The first time I went to Paris I was far from in love with it. I actually had a feeling more akin to “so this is it?” It was also very, very cold, especially for Paris, and I was not well dressed for the weather, and everything was expensive. I had dinner in St Michel and a guy from New Jersey owned the restaurant.
Same thing for the second, third, fourth, times where I was passing through for a few days. It was nice, but while I loved France, I wasn’t particularly obsessed with Paris.
ANd then the fifth time came, and I remember telling my mom, “Yeah, all the streets look the same and it’s just a bigger version of any French city.”
But then as I became integrated in the life and the fact that there was something incredible to see every day, and the awesome people I met, things changed.
It felt like I fit.
Just before that trip, I remember telling friends that after I finished business school, there was no where else that would make sense for me, no where else I could possibly end up, outside of Washington, DC. Nor any career that could ever fit besides public policy.
Well, as it turned out I was dead wrong.
My first few months in Paris, I thought all my worries would fall away like water. I thought the dream had been won.
But as it turned out, the real dragons were in my head. THe real souce of not feeling like I belonged came from within.
ANd as it turns out, even moving to the City of Light can leave you feeling trapped, alone, and in the dark for a while.
A geographic move may set things in motion, but you still have to go out there and build a life for yourself. As my business coach says, “The grass is green where you water it.”
But I was so paralyzed by self doubt, loneliness, anxiety, and being an impostor in my own skin that I still doubted everything that I had done, still crucified myself for any perceived mistake or misstep. I couldn’t let myself be human, I couldn’t accept anything less than my ego’s standard of perfect.
At the same time, I was still “in love,” with someone I’d met years ago, in literally another life, in the life I planned in DC. ANd he was everything I wanted in a man…or so I told myself. As per my usual, I’d fallen in love quickly and had an image I just wouldn’t give up, an image of masculine perfection I wanted to impose on him. Which I wouldn’t open my eyes to see wasn’t the reality. Not out of friendliness or compassion, but out sheer desperation to believe in my idol, I refused to read the writing on the wall.
It was a selfish, trite deception of what selfless love could be.
And truly, I loved my friend. I did really care about him, and he was in many ways everything I thought aman should be. But he wasn’t. And he wasn’t in love with me.
So instead of saying, “o well,” i just dug in harder, ever more convinced it was just a matter of convincing him, just a matter of time, just a matter of destny before he saw my worth and loved me back.
And all the while there were many clues that while he said he watned many things of the life I wanted, he wanted to live abroad and all, ultimately I don’t know if that’s what he really wants. And I know there are many things about him I don’t like, no matter how much I tried not to see him.
WHen it comes down to it, I pursued him because I didn’t trust him to pursue me.
1) Becase I wasn’t sure he was up for it; at some point I doubted his capacity for the courage and daring and wherewithal to do so
2) Because I wasn’t sure I was worth it. I wasn’t sure I was pretty enough, smart enough, feminine enough, thin enough for the man I wanted so much to believe was perfect.
And here’s the tricky part: there’s no real 100% ill-wishing bad guy in this story. But there are no heroes and no villains and no wrapped up in a bow happy ending.
Except that perhaps both of us have emerged with the lessons we needed to keep fighting the good fight and will be that much closer to knowing how to love and be loved and be ourselves in this world.
And for me, I realized I was worshipping a clay idol instead of a living God. I was caught up in my own delusion of what my story should be, I was inflexible as a rock but thankfully the living water of the God who is with us throughout our lives, softly and gently forming us into something better, intervened. So omnipresent, so gentle and imperceptible that we are fish in the water who don’t believe water is real.
And as for Paris, it is a journey, not a city.
It is a way fo thinking, a moveable feast
Though I don’t intend to move for quite a while.
And in Prais, while I often calculate the taxes I could be saving, the salary I could be getting, the general ease of living in my native, prosperous, dynamic country, the fac tthat there are many American companies with good vacation, benefits, and salaries, the way this economy does not seem to be growing at all…
Here I am, and for the moment, I have all that I really need.
ANd even if I can’t understand why I need to be here, even if it doesn’t make any conscious sense, I feel it.
I feel it on that deep, soulful, still small voice, be still and know that I am God, kind of way.
This may seem like I’m conflating romantic, selfish, idle pursuit with a mystical purpose, but the two my seem the same. And romance and the spirit are definitely not exclusive.
And as for real love, it might start as a tickle, the tiniest trickle of passion, an imperceptive leak in your defenses letting your love free, and end as a cataract flowing into the ocean.
You might not know, “this is it,” from the moment you meet the guy.
Getting into a relationship may not be the end of anxiety, loneliness, and even heartache.
Getting maried will not be the end of uncertainty or the beginning of a conflict free life.
This person will probably not resolve all your contradictions in the “safe” way your ego wants.
He may not be what you pictured from the time you were a little girl.
But certainly, he will capture the wonder.
He will be your friend.
And when he offers you flowers, though they may not be perfectly arranged, or a compliment, no matter how awkward, you will be that little girl again, you will feel “I am lovely,” and you will know you are loved.
And this is the Prince Charming you’ve been waiting for, this is the love you always knew you could feel.
And to the jaded, cynical, battered part of you who has had her heart broken a million times, you will recognize your brokenness, your vulnerability, and even though you know fairy tales don’t always come true, you will believe, one more time.
And once again you will give up the life you imagined to life the life that is waiting for you, to receive the love you always deserved but had not yet found, and find your heart has grown enough to receive it all and give back a love you’d almost lost hope of ever feeling.
It’s time for me to be brave, and patient.
I have nothing to fear.
Looking at all the great things that have already been done by GOd in my life, there is so much to inspire faith.
That all-encompassing love, even beyond Paris or the love of my life, is already available to me, always has been, and always will be.
I’m all for hard work and putting in the effort, but for some things you ultimately need to open your arms to receive abundantly.
So I believe.