I’m in Italy until Sunday night, so no new blog posts. I will maybe (hopefully) get some guest posts up, but if not, see you Monday.
I’m in Italy until Sunday night, so no new blog posts. I will maybe (hopefully) get some guest posts up, but if not, see you Monday.
…anyways, all of that bicycling was to actually GET TO a place (though in the end I think I liked the bike ride more…)
And that place was Amboise, where I ate lunch and visited a castle before my camera died. Oops. Poor planning. But look at me! Not even freaking out about it! Not even beating myself up! Whatever, I could have checked the battery before I left, but who cares? You probably do, but you’ll just have to content yourselves with what I’ve got, as far as photographic evidence is concerned.
That fireplace is from a free, guided tour that I took. In French! My French is getting so good. Did I ever mention that I haggled with the bike guy? In French! True Story!
Anyways, that was Amboise, and tomorrow I’m going to Italy to visit my New Cousin. Also a true story. Au revoir!
Hangover: Round 2 (Electric Boogaloo)
Last night was the institut-sponsored “spectacle,” where students from the institute (where I study) sang, danced, recited poetry, played music, etc. for each other and also the general publique tourangelle. Down at the guingette. And guess what, friends? I totally performed! I totally Bached-out with my you-know-what out! AND did some jazz improv with some of the other students for “Fly Me to the Moon” (Frank Sinatra). And I was nervous! But I did it anyway!
Then afterward we all danced to “Groove It,” by Earth Wind & Fire. And the sky was like this:
I’ve been riding a consistent wave of self-confidence here, feeling more adventurous and independent than I’ve felt in a while. Last weekend I went on a 15-mile bike ride all by myself, and though I didn’t know it it to begin with, nothing could have possibly made me happier. Renting a bike here turned out to be a good choice.
It was a gorgeous day, and I was wrapped-up in a sweet solitude, making plans for the future, thinking my thoughts, enjoying just being by myself. This is from my journal that day:
“…I could not be more content. Happiness is a bubble of light and air in my chest, it is radiating out from me, filling me up, warming my spirit…Glad I came alone. I had wished for company, and then hesitated this morning, because of the overcast sky. But the ride was beautiful–miles and miles of gray clouds rolling heavily above neat rows of gnarled and bright-green vineyards, soft straw-colored pastures…”
Three little Americans went out to a café.
One ordered red wine–too small! One ordered white wine–too little! One ordered a belgian beer, and it was Just Right.
The little Americans wanted to go see a French Film, but they had poor time-management and were Too Late. That’s okay, thought little Sarah, I can roll with the punches. Instead they did other fun things!
One little American had ice-cream:
One little American had meringue:
And the third little American had enough, after missing two movies because of sauntering and miscommunication and spending the whole day just idling, sitting around on park benches and drinking wine in cafés and I mean, yes, it was pleasant and the company was fine, but didn’t we have a PLAN? Didn’t we have a series of enjoyable, leisurely accomplishments by which to structure an otherwise nebulous day?
And the third little American wondered, for the umpteenth time, Is there something wrong with me that I can’t just relax and go with the flow like the other little Americans?
Then a voice from deep down inside her said, “No, little sarah. You are fine just the way you are. It is a Big World and you can do whatever you want.”
So she said goodbye to the other little Americans and went off on her own to do what she liked best: She took pictures of things that interested her.
She practiced the viola until her whole body vibrated with music and energy, she ate dinner and spoke French with her petite famille, and she wrote down her thoughts to share with all the world.
And later, she did see that French Film. All by her little self.
How to See Yann Tiersen in Concert Without Knowing It (In 10 Easy Steps!):
1- Go to an outdoor concert/festival in a foreign country.
2- But first stop at a bar/café to drink a glass of wine and wind up drinking two glasses of wine, plus some gross beer given to you by the new French friends you will make (Alex and Pauline), the friends who have just watched “Bowling for Columbine” that very morning and want to know if all Americans carry guns and keep making little pistols with their hands and going “Pam! Pow!” They are maybe a little drunk.
3- Arrive SUPER early to the concert after Chase’s host mom convinces you that in France, people arrive on time, and that you will be late and sorry if you don’t leave RIGHT NOW! Hurry, hurry! Dépêchez-vous! Allez-y!
