So, I am going to say something that no one really wants to hear. Before I say it, though, I feel the need to first include the caveat that I am not saying it to be dark, or mean, or burst any bubble that you may have. But rather, to be real, if only with myself. That’s what this blog seems to have become more than anything else – a means of me being honest with myself by being honest with the world that may read it. So, why not say it. Feel free to prove me wrong if you disagree. Trust me, nothing would make me happier than to be wrong on this one.
With that, it has to be said that love and desire isn’t enough to achieve anything. Don’t get me wrong, it helps. But neither one of these alone is enough to actually achieve or realize anything at all. What they do, though, is give you an incentive, a reason, to keep moving forward.
You’re probably asking: sheesh, seriously? I thought you were going to just “ride the waves” and see where they take you? Why are you writing this right now?
I am honestly asking these questions myself.
I was in the midst of writing about the process that I went through in thinking about moving to Paris, a post that is nearly finished and expect to share in the coming days. However, literally mid-sentence, I came to a full stop and my mind shifted to these thoughts. Perhaps it was reliving and breaking down the process of deciding to move. Perhaps it’s exhaustion after facing a seemingly unending series of obstacles over the past several months. Or, perhaps it’s anger at the very real possibility of losing love to circumstance. Who knows the reason but the words are here now and I feel the need to share them.
As I think we have established by now, I am a romantic. Deep down at my core, I love the idea of love. I embrace it. Revel in it really. I moved to the City of Love for love – both of another and for myself. What I have found, though, is that it is easy to get lost in it – or at least it is easy for me to get lost in the love of another and lose the love for myself in the process.
Let me back up a little. I have spent the better part of my life doing things for other people – for family, for clients, for charity. Even when I thought I was making a decision for myself, there was some part of me that was doing it for someone else – if only to have someone else think better of me. I looked to love and pride myself through the affirmations of others. Now, for those who know me and are reading this, this is going to seem like an odd statement. To many, I am strong, independent, at times single-minded, forthright, and unwavering. All of these are true. But, at the same time, for the better part of my life, perhaps my whole life, the happiness and impressions of others have motivated my actions. It’s only been the past few months as I have really been alone – more alone than I ever thought I could or would be – that I have come to realize that moving to Paris is one of the only things that I have done entirely without consideration or interest of what others thought. When I told people I was moving, they asked me, “well, what does your (insert family, job, close friends) think of the move?” Though I consulted all of them as I went about the process of deciding to move, the fact of the matter was that I had decided to make the move before I even asked them. And, while their support and love has been important in this process, it didn’t do it because or in spite of them. I did it because I loved a man who lived halfway around the world enough to take the chance on him, even if it ended in catastrophe, which it is increasingly looking it might. And, more importantly, I did it because I loved myself enough to take a chance on myself, knowing that even if I found myself back in Washington, DC at the end of the experience, it would be as a different and stronger person than I ever thought I could be. A person I could never have become if I had never left.
Over the past few months, though, I have forgotten about this second love – this love for myself – as I have gone about the transformation process. I got wrapped up in the highs that you feel when you have someone look into your eyes and know that they really and truly understand you – if only for that moment. I told myself that that love was enough to see me through everything and anything. I allowed myself to believe that because I knew this type of love, then the Universe or God or whatever powers that be are out there would take care of it all. Maybe this was naive but I know everyone reading this has been there, has felt that feeling. Maybe it wasn’t the love of another that made you believe this but I know there was something you have experienced that made you think, “yes, everything is going to be alright and I don’t need to worry about what’s to come next because it’s just going to unfold.” Life has a funny way, though, of reminding you that you can’t just sit back and enjoy the ride. That real work is involved. For me, it’s sought to teach me this lesson by giving me a double-whammy of real lows for every beautiful high I have felt and it has been really hard not to get cynical, to doubt the feelings and the surety of self that I have experienced.
As I have gone through the roller coaster, or waves to stick with the analogy I used in an earlier post, I have turned a lot to those closest to me and then immediately shut them out. I am sure this has been an incredibly hard and frustrating process for them, but it has been the only thing I have known to do as I grapple with the reality in front of me and the fact that I did it to myself. That said, I have been thinking a lot about an email that I received from my mother. Well, really one line from her email specifically. It was simply, “you have choices.” For whatever reason, this has really stuck with me today.
I am in a privileged situation because I do indeed have choices. Many people don’t in life but I do and I am eternally grateful for them.
Thus far, I have chosen to let myself be identified by the love of another during my time in Paris. I liked the idea of it. And, while it helped me quit my job, pack up my house, and get on the plane, it hasn’t been the basis of either my future personal or professional life quite in the manner I expected. Rather, it’s been a beautiful story – both for me to tell and for others to hear, in part due to the fact it has more than a little touch of a fairy tale to it. While I truly hope the story will continue, I am increasingly aware that my choice of being identified with the love of another is unsustainable. Perhaps I needed to start from the place of being identified in this manner because to tell people that I moved to Paris simply because I needed to do something for myself and needed a change in perspective sounded too selfish or self-indulgent. But, as I look to an uncertain future in the love of another, it is the love of myself that is providing the strength to proceed forward.
And, while that love alone still won’t navigate governmental bureaucracy, make a relationship work, or cure an illness, what it will do is give me is not only a reason to stay here in Paris but also the fortitude to truly embrace and learn from whatever is to come. And that is my choice.