Friday, May 16, 2008

Towards Paris

Paris is really only 47 days away. I know it has been creeping up on me and I know I'm going. Yet, I've been feeling incredibly oblivious about it. So much so that once the basic elements were secured - approval from boss, apartment, and ticket - I feel like it just became this suspended thing. Spending a month in Paris was such a fixation for many months (and really, a lifetime!) and my mind was buzzing with how to make it work. The ambition behind that fixation brought about a great investment of energy - planning, buying books and Paris related items, working on my French language lessons, etc.

I was buying up little tokens of Paris, like my beautiful Paris charm necklaces, Paris magnets, the very hip Moleskin City Notebook Paris, the neat little package of Paris City Walks, and so much more. I was eagerly engaged in my Rosetta Stone lessons, watching French in Action episodes and actually using French phrases and words in emails and conversations with friends. I was voraciously stuffing my Netflix queue with French films, reading Balzac, Voltaire and Flaubert as though French literature was the only thing to ever exist.

Yet, somehow, once those fundamental commitments were made with work, apartment, and airfare, that energy subsided substantially. My French Phrase-A-Day calendar is sitting over there on the shelf, still on some date in March. That great Moleskin planner has just a few places of interest written in it (Ladurée, Vaux le Vicomte, Museé Carnavalet, Museé Rodin, and Belle Hortense bookshop), and I even started a Towards Paris blog but the inspiration for such has waned considerably. Although I feel that there is much to write about where this upcoming trip is concerned, I sit down to blog about it and the words just aren't there.

Earlier this week I had an awful feeling that my seeming lack of interest in Paris meant that I wasn't truly thrilled about this upcoming trip. I feared that maybe my previously held conviction about Paris being a gateway to a fuller life was somehow false. And then, just as instantly as this last and painful thought emerged, I became acutely aware of a recurring theme in my dreams... baggage. I've had countless dreams about baggage. In many of the dreams, I suddenly realize that I am responsible for all of this luggage around me, that I somehow have to lug all of these bags around and realistically, not one person could carry so much on their own. Or dreams of packing and repacking to an unnecessary degree for a trip I never actually embark on within the dream because I'm spending an insane amount of time packing.

In thinking about this symbol within my dreams, the "aha" moment came. I realize that once I made the commitment to myself to spend a month in Paris and actually spoke with my boss, booked the apartment, and received the airline miles from my sister, I was off the hook with myself, so to speak. I didn't feel some ridiculous urgency to spend all my free time learning the French language and consuming all things French because I know I'm going to be living it. And that's not to say that learning French or reading about France has ever been a chore, but I think that much of my energy spent steeped in such was a substitute effort to quench my desire.

So often in life, I've over-prepared for things that I've never carried out. And in investing so much energy in the planning and preparing, I feel that I (we?) sub-consciously attempt to substitute for the actual experience. Maybe it is a kind of fear that prevents us from really living out the experience, embarking on the actual journey. Whatever it is, somehow we manage to keep our dream barely alive by surrounding ourselves with knowledge and "souvenirs" of a journey we may never actually take. Really, trying to keep that dream barely alive is far more exhausting than carrying out the dream.

Once I committed to this month in Paris, I felt a tremendous easiness about my dreams of Paris. I know that I'm absolutely open to the experience and I don't feel some enormous pressure to be "prepared." I'm not trying to control the experience and I've not set any expectations on the trip, which is wonderful. Just committing to this trip has already put me closer to that symbolic gateway. And yes, with it (as demonstrated in my previous post) a divine discontent. That sensation of being alive started invading every aspect of my psyche. If I can commit to this month in Paris, what else am I willing to do with my life?

It seems ridiculous at times, thinking that we might be afraid to pursue what seems like a simple and relatively easy dream such as spending a month in Paris. Yet, we deny ourselves our dreams so often and so aggressively. Why is that? Possibly because that consciousness makes us feel so much and urges us to action?

In thinking about posting this last night, I felt a resurgence of interest in my French language lessons and much delight in glimpses of the upcoming month in Paris. But this feeling was a new one, an easy one. I'm really going. And now, after allowing myself these past couple months of suspending that energy, I feel revitalized. My French books and trinkets look different. They feel real. And suddenly, so do I.


La Belette Rouge said...

46 days. really? How did this happen. Gosh, when I look back to January and see all that we have done and how having this dream has changed us in ways we could have never imagined. I am so struck by what you and I talked about oh so many months ago---that it is not just the destination but the journey and that the journey to Paris could and would be as transformative and enlivening as the actual trip.

