July 7, 2004

Preparing for Paris

Slowly but surely, I've been trying to get ready for my trip.

I went shopping this weekend. I got this shirt in black, not for my trip, but because I thought it was very cute. I got it in a small, and it fits fine. That made me a lot happier than it should have. I also got a long, lightweight cotton black skirt that ties on each side and some weird cargo pants that were so comfortable I wanted to curl up in the dressing room and take a nap in them. And a khaki messenger bag.

On the quest for sensible, comfortable shoes, I tried on assloads of Merrills, Borns, and Clarks, because that is what people told me I should do. I ended up getting these sandals in kind of a dark camel/olive color. I have no idea if they will suck, but they were the most comfortable ones I tried on. A lot of people recommended these, but they made my feet so claustrophobic that I could not fathom wearing them during the summer. My mom swears by these, but again, my toes would scream inside of them. I realize I may regret the sandals choice when my toes turn black from the filth, but I choose to believe that won't happen. And yes, I'm bringing my tennis shoes. I hear that only tourists wear tennis shoes, but I am a tourist. There's no denying it.

I'm all set for how to get from the airport to my hotel in Paris (the RER), and I get in at ten in the morning and hope to check in upon my arrival. Then I will spaz around for a few days until my sister gets there. At some point, we need to decide about our rental car in the UK.

Speaking of my sister, she picked a hell of a day to arrive in Greece. I'm wondering if she got her face painted blue and white and stayed up all night partying. Probably!

I haven't really started making concrete packing decisions about my trip. I'm borrowing a backpack. I need to figure out what to pack and pack it. I guess I need to get my hands on some Euros. It's all very weird. I won't know a soul in Paris. I still don't think I believe that I'm going.

The last time my parents went to Italy, they called me after several bottles of wine to ask me what the word for something overused and overdone is. I guessed, "Trite?" They said, "No." I said, "A platitude?" They said, "No." I said, "Do you mean, like, a cliché?" And they said, "A cliché! That's it! A CLICHÉ!" and laughed and burped and hung up. They called again from their next trip, after perhaps more bottles of wine, to ask me what the name of the sister is on The Sopranos. They said, "All we can remember is Tony, A.J., and Carm!" (They call her "Carm.") I said, "Meadow?" They said, "Meadow! THAT'S IT! MEADOW!" And then, "Wait, we meant Tony's sister!" I said, "Janice?" They said, "JANICE! THAT'S IT! JANICE!" I hope to have as much fun in Europe as my parents do.

This has been kind of a sad summer for me, at least in the past few weeks. It's hot. It rains every single day. I'm bored. I never thought I would be so bored without my sister and even my parents. I feel heavy and uncomfortable in all of my clothes. I can't really remember the last time I hated myself this much. I know! It's awful. I can usually always cling to a glimmer of optimism, but not lately. Lately all I want to do is lie around, and it's really hard to get out of bed in the mornings, partly because I'm having a terrible time sleeping, but mostly because I don't look forward to anything in the day ahead. I just feel kind of dead inside. I think it's probably a combination of boredom, loneliness, and feeling unhealthy and unattractive and just sort of lost. I am just kind of sick of myself.

So I have these lists of wonderful things to do while I'm on my trip, mostly sent by my great readers who always come through. I haven't really thought past Paris yet, but I want to delve into my UK books soon, and I am excited to meet up with some readers. And I know some of what I want to see and do, like a carousel behind the Eiffel Tower, walking along the Seine, Sainte Chapelle, the Rodin Museum, Place des Vosges, the Louvre and Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the Cluny Museum, the Picasso Museum. I know I won't have time to see everything and walk everywhere, but I'll just see what happens. I'm excited that my hotel is really close to the Luxembourg Gardens, because if anything, I love a good garden.

My cousin, who has lived in Paris, tells me I must go to Cafe Petit Fer a Cheval and to Cafe Hortense, which he described as "a bookshop with a GREAT soundtrack and with ... a WINE BAR. yum." (In his email of suggestions, he closed with the following: "ONE LAST TIP: Avoid Americans at all costs.")

This trip has become in my mind so much more than just a chance to travel and spend some time with my sister before she leaves for law school.

It's become a break from the tedium that is my life. A break from the animals, whom I love, but whose daily care often grows tiresome, partly because I grow more weary of Zuko with every passing day, but mostly because for as long as I have them, my house will never truly be clean.

A break from my job, where I am just two weeks away from my five year anniversary. This is the longest vacation I've taken since I went to Florence for my friend's wedding in the spring of 1998. I had no pets then. Thankfully my parents offered to come take care of all four of them every day.

I really don't know what is wrong with me lately. Maybe the summer is just the worst time of the year to live here. I don't know that I really believe that it's that much hotter here than it is anywhere else, but I just hate the heat. And it's only July! It's not even really all that hot yet. We've got a couple of months to go before it gets really awful. Everything just kind of slogs to a stop. The winter can be rainy and icky, but it's so tolerable because the amazing, perfect spring will be here in March and in short bursts as early as January. (We were all in short sleeves for the Sugar Bowl.) The summer is just long. Hot and long.

It almost makes me fantasize about selling my house and living in a rental and getting a job at Barnes and Noble. Somewhere else. I mean, what am I really doing here? How long can I continue to accompany my married couple friends to parties as their date who holds their baby? Is this really how I want to live? Is this really who I want to be? I have a good, stable job that pays me well and gives me good benefits and I like my co-workers. I know that I would have to be insane to walk away from this job into the great unknown in a time when good jobs aren't exactly up for grabs. But do I really need a "good" job? What am I doing? Why can't I just be a waitress or work in a bookstore? That would be perfectly respectable, right? I am twenty-nine years old, and I feel stuck. And it's stupid. Because I'm not, except in my mind.

The bottom line is that I'm not happy these days. I am not happy here. I am surrounded by couples getting married and having babies and I'm not one of them, and whether it's reasonable or not, I feel left out and stupid and awful about it. And I don't know if I would feel like this anywhere, or if there are places in this country where you're not perceived as an old maid at 29.

I don't know. These are all new thoughts that have just kind of come out of nowhere. For so long, I thought I would never even have the slightest desire to leave this place because I actually quite like it and I couldn't bear the thought of living away from my parents and brothers and sister, because what is more important in this short life than time spent with the people who matter the most to you? And I do love having them as a part of my daily life, and it would be a huge decision to move away that I don't really see myself making. But I have to change something. Because I feel like all of my friends here are moving ahead with their lives and I'm just stuck. An oddball. And I hate it, and it makes me hate myself.

So that's probably why this trip has started to represent more to me than just a trip. I want to spend some time just walking around and getting in touch with the parts of me that I like and remember that I'm not defined by my lack of husband or baby, and that there's so much more to me than the big empty holes that seem to get bigger every day. I want to remind myself that it's a big and beautiful world. I want to wonder as I wander and find all kinds of new and interesting things, not only in those foreign cities but inside myself.

But most of all, what I hope to find on this trip, and pardon the City Slickers reference, is my smile.

:::
About this time in ...

2003:

7/7:

"And by midafternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else."

7/6:

New York was good.

2002:

7/7:

My mom slipped a How to Plan a Catholic Wedding leaflet into a stack of old Cooking Light magazines that she gave me recently. I guess she's trying to tell me something, either that she intends for me to have a Catholic wedding or that she thinks I'm a fatass.

7/5:

He followed me into my house and was obviously very friendly and polite and no longer the stress case he was at 3 a.m.

7/3:

Paula Abdul has such a poor command of the English language that it makes me scream.


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© Copyright 2004 elb

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love .. . .

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

--David Whyte