Top Tips for Fish Out of Water

It’s official. I have been living in France now for one whole year. On some days, I was pretty sure I was not going to make it because either my marriage was going to drive me to a padded room, the next bureaucratic hurdle would give me a heart attack, or my complete disorientation would have me hiding under the sheets for a month. I’m happy to say, despite my worst fears, none of that manifested…though some of it got awfully close for comfort.

I’ve been taking this anniversary to consider how far I’ve come. I hear myself saying, “Honey, you’ve taken on a huge transformative process…bigger than you could ever have realized. Hold on to your heart. It’s still going to take time and lots of strength. Give yourself that time and keep the faith.”

Moving to a foreign land, leaving so much behind, being in a new marriage, not speaking the language, having to learn how to do things all over again in a completely unfamiliar way, all of it was (and continues to be) a HUGE transformative experience. Even after a year, it is still difficult to process at the speed to which I once was accustomed. I’m still learning. I’m still a fish out of water.

fishbowl In fact, being an expat is a lot like being a fish out of water! Think about it for a moment. A fish that is, for whatever reason, not in the water it has been swimming in all its life isn’t long for this world. It can’t breathe. It can’t swim. It’s floundering. It’s flopping madly. That’s just the reality of the kind of transformation expats undergo. Sure, maybe some are better equipped psychologically to handle it. Great! But for the rest of us, it’s living in a state of shock that’s way beyond culture, and usually with none of the support we were use to at our disposal.

There are certainly a lot of expat sites out there, most of them practical, many of them personal, but fewer dealing with the wellbeing of trailing spouses and expats of all kinds. It’s one of the reasons I’m taking this blog in a new direction. It will, of course, still be my story, but I also plan to focus more on wellbeing and things I’ve found that help with the anxieties expats face such as meditation.1283375516

So, I now share with you my 3 Top Tips for Fellow Fishies Out of Water.

Don’t take on more than necessary in your first year.

Whether you’ve planned your move for several months or several years, there’s still going to be even more to do than you ever thought possible, and despite your best efforts, smart goals, and good intentions, you may not be able to put everything in place as quickly as you’d like. When I arrived in France, I had to deal with the usual amount of paperwork (usual for France!) to establish residency, healthcare, banking, and all that fun essential stuff. I also had to learn how to drive again because my husband’s car was not an automatic. On top of that, I had to learn my way around, set up a household, and learn a new language. Plus I was planning to start a business, trying to keep up with three websites, painting, writing, trying to meet new people, and trying very hard not to cry every day. You know what? It was too flippin’ much!!! Some things HAD to be done and they weren’t very fun. Other things I had to let go. I couldn’t live up to the bar I had set for myself. I was surprised to find language-learning taking a back seat. It just was the way it was. I simply didn’t have the energy or focus to keep at it as I had planned. My health and sanity was far more important. I can’t even imagine how families with children manage such a massive relocation!

Find ways to stay connected to what you love.

You’re going to find yourself surrounded by the unfamiliar while all the while longing for the comforts of familiarity. Bringing those two things into balance can require some serious creativity. I came from an amazingly happy and vibrant community in which practically every other person was a massage therapist or yoga teacher and every other store was a whole foods market. I landed in the middle of grape vineyards with no cell-phone reception and the nearest town 15 minutes away. There was no dance church on Sundays. There was no weekly drum circle. There was no community acupuncture. The point is, the things I loved, that fed me and kept me healthy and happy, had vanished. I had to not only discover but create new avenues of connecting with things that inspired and motivated me. I always loved dance so I found videos about dancing to watch. I listened to music that I hadn’t listened to in ages that connected me to different times in my life. I made youtube my constant companion for new yoga workouts and meditations. And Facebook was a majorly important venue for helping me stay connected to friends back home. You get the idea.

Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Go straight to the source.

I’m including this very practical tip here because not doing so has been the cause of all kinds of grief for us, and I’d like to spare other expats that experience. It isn’t easy to get the answers to your questions, especially when language is a barrier. But it is tempting to rely on the internet, either on articles published in your mother tongue or on forums with fellow expats answering your questions. But the truth is, as incredibly helpful and reassuring as these sources can be, they are often filled with hearsay, outdated information, and/or experiences not at all relevant to your personal situation. The best thing you can do if you need an answer to an important question is ask the agency, bureau, expert or organization directly involved even if it isn’t the most economical approach, and even if it means hiring a translator. In the long run, it can save tons of energy in unnecessary worry or costly mistakes. That being said, prepare yourself for the thrill of getting different answer even within those agencies, bureaus and organizations!