I know you will find this shocking ;-), but, I feel very much the same way. When I look back at the me that wrote my blog post about Inch by Inch---I feel like I am in a totally different place with Paris.In pursuing Paris I have been changed by the journey.

And, in fulfilling my Paris dreams I am left with that certainty that if this can happen what else is possible that I have told myself is impossible.

All those things, the moleskin note book, the Rosetta Stone, books on Paris and all the accessories to my dream became less significant as my dream began to unfold into a reality. Sure, I need to learn French, and I will. And, of course it will be helpful to have a notebook to write down reminders about where I want to go. These things became more ordinary and mere accessories to my journey and not something that I had as a souvenir for a journey I might not have the courage to take.

I think that these things were, for me, like trying to put Paris on lay-away. And, I cannot say whether or not that worked. I mean, yes, I am going to Paris. But, was it these small little steps and purchases that got me there by investing in both large and small ways in my dreams. I am not sure.

This post, as always, is a reminder to us all that no dream---especially the dream of writing a book, going to Paris, or whatever--is impossible. Like you, I believe that the greater the fear and the more we tell ourselves that it is absolutely impossible to follow our dreams because we are too old, or because we have debt, children, or whatever it is we tell ourselves--it is a lie. There is no Hero's journey without fear, risk and uncertainty. If we have been called to take the journey and deny the call---we may describe those who dare to take the journey as lucky. That is not true. Those who dare to follow the call of their heart are brave and heroic. I am so grateful to share the journey with you. And, I am so happy you dare to write so beautifully and honestly about your process that is both profoundly personally and universally archetypal. xo
p.s. sorry that was so long.;-)

Anonymous said...

Geez, you ladies are intense! Can we all move in together?:-)
I think what you experienced is perfectly normal. When I first came to NY and after months of anxious expectation, waiting, wanting and dreaming I got to the point where I didn't care anymore. After everything was secured, the job, the trip, the roomate etc.. I spent my last few weeks in Paris without giving it much thought. On the day I took the plane I was perfectly peaceful. I didn't know what was in store for me and I could have gone out of my mind worrying but strangely, I was in a state of bliss for the whole ride and when I got there I was like a little kid in a candy store.

I'm sure you will have a hell of a good time. Enjoy every
little moments. I have the feeling you're gonna be there for a very long time - beware of those French men... or don't! Haha. :-)

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Take me with you? lol

How wonderful that you are going!


b said...

LBR... YES!!! 46 days! I know... January seems so distant, doesn't it? I'm glad you can relate to this post. I so often feel "out there" alone with these kinds of thoughts, so connecting with someone who understands is really comforting.

Those French things really changed for you as well? I think maybe we were clinging so tightly to them at one point, when France was a strong desire. Now, they are still lovely but more functional and truly just accessories.

I think for me, these accessories helped but only so much. Really, meeting you and other free souls truly helped the most. Things and self reflection can only inspire so much. Reading about and sharing dreams and experiences with other open people is hugely inspiring.

Can you believe that not only are we sitting here talking about an upcoming trip to Paris for a month but that you are moving to France very soon?! There is no way we could have seen this coming back in January. So crazy and yet absolutely affirms my hope about living authentically and the fullness that such brings.

Thanks for your ongoing support and faith in me. Days like this, when I want to rip this post off my blog because it seems too out there, your friendship and understanding give me so much strength to continue being me.

And you can write long comments to your heart's content!

Merci beaucoup mon amie!! Je t'aime!

b said...

Zen... Sorry to startle you with all that intensity. I've been known to do that every now and then as you know! :) Yes, we'll all move in together. I'll be happy to philosophize my nerdy self to pieces if you'll do the cooking. Hmph... somehow I think I win in that situation!! ;-)

Thanks for sharing your experience of moving to NY. It really is peaceful, isn't it? And it is amazing how those concerns or anxieties are just gone, as are any ridiculous expectations. To be able to approach our dreams/goals this way is really wonderful. It does allow us to arrive fresh, as children in a candy store!!

I have absolute faith that this will be a wonderful trip. Haha... thanks for the warning about French men. What exactly should I be looking out for exactly? :)

Thanks for always leaving such thoughtful comments. It's great to have you back!!

b said...

T... Absolutely, I will take you with me to Paris!! Have you ever been?

