“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.”
— Matthew 13:44
Since I was asked to decide whether to renew my contract in France or not around 5 October, my life has been in an uproar. I have been seeking relentlessly and restlessly, trying to figure out what it is that I want, and more importantly, why once I got what I wanted in coming to Paris, I wasn’t immediately ecstatically happy. More importantly, I’ve been trying to figure out if my reasons for coming to Paris were hopelessly flawed- trying to decide if it’s just an illusion, a mirage, sheer psychosis that led me here, trying to escape my reality in some way- or if indeed, this is my own Grail Quest of sorts, and it is the deepest longing of my soul that I followed in coming.
And also, I have finally given myself permission to just be happy. Period.
During this period, I have consulted various expat, professional, and life coaches, gone on a cleanse diet, bought some fancy French perfume, Czech garnets, and a real leather wallet, asked everyone I know for advice, got in touch with an old lover, severed ties with someone I thought was the love of my life, stopped going to Crossfit (will return), let my room become a total pigsty to the point I was finding broken glass, run up my credit cards and overdrawn my bank account, started meditating, finally found a cool expat group, met an American psychologist married to a French guy, started to meditate, cleaned my room finally and even organized my clothes rack, and fulfilled my bucket list goal of going to Prague. It’s been beautiful and tumultuous, and mostly very hair raising, and things are starting to make sense. In retrospect I wonder why I couldn’t have come to the same place in a more orderly fashion, but the truth is that that’s not how life works.
In the end, it wasn’t a breakdown born of taking a wrong turn. It’s a spiritual awakening, the surest sign that I’m on the path.
This is the messy stuff that doesn’t fit inside the covers of Eat Pray Love or the latest piece in the New York Times on why French women don’t get fat and French kids are all angels.
This is the stuff Brene Brown had to get through in order to leave her corporate job, become a social worker, and ultimately give awesome life changing Ted talks.
This is the wrestling with angels and demons that you have to go through to find your genius. And yes, everyone has one, and we are all created equal, but not the same. And you have to have the guts to face the monster in order to learn to “not just survive inthe storm, but dance in the rain.”
“where your dragon is, there lies your treasure.” Joseph Campbell
I’m learning to be patient with myself. Which is a gift unto itself, because I”ve never been patient with myself. I have never in my life felt like I was enough as I was, except as a small child. Despite all the love of fmaily and friends, despite all the body positive fat talk free zones, despite all the “all that matters is you try your best,” I have never really felt like I was enough.
I have always felt irreparably different from other people, separate, apart, and I was right. As we are all unique. What I wouldn’t have given on some level, to be normal, but I was always too stubborn, and too greedy to be special to try that hard to blend in.
Because if you can’t be like everyone else, you might as well try to be the best at everything.
Because somehow, if you always feel less, if you always fall short of your expectations, in some way you’ve held yourself to a higher standard, and in that sense you’ve won. You can hold yourself apart, tear yourself apart, rather than going down to meet the people who you fear will never, could never, you KNOW will never accept you as you are. Because you like to read and they like to run around, becase you are fat and they are effortlessly thin, because you are serious and theoretically mature and they are just having fun and not trying too hard. Because your body was a woman so young, and you were a head taller, and you had to be smart on top of it too. How could they ever accept you? How could you ever accept yourself when you felt like such a mutant?
So what was there to do but to turn into yourself, to try so hard, to escape into the fantasy that one day you would be better, worthy, ideal, although that day never seemed to come, and each time it was close, some ancient reptilean part of you would just tear your progress to shreds, because at some even deeper level, you didn’t want to be perfect, you wanted to be yourself,and to be loved as you are.
But since you couldn’t do that, you assumed no one else accepted you, let alone loved you. No matter how much mentally you may have known you were loved, you could never let it fully penetrate : I am loved, and loveable.
The quest for perfection/superiority to compensate for feligns of being different and inner lack took many forms. You wanted to save the world, a noble goal, and then you despaired of it totally- because it was never your burden to bear. And there were so many people you loved, that you wanted so badly for them to really love you, and you wanted to save them in return- to make them love you, and to deserve their love. But alas, that never really worked. Love that climbed mountains and oceans and rivers and stood the test of time just failed time and again the test of becoming yourself. As you grew, they couldn’t stay in your life nor you in theirs, and that’s ok.
And you could never have escaped your self recrimination through romantic love alone, anyway. It wasn’t your fault you never found real love, it just wasn’t your time. Love can provide redemption, but not self redemption.
Nothing in my life has ever broken me down this hard. I thought the quarter life crisis was over, and I would never get that bad again. But the truth is, the wound is where the light enters as Rumi said.
And the light has entered in a big, big way.
For the first time in my life, I actually know what I want:
What I have at this moment. To live in Paris, to continue to live in Europe, to perfect my French, to work in an international/cross cultural setting, to take weekend trips to Prague and Germany, to have long vacations…
and a bit more- to really love and be loved, to surround myself with a family of friends, and to love the people I care about all the ways tha I can…
even if I am living in nine square meters, paying ridiculous taxes, have to deal with French administration and even more daunting, parisian people, and it scares me to death that I am not spending as much time as I could be with my family, because one day we will all die.