And here, some additional tips…

Spend your AM and PM in nurturing activities.

The thing is, life abroad is challenging. I’d often find myself in a state of anxiety, irritability or overwhelm. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but in fact, there was just so much to process on a daily basis! By setting aside time morning and night to just be still, think about the day and all the thoughts and feelings that arose, by emptying the mind and body, you’ll be a lot better prepared for whatever you have to face the following day…and you’ll sleep better too!

Exercise!

Okay, exercise makes it on just about every list having to do with health and wellness. It’s no surprise. Our bodies needs exercise. I know that without my morning workouts, I would be a complete and utter nutter and feel miserable. It doesn’t matter what form your exercise takes. It can be anything as long as you do it. It’s just so so so so so important. Get it?

Indulge but don’t overdo it.

Okay. You find yourself in some bizarre new world with some pretty amazing foods at your disposal. What do you do? Eat them, of course. Some of the most wonderful things about France are the cheese, the wine, and the pastry! It’s okay to enjoy some of the best things about your new life, just don’t make yourself feel worse in an attempt to make yourself feel better.

Expect to feel completely weird 90% of the time.

I suppose not everyone will experience this, but don’t be surprised if you do. You can be doing the most mundane of tasks…pumping gas, turning on the oven, looking out the window. It’ll just hit you. Best not to focus on it.

Keep swimming.

Oh, the days I just wanted to throw in the towel! They would come so hard and so fast and so often. They still do. I’ve been told it takes expats about five years to really settle into life in their adopted country. (I don’t know if I’ll make it that long, but I’m still gonna keep swimming!) The point is, you’ll probably have days like that too when it all seems too hard, too impossible, and feels too wrong. All I can say is, tomorrow you may feel differently.

 

 

 

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Expat Life: A New Recipe

The other day, I shared a metaphorical cake recipe to represent the realities of life in a foreign land. Expat life can drive a person insane. Add to that a new marriage, significant loss, health and financial issues, and the added isolation of a countryside devoid of civilization and you have a recipe for…well, disaster. But life is all about choice. And while we may not be able to choose what happens to us on a day to day basis, we can choose what we do about it.

globeToday, I’m going to share with you my new recipe…one that is still experimental and open to adjustments. On most days, it’s quite palatable, and you can use as much or as little of each ingredient as you want, though research shows, the more you use, the happier you feel.

Gratitude.

I know it is kind of a tiring meme, but cultivate gratitude and appreciation for what you have on a daily basis. Chances are, you have it a LOT better than most people, even if you don’t think you have it all that great. Though in some respects, telling someone to be grateful is akin to telling someone to breathe; both are fairly obvious, both can be taken for granted. So inhale deeply and find as many things as you can to be grateful for.

Exercise.

I cannot begin to express the importance of exercise in my life. Actually, I don’ t even like the word exercise. I think I prefer movement because instead of thinking of it as sweating and working hard, it can be all manner of pleasures for the body to experience. It’s about expressing through the body, stretching and feeling good. It’s about moving out the emotions that would otherwise get stuck. It’s about moving forward when you feel completely frozen in so many other areas of life.

Do What You Love.

Being in a foreign land far from everything familiar has had a funny way of reminding me of all the things I used to love to do…even if I’d given them up. It reminded me of other times in my life when I started something new…like when I learned to play bass guitar or when I spent $50 on art supplies (a fortune for me at the time) to make art. Think about and reconnect with what you love. I’ve always loved ballet, so I started watching videos and shows about dance. Find a way to do what you love no matter how obscure it may be in your adopted country or lacking in opportunity. Create the opportunities. Heck, I’m even thinking of picking up the ukulele.

Recall the best moments.

I’m a writer and so have kept journals for years. I only keep the good stuff, though. The rest I toss. So when I go back and re-read my journals, I am pleasantly uplifted by the positive memories, important lessons, and insights and inspirations. In fact, my old journals led me back to myself in a rather profound way. I had entries about my values, my strengths, my dreams, and some of the most magical things I’ve experienced in life. Revisiting was like dosing up on happy pills…only much, much better. So, revisit your past through journals, photographs, or whatever you’ve got that brings good things and happy thoughts and memories to mind. And if you don’t have access to that sort of thing, start creating something now.