Betty C. said...

I think we are talking over-preparation here. You can't let the preparation overwhelm the actual experience, and it opens up the danger of the actual experience not being in synch with your preparation.

It would be different if you were in charge of a group, but you're just in charge of yourself! Take it easy! I think the most important part of your preparation is your French lessons -- although when I went to Paris in April, a lot of people were jumping in speaking English to me immediately, and I speak fluent French! I almost felt like I was in London -- the image of the surly French waiter who refuses to speak English is certainly out of date!

Anyway, I love using the evening to plan my next day. So much depends on the weather, your mood, how tired you are...just let it happen!

Don't hesitate to send me emails if you have some specific questions. I could go on and on.

Marie said...

Hello b! I think that you would love the forum. There is a lively commenting community. It is a a Franco- Anglo mix of like minded people. I would like to meet you too when you come to Paris! I could introduce you to the 'natives!'

Randal Graves said...

I think all the preparation and the inevitable letdown comes from some subconscious fear that whatever dream one is pursuing won't come true. On the surface, you know it is - plane tickets, reservations, all the other ephemera associated with it - but there's a supernova of that fright and whether it'll be as good (or worse or too different) that whatever idealized creation we had previously dreamed up.

For some something like this would be "hey, let's go to Paris (or London or Vienna) and see x, y and z. It'll be great!" And they'll have a wonderful time, take some pictures, toss them in an album, and look at them from time to time.
For others, like yourself, it's something far more visceral and vital. Thus, heightened emotions and apprehension and blinding zest, all pulling you in a million directions. It's bound to be draining. :)

Lothian said...

"It seems ridiculous at times, thinking that we might be afraid to pursue what seems like a simple and relatively easy dream such as spending a month in Paris."

This line almost made me cry as there are so many things in my life I would love to pursue (and places to visit) yet fear of the unknown is keeping me away. Good for you for facing the fear and beating it!!

susan said...

A long time ago I spent a winter there - went from London to help a friend who'd taken a job with UNESCO to find a place to live. We found her un pension on the Ile St Louis - Rue de Vielle. Then I just stayed on in the little hotel room we'd shared. I went to the Louvre every day for three weeks until the day I found myself deep underground and far from any other visitors surrounded by Michelangelo's slave sculptures that I hadn't even known existed. I think I cried. After that I went to other places and there are many. You'll have fun and will do and see things you can't imagine now.

Loulou said...

I fluctuate between over planning and procrastinating depending on the situation and the journey.
When I go back to the States I start putting little things that I don't want to forget in a file box months before. Then the last week before the drive to the airport always seems quiet and non-eventful, like the trip isn't really happening.

46 days to must be thrilled and excited and impatient!

I would love to come up and meet you two. Maybe we could work it out?

b said...

Betty... I think it is interesting that I only over prepare when I've not made a true commitment to going on the journey. Once that commitment is there, I am extremely open to the opportunity and truly don't set any expectations.

I know my French will be fine in Paris but yes, it will be nice to brush up a bit before I go. I really do want to try and speak French as much as possible. When I was in Paris last, people were very friendly and patient with me as I attempted to speak French!

I am absolutely in agreement about letting it just happen. I am great about being open to the possibilities. My difficulty really lies in taking that first leap of faith.

Thank you so much for this comment. It really is inspiring. I would love to hear more of your thoughts and French preferences, etc. I'll be sure to email you soon! Merci!

b said...

Marie... Thank you for visiting my blog and for mentioning the Paris Daily Photo forum. I visit the blog regularly but have not really connected with others. I'll have to do that!

And I would love to meet you in Paris in July. That would be wonderful!!! I will check to see if you have an email link on your blog or you can email me from my profile page! Thanks again.

b said...

Randal... You are absolutely right and I so want to reach through the blogosphere and hug you right now because this comment absolutely embodies how I feel and I'm grateful that you can "see" me.

This trip is far more visceral and vital to me than just a vacation. And you're right, the awareness of such brings with it many emotions. It is incredibly draining. Yet, I know me. I won't have it any other way. I can't/won't turn that awareness off. It is necessary to the life I want to live.

So, that means weathering storms along the way, such as the recent state of restlessness and confusion. Fortunately, the storm broke this weekend and I'm very excited about what lies ahead.

Thanks for this comment. It means a lot to me!!

b said...