…and then you have loads of time to kill.
4- Keep drinking wine. What else are you supposed to do? The concert doesn’t start for almost 2 hours. Eat a crêpe, then, why not?
5- Wow, those 5 glasses of wine sure are going straight through you! You should probably visit the toilettes, where friendly French people will explain about using a plastic cup to scoop sawdust out of an oil drum which you then pour on top of your “pi-pi,” because it’s “très biologique.” Fun!
6- Notice that none of the bands are being introduced nor are they introducing themselves, with the exception of Beat Drunx, and that’s only because they have to represent (“When I say ‘Beat,’ you say ‘Drunx’! Beat! [silence] Beat! [silence]”).
7- Oh, well! Because the band that’s playing right now is REALLY awesome. Oh, man, that dude is just SHREDDING it on the violin! Ooh, and now the guitar! Is that 7/8 time that I detect? It is! Cool! Ooh, and now a song in 5/4 time–awesome! Man, the crowd is really digging this guy, this group. Hey! The violin again! Dude, he is WAILING!
8- Get distracted by the crowd of people dancing outside the bathrooms. Dance a little, yourself, why not?
9- Stick around for The Inspector Cluzo, a rock/funk group that you will later realize is the French version of Tenacious D (and, oh, you will feel proud for drawing that parallel). It’s now almost 2am and you have had at least 6 glasses of wine and 2 crêpes. But, wait! What? Why are they taking down the stage after T.I.C.? And the other stage, too?! But…did we…did we MISS something?
10- Realize that step 7 WAS, in fact, Yann Tiersen.
…And that is how I spent my Friday night (and why I was so hung-over yesterday).
Why, Chase? Why oh why did I let you buy me that 6th cup of wine? Why did we think it would be a good idea to eat nothing but crêpes with nutella all night?
I’m not going to beat myself up too much about it. After the hot chocolate, I went back to bed for another hour, and that seems to have helped. I just need to remember that getting up early to run/explore the city/eat pastries makes me happier and is more satisfying than staying up late to drink, and that the two are often mutually exclusive.
TODAY IS MY HALFWAY POINT HERE, GUYS! That means I’ve been here two weeks and I have two weeks left. Wow. It is not enough time, let me tell you, and I am sad to have wasted even a bit of it on a lousy hangover this morning. I feel like there is so much to do and see and experience here, and I spend so much time blogging and running and playing viola. But I try to find the balance between keeping up with the things that are essential to me and making the most of my limited time in this lovely place.
Lots of students here want to jet-set all over, to see as much of France/Europe/The World as possible before it’s time to go home. But I’ve played that game before, and it was too much for me. Too frantic. I don’t want to spend all of my time traveling when I’ve already traveled so far just to arrive HERE. I don’t want to pack my days with as many museums/spectacles/concerts as possible (though last night was fun). I don’t want to go out to eat for every meal, either.
I find the greatest joy in the little routines that I’ve developed, and in the small pleasures of every day life. Like how my cheap little treats from the pâtisserie near the post office come wrapped up like little gifts:
Or sitting outside in the courtyard, eating quiche and pastry, and posting to my blog:
I like going for runs in the botanical gardens, where there are peacocks and wallabies and flowerbeds and greenhouses. I like running into Bernard (mon père) around town, out for his daily stroll or running some errands. I like dinner together with the family, especially when Bernard uses his fork to point out a landmark or give directions on the map on the china cabinet, without ever rising from his seat, or when Colette tells us that we bring her such joy, that taking in international students allows her to travel the world.
I like going to the movies by myself, or with friends. I like riding my rental bike around and getting to know the city better. I like treating myself to Lebanese food after successfully haggling with the guy at the bike store and then changing my train ticket, all in French.
I like who I am here, I like the life I have here, and though I know that it is temporal, that it is fleeting, I am enjoying it. I know that I will be able to take a part of it back with me, that I will not regress. I will progress. I will go easy on myself while continuing to grow. Always grow.
From yesterday’s journal entry:
“I’ve felt something opening up inside of me for some months now–ever since I dropped out of music school–but here, in France, on my own, it’s begun to truly blossom and take shape…the truth is that I cannot go back to self-hate and punishment and anxiety all the time. The truth is that I accept myself, and I trust the part of me that knows what I want and–more importantly–what I DON’T want. I refuse to continue to live up to others’ expectations of me, whether implied or explicit, at my own expense. I just can’t anymore.