Force yourself.

There are days when all I want to do is hide in my room watching Netflix. Sometimes, in fact, that’s all there is to do. But on others days, I know there’s something going on “out there” that I might enjoy, and I simply have to force myself to get dressed and go. Sometimes, I’m really glad I went because I did actually enjoy myself or made new connections. Other times, the event can be a miss, and I’m just glad I got out of the house. The point is, it’s important to at least try.

Take breaks and chill.

The above being said about “forcing yourself” must be balanced out by taking breaks. For example, after a period of increased stress and anxiety, I quit my weekly French lessons. It felt down-right rebellious, and I didn’t regret it either. I really needed the break. I wasn’t integrating anything new and was having trouble accessing what I’d already learned. It was time to spend my time rediscovering things I enjoyed and less on things that added to my stress. Language was adding to my stress, therefore, the break. I returned to it with vigor after a couple of months.

Reach out for support.

When you can’t turn to old friends and don’t exactly have new ones yet, and when your partner is preoccupied or simply not psychologically equipped to be there for you, find someone who is. I’ve done two things since embarking on my expat life in France I’d never done until then. I called a support hotline! It was a bizarre but helpful experience. I also hired a counselor. She helped me maintain a healthy perspective and because she herself was an expat, she really understood the depth of my emotions and could help me understand them too.

Throw this altogether in a pan, stir until smooth, then pop it in the oven and bake until you feel better.

The expat life can be really tough. You’re not alone! For one thing, there are many of us out there with you in our respective countries, and for another, you have yourself…the best friend in the world to cultivate. XO

Ex-pat-e-cake

So, yes, this blog is taking a slightly new direction. In February, I came to France to stay with stars in my eyes and butterflies in my heart. It didn’t take long for intense grief, identity crisis, and culture shock to set in. Now, 9 months later, comes a gentle and humble acceptance of reality which includes a floundering marriage and many other surprises – some good, some…”meh”.

I certainly had no clue what I was in for. I think if I had, I would never have done it like I did it. Alas, I did the best I could, and now I’m a lot wiser for it.

If I were to bake my Expat-experience cake, up to now, the recipe would go something like this:

You’ll need at least 3 cups of the Great Mystery to set it all in motion
Add 1 cup of complete and total disorientation
Throw out all the comforts of home
You’ll need to process several pounds of the language but only have 3 T. in the cupboard. The processor will be broken due to overwhelming stress. This will lead to a bitter flavor, but make do.
Take 2 c. of complete and utter isolation and plan to do everything you love alone in your room.
In a separate pot, pour tears of grief over incomprehensible loss and mix with 2 completely different love languages that keep crossing wires. Stir in the following spices: nothing in common, unanticipated debt, and learned helplessness.

Strain the relationship. Set aside the juices of depression, aggression, tension, and early signs of peri-menopause including personality changes, distorted thinking, utter exhaustion, hot flashes and a myriad of other ludicrous symptoms that make you doubt your sanity.

Combine everything in every bowl in the kitchen so there’s more to clean. Use copious amounts of anxiety to help stiffen the batter so you end up in the hospital from a panic attack.

Image Source: Flickr Photo by: Michael Wilson
Image Source: Flickr
Photo by: Michael Wilson

For the frosting:

Melt a whole stick of mastering the standard car, 1/2 c. going to the store a whole hour away alone,  and selling a hand-full of articles with 1 c. of your very first art exposition. Add 2 T. of “Oh my God, I just managed to have a sort of a conversation with someone”. Stir in essence of walks in the woods singing at the top of your lungs. Add a friend and neighbor who actually takes an interest in your work. Stir well.

Spread the frosting on the cake to create many crests and valleys. Top with sprinkles of crushed heartache.

Serve with trick candles.

I’ve had my fill of this particular cake. I’m working on a new recipe now. Stay tuned…

Settling In

I haven’t blogged here in ages, and I’d like to bring things to a sort-of closure. I am writing this from my office in our new house in the Charente. It is hard to believe that just two years ago, my husband and I met and began our whirlwind, international romance. It is sometimes harder to believe we actually persevered and made it through the unbelievable challenges that were thrown at us from all sides. WE DID IT!!!

I’ve been in France officially as a resident since May of 2015. I have my Carte de Sejour now, and just yesterday, received my Carte Vitale in the mail. Today, I even managed to get myself a library card. Of course, that was significantly easier than everything else, let me tell you! I’ve even made great strides in driving the old stick shift!