Lothian... Oh, don't give up! I know how you feel, truly. It is so very difficult to understand why we fear pursuing our dreams and all that such pursuit might open us to. We acknowledge the absurdity of such fear and yet, we succumb to it so easily it seems. This is a constant battle for me too.

What are your dreams and do you specifically fear something or is it a general fear?

b said...

Susan... Thank you for sharing that incredible experience. It really inspired me. Wow, that is wonderful. The Louvre everyday for three weeks? And how lovely that you discovered something so special and it touched you so deeply. That is such a powerful moment of being alive. I too found myself pulled back to the Louvre when I was in Paris last. It just drew me in so effortlessly, even just sitting in the courtyard area and marveling over the architecture.

I'm so excited to see what experiences I stumble upon this upcoming trip and yes, a huge part of the experience is the unknowing... those brilliant surprises. When I was in Paris before I just started walking around the Left Bank and walking down this small street, I looked up and there was the Sorbonne! I had not even intended to "find" it but there it was and my love of learning and universities just made that moment. I sat by the waterfalls with students enjoying their lunch break and just felt so grateful for this unexpected moment.

b said...

Loulou... Haha. Yes, I too can over-plan or procrastinate. This journey is just so momentous for me and I know it will be a gateway that will open me up to possibilities I cannot even imagine for myself right now. I am guessing that I might be in a bit of shock with such a strong feeling towards this trip!

Yes, less than 46 days! I am thrilled, baffled that it could really be true, and buzzing with the huge transformation I'm about to make with my life. Craziness, I tell you! :)

Oh, I would so love to meet you and I know LBR does too! Yes, we will have to make that happen!

Anonymous said...

when i am in the planning stage, i often feel like it is too much. it becomes sort of a crutch. then when I am putting forth the plan, i suddenly realize that i am all frenched out and not really caring about what i am doing. it's the balance factor that I am working on.

Randal Graves said...

You can give me a big hug if I ever make it to France after you're living there. :)

It's impossible to have it any other way. It's the experience, the shades of emotions, 'good,' 'bad,' whatever they may be. The surface phenomena aren't enough; we need to go deeper than simple sightseeing. Think of it as a giant palimpsest. All the layers save the topmost have been rubbed away, but there's always going to be a remnant of those long gone ones, everything tied into everything else, unpredictable avenues that need exploring.

Richard said...

I empathize with your planning and preparing and then failing to carry out.

After much thought on it, I have come to the conclusion that my primary passion is in learning, in laying the groundwork, but not in the executing. For me, following through is more mechanical and less creative. My main focus now, is how to turn dreaming into something that can earn me momey. I often thinkthe best job for me would be one where I get to be creative, get to come up with ideas and concepts, but let others carry them out for me.

I am sure you will be fine in Paris. Whether you find your epiphany is another thing. However, the experience and the knowledge you gain from Paris will be invaluable. It will allow you to dream and plan and prepare for new things in your life.

Have fun.

dancingdocdesign said...

b-I love how Randal and you have given this journey a description of visceral and vital!! Not only because these are medical terms,lol, but, because they speak of the soul's heart felt journey of which you are to embark in 42 days!
I wonder if the preparation of your upcomng journey is like a precurser for the enigma of arrival? This enigma of arrival is
from a great website about the French and passionate endeavors! this received the Thinking Blogger Award

