The Grass Is Always Greener

Since I have moved to Paris one month ago, I’ve been lucky enough to meet locals and non-locals.  With non-locals that have chosen to move here, Paris is a world of wonder.  There’s gratitude and joy for getting to live in this city.  Paris is full of opportunities and culture.  Their dreams have been realized, and they remind themselves of this fact each day when they walk down the boulevards or pop into boulangeries. 

For local Parisians, I find that some are fed up with their city.  Complaints arise, such as it’s dirty, too expensive, too crowded, not enough nature, too many tourists, etc.  They desire to move to the country or even another country.  There is an idealization of how other people choose to live their lives.  One has lived in Japan for four years, and longs to return to Japan.  He admires the respect the people have for their land.  Another is lured by the mystique of the American West, the novelty and intrigue of the land and it’s people fascinates him.  Another spoke of Brazil and the liveliness that exists among the people there.

Both viewpoints resonate with me.  I have lived in multiple places in the world, and although currently I am a newbie to this town, I know what it’s like to despise where one lives.  Yet, it’s all a matter of choice.

I couldn’t help but think of the end of the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris.  Owen Wilson’s character is fascinated by life in Paris in the 1920s, and magically steps into that world each night when midnight strikes.  He meets another character played by Marion Cotillard who exists in the 1920s but she idealizes the time from La Belle Epoque, which occurred from 1871-1914.  In the film, these two actors jump back into that era as well.  Both characters have a yearning to be part of a reality that existed in the past, but not the present.  Owen’s character eventually realizes the disconnect that’s occurring, as he says: “Yeah, that’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.” 

We long to be somewhere else, whether this is another city, country, or era.  This seems to be a fatal human trait.  We want what we don’t have.  But perhaps the point of life is to enjoy what you have while you have it.  That doesn’t mean you cannot change your future and where you choose to reside, but in the meantime how can you find joy and wonder in your current zip code?

Challenge: Find 5 things that spark joy in your neighborhood and share these with your loved ones (or with me below!)  

An Endless Art History Class

“…the whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music…it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in Everything.”-James Thurber

There seems to be an endless amount of museums in Paris. I queried the official amount, and it totals 136 museums in the city of Paris! This is bountiful for a city that is actually quite small and walkable. It is only 6 miles long (North to South) and 7 miles wide (East to West). And therefore this past week, I checked out two additional art museums: Musee de Luxembourg and the Musee d’Art Moderne. One exhibit I had been excited about attending was the Vivian Maier exhibit. I first learned about her from the documentary Finding Vivian Maier. In the film, we discover a nanny who lived a double life as a minder of children and a street photographer. But the intriguing twist was nobody in her life was aware of this creative genius that existed among them. She hid her passion, and kept the beauty of her work for herself. The type of camera she had was a Rolleiflex, which could be worn on the neck and did not have to be brought to the eye to focus. It stayed stomach level, and she napped many of her subjects unknowingly. These were strangers on the street in cities around the world. At her death, most of her belongings were in a storage unit and were auctioned off. It was he who began to share her work with the world.

As I gazed at her works in the exhibit, I couldn’t help but wonder about the life of this woman. Why did she keep this skill private? Was she cautious of receiving criticism? How did she learn her craft? What went on in her head in her daily life? Was she satisfied in her job as a nanny because it covered the costs of her basic necessities of life and afforded her the opportunity to travel the world? My fascination with her continued as I walked past each image and into the gift shop that sold numerous replicas of her work as postcards or books. What would she think of this fame and her secret work being shared with the world?

I also began to think of the artists that exist among us. We are all creative beings, but why do some deny this aspect of themselves while others fully embrace it? What type of artist exists within you?

My First Day of French Class

I’m nervous.  It’s my first day of school at the Alliance Francaise.  I’ve read David Sedaris’ book Me Talk Pretty One Day and realize I’m in the same school he was enrolled, while he wrote this book.  The exact location he felt defeated in.  I sat in a class of 13 on our first day of French class. It was a complete immersion, therefore the teacher only spoke French.   

Je m’appelle Tricia.                                My name is Tricia.

         Je suis Americainne.                                 I am American.

         Je parle Anglias et pou Espagnol.            I speak English and a little Spanish.