I’ve been taking French since I arrived, but it is slow going. While I wish I was in school every day, out here in the country, there just aren’t opportunities for that. So I string my French lessons together as I can. I take a couple of hours in the nearest town every week. I also use the internet to study and listen to French radio and TV. I tried joining a choir but ironically, they sang a lot of English songs. I registered at the Pole Emploi, the equivalent of the Department of Labor, and will receive additional weekly lessons through them for free starting in a few months. I just wish it was starting now and happening every day!

In fact, the language barrier is now the single most important obstacle I must learn to overcome. But as long as one has some good translators to call when needed (and can afford to pay them), one can get by. Of course, I can’t wait for the day when I can actually speak and write well enough to handle things myself. It is tough to put so much trust in others who are speaking for me all the time. So much is lost in translation.

But generally, I’m finding that life here isn’t nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. Now that the worst is over, I’m finding it all pretty easy. Maybe I’m fooling myself. Time will tell…

The hardest parts about living here:

1. It is easier to meet and socialize with the English-speaking community than to integrate into French society. In my experience, there is little support to help the English-speaking community to integrate…okay, actually none! Maybe it would be different if we were in a big city like Paris, though.

2. It can be a nightmare to find the answers to important questions. Very often, the answers lead one down a rabbit hole that merely seems to produce even more questions.

3. My life has shrunk considerably in many ways in terms of friends, opportunities, and a sense of control over what happens to me.

The best parts about living here (aside from being with Stuart):

1. The view out my window is phenomenal, and there is plenty of quiet.

2. There are some real angels here and it is a joy to meet and interact with them. France is cultivating my gratitude for the finer things in life (and I don’t mean wine).

3. I’m growing by leaps and bounds and am having to overcome a ton of my fears and resistances, all very good for my personal healing. As I can’t control anything, I have no choice but to just let go and let is all unfold. That is a huge lesson and a huge gift.

Time will tell how difficult it is to make an actual living here doing what I was doing in the States. I may have to be more flexible or go in a completely unexpected direction. I may find it impossible. Who knows?  But that’s the next thing on my plate…making a living.

So…

Bon Courage!

 

One-Woman Exodus

Back to the story. So it’s July 31st. I’ve just been informed by email I’ll owe money at the closing for my house happening later that day. Due to a six hour time difference, there’s no way I can get hold of my realtor. My five bags (six counting my backpack) are packed, and we’re ready to head to the airport an hour away. Stuart and I are both feeling extremely meh. We’re numb with sadness over what must be done…the very thing I was for some reason trying so hard to avoid…life in the states.

We arrive. I get in the ticket line. I am then informed I missed my flight which actually left two hours ago.

“Say what?”

The airline employee pointed to the customer service desk. We made our way over.  They couldn’t get me out again until August 6th at the earliest. Did I want that ticket?

Now, my visa was expiring August 4th. What would happen if I overstayed two days? Anything? Would I get grilled leaving Amsterdam? Have to pay a fine? Be forbidden to return? So we held off on reserving that ticket and went home to sort things out.

As soon as we were outside, Stuart and I looked at one another and burst out laughing. I don’t think I’d ever felt so much relief in all my life. So, we rolled my enormous luggage back to the car and went home. How did this happen? How did I mess up? Was I sabotaging myself?

When we got back, I checked my email. Sure enough, it stated that my departure time was 10AM, just as I had thought. This wasn’t my screw-up. Apparently, the airline had changed the flight time, but somehow, I missed the notification.

Stuart said, “You’ve got to call and ask for a refund!”

So, I called. But I wasn’t offered a refund. Instead I was offered the same flight out, August 6th. I wanted to grab it, but there was this visa issue that needed to be resolved first. I explained that and said I’d call back.  Stuart and I were both over the moon that we would have another week together.

We then began the “investigation” about my visa. The first thing I did was call my friend who happened to be in France and happened to be French. I asked if she’s help translate our situation at the police station. We needed to ask if I could get some kind of visa extension by explaining my situation. We drove into town with my friend on stand-by, pressed the buzzer outside the police station and were bruskly told to drive to the next town another fifteen minutes away. It was lunch time after all.