From the French Country Kitchen by James Villas, pp. 3-4: "The novelist and essayist V. S. Naipaul has written persuasively of what he calls " the enigma of arrival," a cogent psychological concept used to describe how sudden exposure at a young age to a new surrounding, a new people, and an altogether new culture can reveal a mystery within ourselves that defines our true nature while remaining unresolved. This experience was exactly mine over 30 years ago when, after crossing the Atlantic aboard the old Queen Elizabeth and taking the boat train from Cherbourg to Paris, I had my first French meal with two other excited but rather frightened students at a bistro called Allard. Inside it was warm, tables were very close together, and we could barely read the menu scribbled in purple ink. People around the long zinc bar were laughing, drinking a strange yellow concoction, and speaking the language I was yearning to master. The aromas of food and Gauloises and garlicky breaths were like none I'd ever known. The old waiter in a long black apron shuffled across the sawdust floor and placed a basket of bread on the table. I ate a piece, then another, and another, only to realize that the wondrous crust had torn the roof of my mouth. Our waiter finally smiled, and when the time came to order, he simply took over as we stumbled along in miserable French. I recall every dish: escargots de Bourgogne, jambon persille, paté de campagne, coq au vin, gigot aux flagelots, canard aux olives, smelly but wonderful Camembert cheese, and small shiny apricot tarts served with a silver bucket of crème fraîche that was slightly sour. We drank red wine, Beaujolais, which the waiter chose and replenished automatically, I was ecstatically dumbfounded—by the foreign chatter around us, the sense of joyous abandon, the exotic odors, the sensuous new flavors. The only problem was that, for a while, I felt I didn't really belong in this incredible place, that none of us yokels could ever belong here, that we were strangers whose vicarious participation in this alien environment had to be fictional, like something we'd read about back home, in Sartre or Hemingway. Then, just as I was savoring another luscious bite of apricot tart and trying to avoid the boring academic conversation of my companions, someone to my left touched my arm and uttered, "C'est formidable, n'est-ce pas?"—pointing to the tart—"Oui, c'est formidable, formidable!" I responded fearlessly and proudly. Nothing more was said, but suddenly, with the bittersweet taste of apricot in my mouth, and the consoling remark, and the sound of myself perfectly imitating the pronunciation of that strong word, I knew almost instinctively that an important transition in my life was about to occur, that I was moving into a world that was forbidden but had to be explored. The enigma of arrival."
and you too are a wonderfum writer following your bliss! are u coming south?

Je ne regrette rien said...

hey I'm fast on your heels at 52 days! how lucky you are to spend an entire month in Paris. I once spent a month and it afforded me the delicious luxury of finding favorite spots and making them my own ... to take a pass on the standard sights and just wander the streets ... or sit at a café and watch the street wanderers... to discover little hideaways such as a postage stamp park tucked away or a special statue or view. *sigh* ... France beckons.

b said...

F.O.T. ... Balance is everything, isn't it? I can definitely be an all or nothing type when it comes to things like this, unfortunately. The pre-planning excitement really inspires me to do something, to commit to the journey. So I consume myself with all things French.

Once that commitment is there, I really feel that it is real, I've heeded my dreams, and then the pressure is relieved. I just want to go with the flow. And I think that really works for me because it prevents creating expectations. Maybe there is balance in that which we overlook or don't give ourselves enough credit for?

b said...

Randal... Deal!

Absolutely. There are those of us who must always go deeper. It transcends choice. It is who we are and we must reside in the deeper layers, coming to the surface now and then.

A giant palimpsest is a great way to perceive this. Everything tied into everything else. Beautifully said! Thank you!

b said...

Richard... I too have always enjoyed the planning or conceiving stages of projects but often my interest wanes when it comes to carrying the project out. I'm far more interested in the conceptualizing phase. Although I've long appreciated and accepted this, it can be a crippling trait where dreams are concerned.

The excitement of planning sometimes comes to a halt and I find myself trying to initiate a new interest or shelved pursuit, ready to abandon the previous one. I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with being this way, but again, we cannot do this with our dreams, with that fundamental aspect of ourselves.

Interestingly, my sister seems to possess the reverse trait. She is a doer but not a conceptualizer. She has the energy and drive to execute but doesn't know what her passion is at all. We talk about this all the time and the constraints of both. She tells me to just put myself out there and write a book already! I tell her to turn inward and acknowledge her passion already! :)

I've found my epiphany now and I'm not yet in Paris. How wonderful! And somehow in this moment of awakening, I've decided to stop allowing my dreams to be treated like one of my "projects." No one else is going to carry out my dreams for me and no one could if they wanted to or tried. It would be without meaning. Paris will be incredible, no doubt!

b said...

Dancing Doc... Randal deserves credit for deeming this journey visceral and vital! And he is absolutely accurate, as are you in acknowledging the "soul's heart felt journey." I feel it so immensely.

Thank you for this oh-so-lovely excerpt! I felt so much in reading it. What an incredible experience. I love the profound simplicity. I love and live for those moments. And these are the moments that one cannot plan. Sure, we can plan the restaurant and preconceive what we might choose to eat, but the experience always delights with surprises and a great sensation of being alive!

Thank you also for acknowledging me as a writer following her bliss! It means so much to me, to hear others affirm such!

Yes, I think I may be coming to the South of France in July!!! I would so love to meet you if possible!

b said...

Je ne regrette rien... We are definitely in countdown mode!! I know the month in Paris will be incredible, allowing all those delicious luxuries you describe. I am so ready for it, all the surprises and experiences!