         Je suis psychologe et auteure.                 I am a psychologist and author.

To say all of these bespoke sentences repeatedly in a group of 13 people from Colombia, America, Cuba, Brazil, Turkey, England, Sri Lanka, Finland, and Mozambique took 3 hours.  Two additional students would join us later, nuns from India and Thailand.  There were a few peers who spoke with confidence, but most spoke with hesitation.  Not only was our teacher trying to have us speak a new language, but she was attempting to show us how to end our sentences with a “period” and not a question mark with the dramatics of movement.  She pointed down to the floor and spoke with a deep voice, as a student said her name.  “It’s not a question, but a statement,” this is what I believe the teacher said in French.  Later she pointed up to the sky and spoke with an inflection, as she encouraged the same student to ask “et vous” to the student next to her, meaning “and you?”  We were learning a new language, but also confidence?  I say this with a question mark, because it’s hard to have confidence, when you are being corrected with every other word you speak.  

These lessons are being taught with each one of us having face masks on.  The teacher took off her mask several time to show us how her tongue hit the back of her teeth for some words and how her mouth reshaped for other words.  We learned one additional thing in those three hours, we learned to pronounce the alphabet.  I know my English alphabet, and even my Spanish, but French?  Most makes sense, but for some letters, my tongue has trouble producing.  The teacher completed drawings of circles with arrows of how our mouths or tongues should be with each letter.  I have yet to totally understand what was said or diagrammed out.

I spoke to several classmates in between sessions.  An American girl moved here two months ago because her wife is French. An English bloke is engaged to a French woman and moved six years ago.  This was also the case for the Cuban man and the Finnish woman.  They are learning the language for their partners, their in-laws, and their new home country.  Et moi?  Why did I move here again?  I began to ask myself this question.   Why was I tormenting myself with a month of classes, 3 days a week, in 3 hour sessions? I didn’t move to this city for a loved one but for the love of a city.  And for this I will temporarily endure the excruciating discomfort of being a fool.  I despise looking like an idiot in front of other people.  As a Type A personality, I hate not knowing the answers.   I was the one to sit in class and raise my hand, not avert my eyes and hide.  

Many people in the class seem to be sacrificing something.  A woman who I believe is a chamber maid in Paris is a dentist in her home country.  A man who usually is a professor is working at a bar.  I’ve given up being a psychologist and now am winging it as an author, with several years of savings funding me.  Sitting in the class encourages me to have compassion for those learning the language in my homeland.  Oftentimes we are too lazy to be with the struggle of pushing ourselves out of the comfort zones of our natives tongues and into the world of new ways to pronounce letters and words.

I’m reminded of several lines from David Sedaris’ book about this experience:

“My only comfort was the knowledge that I was not alone. Huddled in the smoky hallways and making the most of our pathetic French, my fellow students and I engaged in the sort of conversation commonly overheard in refugee camps.

“Sometimes me cry alone at night.”

“That is common for me also, but be more strong, you. Much work, and someday you talk pretty. People stop hate you soon. Maybe tomorrow, okay?”

I know that me talk pretty one day too. 

En francais : moi aussi parle joli un jour

Week of Faux Pas

As I complete my second week of being a Parisian, it’s been a week of faux pas.

A friend of a friend took me to a typical French restaurant today.  On the menu was heavy French cuisine such as escargot, foie gras, and rabbit. I opted for a croque monsieur served with truffles.  It was delicious and I paired it with a glass of local red wine.  We opted for a café afterwards.  He had an espresso, I wanted a cappuccino and asked the waitress if they had soy milk.  She looked at me confused, and I said a regular cappuccino is fine.  My new friend began to laugh at me, saying “they serve rabbit here, I don’t think they will have soy milk.”

And this is just one example of learning the culture here.

Earlier in the week, I popped into a small grocery store.  I had several items in my hand, and placed them down.  The clerk asked in French for “sac” =a bag.  I said “no” I didn’t need one, and pointed to my bag.  I didn’t speak French, she didn’t speak English.   She then said a word I recognized “regarder”, which means “to look,” and asked to see inside my bag. I had two items purchased from a previous store. Then she tried to scan it. Since I don’t know French, I said in English. “No! I bought that from another store.  No!” She didn’t understand me.  And the items didn’t seem to scan.  Then she looked in my other bag with my laptop and purse. I believe she thought I may be stealing. Then she said simply “desolee”, which means sorry.  I was embarrassed and stunned.  *Tip: keep all receipts or only shop at one market at a time.

