“All I have is a voice." (W.H. Auden)

Both Sides Now

We are fortunate to have spent, full time, the last 18 months in France.  We are fortunate to have a home here as well as in the U.S.  It is a nice balance.  The highly charged environment that rewards professional skills and ambition and the low key setting that forces one to relax and repose.  The efficient, convenient and fairly inexpensive consumer life style in the U.S. and the courteous, personal, and almost stress-free way of life in Southern France.

  

Yes, I do miss many conveniences of a U.S. lifestyle as well as the fat paycheck and the ongoing pursuit of professional development.  But these seem trivial when one’s health and welfare can be at risk.  It will be difficult, at best, to return to a life which focuses more on obedience to circumstance and less on the exercise of choice.  But that will have to change.  Bien sûr.

  

And we have noticed the beginning of these changes.  It is very telling, for instance, that first daughter who has spent nearly 8 years in a private school in the U.S. does not feel any emotional attachment with her school and schoolmates.  Yet after 18 months in the village school, she is lamenting her impending departure and the friends, the teachers, and the school that she says she will miss.  “Mom, I really like the experience I have had here.  Even the not so good ones.  People are so much more down to earth and less discriminating and mean,” She says.  Second daughter confides, “my friends here want me to stay on, Mom.  I will miss them and they will miss me.”  Such confessions were unheard of when we departed the U.S. in January 2013.

  

Perhaps they have matured here in the last 18 months.  The experience in France facilitated an independence; a newfound confidence for the “new and the strange.”  Their sudden and unpredictable immersion in a different way of life, in a different way of learning and earning grades did not traumatize them.  Instead, they demonstrated a level of maturity that surprises and pleases me.  I like to believe that these experiences result in life skills that will endure through adulthood.

  

As for me, I can barely remember the hurried pace of a career professional.  Though I miss the intellectual debates and the complex business analytics and problem solving, I found a different application for mental acuity.  The proper phrasing of a French word, the struggle to understand the “Midi” accent, the paperwork and processes to be hurdled, and the many little behaviors to learn for bien être.*  That which is essential and primary in life and living.

  

So this leaves us straddling both worlds and using the best of each to fit our purposeful lifestyle.  It may be complicated but I like to think of it as a competitive advantage that allows us to be mindful of what really matters – deep and abiding relationships, unconstrained faith, the thirst for the unknown, and the productive search for the good in people and places.  It is a gift and a blessing.  Never, ever a challenge.  Comme il va.

 

 

*(well- being, peace of mind, serenity, welfare, wellness, etc)

 

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14.07 | 08:01

Beautiful! Vive la France!

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17.02 | 01:57

France is awaiting your return, Betty!

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16.02 | 10:07

Such a wonderful experience for all! Truly a beautiful region filled with lovely people, excellent food, and soothing wine! Am looking forward to returning.

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07.09 | 14:44

What a joy for this to be shared. I am reading several times, soaking it in and making my own movie in my mind of this adventure. So excited for you three!

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