Happy Anniversary to Moi: Two Years in France

Today marks a very special time for me. It was two years ago that I landed in France, newly shed of most of my belongings and all I’d ever known. I thought this would be the perfect time to reflect summarily on my experiences in these past two years.

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

Year One:

Complete and utter disorientation. Bags always half-packed for home. Steadily devolving language skills brought on by overwhelming stress. Mountains of bureaucracy. Anxiety, depression, grief, loneliness, and despair. “Oh, God, what have I done???!” Inability to nurture self and relationships. Awkward dependence upon others and an unbelievably steep learning curve.

Year Two:

Dwindling bureaucratic challenges. Oscillation between optimism and pessimism, socializing and withdrawing. Rediscovering and redefining of self. Healing through turning inward. Knowing more of the language than I think I do and surprising myself on several occasions but still having zero confidence with it. Sick of being dependent, but still not able to do much about it. Trying to create opportunities and relationships; some take off, but most fall flat. “This will never work!” Every day I wake up, so every day I keep trying.

Year Three???

Well, I don’t know yet, obviously. But as I am still here, my intent is to dig my heels in, force myself to find more opportunities to integrate, do some things that scare the crap out of me, and refocus on the language in a more regimented way. To be honest, if it weren’t for the political situation in the US, I may very well have gone home by now where I know I can make a decent living and be surrounded by like-minded friends and community where I can solve all my problems IN ENGLISH!

But here I am, and here I remain, for as long as I do or am allowed, taking it one day at a time, dreaming a little bigger, using my energy in more effective ways, and simply remembering to practice gratitude, courage, resilience, and opening to possibility. Oh, and French!

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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!

 

Inner Voices & Choices

Last week, I made a discovery of yet another way the ego uses the spiritual teachings we learn in order to keep us in its confused little grip. Whether a limitation of the teachings I have learned or merely my misinterpretation of them, I believed that all the voices inside my head were meant to be ignored.

The Toltec have this concept of a mitote or marketplace inside of us. There are many characters in this marketplace all vying for our precious attention. This mitote feeds off our energy eliciting numerous emotional responses within, especially when we are not aware of them. The loudest voices run the show. So if we have an inner saboteur who is always whispering “You can’t do that!”, we navigate our lives assuming that is true. Our choices reflect that strongly-voiced belief. The path to personal freedom, then, is learning to hear what’s being said and not believe it.

This teaching was essential to me in becoming aware of all the programming in my head. But somewhere along the line, I started morphing this idea of “not believing” into “dismissing.” It’s a fine point. Maybe I did so much weeding of voices that weren’t mine in the past that I completely failed to hear the ones that were mine. Today, I realized that the disparate voices inside of me want only to be acknowledged, not steamrolled, as I have been prone to do. They are longing to be acknowledged and given consideration, followed by a really big hug.

During an awesome massage, a friend and bodyworker helped me to talk to each of these sides of myself that have been so confused over this move to France. For example, I have the gung-ho spiritual-warrior-woman who has wanted nothing more than this adventure her whole life. “Ooh, is that a precipice? Let’s jump!” She knows with her whole heart what a deeply healing growth experience this will be. She wants to test her mettle, face the challenge, and emerge victorious with her beloved.

I also have the responsible one. She is quite perturbed because I am “in love” and not thinking straight, in her opinion. I’m throwing away the life I…er…we have worked so hard to build. She’s loaded with a different set of metaphors claiming I am putting all my eggs in one basket and risking severe burn by walking through fire. She wants nothing more than for me to slam on the brakes. With every step forward, she is yanking me back.

In cahoots with the responsible one is the doubter. Full of “what if’s”, she just thinks I’m a total and complete nutter for trusting in any of this. She poo poos love and instead warns of catastrophe and a lifetime of regret should I proceed. She tries to convince me my feelings aren’t real, my thoughts aren’t to be trusted, and my decisions are all backwards. While the responsible one is just “concerned”, the doubter is insidiously fearful and negative.

These voices are still just voices, but maybe they each have a point…or at least a message to consider. No one voice gives a complete picture. No one voice should be running the show or allowed to drown out the other voices. In fact, I understand now that they need to be embraced as aspects of myself and integrated into a well-informed whole.

In speaking with these three aspects, I remembered two significant events when I was about 5 years old. In the first, I was looking out the window into the backyard when I saw my father with another little girl and her father. She was on my rocking horse. I asked my mother what she was doing on my horse and was told I never played with it anymore and the girl wanted it. I remember feeling miffed. It was my horse. At this same time, I remember looking for what I called my ki’ykat, which was my baby blanket. I couldn’t find it anywhere. When I asked my mother where it was, she called it a ratty old thing that I was too old for anymore. Now, I liked the sound of being grown up, but I really, really wanted that blanket! I also remember my building blocks, which I loved playing with, not being there when I wanted them. Poof!

What I didn’t understand then was that my family was in bankruptcy. There was much being sold and preparations being made to move to the opposite end of the US. So my memory of loss/moving/starting over is entangled with the complex emotions that my parents and older siblings had at the time. I was simply too young to understand all the grief in the house. My own hurt feelings somehow didn’t seem to matter. I can only imagine what it was like for my parents to have to greatly reduce such a large household for a cross-country move with 5 children. At the same time, my heart aches for the little girl who didn’t understand why things that were important to her meant so little to everyone else. She had no control over what she prized. She wasn’t “in the loop” and her true feelings were…yep…discounted.

Now, 40 years later, I am selling everything to move overseas, jumping into the great unknown. It is no wonder this little girl is revisiting and that she is somewhat anxious with all she sees happening. She was completely discounted and kept in the dark once before. So, I take her in my arms and hold her. I listen to her. And I promise her everything will be okay. This not only helps her, but it seems to help bring balance to the other three amigos I wrote about.

One other thing I realized which really surprised me was finding that the quiet voice of my heart was being completely drowned out. The warrior, the responsible one, and the doubter have been so vocal (and getting louder in their attempts to get me to listen) that I could no longer here the sweetness of my heart…the one with complete faith, the one that trusts whatever the outcome. With room for her to speak again, she swelled with the joy and love and gratitude I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever feel again!

I’m beginning to understand at a whole new depth the meaning of integration.