The most interesting faux pas occurred in my home.  I was making cous cous, purchased from the market above.  Yet, when I began to turn on the kettle, I saw it was broken.  This is probably because my kitchen is so small, and I have to put the kettle away every time for counter space.  It simply fell apart.  As I tried to put the kettle together, I electrocuted myself.  Maybe I am not meant to cook in tiny spaces.

The evening ended today, with my new French friend sending me several store suggestions of where I can most likely find gluten free bread and pasta, but left me with a warning: “Don’t eat too healthy, you’re French now.”

C’est la vie.

I am slowly am beginning my welcome to France.

Les Deux Magots

I write this from the infamous café Les Deux Magots, which had been frequented by Hemingway, Picasso, James Joyce, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Oscar Wilde, and Julia Child.  This Parisian café in Saint-Germaine-des-Pres has been around since 1812.  This is the location I am choosing to complete my final edits for my proposal of my next book and send them to my literary agent.  I’ve been working on the proposal for one year, and am feeling confident about this.  I’m hoping the old artistic spirits of this establishment will send their creative vibes and support with the last touches, as I push send to my agent. 

I can’t help but be compelled to live the cliché of an American writer who dreams to live the idealized Parisian life.  This is why I’m here in Paris for the year (or at least one year).  It’s a city meant for the act of walking (flaneur), daydreaming (reve), and romanticizing (romancer) how life once was and how life can be.  My French visa was approved to begin literally 100 years to the day that Ernest Hemingway moved to this city.  I plan to walk in the steps of him and those of the Lost Generation.  

I had coffee with a French man yesterday, who warned me that Americans have an idealized romantic view of Paris.  “It’s not reality.”  He reminded me it’s an expensive city, and is just as glamorous as any other city with the same problems of traffic, dog poop, and endless tourists.  This is all true, I cannot disagree.  But I can’t help but be lured by the Haussmann architecture that pulls my eye towards the skyline, the passages filled with quaint shops, or the intoxicating smells of fresh croissants at the boulangeries that frequent every block.  Yes, it’s cliché and still I’m sold to the American dream of Paris.  Perhaps my perspective of Paris will change the longer I live here, but for now I’m still under it’s spell.

I push send and wait for the magic to begin.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”-Ernest Hemingway

Creating a Neighborhood Vibe in a City

Whenever I relocate, I am prepared to enter a manic state.  This was the case during my final week in the UK.  Even though I was over caffeinated, I was getting tasks done, all was well.  I moved to Paris, and remained in that heightened state for a week.  Yet, as the week passed, and the initial buzz decreased, my logic set in.  I realized I had lost a credit card my last day in England.  On checking my account, multiple charges were made in one day.  I automatically cancelled the card, and refuted the charges.  Luckily it wasn’t excessive, but I knew this only happened because I was in the “moving mind” and not my regular mind.  I had compassion for myself at the moment.  

The same day I realized, I had lost a rain cap somewhere when roaming the streets of Paris.  I was not attached to this cap, and recognized it was not meant to be.  My brother and I entered a café, for an afternoon oat latte.  Although we were hoping to explore a new café in the Marais, we opted to return to one we had frequented the day before.  We ordered our lattes, sat in the front of the shop, and as I stared at the register, I saw my black I had lost the day prior.  It was waiting to be found.  The barista staff at the café asked if I was searching for it and knew it would be there.  “No, it was pure serendipity,” I responded.

This small find of a simple rain cap was comforting to me.  The big city of Paris momentarily shrunk into a bite size town, which held familiar people and my hat.  I couldn’t take away the fact that my credit card was stolen, and I had to await the charges that were disputed, but I could appreciate this moment.  I found a piece of me in a café.  

There’s such a large part of my heart that embraces experiences like this.  They seem so minute in the grand scheme of things, but it’s refreshing to know there can be moments of joy in the midst of being overwhelmed.  

