Crossroads Of The Heart


Somehow life in France always seems more vivid to me. I don’t know why, but when I’m there the smallest things glow with meaning and emotion. Every word and gesture seems nourished by an undercurrent of feeling.  Shel always said that when we lived there I was the happiest he’d ever seen me, and I think that’s still true. Something in me sings to be there, it’s an intimate experience of well-being, living in a place where le relationnel, the interpersonal, is the driving force of daily life.

I got a little French suntan last week while I was on vacation, but it’s already fading. I’m still thinking in French half the time, but it’s no longer all the time. I brought home with me the impulse to look prettier, fuss with myself a bit, that always descends on me when I’m there. That too shall pass, and I’ll once again go to the grocery store in embarrassing shirts with lackadaisical hair, not having looked in a mirror all day. That’s how I am here, less, in so many ways.

One reason is that there everyone knew and loved Shel, thought of me as his wife, seldom saw me alone. Here, no one’s ever known me to be anything but alone. Ça change la donne, which is hard to translate. It’s a game-changer, making you do something differently because of the hand you’ve been dealt.

In a certain way now I’m a half, but my friends in France all knew me when I was part of a whole. In another way I’m twice what I was, because, whatever happens, now it’s all up to me. I live another life in France, I speak another language, I’m someone else entirely.

But this time I was definitely an American, and faced a lot of gently- raised eyebrows. and a certain amount of tiptoeing around, until I took to saying notre soi-disant President, our so-called President. It’s a lot for one person to have to answer for, the horrific mistakes made by one’s country. I gained a much greater sympathy for the Germans of modern times, who must feel, as I do “it wasn’t me, I didn’t do it.”

All of which raises the question of who I want to be in this so-difficult world. In spite of  the legendary bureaucracy and the notorious plumbing, should I sink back into what feels to me like the warm bath of French life? Or is that bath bound to cool with the times, just as the American dream is shattering, unthinkably? Stand and fight, or flee toward peace?

It’s a time of deep, existential deliberation for me, and it’s France that inspires my contemplation. As a woman alone on this Earth, one with a foot in each of two worlds, I welcome your thoughts and counsel.

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8 Comments on “Crossroads Of The Heart”

  1. Catanea Says:

    I am shocked you stayed so short a time. We’ve JUST crossed the Channel & I’m so happy to be in France again, without anything like your reasons…I was looking forward to dozens of posts from the Hexagon…

  2. Eden Says:

    It’s such a hard decision. One we are considering as well. We have long discussed retiring abroad when that time comes, and this current fight over healthcare “reform” has us considering moving that timeline up, but if we do not stay and fight to make this country better are we colluding in its disintegration? I don’t know the answer, and I think it’s probably different for each of us.

  3. Julie Miramonti Says:

    What’s stopping you from “the pull”? If France makes you feel alive, and the US doesn’t, then do you really want to stay in the US? And I cannot believe you would be in anyone’s’ shadow-you are a vibrant woman! Take a chance, dive into the life you love, give it a chance. Shel sounds like a fabulous man, and he gave you fabulous advice – the happiest he ever saw you was in France! Listen!

  4. Donna Maurillo Says:

    Hey, you spend most of your time in the US and less of it in France. But you feel more vibrant in France. And you show it outwardly in how you dress and care for yourself. Why not reverse your habits? Spend more time in France and less time in the US. What’s stopping you? You’re comfortable there. You sink into the luxury of it. You already have friends there. What’s keeping you here??

  5. Abra Bennett Says:

    Well, it’s a couple of things. The visa PITA, since 90 days at a time with a tourist visa is costly and a hassle. And then there’s the feeling of being a deserter, leaving when the country is in so much trouble and needs all of its fighters to stay put and resist the advent of fascism. And yet, I’m still thinking about it, despite all that.

  6. Trust me. You aren’t going to fight The Orange One all by yourself. There are lots of us still here. And besides. Maybe you can convince Macron not to become Trump’s new BFF.

  7. Well, it’s almost a whole year on, now, and you’re still here, much to our benefit.
    However, as you age, look carefully and calculatingly at the possible benefits of returning to live in France. Life might be much easier for you there then here, but only you can really tell.
    Good luck!

  8. Have you thought of dual citizenship? I don’t know if France does it, but Ireland, Greece, and Italy do. Or you can just become a citizen of France. Look, you won’t be a deserter. There are millions of US citizens here, and at our age, it’s hard to make a difference. It’s time for the younger folks to take up their own battle cries. Take care of YOU. And with your health issues cropping up, at least you’ll have universal health care. Go for it!

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