Being vs. Doing

It’s September 4, one month today since I arrived in Montpellier to “officially” begin my new adventure to live in France.  So far, it is wonderful! I was asked by my friend/landlord today when he stopped by what have I been doing? Wow! The question kind of stumped me. What HAVE I been doing?

It struck me that doing is not really why I came to France; that “being” was more what I was seeking!  I found myself feeling apologetic, or inadequate, and wasteful sort of, for not coming up with a list of “Well, I’ve done this, and been here, and been there, etc.” Of course I came up with a few things, and overall, later, I tried to get into my head to see why that question gave me such pause. Another friend back home just casually in a text asked, “have you begun another adventure yet?”

From what I’ve observed over the years of coming here, the French are very much about Being vs. Doing. Being. Breathing in deeply, exhaling slowly; swirling life around on the tongue before swallowing it; enjoying a meal because it pleases to take time to relax, sit, savour the taste of fresh, and local food; spending a long time in a café with just one cup of coffee, with a friend, because you could stay for hours if you wanted and never feel your time was up! This is the true French experience….and there is also this….today I am extremely frustrated and feeling anxious because a major piece of business to make my life here work, is not working! Short story, I have been unable, through any means that I was assured would work after I arrived here, to transfer money from my U.S. bank account to my new account here. Lots of detail here which I won’t get into, but nothing has worked so far. I need money in an account here to pay rent, etc. It seems my patience and ability to “be” with what “is” is wearing thin!!! Oh, the dichotomies of life!

Of course, at the same time as I’ve moved to France, I’ve also retired! So, two major life changes at once. Naturally, with no where to be, at no particular time, and all days like weekends, I cannot know what changes are due to retirement and which just being in France. I suppose it doesn’t matter. I have a new appreciation for time and am learning how to manage it and be free at the same time.

So, what have I experienced? Wow! So much, I may have to continue in another post! I’ve experienced how lovely it is to have a few new friends here who have all gone through this transition or are still going through it. So I am supported that way. The city is bright and shining all the time…no rain to speak of in a month (wishing for it now!) Seeing the sun shining and skies blue with puffy white clouds is a pleasant change! There is always, something going on…musicians of all sorts in the square; parades with people dressed in costumes from the Middle Ages celebrating some historical event; sights and smells of all kinds of food; a little group of us who get together to practice our French with a lovely native Parisian woman who loves to help us. In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, we can have “Un Gouter” in the afternoon, around 4 (a little taste – usually something sweet like fruit or a light pastry along with tea or another non-alcoholic beverage); and then “Un Apéro “ in the evenings BEFORE DINNER, so at around 5 or 6 (dinner eaten usually around 8 or 9) which consists of a little cheese or meat with wine or a cocktail; don’t often do both of those! I have ridden one of the tram lines to the end!; love wandering the streets, paying attention to their names, so when I pass that way again, I can get my bearings! Montpellier is not a city on a grid…the streets run in all directions, with smaller ones (ruelles) between often used as short cuts with no cars allowed, so it is easy to get lost like in a maze. I have finally gotten to know my way around by sensing where I am and still have not got exactly where everything is.


I took a breather before finishing the above, and now it is Sept. 12. I have passed the one month mark and am at almost 5 weeks; we have had a whole day of rain…soft, sometimes heavier, drenching, nourishing rain. It was the kind of rain I’ve missed back home where every, and frequent, rainy day was flooding, torrential, damaging. Today was the kind of stay-at-home and read rain, the take-a-nap because you can rain, the take an umbrella to my hair appointment rain and I don’t care if I get wet rain. I loved it! That was 2 days ago, and since, it’s been back to blue skies, sunshine and cool breezes. Fall is in the air, and it’s hard to believe I am crossing into my second season here in France. My banking need, for the moment has been met, although it is not a long-term solution, so I will have to change my U.S. bank when I return for a visit, after an almost 20 year relationship.

I have found that it is time to put some structure back into my days…something I have always shunned, and done out of necessity rather than desire. It is so easy for me to come to the end of the day and feel I have not accomplished enough. However, that is something I need to let go of as well…maybe accomplishing something is just one or two things instead of many. Maybe it is the Being that is getting accomplished, rather than the Doing. I do see that having a specific time of day, a certain day of the week, would help me write my blog, which I do so enjoy and easily gets put off if I don’t schedule in a time for it.

There is a woman across the way, across the space between our neighborhood buildings, between our several rooftops, on the same level as I am. (Featured Photo above). She emerges every evening after dark, and sits at a table on her porch, with one, strong light to illumine her personal space. She is there most evenings, and I look for her when I come out onto my rooftop deck. When she’s not there, I find myself wondering why not. I have a story about her in my head. She is doing her Being thing…it looks like she has a table, and I think she is writing. Occasionally, I see the red ash of a lit cigarette. She is there till as late as 1 a.m….obviously, then, so am I! It is hard to see even if she IS a woman, and if she IS writing, and that is what I  imagine. Something about this ritual seems so peaceful to me, so dependable, so count-onable! I feel a sort of connection to her and wonder if she knows I am here, too.

So, I plan to go on Being, and Doing only when it pleases me. Taking this time to inhale deeply and exhale slowly; walk at a slower pace; have a shorter “to do” list, and consider one, maybe two things in a day to be an accomplishment. It feels good to be here, to be in a new phase of my life, to welcome whatever comes and feel blessed and oh, so grateful for this gift of time and spaciousness. My Muse has returned to inspire my writing, and a-Muse me with her promptings.