Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 2, 2010 - Year Deux

Happy Second Anniversary to us!

Dec 2, 2008 will always hold a special place in my heart. We acknowledge and remember it as this great leap of faith; with a child-like fear and anticipation, still enamored by the myth and the fables...

Fast-forward two years. Where are we? Who are we? What have we learned?

I can safely say that year one and year two have been decidedly different, which I trust is a good thing. The only thing one can ever count on is change and there has indeed, been change.

I just read through last year's anniversary post and chuckled to myself. Year one was the year of constant comparisons, i.e, France vs the US. We were textbook expat cliches in that regard. We took the mold we knew and laid it over that which we didn't and that's how we measured, judged, misunderstood, etc. a lot of things. Anything that didn't fit that mold was a challenge, a conundrum, another stupid Frenchism...just one more thing to make our lives more difficult.

Well believe me, this chronic habit will send you to the corner, lying in a fetal position with your thumb in your mouth. And that's about the time you decide that it may just be your behavior that needs a makeover.

After a lot of self-reflection and picking our sorry asses up over and over again, brushing off and moving forward, things have begun to shift. We have begun to widen our lens a bit, get rid of that old mold, and understand France as the French understand France.

We have stopped inflicting our own suffering by being willing to let go of the notion of how we think things should be done and quite literally go with the flow a bit.

We have stopped wishing the French would be less French, to make it easier for us to do what we need to do. Rather, we've begun to understand why the French are the way they are and why the system works the way it does.

We stopped going into unnecessary tailspins every time the banks, a public agent, a retreat chef, an accountant, or a mean boss speaks to us in a condescending, threatening manner.

We have stopped bending over backwards to respond to that which is "tres urgent" now that we understand what that really means.

We have learned to give ourselves more time than we previously thought was necessary to get things done.

We are passing judgment less and listening more.

Year deux thrust us into what would "normally" be perceived as a mildly unstable living situation. We spent over 7 months of the year living apart more than together. Greg spent half the week in Paris and half in the house in Chantrigne. I did the reverse. Ti retired to her country house full-time for that period. We kept a 20 meter squared pied-a-terre in an uninteresting Western suburb. Our commute was the combination of a 45 minute drive to the TGV, nearly 2 hr train ride, and finally the metro to our work destination. We came together on Sundays to catch up on sleep, spend time in the garden, relax, and deal with the reams of administrative crap that would accumulate.

Mondays we were in mandatory French driving school, likely a meeting with a bank or an accountant, and I was schlepping laundry to the nearest mat because shockingly, the 30 yr old appliances in the 600 yr old house are beginning to get tired. Greg worked virtually until the evening.

Tuesday mornings at 6:10, I was driving Greg back to the TGV and we started all over again.

It wasn't easy, but it was necessary. We were managing a tight budget, Ti's geriatric health challenges, and making hard choices to pull it altogether.

We learned to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. I broke ground on a fabulous kitchen garden - the first that house had seen in over 50 years. That garden, the process, and the bounty, brought us closer to our octogenarian and nonagenarian neighbors than anything else we had done to ingratiate ourselves to that community. They taught me so much about using everything, wasting nothing, and sharing. We were invited into their precious gifting culture and nearly daily, would have precious seasonal goodies left on our doorstep, which we could now give back in-kind.

Being on a tight budget forced Greg's culinary creativity to thrive and he made Saturday and Sunday night meals that were extraordinary! He used the best, freshest ingredients, most of which were coming from less than five houses away, the backyard, or the nearest dairy farm.

Year two was also the year of the Icelandic volcano (canceling Greg's US trip), on-going and increasingly severe greves (strikes), and the the receipt of our first French tax bills (ouch).

We learned to live within an context of true austerity, yet often felt an abundance than hadn't been there before.

Greg's work situation improved greatly. DogaYoga is now an official French small business. Greg passed the written exam for his driving test. My French continues to improve. Greg was voted VP of Drupal Francophone. I hosted two more retreats and now teach out of three studios.

Little Ti celebrated her 13th year.

In two weeks we will officially be living in Paris. Paris - not the banlieue (suburb) and not a half Normandy/half Paris combo split - but Paris herself will be our full-time home for the foreseeable future. This is the next necessary step. Although, who knows? This too could change.

I feel grateful to have spent the last year with the rug regularly being pulled out from under us as a reminder that the only true stability is the internal kind.

And that humility is very healthy.

We miss you all and look forward to your visits!

Happy belated Thanksgiving.