There’s no rushing in parks

            Earlier in the week, I had a pending zoom call at 12:00 on a Saturday.  It was after 10:00 am, and I thought I could squeeze in a good ninety minutes at the park.  We generally had the luxury of two hours, so ninety minutes felt tight.  Yet, I was determined to do this.  I would rush to the park, find our spot and blanket in the sun, restore, then zip back for the call.  But how we plan things does not always equate with what arises. This is particularly the case when you have a 15 year old British bulldog in a stroller and a 13 year old pug/chiauaua mix who walks at a different speed.

            As we began our walk to the park, the sidewalks were crowded, as it was the weekend.  We passed a cheerful homeless guy, who I see daily and always wants to greet my chug.  But so many people were around, and I couldn’t seem to back track to return to him for his daily pet.  I mouthed “later.”  Shortly after, an elderly female who also was a dog owner stopped to talk to us at the light in French.  I tried to answer in French, “il est vient, il est quinze ans.”  He is old, he is 15 years old.” She spoke in English.  I wanted to try to cross the sidewalk while it was green, but Puzo began to stand up in his stroller.  I pushed him back down.  The lady then proceeded to carry her dog up to Puzo height and practically in his stroller to smell him.  I was not going to make the light, it seemed like a comedic scene from a sitcom.  I was in a rush, and the world was not letting me go at that fast pace.  I then stepped in a puddle on the street from the street cleaning. 

            We eventually made it to the park, found our spot in the sun and sat.  As I looked at the Eiffel Tower, I realized I was living the life I had planned for one year earlier.  I was in France, all this work to get to here and I have arrived.  My dog park was the Champ de Mars, but was I really present?  Was I living here truly?  Time passed, as numerous dogs and their owners came over to sniff my dogs.  

            As we walked home, I seemed to time it perfectly.  I didn’t factor in these triplet five-year old French girls who wanted to pet my dogs.  One girl tried to take the leash out of my hand, asking in French to walk my dog?  I didn’t know how to respond, until her mother came over and told her no.  The girl removed her hands from Bella’s leash.  They individually wanted to pet both Puzo and Bella.  I realized all of my interactions today were friendly and kind, but my sense of being in a rush could ruin this experience.  

            This was such a metaphor for my life here in Paris.  I came here to write my book, but I have yet to be signed by publishers.  My agent is encouraging me to pause until I am signed.  I must be patient with this process of a book being developed.  Originally, I wanted to be in Paris for one year, in and out with a book completed.  But this year is not looking like that. It’s delayed. I’m learning to slow down, and luxuriate in pleasures.  Learn to appreciate my time here guilt free. Somehow this is tough for me to do. To unlearn. 

            But if I am honest with myself, another reason I came here was to ease the transition with my dogs.  They are older and Puzo would not make it back to fly to America.  Our move from the UK to France, was smoother via car rather than plane.  I’m able to spend more time with them, without the confines of a commute or regular job.  Our pied-a-terre has turned into an elderly dog nursing home, and I have transitioned from being a psychologist to one who is a caregiver for my dogs.  The frequent accidents that occur in the home, the slow strolls, and the somatization of physical issues when I travel are all a reminder for me to live in patience.  I have to remind myself that my life right now is a living breathing loving kindness patience meditation.  This is where we are at, and what is required of me at the moment is unconditional love and care. 

            Perhaps this is what I am meant to learn here in Paris.  To slow down, practice patience, and pleasure.  I am to learn what it truly means to be present in my day to day life, not just as a mental construct.  Let go of what is next, because the reality is I do not know what that entails.    

“If when you look at me, you only see a white face and cloudy eyes, a burden or a hassle…you’ve missed out on the best part of me…Love me until the very end, for I am a gift. With each wag of my tail, I say thank you.”– Bacardi Reynolds

Fondue Etiquette

I was in a fondue pop up Swiss Restaurant in a French Agriculture Exposition.  And I felt judged.  My French friend watched me as I dipped my bread into the fondue pot.  I knew there was a comment to be made.  Portions of bread were provided to be dipped in the cheese, and so I did.  After some time, he said “no, cut it into small pieces, like this.  That way you could cover every spot of the bread and have even more cheese with more little pieces of bread.”  Ahh.  This made more sense.  I thought dipping the big piece of bread with the skewer looked awkward.  I had only frequented The Melting Pot once, an American high end chain fondue restaurant.  It actually is the only fondue restaurant I had ever visited.  I was no pro at this, I admit.

But he kept watching me.  I knew what it was.  When I rolled my cheese in the fondue, there was so much excess string I pulled the string piece out of the pot with my fingers.  I made sure it didn’t touch the pot.  Was he worried about my germs?  “See I’m not touching the other cheese, I’m pulling it out,” I said to his perplexed face.  “No, like this,” he said.   “You must be patient, as you roll it. Just wait.” I had noted my poor fondue skills, as I had been pulling the cheesy bread out of the pot too quickly.  The string would then come with it, versus letting it linger and eventually harden to the bread before bringing it to my plate.  I realized I would have to learn to soften my American ways during this year in Paris, in more areas than just fondue etiquette.  Most likely this virtue would serve as my mantra for the months to come: patience. 

I had quit my job two months prior, and felt I needed to already be a success in this new world I was venturing into of being an entrepreneur and author.  I wanted to see results fast and damn was I struggling, like that piece of melted cheese. I seemed to forget why I had moved here.  I moved here to write my book, spend more time with my aging dogs, learn French, and make new friends.  In my previous job, the last several years my life consisted solely of work, and a minimal social life.   Here, I had the opposite schedule.  My days were filled with French classes, trips to art museums, and friendship outings, but I feel I am not being productive enough.  I was judging myself because I had yet to be a signed author.   

But everything takes time.  And who is to say I am not successful in living the life I am living right now?  It is a dream for many Americans to vacation here, let alone live here.  Wasn’t the life I am living successful because I am doing what I set out to and enjoying it along the way?  Tim Ferriss encourages us to have multiple mini retirements throughout our life, not just one big retirement.  Perhaps I can learn to live into this during the year, minus the guilt of productivity. 

So this year, as I learn the practice of undoing the busy, I will also begin to embrace the acts of pleasure and patience.  Maybe this is what Paris is meant to teach me, and to eat from a fondue properly.

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.”-Oscar Wilde