“What people call serendipity sometimes is just having your eyes open.”- Jose Manuel Barroso

Living in Beauty

“When you regain a sense of your life as a journey of discovery, you return to rhythm with yourself. When you take the time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you. Moments of beauty begin to braid your days.” 
― John O’Donohue, Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

I’ve been an official resident in Paris for three days now, and there are many things I love about this city.  A colleague warned me that Paris is currently the most expensive city to live in the world at the moment.  True the square footage one gets for euros is minimal, but one of the things I love most costs nothing.

It is seeing beauty everywhere I turn in everyday life.   This is in the architectural styles of the buildings, the charm of the passages lined with stone streets, people taking their time to sip their coffees and people watch, the fashion on the streets, and the diversity of the residents and tourists that gravitate here, and the appreciation of indulgence.  I was walking my dogs this morning on Rue Cler, a historical market street.  The shops were just opening, but I found this mundane morning stroll was electrified with beauty.  I walked by the aromas of a fromagerie, a luxurious chocolate shop, fresh bright seasonal fruit, the rainbow colors of a local florist, Lauderee the infamous macaroon shop, a store specializing in whole rotisserie chickens, a luring boulangerie, and the Christmas lights that lined the street.  Residents of all ages were beginning their morning either picking up a baguette, walking their dog off leash or their child to school, or pausing for a croissant and latte.  I didn’t have to buy anything to inhale the luxury, but I realized that simply having beauty exist in my atmosphere inspires me to want to live a creative beautiful life. 

Regardless of where I have chosen to live or travel to, beauty is a top priority.  Beauty definitely exists in the natural scenery we witness among scenic mountain landscapes, ocean backdrops, or soft pastel sunsets.  But beauty can also be found in heightening all of our senses.  We don’t have to live or eat in excess, we can simply bear witness and inhale the beauty the lures us.   

The Test

“That step, the heroic first step of the journey, is out of, or over the edge of your boundaries, and it often must be taken before you know that you will be supported.” Joseph Campbell

         Did I really want to move to Paris?  But this was one of the biggest risks I would take.  I had planning it for months, quit my job of 8 ½ years, got rid of my car, put everything in storage, and now was ready to make the Great Resignation during the pandemic to start my new life.   This was all because I was tuning into listening to my intuition and not just following out the logical path.  

But there were numerous tests along the way.  I would have to get a negative covid test 24 hours before, my dogs needed their health certificates, I would navigate sleeping on the floor for five days as the movers came, and numerous other minor details.  But the massive test came several days before.  On Thursday December 16th, France made a declaration that the only people from the UK that could come to France were those with a “compelling reason,” this meant residents, French citizens, or those travelling for a funeral.  I was going to be a new resident, would that count? 

         We had to think quickly.  My mother had flown from the US to assist with the move. Decisions were made for her to fly back in two days to Philadelphia to not chance it of being rejected into the country.  The taxi driving me and my dogs from the United Kingdom to France cancelled on me without giving any alternatives.  I chose instead of freaking out to think of other solutions, I could freak out later.  I called the taxi company pleading to ride with another family days earlier.  I then phoned my moving company to see if my dogs and me could ride with the boxes to France.  Both said no, but I was eventually able to find a company that assisted with ease. 

         For one week, I lived in shock, mania, and extreme caffenation.  I knew I could do this.  I knew I could empty out a four floor house and squeeze into less than 300 square foot apartment.  I made too many sacrifices to quit now.  And I pushed through. 

         I took the risk and it paid off.  

         In the midst of this, everyone is asking the following questions: 

         What do you want to do first thing when you get there?

Answer: sleep and rest (which works because I have to quarantine for 48 hours)         

         Do you speak French?

                                     Answer: No, but I will learn.

         Do you know anyone?

Answer: Acquaintances, but I will meet people in my French classes.

How does it feel to be here? 

                                     Answer: relief, joy, and gratitude.  

And so it is…

Whatever dream that is pulling at your heart, know it’s possible.  Adversities will arise, but so will angels to help you out.

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” Joseph Campbell

Be A Subtractor

“The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.”
― Joshua Becker

The past several years I have written down everything tangible I have discarded, donated, or gifted.  Generally my average for a year hits about 500-600 items.  But this year is different, I am aiming for 1,000.  I am nearly there with 750 items.  Yet this year is different.  I am moving from a four floor house in the UK to an apartment less than 300 square feet in Paris.  Although I will be having a large storage unit, my stuff has caught up with me.