Fortunately for us, we spotted a gendarme on the street a block away speaking to someone. We parked the car, made our phone call to our translator, handed the phone to the officer, and waited to hear his response. He was very helpful (I’m not being sarcastic) and suggested we go to the airport to speak to the police there. We weren’t really up for another hour drive, so we went home again. On the way, we had a now familiar conversation about how challenging life was proving to be for us in France. Even with speaking better French, situations like this were so complicated, we’d still have to rely on translators.

Once home, I called the airline again, and that’s when I was told they had a flight out “tomorrow”.  “What about the 6th?” I asked. No longer an option. They had a seat tomorrow. It was the only one they were offering. Did I want it? Ug! All that sweet relief and joyous irony suddenly turned sour. I had minutes to make a decision. All my bags were packed. It was either go now or stay in France and go through the residency procedure there, which once started would have meant I couldn’t leave until I got my carte several months later, or it was pay $2000 for another plane ticket, or leave Stuart the very next day, going through the whole airport drive and luggage thing all over again. And remember, there was the question of whether or not my house would indeed close without a hitch. I didn’t like any of my choices. With the pressure on, I surrendered and took the flight.

The following day, we packed the car and off we went to the airport. It was one car ride I never wanted to end. I kept hoping the car would break down or something, but of course, we got there with no problems. We got in line and when I approached the desk, I was informed that I was flying to Washington. Thinking she meant Reagan Airport, I explained to the desk agent that I was flying to Dulles. No, she said, Washington. But my original flight was for Dulles! I have a hotel reservation a block from Dulles! She checked her screen.

The only flight is to Washington.

But…but…

So, Stuart and I were back at the same customer service desk where we had an identical conversation with two more desk agents. By this point, I was shaking and quite broken down. Reagan and Dulles were at least an hour apart, maybe more. I was already arriving at midnight. I was sleep-deprived from the week’s other stresses. Not only was I flying to the wrong airport, I was flying through Atlanta instead of direct. That meant I’d have to claim my massive luggage in Atlanta and recheck it. Did I mention I’d hurt both my right knee and left toe several weeks before and was having to limp? Now I’d have to take a costly taxi to my hotel too? I could not do this. I didn’t have the strength anymore. Over several months, I had been burned to a nervous frazzle.

Stuart and I roamed the airport pushing my mountain of suitcases around trying to pull an answer down, “Does this mean I stay or does this mean I  go?” I was so confused. I was beyond confused. I was angry. I was sick to my stomach. Everything inside said that I wanted more time in France…just a little more time. I had given up so much to be there…everything! Now I was leaving? I felt like a complete failure and a total idiot. Why was everything such a mess? And where was I going? I didn’t even know. My guts were wrenched. I was beyond decision-making ability; so was Stuart. With the clock ticking, always ticking, we just looked at each other with blank faces, not knowing what to do. I got in line again, then got out again. More time passed as I sat on the cold airport floor unable to move. Finally, five minutes to boarding, some energy flooded me and took over. If I didn’t know what to do, then I’d do something. I’d get in line. If I was meant to be on that plane, I would be. With nails clawing the walls of the airport, I made it to my gate, the last one to board, eyes full of tears. But I have to admit, I felt some relief just to have made a decision.

France is indeed a beautiful country. Exquisite, in fact. I love the way time moves more slowly there and how soft the light is. It’s a great place…to visit. And visit I will. Living, on the other hand, was proving to be quite a challenge. At least, it was for me. Maybe in different circumstances, at another time…

…as it stood, I had bitten off way more than I could chew.

Stay tuned for my arrival story featuring “Crabby Cabby”.

Manual Labor

Today, I drove all the way from Touverac to the outskirts of Barbizieux…a whopping 10 minutes drive. If that seems like an underachievement, did I mention that I am learning to drive a manual transmission? I didn’t stall once! (At least not on the trip out.) If you are still not sufficiently impressed, may I just say that I accomplished this without killing passenger (he’s very thankful), pedestrian, or beast.

I’ve driven an automatic for some 30 years of my life with nary a single speeding ticket. I’ve always been a decisive, defensive driver. Now, in France, because my husband made the mistake 7  years ago of buying a standard vehicle (without air con, I might add), this old dog is being forced to learn a new trick, and she isn’t as coordinated as she used to be. But one must face one’s fears if one wants a certain amount of eventual freedom (though a bike is looking more and more appealing).

the hand of domestic goddess

When I first got to France in May, the weather here was still quite chilly. Not having air con was no biggie. Today felt like summer, and boy, does the heat irritate the sh*% out of me.  It’s not so bad at high speeds with the windows rolled down, but when stopped, I am ready to jump out of my skin. I do not understand the necessity of baking in a little metal box. I’m such a comfort-loving American! I like my central air (and screens on the windows). Or maybe it has more to do with what working at Disneyworld as a chipmonk in 100% humidity did to my inner thermometer.

