/*amazon_ad_exclude = "christian"*/ The Skin I Am In: May 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008

La Joie De Vivre

In spite of suffering initial homesickness and a great many misadventures, I am currently faring much better than my own predictions at the commencement of this Parisienne expedition. At the peak of my loneliness and longing for my children I quite literally dreaded the duration of my stay. For what could I possibly do here for nearly three weeks? I proceeded to diagnose myself as clinically insane for booking a solo voyage to a foreign country for a period of longer than four or five days. However, as I have discovered it requires a certain amount of time to fully enjoy the destination and reap the benefits of getting away. The first days are extremely stressful as you must not only become geographically acclimated, but culturally as well.

I have visited many of the “must-see” sights of Paris, and although there are still a few specific things I would like to do, I can now slow down and actually enjoy this beautiful and historic mecca. There is a very distinct difference between seeing a place and experiencing it. When visiting for only a few days and going from one tourist attraction to another, so very much gets missed. It is difficult, if not impossible, to really get the essence of a place when you only scratch the surface and hastily at that.

More than on any other journey I have felt the freedom to aimlessly walk in search of only whatever it is that lies around the corner. I found a marvelous long-cut back to my apartment by getting off at a different metro station. It is a little further away but well-worth it. When I ascend to the top of the stairs from the metro station and emerge at ground level I am immediately surrounded by Le Louvre and the Palais Royal. Then I get to cut through the Palais Royal gardens and under a long canopy of trees that extends the length of the gardens. On one side of what feels like my secret path are cute cafes for outdoor dining and on the other are the palace fountains naturally fit for a queen. This walk home c'est tres magnifique!

Another example to the benefit of an extended stay is how on a traditional vacation I may have considered today a bit of a waste because I did not have my camera nor did I mentally check anything off my to-do list. Yet taking things one day at a time and implementing a “joie de vivre” mindset I realize what a truly wonderful day it was, albeit completely spontaneous and unexpected. I was fortunate and pleasantly surprised to have good company who showed me many beautiful places I never would have seen otherwise. We were in no hurry and had no particular destination. Throughout our meandering we experienced a mix of clouds, sunshine, and a sudden downpour. The weather was so erratic it may possibly cause me to falsely recollect today's journey as not one, but several.

On a few occasions the setting was so spectacular I was compelled to simply stop and soak it in. I just stood there, literally savoring the place, the sights, the sounds, the moment. At one time I leaned on a railing on a bridge of the Seine enjoying the most amazing view. I remember equally enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face as it simultaneously illuminated the scene before me. Adding to the perfect ambiance, a band was playing music in the street. Then, just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the bells of Notre Dame began ringing just a few short yards away. It was purely magical; that is la joie de vivre.

In between some of the more extraordinary moments it recently occurred to me that I have not done much, if any, thinking about the things I came here to think about. Yet, I also came here to get away from many things and that I have done. In the process of realizing that I haven't had any epiphanies about my situation, I have realized that there is no deadline by which I must reach a definitive conclusion. Instead of thinking, analyzing, and weighing my problems I am learning to take things one day at a time. Often the bigger picture is just too overwhelming. With the mentality that every little decision I make could affect the next decision and the next and the next, it puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on anything I do! I am slowly learning to roll with the punches—and I have had many punches to roll with over the last week, let me tell you. Granted the things happening here aren't likely to affect the rest of my life, I would surmise that learning to have joie de vivre is a definite step in the right direction. In fact, that may just affect the rest of my life more than anything else.

Now, anyone want to see a picture of my super nasty blister?