Solitude revives the soul and the senses. Solitude is the crucible of the mind, the good is purified there; the fake evaporates there.
La solitude ravive l'âme et les sens. La solitude est le creuset de l'esprit, le bon s'y épure; le faux s'y évapore. Citation de Pierre-Claude-Victor Boiste ; Dictionnaire universel (1800)
Photo taken in St Cyr-sur-Mer, at our former vineyard (there were also these magnificent centuries-old olive trees).
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
When it dawned on me that I would be spending two weeks alone on the eve of my 50th birthday, I began to fear the big D then the big L. I tried brushing off the wave of blues that suddenly cropped up. Would it grow into depression? Don't even say the word!
No, I don't suffer from depression, so chances are slim it would rear its ugly head. But what about Loneliness? I have never considered myself a lonely person - loin de là! But now that my kids are away -- and my husband, too (only for two weeks), I sense a buffer has been removed from me and the world. This has got me thinking about the different buffers I've unconsciously put into place, over the years, that have protected me from...well, from what?
THE BIG VOID
As a newly-minted adult wine was that buffer. I quit drinking in 2003, at the age of 35, and threw myself into blogging for the next 10 years. I blogged 7 days a week, then 5, then three. Now I blog once or twice a week and try to be there as much as I can for my family. Family, unlike wine or work, is a positive and healthy buffer! (But is a buffer healthy?)
Now that my family is gone, I've caught myself searching for a new buffer. What about calling friends? Or setting some sort of challenge --like "every day I will take a new risk"? Try out that evangelical church up the street? or meet a stranger? (I went to the church's website and listened to one recorded church service...and knew for sure that I could not sit through an entire hour of preaching!)
I soon tossed out the idea about meeting a stranger every day or even calling a friend every day. This just wasn't me. I needed to accept this and "just be".
To just be... to be alone with oneself, this is to face that dreaded void.
It's only been a few days now but this time alone has made me realize that my life is like a hamster wheel, or what the French call Metro Boulot Dodo. As I take the opportunity to get to know myself better, I am careful not to tie myself into some kind of schedule (schedules can be a kind of buffer, can't they?)
Instead, I am walking my dog at odd hours. (Thanks to those of you who wrote in with tips on how to build back confidence after being overpowered by your dog. I bought The Gentle Leader collar and Smokey and I are making progress every day!) And just this morning, while out on a walk, I stopped by my favorite free book booth and met a Frenchman d'un certain âge, who was dropping off un roman. We chatted 5 minutes about everything from New York (he collects books on the subject) to the Cévennes (the topic of the book he was dropping off).
As we said goodbye and set off in different directions, I sensed we both enjoyed a new connection to the universe. No buffers necessary.
In case you missed the picture of the telephone booth repurposed into free book stand, here it is. Goodbye for now and à bientôt!
Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland!
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi