20 Sept. 2009, Aix-en-Provence
First of all, a belated Happy Thanksgiving to all those American readers! I hope you had a happy holiday with lots of good food, family, and friends surrounding you.
It was pretty much another Thursday here. I spent the day writing and grocery shopping. In fact, this is a blog I started yesterday, but one I did not complete. PJ and I went off to see Michael Moore’s latest movie, Capitalism: A Love Story and by the time it was time to leave, I was only partways through what I intended to write and post, so I posted nothing.
Today, I am going to post twice, I think. I am going to quickly revise what I wrote yesterday, post it here, and then finish up what I intended to as a second posting for today. So, happy reading, and check back later to see what else I have written!
Sometime in the middle of yesterday’s [Wednesday’s] blog, I crossed over from 49,917 words to 50,000, thus breaking the word count barrier to have “won” NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writers Month. On November 1, I started writing here with the specific goal of crossing this 50k word-barrier within a 30-day time period. I also questioned the legitimacy of my competing, realizing I am not writing a straightforward “novel.” This blog is not fiction. It is about my life. But, as I maintained in similar writing all month, this blog is composed of “fiction by omission”: I do not write about every single thing going on in my life here. It is fictionalized in that I exaggerate for effect, sometimes. It is fictionalized through the limits of my writing and is, for the most part, about the things I see and do in Paris. However, because I am an introspective and reflective person, I have also found myself writing a lot about what I am here in this introduction. I am constantly trying to answer the questions for myself: What is this blog? What do I want it to be? How is it the same or different from other blogs “out there”? What makes it unique? Why should people read it?
For, yes, every blog “out there” wants to be read, else why would people write and post publically? Here is where I have focused on the things I do and see in Paris from the perspective of a person who eats gluten, yeast, and dairy-free, and sugar-free as much as I can, too, which is most of the time (except when I go to Ladurée to try different flavors of macarons). I also write from a perspective of a person who would probably, most of the time, just like to stay indoors and read the bajillions of blogs about Paris in the blogosphere rather than go out and live in Paris for myself. I am the one, who, after all, spent a gross (in terms of amount and in terms of how much was wasted) number of hours reading from the beginning of petite anglaise’s blog, which she started in 2004 (!). I got all the way through 2004 and most of 2005, I think, before I ran out to get the book, which I read, and then NaNo started. As soon as NaNoWriMo is over, I kind of hope to pick up where I left off. LOL. I created this blog because it was motivation for me, a mostly introverted, somewhat anxious (although that is getting better), unique (is that the nicest way to say “kind of nutty”?) middle-aged woman (although I am loathe to write that. Ugh. Am I really “middle-aged”? At 41, yes, I guess I am) to have some motivation to go out and live in Paris, not just let it pass me by. Which leads me to what I think I need to blog about today, in addition to finishing off writing about Karen’s and my journey on Wednesday November 18 [this is the part I did not complete on Thursday, and which I will finish today, Friday, and post a little later].
But not until I go hang up the load of laundry that just finished and has to be hung up! For a little more about laundry and my other peeves about Parisian living, see here.
*goes away for a little while*
Okay, I am back.
The Grass Sometimes Appears Greener
Yesterday I blogged a little about writer Betsy Shaw and how I discovered her writing on BabyCenter’s MOMformation blogs. She stopped by and commented on my blog, too! (The one from “yesterday” linked there.) I discovered that she also writes at her own blog called NumbMum. I really liked and appreciated the comment she left:
Wow! How I would love to spend a week, month, or year just walking around Paris. The mere four days I spent there, with a three year old and my 85-year-old mother, we averaged three blocks per day, has left me craving more. I long to return and dream of having days on end, sans children, sans schedule, to truly explore. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my post over at Momformation. I’ll definitely be reading more of your blog, I’m so curious about your experience.