-Although I’ll be seeing them for a solid three weeks over Christmas, and talk to them a few times a week. At least I am truly emotionally present and am living the life I want, which is what the people who love me really want for me, anyway. And if I get called home, I will go.
Although speaking of home, every step is the journey and the destination. Home really is inside of you. It’s not even the people who surround you, it’s letting yourself feel safe, loved, and connected.
You see, I’ve gotten into Buddhism recently (who hasn’t) and the truth is, we are born alone and we die alone. The truth is, there is pain in life. There are many, many things we can’t control. But thankfully, we can learn to control our minds, and find peace and stillness within.
Happiness, or pleasure, is only a small part of what peple are after. Without inner peace, happiness cannot be enjoyed.
And so I am happy to say that though my inner peace is lost from time to time, like the sun hidden among clouds, I have found it, and luckily it can never really be lost.
And even better, I have learned to recognized just how happy I am. My soul has what it wants. I can’t xplain in any rational way WHY I want to be here, why it’s so important for me to speak French, why I had to leave my family and travel.
I do not have any sort of reasonable explanation.
The idea of going just to have a “Cultural experience,” is weak to me. I’ve already had cultural expeirences, albeit not in as much depth. And even if that is the intermediate answer, the existential question of WHY still remains.
All is know is that what i feel is on par with Cooper in the movie Interstellar who goes through a wormhole and itno a new galaxy, to find a new planet after Earth is ruined.
Do I feel like I am saving the human race? Maybe, but the sheer thrill of adventure, of discovery, exploration, which may well be the defining feature of the human race, is what pushes me on. There are many virtues and ways of serving, but the thing with being an adventurer is that you serve the planet, quite unwittingly, by serving yourself. The myth of martyrhood loses its grip on you. Your joy is ultimately humanity’s joy, but you don’t have to deny yourself in the process because you are doing what you most want to do .
I know I have found my passion because it rips me to shreds everyday, dashing me on the rocks like a giant wave recalling the sublime, the sheer power, beauty, force, and enormity of the eternal, the power beyond the planets and the individual butterflies, the thing that makes the moon go round the earth.
Something, so deep inside me that there is no bottom, there is no where to go further down below, prompted me to be here.
No matter how much the world told me it was crazy, because it wasn’t prompted by the desire for money, power or “stability.”
Will I stay here forever? I don’t know.
Do I think it’s better than the US? not better, just different, and better in ways that are important to me.
Why I have to be strange and want to travel and live in France is beyond me, though these days I’m thinking that maybe I’m special and this is just my contribution to the world.
To show that there is real freedom, many ways of living, alternatives.
And there’s nothing like being a child again, every day, in a world that is always, and will always be new.
And when it comes down to it, I don’t need a reason to be here.
When your soul speaks, you listen.
So far I am finding many, many treasures as a result of following this path of a more conventional nature, like inadvertently finding a great job.
But most importantly, I have found a reliance on something much greater and more profound than myself- God- and looking into the darkness of the abyss, finally making it to the top of the mountain, and contemplating the endless sky, I found myself.
It is always our own self that we find at the end of the journey. The sooner we face that self, the better.”
— Ella Maillart,
Swiss travel writer
I could have stayed in my trance of perfectionism. I ould have ben a lot more “successful,” had I just done something seemingly normal and got a job in my home country– but probably I never would have been satisfied adn other crises would ensue as I pondered what might have been, and my worldview hardened. a part of me would have been dead, because that wasn’t my life to live.
It was never a mistake, it was never wandering off my path for me to come here. This divergence from the life I planned- this is the real path. This is my real life.
Where the path will take me, I don’t know but for a while I want to stay here. And I will find a way, by the grace of God. ANd that’s all I need to know.
I have found my treasure, and it was disguised as a barren field. I was on the path, because every step I questioned it. I am right on course, because it’s only my inner knowing that tells me this is where I”m meant to be, and I had to give up a million unlived lives to get here, yet, here in my pajamas on a Saturday afternoon, writing in my little room all by myself, this is it.
This is freedom, this is a version of enlightenment. This is joy, this is happiness.
This is not falling down the rabbit hole. This is not trying to escape.
This is getting taken down by a wave, not being sure which way is up, and following your instinct to sweet air.
This is wholly real, the adventure of my life.
This is the place, the story that came to define me but I never imagined, I never defined myself as.
This is life happening.
And most importantly, this is me happy, letting everything go.
This is me, self-realized.
Falling, flying, drifting, diving.
Traveler, there is no path, just waves upon the sea.
Ever step is the path, every moment the destination.
Life is not a circle, it’s not a line, it’s not an arrow, it’s a point. Right here, and right now.
I’m meant to be here because this is where I am. There is no life I’m meant to live but this, and no person I’m meant to be but myself.
This is joy, this is freedom.