Tuesday, July 31, 2007

looking forward

I'm leaving for Paris on Monday, but my feelings about this trip are decidedly mixed. In theory, what could possibly be better than spending a couple of weeks eating slices of baguette slathered with butter from Normandy and enjoying that indefinable frisson that I get from listening to a language not my own? But there's a reason I haven't taken a vacation for a long, long time. I worry that I won't cope well with the empty days, that all the sad feelings will catch up to me if I stop running as fast as I can. Ordinary life has structure and predictability. What's going to happen when those are gone?

I know. I sound remarkably ungrateful. You're thinking, yeah, right, my heart just bleeds for poor little Niobe. You can almost hear the high-pitched tones of the world's tiniest violin. I'm whining about something that should be fun -- that should be more than fun. But, somehow, the idea of relaxing makes me feel, well, tense.

26 comments:

Julia said...

Hey, I get it. I went back to work 3 weeks after giving birth to A. And when we went on vacation 6 weeks later, I was SO not looking forward to it. It turned out ok, though, but not without meltdowns and freakouts.

I realized more recently that I am incredibly tired and need a break, so as my contract was expiring, I didn't look for a job to start right away. I am theoretically not working now, but I am not exactly doing nothing-- I cram my days with very important things to do (tm). And yes, they are important, but I am not facing those empty days.

Empty days are scary. But they may also be important, if you are ready to let yourself deal with them. I take one of those once in a while, and they are hard.

Beruriah said...

I suppose because I exhausted my desire to travel over the past few years, I already start from a position of sympathy. That and the idea that while I crave a DAY without obligations, more than that might feel like a void. But I still think you can make the trip a good good thing. Two weeks is not so long.

Paris seems like a worthy place to slow down and let some of the sad feelings catch up with you. Especially in August, when the city slows down anyway. I can taste cappuccino and buttery croissant as I type. I lost two hours after falling asleep with my traveling companion on a lawn chair at the Rodin museum. Best part of the day.

Are you going to go South at all?

Adrienne said...

Relaxing means relaxing everything - especially your guard - and that makes it scary. Makes complete sense, if you ask me. Perhaps you can make it your goal to visit every museum that exists in the surrounding area (but maybe you've already seen them all? - you sound like a seasoned visitor to Paris.)

If you can, enjoy the trip. If not, I hope it's not too stressful.

cinnamon gurl said...

I don't think you sound ungrateful. While I can't even imagine how you feel and what you've been through, I can understand being daunted by the prospect of time and space. Structure and routine can totally be lifelines during hard times. Enjoy!

PS I really hope you'll still have internet and be able to blog from Paris...

Matthew M. F. Miller said...

Don't worry about the empty moments because in Paris you will have every opportunity to fill them with culture.

Just make sure that you force yourself to get out there and experience, because you can't let ordinary life keep you from the extraordinary.

Lori said...

I completely understand your apprehension. I felt much the same way about any trip away from home, especially the first year after the loss of our twins. Although for me, it wasn't so much the fear of downtime (I had a lot of that at home), as it was just being away from the sanctuary of my own predictable space.

Although, you could certainly decide to keep yourself very busy in Paris. It wouldn't be hard. But the flights to and from are another story... do you have some good books?

slouching mom said...

Oh, PARIS.

(OK, jealousy dispensed with.)

I understand. Ruminations expand to fill up the time allotted them.

I agree with the commenter who suggested museums!

Magpie said...

Yum, Paris. Wine and cheese and bread and the fresh fruits of summer. Add in some good books and a few museums, and maybe a trip to the countryside, and you won't have a moment to yourself.

Furrow said...

The sad feelings will catch up? I'm sorry, Niobe, but I thought we were seeing sad feelings from you.

Does that sound mean? I don't mean to sound mean. (Damn internets. Totally tone deaf.) More like concern, is what I mean to project.

Maybe if you slow down, some of the sadness will have a chance to race past you and find a cozy home in Paris. That's incredibly naive of me, isn't it?

Oh well, okay, then just keep busy. Museums, museums, museums.

S. said...

I guess I would say that vacation and travel aren't necessarily the same thing--travel can be made to fill up time in much the same way as Very Important Things To Do (tm). If you find yourself in a pinch, you could head to Brittany, or something.