First off, hats off to Ms. Shaw for even attempting to see *any* of Paris with a three-year-old and an 85-year-old, even three blocks of it! Oh my goodness. I cannot imagine! Still, what a great challenge as a Paris bloganista: to write about things to do in Paris with an 85-year-old and three-year-old! I would love to tackle that as an explorer and writer. That would take some creative thinking…
Second, this part of the comment really struck me,
I long to return and dream of having days on end, sans children, sans schedule, to truly explore.
I thought to myself while reading, “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”
This is me. Days on end. No kids. No schedule. Time to explore.
On the one hand, I am grateful for my status. I really do have the time and the ability to walk around Paris, camera in hand, with freedom and impunity (lol — not that I am doing things deserving of punishment. I just mean without hassle, of course). This has been a truly wonderful gift, and I do not want to waste it nor take it for granted. This blog is an attempt to NOT take Paris for granted.
Yet, there has been some “punity” in my being here – the separation from my children.
In what has become THE MOST controversial decision of my life, hands down, I arrived here in 2008 after leaving a life, home, and family in Colorado. My two sons, now ages 13 and four, safely situated with their fathers, from whom I am divorced, are not with me. The reasons I chose to do so are complex, very personal, have been much debated, and have left me disowned by some family members and friends and highly disapproved of by others.
It’s been a little like “Under the Tuscan Sun” (the movie and/or the book) except my husband did not cheat and I have kids. The situation is the same in that I was a woman who in mid-life was falling apart. I met (re-met, really) someone who gave me hope that not all hope was lost in life, and it just so happened he lives in Paris. My life path forced me to choose, and the choice I felt I needed, that I *had* to make, was to walk the path that led to Paris.
Like I wrote, it has been debated and questioned by many, so whatever you think reading this, go ahead and think it. I can tell you, too, there are a lot of mitigating factors in it all, ones I don’t really want to write about here, but ones which might make you see and understand the “gray areas” this all touches upon.
Some just cannot understand why I do not go “home” this very instant and put my children ahead of myself, sacrificing my needs for theirs, just as other good mothers and fathers have done for centuries, and as was done for me. To those people I have had to say that I have had such a conviction about being here in Paris that it has taken every ‘should’ and ‘ought to’ and left them in the dust — not in a selfish, self-serving, self-centered kind of way, but in a way that left me capable of even considering leaving my kids, it was that powerful of a conviction.
Some people hear and kind-of understand that type of powerful conviction. Some cannot. It is a divisive topic, for certain. At any rate, I am guessing that one of my Great Lessons in Life is to be able to stand my ground when I know something is the thing I *need* to do, but when others vehemently oppose it. So be it. I know I feel for me that I have done exactly what I needed to do, and that all shall be well in the end, when the fat lady sings, or when the final inning is played.
However, there are days when I think I might kill to have my sons with me, I miss them so much. Did any of you see “The Box” with Cameron Diaz? The premise of that movie is a “What would you do?” kind of scenario where a strange man comes to a suburban household and tells the wife and mother of that household that if she presses the button on the box he has had delivered to her house, someone she does not know will die, but she will have a million dollars, no strings (other than the someone dying part). The story is set in 1976, so the million is really like a billion in today’s terms, right? She decides to push the button, and it unleashes a set of consequences that make her realize she should have never pushed the button (okay, so I just ruined the first third of the movie for you, but it goes on after that. It’s a weird one, one by the same director as “Donnie Darko” so you know it is going to be bizarre. It would not be a bad one to see on DVD after it comes out, as I did like it and recommend it for the “thoughtful factor” — it makes you think).
When it comes to my sons, I sometimes wonder, if someone came to my house with a box and said, “If you press this button on this box, then you can have your children with you, but someone else’s child is going to die,” would I consider doing it, just to have things in my life more resolved and my children with me? Some days I might consider it more than others because I miss them so very much.
In the end, though, I know I would decide to not do it. I know what it feels like to lose a child, in small part (a late miscarriage I wrote about in the post called “I Am…“), and because of what has happened with the separation from my youngest, and I would not wish those experiences on anyone. I have had friends and acquaintances lose children and witnessed the suffering it causes. Having seen that suffering, I would stay separated from my own children *forever* if I knew that such an action could *prevent* someone from losing a child. It is that painful of a loss, and if I could spare someone that pain, I would.