I realized last night that I was lost to myself for some years–caught up in relationships that could not fulfill me. And though I mourn the loss of all that time, I refuse to go back there. I refuse to lose any more of my time or myself. I resolve to grow, to know and love myself better and better. To do everything in my power to create the life that I want for myself.
And I am contented with that.”
I just typed “winder” instead of “window.” Twice.
More happiness homework:
Though this book didn’t hold many solutions and Gore poses many questions for which there are no easy answers, I liked it. Gore’s thesis can be summed up with this passage, from the introduction:
“…how many of us can hear the truths that keep insisting themselves to us? How many of us can listen? How many of us can act on our moments of clear vision? Our desires have been patronized and pathologized for so long it takes serious courage to acknowledge that they even exist.”
Or possibly with this conclusion, from the last chapter:
“In nature, with our friends or children, working or reading, we are happy when we are engaged with our lives. We are happy when we’re following threads of thought and activity we’re curious about–unconcerned with where those threads will lead.”
The writing was tighter and more journalistic in the beginning but more lyrical and personal towards the end. Gore writes beautifully, with terrific insight. Example:
“Parenting, the source of daily heartbreaks and annoyances, has for me become a body of memory and experience that provides a sense of purpose that seems to cradle my general contentment.”
In fact, many of my favorite passages (and much of the book) were related to mothering, though I am not a mother. Gore’s observations just seemed so spot-on, and a little radical. Like this:
“Motherhood is spiritual highs and deep lows, and the institution of motherhood is a locked cage.”
“Motherhood has taught me that the opposite of happiness isn’t struggle. It isn’t even depression. The opposite of happiness is fear and obedience.”
Gore structures the book by interweaving her own personal story, as well as the stories of many other women–past and present, canonical and anonymous. She has a nice way of tidily wrapping up a personal narrative with a clever one-liner.
“When the desire…whispered in my ear, I tried to ignore it. I told myself the quiet voice was fear in disguise…I wanted to feel the way they did, the way I understood I was supposed to feel…Maybe the only thing harder than facing an honest desire is denying it.”
“It’s funny the way the right decision only seems obvious once you’ve made it.”
(Ugh, story of my LIFE).
I really liked that she drew on so many diverse experiences and scientific studies. In fact, many of my favorite passages came from someone other than Gore. The book was largely inspired my Marion Milner’s A Life of One’s Own, and I especially liked this quote (from Milner):
“Often when I felt that certain that I had discovered the little mental act which produced the change, I walked on air, exulting that I had found the key to my garden of delight and could slip through the door whenever I wished. But most often, when I came again the place seemed different, the door overgrown with thorns and my key stuck in the lock. It was as if the first time I had said ‘abracadabra’ the door had opened, but the next time I must use a different word.”
Story of ALL our lives, eh? I also really liked this quote, by Brenda Ueland, from her book If You Want to Write:
“…you should feel while writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten–happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.”
And, of course, while I was reading, as with nearly everything I experience in my life, I tried to apply it to myself, to see where the parallels ran, see what I could learn and where I had room to grow. In an effort to define happiness, to have some sort of common ground as a starting point, Gore borrows a definition from Masan Emoto’s The Hidden Messages in Water, a proposition that really grabbed my attention:
“…but do you have a sense of peace in your heart, a feeling of security about your future, and a feeling of anticipation when you wake up in the morning? If we can call this happiness, then would you say that at this moment you are happy?”
I can’t honestly say that I have any of those things, overall. I do have a feeling of anticipation here in France, because I’m excited to get up and practice French and learn new things every day. And I have some vague ideas beginning to take shape in regards to my future, but nothing I could call secure. I have a mild contentment back home in Salt Lake, in my little apartment with all my little habits and possessions, but no real sense of peace. Not yet. It’s more of a burning desire, an insistent urge, for something else–I don’t know what yet–but something, something different and new. What I have is an itch, a tingle, a hunch. My story reads something more like this (from Gore):
“We ran away, went off to college, moved into the city to find work, to find love. But away from our families and communities we wept, isolated and lonely facing the world as it is. Wide-eyed, we took it all in.”