Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Parisian Perspective

Today I'm going to write about something that has nothing to do with sex. Which will be a relief to my mother. And my kids. And probably to many of you as well. Today I'm writing about what I learned in Paris.

Ah, Paris in December. It's gray and moody and chilly and lonely and absolutely beautiful. I've decided the Parisians can live completely fulfilled lives in their teensy apartments with only a few choice belongings because at any point they can step outside and experience them most staggering opulence  in the world. In the architecture, in the art, in the food, in the language. Who needs to own stuff, when luxury is ingrained into the fiber of the everyday?

You can see that I liked it there.

I told everyone I was going to Paris to take a writing course - a perfectly constructed weeklong seminar called Paris Cafe Writing taught by a former professor of mine, the inspiring Patricia Tennyson. The course is a perfect blend of writing and soaking up French culture, with plenty of free time to do whatever you want. You would love it.

But writing was not the real reason for my trip.The real reason I went to Paris was to do a gut check. Because, friends, I have a big birthday coming in March and I can no longer deny the fact that facing into 50 is a big deal.

It's not just an age thing, it's a stage thing. I've got one kid who's in college, and another getting her driver's license. As my week away clearly demonstrated, my mothering skills are not in high demand anymore. I didn't get any frantic texts or phone calls from my husband or my daughter. My dog wasn't neglected, the house didn't burn down, no one even needed my opinion. I was out of the country for eight days and everyone and everything at home were perfectly fine.

The role of "mother" is transitioning for me. It's becoming more of a title, less of a verb. And that's creating space in my life that needs filling.

The last time I visited Paris I was in my mid-20s, breezing through Europe with my friend Mary and a Eurorail pass. This trip I found Paris much the same; what was weird was how different I felt. Back then I was young and excited and on the precipice of some very big changes. Now I'm a middled-aged married woman who needs reading glasses to decipher the metro map. Can exciting big changes be on my horizon too?

I say YES.

One of the benefits of travel is that feeling foreign and apart from the surrounding culture gives you a clearer picture of  who you are and what you've got. This Paris trip reinforced my central belief that the best, most exciting time of life is not in the past, it's now. It's ahead. Which for me, means in my fifties, damn it. So bring 'em on.

I didn't go to Paris and come back transformed with some major epiphany about how to reinvent myself. But all those things I've been putting off for someday - writing the book, taking the trip, getting in shape, spending the time with people that matter - that day is  here.

Lucky soon-to-be fifty year-old me.

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