I was thinking about Betsy’s comment and how the grass is always greener on the other side! I remember those harried days of having a newborn and an almost-10-year old. The school activities. The 2 am feedings. The stomach flu. The diapers. The busyness and fatigue that comes with family life. To be Betsy and parenting in a cross-cultural setting must be so very challenging, I imagine. Having read some of her blogs, I can get a glimpse of how it is. I also know just how challenging it is in one’s own culture to parent, and I know how challenged I have been as a person living in another culture without kids. To experience another culture both as a parent and as a self would be beyond my capabilities right now, I believe. It is better for me right now that my children are not here. Perhaps that is why they are not here: a wisdom greater than my own has had a hand in this to orchestrate things to be just the way they are, and they are for the best.
When I read her comment, I remembered how, during the 2 am feedings and the harried schedule of school days, I wished to myself to be taken away, to escape, to be away from it all…. I daydreamed about foreign places. I dreamed about Paris. I thought about walking Paris’ streets, sans enfants, as I might have done when I was younger, before kids, but never had the opportunity to do so. I guess I got what I wished for. But at a price. I don’t think I would wish for things to have gone any differently. I deeply feel I am here — that I was brought here — for a purpose. The way I met PJ, the timing, the manner, the way my other life fell apart: I feel that my life wanted me here at all costs. I feel that wild horses could not have changed this path in my life, and I am glad I came. I don’t know that I really had any other choice, though. This was, I believe, a part of my life path, and my life wanted me on it. Those of you who have had some radical life experiences may know and feel what it is that I am writing about — you have experienced that kind of powerful life-altering thing in your life, too. So I know you get it.
To those who would argue that leaving children behind is always a wrong choice, no matter what, and feel that there are always choices and that I made the wrong one, well, then, I will just quote the late Jimi Hendrix on that one:
I’ve got my own life to live / I’m the one that’s gonna have to die / When it’s time for me to die / So let me live my life the way I want to.
Or, if that is too 1960s and too liberal and selfish-sounding for you, then I will put it like this:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
(Matthew 7:1-4, Bartleby.com)
Basically, I will just say it is my row to hoe, not yours. You are not me. You have not walked in my shoes, nor experienced the things that led me here. Really, no one but me knows what happened to me, and how things played out inside of me, to lead me here. So you can think what you want, but I know what I know.
I do hope, however, that someday I can take Baby J, who at four is not a baby anymore, to play at the memorial playground in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. For he and his brother are my children and I do love them so. I hope they feel that love from me, and that there will one day be reunification for us all.
Those were my musings on Thanksgiving Day. After the movie, I got home and called both of my boys. My oldest was with my sister and her in-laws at their home in western Colorado. My youngest was with his father and grandmother in northern Colorado. Both were about to start eating turkey when I called them just after 2 pm their time, 10 pm my time. My littlest came on the phone to say in his wee voice, “Happy Thanksgiving” and trade “I love you’s.” The eldest and I managed to say “hi” to one another before I talked to my sister for a few moments to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, too.
I have so much bittersweetness about my situation. It has not been an easy path to walk. It reminds me, too, of just how lifesaving this blog has been, just as I imagine Betsy’s has been for her, too. We *all* as moms, as people, have tough rows to hoe! Some of them are of our own making, for certain. Not denying any beds I have made for myself, for certain, and in them I lay. I guess I am just saying I am glad I have a place like this, a place which gives me inspiration to get “out there,” write, and share with others a part of this experience called “Life.” Without people like petite anglaise, and Betsy, and so many other writers and readers out there in the blogosphere, I would feel a lot more alone in the world.
So, today I am thankful for this, amongst other things: that I have a blog which is one motivation for me to get out there and continue to live life and live it as well as I can.
Over and out (until the next post, that is :)).