Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Monday, January 9, 2012
I’m definitely not a “New Year’s resolution” person. I’m more of a meddler and tinkerer and if in March I feel the urge to set some goals and prioritize, then I’ll do it then. That being said, I love the first day of January and the ritual of putting a blank calendar on the wall. Knowing that I have a fresh calendar with no appointments or commitments penciled in feels so liberating. Of course, it doesn’t take long for each day to end up with some sort of scribble on it, so the freshness doesn’t last long, and thus I’ve learned to savor the first day of a new year, knowing that its sweetness is short lived, but the potential grand. If there is any New Year’s Day ritual I celebrate, it is the fact that I try to sit and reflect upon the recently concluded year and take stock of its highlights. I noticed in last year’s blog that I committed myself to noticing one “odd moment of beauty” per day. I totally forgot that I had started out 2011 by recording such moments and so I thought I should rekindle that effort in 2012. I do remember the positive effects it had and I think the only reason I ceased recording my daily musings was because we moved to Paris, and quite honestly, every moment there seemed like an odd moment of beauty and it was too difficult in choosing just one.
So how would I summarize 2011? In a word—magnifique! That little seed that Jim and I planted so many years ago about wanting to pull the boys out of 8th grade so we could focus on travel, actually grew into a realized dream in 2011. While our initial dreaming had us traveling for an entire year, the reality was that three months was the more appropriate number. I’d like to consider it our stepping-stone year for the other worldly adventures that lie ahead. It’s funny how sometimes you get what you’re most ready for, and I think that three months was really the perfect amount of time away. A year would have been almost destructive to us in regards to being away from our businesses that long, but three months was just right. I wrote a lot about our time in Paris in prior blogs so I don’t need to re-hash some of those particulars here, but I will say that as our time in France recedes into the nooks and crannies of my memory, the impression that remains is integrity and ease. Our life up until the point of departure was utter chaos, the timing to leave when we did was by no means our ideal, but we also knew that it was “now or never” and so we did. We left our newly re-located business in the hands of a tiring manager, we left our house and pet care in the hands of a teenage neighbor, we left all of the familiarities and comforts of home for three months of who knew what, and we were rewarded beyond measure as a result. In many ways deciding to up and leave for a three-month sabbatical was a lot like putting up a fresh calendar. We had a blank slate in front of us and it was entirely up to us as to how we’d scribble in the details. It wasn’t that our life in Paris was effortless, it was more that we were able to savor the sweetness of discovery and time together as a family. While we make a concerted effort to carve out plenty of time together while state-side, the reality is that even when we’re together we’re still being pulled in 1,000 different directions. It’s as if our attention is funneled through a prism and we are scattered in our thoughts and conversations. Sometimes it takes being out of your normal patterns to realize just how fractured your seemingly normal, healthy life really is. Our time in Paris moved much more slowly and softly. We weren’t rushed or hurried and there were no demands on us. We were in complete charge of our time. If we felt like visiting a museum or art gallery, we did. If we felt like wandering the streets without a destination, we did. If we wanted a bottle of wine at lunch, we drank. There were weeks when we were enrolled in language courses and so we had to awake at a certain hour and were expected to complete our homework, but even so, we wove these obligations into our day seamlessly. Yes, the many sights of Paris and all around France wowed us, but what lingers isn’t le tour Eiffel or the artifacts inside the Louvre, it was the fact that for three full months we lived fully present and aware and open. Is this possible to do here, maybe, but I’d argue it takes the discipline of a monk. Believe me, I’d love to say “not now” when an oven goes down or when an employee phones in sick, but I can’t, or maybe I just haven’t figured out how to be Zen in my every-day life. I’m more like the wild-eyed lady muttering to herself with curlers in her hair out in public. Living in France was like taking those curlers out and actually doing my hair before going out it in public.
France was only three months of our year, the rest of it had to do with re-entry and adjusting to the boys returning to a bricks-and-mortar school for 9th grade. In order to facilitate travel they had to enroll in an on-line school for 8th grade and while they missed out on the camaraderie of their social group, I selfishly enjoyed having them around all day long. It definitely took a while to get used to returning to the rushing around in the morning to get them off to school on time, and then not seeing them until 7:30 in the evening after they were finally done with their extra-curricular activities. We went from being around each other 24/7 to barely seeing them at all. Besides my lamenting this fact, Quinn and Logan are doing exceedingly well in school, sports and their other pursuits. Not that I doubted for a moment that they wouldn’t, but I think way back in the recesses of my mind I wondered if pulling them away from their peers for a year and then having them bottle up with me and Jim in a small Parisian apartment would have any negative ramifications. It appears that the answer is no. Phew.
What’s in store for us in 2012? Who knows? We have a number of ideas/options brewing, but as of yet they are still zygotes of a thought. I do know us well enough to know that we’ll travel and work and play—all in equal measure. I also know that I’d like life to move with some of the ease we experienced while in France. How I’ll do this, I haven’t given much thought to other than it probably starts with taking the curlers out and doing my hair. It’s a start and most of us know that all journeys begin with the first step. Happy 2012! May the steps you’re taking today be on the path that you hope to be on at year’s end.