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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I wrote this post on June 15 and am only returning to it these nine days later:

Is it a set-up or naive to be longing for a transformative experience at age 57, given (literally) 18 days in Paris?  I left NYC so depleted and anxious that I almost couldn't leave NYC, wanted to crawl inside myself and pull the door closed tight; had someone offered me an out, I would have only been able to refuse by telling myself that my nature is to resist the new - and that, once on the other side of the transition, I am likely to be so thrilled as to be embarassed by my fright.

So, at age 57, if I can't escape (or even short-cut) this pattern of dread ... herculean effort to act anyway ... delight, then how available could I be to transformative experience?  My hope is that, now more or less on the other side of the transition, I can open wide.  I am opening, bit by bit, and aspire to wide, will try to commit to wide.

Paris is so utterly different than NYC that I feel foolish for having said "Why would I use my scarce time to travel going to a city?  I have city.  I need not-city when I'm away."  The comment wasn't made in the context of the gift of a trip in exchange for bringing 12 college students to a seminar.  That almost makes it worse:  that I would have believed myself had I not had the opportunity to realize the narrow-mindedness (and NYC-centricity) of that comment.

Paris is lower, wider, slower, softer.  In just three days here, NYC seems so hard.  I knew it was hard, but not so hard ... harder.  While having about three words of French and being alone is making me self-conscious about engaging, I feel comfortable here in myself:  wandering, looking, taking pictures, making notes.  That has to be the opening for bringing some freshness into my life.  ("Transformation" is such a sappy word.)  I started reading The Snow Leopard, a choice made to build my confidence, tell me it's OK to want more (and less), and to put the relative safety of my travels in perspective.

I am sitting on a bench in the Place des Vosges, a ten-minute walk from my apart'hotel.  It is cool and breezy, and the park has started to empty as people head to dinner.  I came here on a walking tour of the Marais yesterday, and veterans from D-Day were here in uniform.  The 70th anniversary (June 6) was a huge celebration.  There will be few years of having soldiers who lived the experience alive.  Will the forgetting accelerate when we don't have to look at them?  Four visitors to the Jewish Museum in Belgium were murdered May 24, and there were police guarding (a ladybug just showed up on my Mac) a Jewish boys' school in the Marais by the Memorial de la Shoah.

Now, these nine days later, the phrase "be careful what you wish for" has taken on entirely new meaning.  My love and wonder at Paris continue; my experience as a trip leader has been extraordinarily difficult and disappointing.  If I've learned anything about myself, it's that I am strong and capable and patient, and that I will not do this again.  Between my introversion and ways-of-being and the generalized nature of 20-year-old American college students, the stress and unpleasantness are not worth the opportunity for personal adventure and growth.  What I had hoped would help me turn a corner has given me a fresh day-to-day experience, but not the freshness in myself I need.  We have a few days left and, barring any further catastrophes, my wishes and expectations seem now right-sized.

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