Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Paris

In a strange way, ever since I came back from Paris I have felt spiritually in the dark. A few months after I returned from that year and I started going back to school or talking to family, I realized that nobody would ever understand my year in Paris. And that in a few years I wouldn't be able to say to people I met in answer to a question, "Yeah, I just got back from Paris and now I'm finishing school..." In fact, it felt like my time there was going to disappear. And so I let it. I still talked about it at first, but I usually changed the subject because to most people spending a year in Paris sounds like eating macaroons and hanging out at the Louvre. But it wasn't that at all.


Gypsy Slow Down


     Paris was a turning point for me because I had no plans for the future other than that year. It was exciting to think that the future was blank, and that the possibilities were endless, but not only that, that my possibilities were now open to anywhere in the world and that felt tangible and touchable. I had just gotten out of a long relationship that I thought was my last relationship (thankfully not) so I was a bit hurt and in need of a fresh start. In between working, I spent many days sitting on a park bench reading and journaling and trying not to feel lonely by thinking about my life. I read good books that my aunt gave me, I went to meetings with their church where not everyone was already a Christian and where people talked about things I'd never heard in the church before. People opened up their lives and we saw the messy and the dirty and it was beautiful. I loved the little taste I got of "church" that wasn't in a pew with rules and judgement and closed minds. It felt real, so unlike the school I had just come from, where everything was pristine and forced and where good behavior was clothing that everyone wore even though we all knew what people had on underneath. I had nights in my room in Paris where I cried because I had never felt so alone and moments walking along the river where I cried because I'd never felt so close to God.


Gypsy Slow Down


       One morning I remember sitting with my friend Carol Anne, at her house in the suburbs. From where we sat you could see Paris below, as if the house were on a mountain and Paris was the valley. We had made pancakes because I guess I'd spent the night and I was toying with the idea of going to culinary school and staying in Paris another year. I'd learned enough French to get around and I loved the city, I loved to cook and I wanted a plan. As we sat there, we were both quietly thinking and I remember feeling this delicious moment of not knowing what was in front of me and for the first time, a kind of joy in that, thinking maybe I had it figured out.


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    And then I came home. The money hadn't come together for cooking school even though I was accepted and suddenly my year was over. I think the three days I was stuck in the airport was a kind of metaphor for how I really felt leaving, because during the time that I missed my flight and was being shuttled back and forth from a hotel outside the airport, with no cell phone and my five huge bags of luggage, I was in limbo. I wanted to see my family but I had all this stuff from Paris in my life and it was hard to let it go.



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   I was mad that my plans hadn't worked out and that I was back where I started before I left. And so my year in Paris became my year in Paris, and nothing else. At first I looked for a church to get involved in where people were transparent and reachable but then I gave up. I put myself into school, work, a short relationship and I told everyone I was going to get my masters so that I'd have an answer to a question. I was angry at God for giving me a year that meant so much and then having it mean nothing in my current life.



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      Then I met Witt. He was someone who wasn't trying to be perfect, who'd made mistakes, who showed me who he was. There was no pretense, no glossing over, it was as if he was standing in front of me saying, this is me. And in turn he saw me and I felt like he truly liked who I was, not who I pretended to be so people would like me. I remember we were eating at this little Thai place on our second date and I was telling him about Paris, about cooking, about my art and then he asked me what I had painted lately, and I said nothing,  and then he asked what had I cooked lately and I kept saying, well, nothing. Then he said something that I will never forget, "Well, then what are you doing?" And it was true. I had let those parts of me go.



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     When we got married we went to this church that he had been going to and we liked the messages because it was preaching that we'd grown up with. Sound doctrine, it was nothing life changing and we could sit there and nod and go, ok, I agree with that. And then we went less and less because it was so easy not to go. A year and half later we just started going to a new church, and it's been like a mini-revival for me. This church has a churchy format, it has pews, gasp, but it is alive. And I can feel that. I don't think church is the end all or that you can't have a thriving relationship without church in a building but it helps.

 Last Sunday, after my horrible week, I had a kind of spiritual breakthrough. I was sitting in the service, listening to everyone sing. I hate to sing, probably because I cant, and usually I attempt to mouth along, but that Sunday I was mad. I always felt like since I got married I couldn't complain about my life since it would seem like something was wrong with Witt and I, but to be perfectly honest, I was not all that happy with my life. My career plans, how directionless I felt, even the work on this property. The straw that Sunday was that our third cat in six months had to be put to sleep.

Charlie was so feisty and funny and if you were sitting on the toilet she'd barge in the bathroom and jump on your lap. She was always waiting for me at the door when I got off work. I took care of her. And then she got sick, like the other ones had, and we had to put her to sleep.



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I told God right there in the service that I refused to worship him. Surprisingly I didn't get struck by lightening, I just felt mad and worse. And then the sermon started and it was about how we go to church and look nice and go through the motions but on the inside we are beaten and bruised and bleeding (the pastor had come in on crutches, with bloody bandages and in my seething state I made the judgmental thought of how ridiculous). He said it's time we get real with ourselves and stop pretending. There was more, about running the race and not just wanting to get to the finish line but by the end of it I was crying and I have never cried in church.


Gypsy Slow Down


        At the end of the service I wanted to make a beeline for the car and then Witt got this idea in his head that he needed to write a check for some missions and so I was stuck crammed up against the aisle, my mascara on my cheeks while he wrote a check and everyone filed out and got to stare at me. By the time we got to the car I was So. Mad.  As I was fussing at Witt and telling him how insensitive he was to leave me there, he looked at me and said, "I just wanted to give some money to the Gideons." It sounded funny and made me feel ridiculous and I realized how hard it would be to make these desires I have to change last longer than a church service. I want to cultivate the peace and the joy I felt in the midst of trying times in Paris to be true here. I want to break the barrier that has been put up between me and God. I may not love my job, I may not be where I want to be career wise, I may have no idea what is in the future or if I'll ever do anything worthy but I just want to be ok right where we are now. And so that's what I'm working on and what I'm praying for and for the first time in a while, I feel transparent in front of God. And maybe that's the beginning.



Gypsy Slow Down
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