So an open-air velo would be quite nice…barring sunburn. Besides, with a car, there’s something about all the fancy footwork that throws me off. Everyone says it will become 2nd nature, but right now, if Stuart wasn’t sitting next to me saying things like, “Okay, see that sign up ahead. Get ready to go into 2nd about there,” and “Clutch! Brake! More brake!” I shudder to think what might happen.

To be fair to myself, I am making progress. I’m shifting smoother and stalling less. Today, I even managed a hill start. Okay, yes, admittedly after two tries, but the third time was the charm! I felt like Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back when Ben Kenobi pulls the visor of his helmet down and tells him to “use the force.” I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and then went for it, waiting for the bonnet…ug, I mean hood…to pull up just a tad and then Vroom! Good thing there weren’t any cars coming.

 

 

Consider the Lilies

Stuart and I have are going through our transition, finally living in the same house (and country!). I mentioned in my last blog how everything here is so discombobulating and unfamiliar. I don’t have my own space or my own anything really…just a lot of old control issues about my environment to work through. For Stuart, my discomfort has often been interpreted as a sign of my displeasure with him and a symbol of impending doom…that is, until I find a youtube of Pharrell Williams’ Happy, and we dance around the house to shake our blues.

When I first arrived in France, Stuart had a lovely Lily of the Valley plant, a fragrant little flower that sings a sweet Spring song of hope, waiting for me that filled his somewhat dark house with an uplifting scent. (Traditionally in France, May Day is celebrated with sprigs of Lily of the Valley (or Muguet), said to be a good luck charm.) I slept with it at the bedside, so I could take in its fragrance all night long.

Perhaps that wasn’t the best place for it, though, because soon, the plant began to show signs of withering, dropping gray little bell-shaped blossoms at the foot of the nightstand. I looked up on the internet how best to care for the plant and realized it probably needed more light and water. Unbeknownst to me, Stuart also came to the conclusion that it needed more water. Between the two of us, we probably managed to overdo it. It probably wasn’t getting enough light either. So I moved it near the front door only to move it back to the bedstand at night in my desire to dream with its perfume. Here, Stuart noticed it drooping and moved it again to the kitchen windowsill.

There it sits…slightly yellowed and droopy. Like the lilies, when I first arrived. I found myself slightly droopy, trying to find equilibrium in my new environment.

I consider the Lilies (ha ha). They require a certain environment to thrive. They need the right light, water, and temperature. Too much or too little of something, and they wither. It’s just the way it is. There is no one to blame for this fact. It isn’t a lack of lily will-power. Without the right environment, they simply cannot survive.

I not only want to survive here, I want to thrive. As of yet, I don’t quite know how to get what I need. Figuring that out is part of the process. I am doing what I can to adjust to the new light,), the new temperatures (cold but getting warmer!), the “bachelor pad” (sorely in need of a woman’s touch), the available self-care (and lack of tub…my favorite retreat). And I suppose that I have more going for me than a plant. I am much more adaptable. Still, the trail of petals in my wake might give me away from time to time. I feel like I’m walking through sludge much of the time. Everything takes longer and there’s so much to sort out. It’s a bizarre process, this path of the heart. It doesn’t make sense; it isn’t supposed to, perhaps.

Ultimately, I want to understand what it is I need to feel nurtured here and then find ways to give it to myself. So far, I am enjoying the enjoying of being with my Honey, laughing, my driving lessons, daily walks, lots of tea, the space heater, and my rare interactions with the French species. I am not enjoying the pollen (itchy, watery, squinty), our temporary residence, and a general lack of sleep whether brought on by an occasionally snoring hubby or too hard mattress.

But, if I can just be patient, there is a great excitement to reinventing myself. Things are already happening. I’m starting to meet like-minded people (though they are not all that close), finding lots of opportunities to create, discovering new things including things about myself, and cleaning/rearranging furniture to help make the environment flow. Sure, some days get to me. I get scared. I forget to love myself. I forget to appreciate Stuart. I forget to accept. I forget it’s all my choice, and my leaves droop. But with a little self-care, a little self-forgiveness, a little love, a little time, thinks perk up.