The bearable heaviness of beingJane Roper
Well, I’m back from my Paris sojourn, and it was très, très nice. The only slight down-side was that I ended up getting the infamous airport security pat-down (Word to wise: do NOT wear a zippered cardigan with metal buttons and zipper pockets into the body scan machine). It actually wasn’t so bad, and the woman was very professional about it. It was just rather embarrassing, given all the hoopla over it lately. I felt like all the other people going past in line were riveted — much like the stupid metal buttons on my cardigan — waiting to see if I was going to get majorly molested, or start yelling at the TSA agent not to touch my junk.
Anyway. It was great to have some time alone with Alastair, and triple great to have it in Paris, which is one of my favorite places in the world. We did some touristy stuff, including the Musee de l’Orangerie, visits to Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame, and a tour of the Catacombs, 60 meters underground, where bones from a number of Paris cemeteries were deposited in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. (Not really the best attraction for a mildly claustrophobic person such as myself, but interesting enough once I gave myself a little internal pep talk and convinced myself that there had to be some kind of emergency elevator somewhere, right?).
We also had the distinct pleasure of visiting a couple of people’s homes, where Alastair did house concerts. It was so lovely to meet some locals, and I spoke French like a mofo. We got to eat some kickass food, too. And I was struck – as I almost always am when I travel overseas — at how much less living space people have than most Americans do. And they manage just fine.
But now it’s back home — back to excessive square footage, work, and reality. It’s a joy to see the girls again, but they’re acting out a bit, as they seem to do after I’ve been away — being needier and clingier and whinier than usual. Or maybe this is the way they always are, and I just forgot? Nah. I don’t think so. I think it’s just a tough transition for them. They’d never had both A. and I away for more than one night. (He’s still over in Paris for a few more days, the lucky salaud.)
Meanwhile, I’m jetlagged and could really go for a good coffee in a nice cafe. I’m feeling rather disoriented and let down, too. Which is weird. I mean, I was only away for five days. But I was in an entirely different part of the world. In fact, I had trouble transitioning to travel mode when we were en route to France, too.
I just don’t do transitions like I used to. Used to be I could take off on trips or visits, quit jobs, pull up stakes or put them back in at will more easily. Not without emotion. Not without reflection or feelings of conflict or uncertainty. Much of the time, it was the very rootlessness and excessive freedom of my existence — this feeling that I had so many choices, so many different paths my life could take — that I found troubling and at times quite unsatisfying. On the other hand, I felt frequently elated by the excitement of the next trip, the next adventure, the next milestone.
I feel more tethered now. I am more tethered — by children and marriage, a mortgage, a career. Good friends and committed family relationships. This, I think, is why coming and going is harder now. It’s not so easy to hop from one reality to another. There is tugging and pulling. Life weighs heavier. Not in a bad way. Definitely not in a bad way. Just in a way.
And once I have adjusted and wrapped my head around being in a new place, a new setting — on a writing retreat in Western Mass. or a few days’ vacation in Paris — it’s harder for me to pull myself back out. I find, to my surprise, that I’ve plunged in a lot deeper than I realized. Because that’s how I’m used to doing things now: with weight and purpose. I don’t do shallow dives.
The girls are downstairs with a babysitter right now, whining rather pitifully, crying for me. I’m resisting motherly instincts and not going down to comfort then. They’ve got to get their shit together, just like me.
A more twin-ful post in a day or two, I promise. Just gotta get my legs back under me.