Popular culture tells you that “change is good.” That the space in the midst of all the turbulence, is where “growth” is achieved. I’m here to say that something like that which Shane and I are doing looks peachy and idyllic on the outside, yet the legitimate truth of it is that it’s god darn hard. We had an inkling of this before we left Australia…friends and family naturally assumed we were excited and projected those feelings onto us. However we agreed in private that we both felt somewhat uneasy and not really excited to leave Perth, where our lives are well-balanced and sensible, where you can get to a yoga class at 6am, where you know you’ve got a comfortable night’s sleep ahead of you and you can read the ingredients on every packet in the supermarket. One solid discernment already; we are bloody lucky in Australia.
Both of us have found ourselves in moments of quiet, (aka reflective stress when driving, lost, through long country backroads) wondering why we made a decision to take our beautiful, extremely easy lives – where the garbage truck always comes on a Friday, where fruit and vegetables are always cheap and where you can communicate with everybody, everywhere you go – and mess them up? So that we can grow, apparently. “The Obstacle is the Way,” as published by Ryan Holiday, seems poignant now; at a time when we feel like mostly everything is a hurdle. The title of that book has become a mantra to me over the last week, growing in strength like a heart filled with adrenaline. Though, if I’m honest, adrenaline is the last hormone I sense coursing through my body right now. What do I feel, is exhausted. And this is why.
some French, yes. But this means that once a French person realises this, they zoom off speaking at 150km an hour, assuming you can understand everything that’s flying out of their mouth. It is brain-draining work, trying to keep up, and then translating what I have understood to Shane and potentially re-translating any further questions back to the French person – what a mission. Official translators must need 10+ hours of sleep after each day of work! I always leave these such exchanges on a high; feeling more positive about my language comprehension than when I went in – definitely a plus, and what I’m here for, after all. This week we have spent hours traipsing around the streets of the city, going into real estate after real estate to try and convey our situation and obtain some help. Anyway that seems to be an ongoing operation that probably requires its own blog post. Needless to say, it can’t be done facilement. It’s weird. The French have some really strict rules about certain things, and they are too relaxed about others. For example, we were in a boulangerie a couple of days ago and there was a door to the WC in the main seating area. In this tiny toilet with one of those miniature hand washing sinks, a young lady was doing dishes from the kitchen. Yesterday we went into a little office to ask some questions and use their bathroom (we were stranded, having sprinted through the city, late, to a real estate agent waiting at the gate of an apartment that wasn’t even on the street that it was addressed as) ANYWAY their TOILET was in their KITCHEN. I know it was their kitchen because all their used coffee cups were in the sink, with cutlery and other kitchen-esk supplies. I wouldn’t consider myself fancy, but I deem that practise pretty gross. Flushing the toilet with an open lid (something I already find vom-worthy) with all your eating and drinking utensils right there!? Yuck!
Moving on. What I have learnt about myself over the last couple of weeks.
1. I am perhaps not as adaptable as I once thought, and I shamelessly and lovingly blame this on having a little tiny person to look out for. I have had some insight as to the reason that many people decide “not to travel” when they have children. “Do it before you settle down” is generally the advice. I now know why. Because it’s HARD. If becoming a parent did anything for me, it made me more organised. I consistently look for the easiest, most convenient and most time efficient way of doing things. (Is this what parenting is?) And when you’re travelling, ALARM BELL – this is actually not the idea! It’s all about exploring, enjoying the surrounds and basking in the various activities that enticed you to that spot in the first place. I touched on this in the Paris post – how my dreams of romantically enjoying a glass of wine in the alfresco dining whilst watching people go about their lives has been shattered by my reality, but also EVERYBODY SMOKES HERE so the alfresco is actually not ideal. So can you just take a moment to picture me, in active wear, which by the way, NOBODY WEARS HERE on a casual basis, but I have to, so that I can integrate exercise into looking after my child, which also means chasing him down busy streets and briskly but gently seizing him before he steps in front of a motorbike, all of which cannot possibly be done in jeans.
2. I need nature,
chocolate and wine. Cobbled streets are beautiful and antique and very bumpy underneath a stroller, and little boutique fromagerie, epicerie, chocolaterie and clothing stores are gorgeous, but they aren’t the right place for a child. So I suppose what I really mean by “I need nature” is actually “children need nature” and with my primary obligation being the safety, and healthy growth and development of Arlo, we’re always looking for patches of green to expose him to. I do believe that even us adults need nature. Getting grounded is real; that amazing feeling you get when you swim in the ocean or walk barefoot on soft grass…we all need the earth’s anti-inflammatory, healing powers. Unfortunately in a place thats coated in concrete, no matter the loveliness of a building or the pattern embedded in the marble, it’s not terra firma and you just don’t get it.
3. I have realised that I’m not as exotic as (I) once perceived. It turns out that I like the routine I’ve establish at home over the last two years. I like knowing what to expect each day, what is manageable and achievable within a particular time frame and I like to know where I’m going. Again on the parenting – everything is done in sections based around the sleep of my child, which at home, is predictable and user friendly. I don’t actually like being caught out with a screaming, tired toddler, too far from home and with no croissants in sight, but having had to go to lengths to get him to the nearest park. Have I lost my ability to remain organised? Hmmm.
I’ve learnt that I like the predictability and comfort that comes with routine. But, what I’m also realising, (in part as I write this piece over a three day period) is that maybe the reason we (humans) do things like this is because we innately know when things are too easy. Maybe it is so that we don’t grow old and grouchy, and become “set in our ways.” At this time in my life, I’m still malleable, and I’m seeing that movement to shift perspective is what might maintain that sense of youth, and to help me to become more grateful for what I already have. If we hadn’t taken on this journey, I’ve no doubt that we would both still be “growing” in other ways, but that’s because of the type of people we are. Perhaps it would just be at a slower pace.
As things start to settle, I begin to breathe normally again. Each day Arlo sleeps and eats a bit more consistently, and other little routines are re-established, which help to stabilise a somewhat unstable way of living. There seems to be a pattern; the start of a sojourn in one location is always tumultuous, but come day six or seven the storm eases and things don’t seem that bad. I hope that doesn’t sound ungrateful, it’s just that our lives are SO different now to what they were a few weeks ago and this adjustment period has been more difficult than anticipated.
Although it doesn’t sound like it at this moment, I am content with being well and truly out of the zone where I feel most comfortable. Despite moments of utter (first world) despair, outbreaks of quiet tears and a wanting to just go home and resettle, secure and free from decision making and real responsibility, it’s becoming obvious that this trip was the right thing for me, personally. It’s thrown me the heck out of my comfort zone and into that wobbly, morphing space called GROWTH…which apparently, is not a bad thing after all.