Amelie said...

I'd fear the flights the most. And I hope you will enjoy at least some of your Paris vacation, even though other times may be hard.

The Oneliner (Christina) said...

aaahhhhhhh. Pa-ris! Me likey. le choclat choad, le pain de chocolat. le chocolat.
You must go see the picasso museum. you must, you must.

although, i *get* why you are afraid to slow down. and i worry that you might have reason to worry.

hopefully paris will be a distraction, so maybe you'll get some much needed rest.

thirtysomething said...

I can't say that I know how you are feeling, but Perhaps some time away from the sadness that encircles you daily is just what the doctor is prescribing...your internal doctor. You so deserve a break from the ordinary day to day grind. Enjoy the opportunity to revel in the beautiful, elegance that is Paris France.

thirtysomething said...

I meant inner doctor (as in soul/heart)..hahaha! THat is what it is like to type when there are three kids running around behind me!

niobe said...

thirtysomething: Don't worry, I knew exactly what you meant. And I very much appreciate the thought.

Monica said...

I get it completely. I went back to work less than three weeks after losing Jimmy and he was three days past term!! I just needed to have a routine. I needed to NOT have time to think. However, being in Paris is going to be so different from being at home doing nothing for two weeks. I still do think you should "book" your time with museums, churches, cafes, and the countryside. Sometimes by going far away you find yourself. Bon Voyage.

Monica said...

oh, I forgot to mention to take pics to show us later. I just love the pics you post. Especially since I probably won't ever return to Paris in this lifetime.

Christine said...

i so get it. we are going away soon where the in laws watch the kids, there is no tv and internet, sounds good right? well, it's a little scary. like i said, i get it.

missedconceptions said...

Niobe,

I was in Paris this March and I found it was a mixed bag. There is plenty to do, plenty of people, and it was nice to be shocked out of my routine. On the other hand, all I saw were pregnant women or women with little children (it felt like more than in the U.S. but the French actually have a declining birth rate, so I do not know what was going on) and I had anticipated being once of those round, pregnant women by the time I traveled.

Check out Rick Steves' Guide to Paris. It will keep you plenty busy and very, very well fed.

Yankee T said...

Although I cannot even begin to imagine the grief with which you have dealt, I think I can very well understand how the down time is frightening. Stay busy, eat lots of wonderful bread and cheese and yes, chocolate! Drink some nice wine and see lots of art. And take lots of pictures for those of us who remain on this side of the big pond. Traveling mercies.

missing_one said...

I think it's hard to be out of our predictable grind and not have our safe space to come back to and curl up if we need it. Also, because we know what is going to happen, it is almost like we are in control of our own lives, right? We know more or less what is going to happen and we know what to expect. I cling to my predictable life right now.
Maybe if you were to plan out most of your vacation with things you want to see and do you might feel better about it? Maybe it will help to feel like you're in a little control.
And I don't think anyone's playing the violin....
Hope you have a grand adventure!

AJW5403 said...

Wow Paris do you best to try and enjoy it. Have a safe trip.

Rita said...

I'm so jealous. I love paris. I understand your apprehension, though. I would try to eat as much cheese and bread, and wine as possible - that way, you can spend your time in a hazy food-coma. Mmmmm.... I love the cheese there.

Do you speak French? It might be nice to get a book or two in French - it will be challenging in a way I would imagine you enjoy, and would distract your mind from wandering elsewhere. Though, I have to agree with some of the others who have posted. I think it is ok to let that stuff catch up with you. It might not be as bad as you think.

Take lots of pictures and stay busy. :)

Bon said...

not ungrateful, Niobe. human.

i hope that the trip treats you to both gentleness and healing, in whatever doses turn out to be comfortable. and i hope you eat lots of butter, too, because that's just got to be good. :)

Eva said...

It might sound weird for you to react that way, but I am glum about about having to go on vacation to my family's beach house on a tropical island, so I understand. Things aren't always as they seem. Maybe give yourself a rigorous touring schedule? I once did most of Paris in 36 hours once and had no time to think. Or eat, eat, eat!

niobe said...

Okay, I think I've got it: look at art, drink wine, read books in French and English, visit the countryside, eat lots and lots, take pictures.

I guess I can manage that. And I fall asleep on long flights, so that should be okay too.