Ever since I read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I have become great at downsizing my clothing closet.  I know what brings joy and what no longer serves me.  What is difficult is all the other little things that I have shoved to the side to deal with at a later time.  This includes excess paperwork at work I’ve needed to shred.  8 ½ years in one job adds up.  Yet additionally it includes things I never got around to: the holiday cards I never sent, the old computers I never donated, the Halloween costumes I swore I would wear again, and even old gifts friends or family members gave me that I never fully embraced. 

         One interesting side effect has happened with one large purge.  I am literally losing inches in my waistline, not anywhere else on my body, but my waist.  My jeans are loose.  Inches are gone.  Excess baggage of the past has left my body now that I have allowed items to be departed.  

         I am not a pure minimalist.  I call myself a subtractor.  I still have a rainbow colored library that exists at home.  But this brings me comfort, joy, and wisdom.  And I’m okay with it.

         There is beauty to letting go of what no longer serves you or ridding yourself of stuff that you never enjoyed but kept for the guilt of it.  What you are left with are things that make you excited your atmosphere or getting dressed for the day.  Imagine what your home and belongings would feel like if they had space to breath.  

“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
— William Morris

The Desire Map

“Your life is your art. When you make tough choices in favor of your Soul, you’re making a masterpiece out of your existence.” ― Danielle LaPorte, The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul

Do you ever read a book that’s so inspirational, you have to share it with another?  At the moment, for me that book is The Desire Map.  This came into my life at the perfect time, recommended several times by another creativity coach.  I’ve always been one to set goals, do vision boards, utilize the SMART Technique (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time Sensitive), and have accountability partners.  I find I either achieve them or realize I didn’t really value these goals in the first place.  But lately, I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected to goals.  Life is more than achievement.  And this is what I wanted to balance the part of me that likes to achieve and the part of me that wants to reside in the enjoyment of the moment.  Perhaps you may feel the same way at times. 

The Desire Map is a new way of setting goals.  It’s not about going after checking something off a list.  What the author Danielle LaPorte encourages us to do is actually reflect on how do we want to feel.  What are the emotions we ideally want to feel in our bodies and soul?  What does that look like?  What is arising in our five senses to know we are experiencing it?  It’s through focusing on our emotions first, we then can craft the goals we want to achieve for the year.  But you may find that the types of goals you set are not ones that would typically come out of your mouth. 

For example, I was speaking to the individual who recommended the book to me, Dominique.  I shared about a magical moment I had in Paris years ago, that has lingered with me.  After years of obsessing about the film Before Sunset, using aspects of it on my social media accounts, quoting it incessantly, stars aligned one day to manifest this into my life.  I found myself at The Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore (a bookstore featured in the film) at the launch day of the book that was about the history of the store.  Serendipitously I was in Paris at the same time this occurred.  Attendees mostly consisted of contributors, but somehow I was there.  Who also was there was Ethan Hawke, star of the film.  The night was filled with wine, friendship, and serenades of Ethan Hawke to the intimate group.  It was as if I walked into the film set.  The next day I got a tattoo to commemorate this by Antoine de saint-exupéry “Fais de ta vie un reve et d’un reve, une realitie”, which translates to “Make life a dream and the dream a reality.” I told Dominique that Paris has always been magical to me in retrospect, which is part of the reason I have decided to move there.  When I shared this to Dominique, she said, “What if that’s your goal?  Make everyday magical?”  I began to wonder why couldn’t that be a goal?  Wouldn’t that be a successful life if everyday was magical?  And so I read the book to begin to unravel more of what I desired.  

If you are longing to go on a reflective retreat, but cannot at this time.  Listen to the book with a lit candle, under your coziest blanket, and your journal in hand.  Take time to write out answers to the dozens of questions that are shared. There is no need to rush with this.  Let the responses reveal themselves to you.  Try emotions on if they fit how you want to feel.  This is an investment, and you won’t regret it!

“Awareness is realizing that our life could always be better. Growth is doing what it takes to make it better. When we choose the positive over the negative, liberation over repression, truth over illusion, we become real creators.” 
― Danielle LaPorte

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