my
next door apartment neighbor helped me when I couldn’t move around,
and doctors and nurses actually came up to see me to give me the care
I needed. One male nurse even went above and beyond and went to the
pharmacy for me.

There are days I feel caught in the swirl of a past I haven’t quite
made sense of yet and a future I really can’t predict. Sometimes I
think about living in a third country, sometimes I think about going
home, sometimes I think about settling down here. All I know is that
living a non-linear, wandering life has made me feel free, and even if
I just stay where I am the journey can’t help but continue, in circles
and spirals and incredibly beautiful detours. Though time marches on,
and I am simultaneously pulled towards building my career, hoping to
find someone special, and creating a community of friends- near and
far- to serve as my home base. I want to be just like my parents even
though my life doesn’t really resemble theirs.

I live between two languages, both in my social life and at work.
Hired for my English, I couldn’t really do my job without speaking
French.  The language of my heart seems to be French at times, though
sometimes there’s nothing more conspiratorial and intimate than the
complicite of speaking with another Anglophone by naissance- not to
mention the sens of brotherhood among all the non-French, the
foreigners who flock to a country whose native population KNOWS they
have the highest level of civilization in the world. When I think
about going back to America, I think speaking French is the thing I
can’t seem to get over.

Before I came to France for the first time, where I taught Englih in
the province where butter and oysters come from, I lived in DC and
believed with all my heart I’d come back and make my career in
American politics, though as a public policy professional rather than
a politician and save the world stateside. Now I am in international
marketing, although what I actually do is unofficial diplomacy.
Dreams do come true, and it’s lovely to write a Facebook post without
worrying it will be scrutinized for political ideology, much as I’m
sure I could easily probably end up offending someone and put my
reputation at risk in some other way. All I can say is that my
intentions are good, and I try to assume the same of others as much as
it seems reasonable- the international life would be impossible any
other way.  I’m too passionate not to share my experience.

Why did I come to Paris? To find myself? To find love? Maybe to find
God, because living in between cultures has helped me deconstruct the
human expperience much as it has helped form my identity- not to
mention that many of my foundational experiences, like living  away
from home and school for the first time, having my first “career” job,
and going to the emergency room, have been in France. Here more than
anywhere else, I’ve come to understand its the journey not the
destination, never knowing if I’ll come back here or not or how long
I’ll stay. Life is precious.

And more than anything else, I have found my voice. Preaching the
gospel of living abroad, sharing the joys and pains of the expat life,
complaining about the French and admiring them utterly, paying them
the ultimate compliment of spending a chunk of my life here. Singing
my own version of “La Vie en Rose.”

Thank you for listening.

The Blank Page

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What a source of terror and yet joy- don’t want to sully its beautiful perfect potentiel, don’t want to say the wrong thing, don’t want to admit the dangerous but liberating truth.
I asked my boss to renew my contract in France yesterday. I am kind of in shock at myself. And I wonder if I was being disingenous with my boss when I said I couldn’t ask for better colleagues and boss and it’s true (in France, being realistic) and when all’s said and done, I have never doubted their good intentions.
And the truth is, I am trying to find a way to use what I have rather than immediately seeking new horizons. There’s a reason people seek comfort, and it’s not so much that I seek comfort as greater understanding of myself and my surroundings that might just come with time.
In any cas, let go and let God.
And the truth is, I haven’t done half the things I wanted to do here in France, and it feels like my life here is just beginning. I’m so close to getting my health card and just now got all my visa situation straightened out.
In this world, it’s so much easier to consume than it is to create.
It’s a lot easier to just keep walking away, keep closing oneself, than to join the fray again.
Last night I had a dream that I should spend more time writing, so I woke up early this morning and I’m actually doing it. It feels good.
In general, I’m just so much better than I was. I feel less of a need to escape or seek happiness in food or external circumstances. I have lost some weight as well, without counting every calorie, as I knew I would once I got more emotionally stable.
I feel super vulnerable having asked to keep my job. It seemed to me fairly logical that I’m doing a good job and work should if they have any sense want to keep me, but obviously I have a lot to learn. And if it turns out I cannot grow and be appreciated in my current job, then I will move on to a new one- whether in America or France or somewhere else I don’t know.
The one thing I have noticed is that even though I feel a lot of curiosity about some things and still feel the weight of “shoulds” upon me- like I should go to Asia because it’s a hot market, or make a million dollars, or have a more altruistic job- I feel a lot more content with my life choices in general, recognizing that nothing is perfect, and I don’t feel as much of a pressure to be all things to all people.
Also, a very real but also sort of magical thing happened to me the other day. A quality guy who had som idea of my flaws actually expressd an interest in me without trying to change anything about me. He didn’t say, “You’d be a ten if you just lost 20 pounds,” or “wow, you’re really clumsy,” or “you like XXX too much.” Nope. He seemed to be interested in me just as I am, and that has totally shattered some of my ego conceptions of the world.
And then immediatley after, I felt this huge urge to make him like me and to please him. While to a certain xtent that is a personality trait of mine, it was also a bit of a nervous and incredulous reaction, thinking I had hit not only on someone who liked me, but also someone of quality.
And that’s a human reaction.
No need to say that I need to go back into protected fortified singleness because of it.
But maybe I need to be a little mindful.
And yes, in the past couple of days my deep hunger for romantic love, and more friendship, has become not just a rumble in my tummy but a loud roar.
So I texted him a few times after, we had a little convo, he didn’t respond to my last message on Friday, I decided to give the benefit of the doubt, texted him Sunday saying I want to get to know each other better, and then just for good measure sent a facebook message last night, which apparently he hasn’t seen. Maybe he lost his phone.
Of course, maybe for whatever reason he is not available or not interested, but I’m going to continue to hope for the moment.
I know I’ll be ok either way, and it’s still ENORMOUS this thing happening to me, and I know it will happen again, whether with him or someone else.
Although at the moment, I would like to try things out with him.

I dind’t have any big revelation of this being the person I could be with forever, but maybe I should just take it one day at a time. In waiting for love that seems perfect, you can miss out on a perfect love with an imperfect person.

And I am that imperfect person, just as deserving of love.

Have a great day!

Staying With My Feelings

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I feel in general good about life, but also really shitty about the fact that the dude hasn’t texted me back. He’s been posting on facebook, and I know he has a phone, so why ignore me? Just to aggravate me? Or because he doesn’t give a shit, and whatever attraction he had was based on the idea I was unavailable and difficult?
And what do I do now? Just wait?
Realize that I am crazytown?
Get mad at myself for squishing the delicate kitten of blooming feeligs to death, yet again? Learn the only way to attract a man is to play mindgames?
Or mayb just take a second and not overreact.
Maybe just trust that this is how it is all working out for the best, and maybe all is not as it seems.
And actually there’s nothing wrong with me, and nothing strange about someone potentially being attracted to me.
And regarldess of the outcome, I am hopeful of the absolute best- that in my own due time I will find the right person.
Much as I question many things, I know that real authetnic love is a journey I want to take.
And I know that the more I pour myself into the step I am on, the readier I will be when that person comes along.

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