I try not to think about it…tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. Living in the present has never been more challenging, or more important, more necessary. There has never been a time, in my almost 71 years, when I’ve been reluctant to think about the future. It was my hopes for the future that pushed me forward. And yet I know for a fact that the future does NOT exist. It is a figment of thought. Just as is the past. Past and future are thought forms only – the past is gone and resides only in our memory of it, and the future is not yet, except by our imagining it.
It has taken me two months to be able to bring up this blank page and sit with this keyboard to begin a blog post. Thoughts have crowded my mind, then left it empty; they have brought joy and excitement, as well as sadness and even hopelessness. I have been keenly aware of my good fortune, as well as selfishly desirous of more. The time has been rich with material to expound upon, yet my muse has been silent. “French a-Musing” this blog is called…so where has she been?
At last writing, way back in mid-February, I was recovering from a sprained foot and ankle, and had finally located an apartment for the long-term after living in Airbnbs for 2 months following a fire in my last apartment building. I was looking forward to my trips to Amsterdam and Paris, a visit from my sister, and another from my daughter and her husband. My first spring in France since moving here was about to unfold with all that it held for me to see and experience. Spring in France after all is what poets write about, with the fields of lavender, love in the air, and songs in the heart. And I was finally going to experience it fully. This is what I had dreamed of, and it was happening. Life in France was good and I was happy beyond my wildest imaginings.
In some ways I feel kind of stupid for not having my eyes open to what was just over the horizon. It had been in the news about the virus in China, and predictions of a pandemic had been made, in earnest, for the past several years. Is it selective hearing that blocked my grasping it? Or was it the bubble of a world I was living in that shielded me from any hints of the pin that was coming to burst it? How could I have not been prepared? How could this have come up like a squall on the smooth waters of my existence? How could I have not seen that the Universe supporting me in every way to make my dream to live in France come true, might be the same Universe that would teach me so much about acceptance, the importance of staying present, and that each and every moment is to be cherished and adored? The same Universe that brings us one experience, also brings the other, and demonstrates to us in the process, that it is only our thoughts about them that create the “good,” “bad,” “unfair,” “just,” “deserved,” or “undeserved,” description of them. We can choose. Our experiences can be whatever we SAY they are.
And so, I declare that while I have fear, while I have disappointment, while I have thoughts that lure me into negativity, I also have great happiness, appreciation, joy and thanksgiving for my life at this moment; that in every moment I choose to see the good, the teaching, the gem that is there for the scooping up and setting into my personal bejeweled creation that is my life.
It is hard to remember that it was only 8 weeks ago that I was on a tear to get on with my life in France after a few “nuisance” happenings like my fall down the stairs, the fire in my apartment building, my sprained foot, my nomadic life for 2 months. The day I moved into this wonderful apartment was the very day that France put into effect our “confinement” (same word in English and French!), and closed all but essential businesses. We remain in strict lockdown and have to carry an official paper stating the reason for our “déplacement” (why we’re out of our home) with all accompanying information about us, and signed by us with date and time of departure from our residence. My furnished apartment is bare of personal touches – no lamps, no rugs, no art on the walls, no color, as no shops are open which would sell me such things. I wear a mask whenever I go out and therefore am aware that it can be only my eyes that convey a greeting as I pass someone. I have noticed the blank stares in people’s eyes, even looks of fear as they pass…everyone seems to be mistrustful and suspicious that “YOU could infect me!” We have cancelled all our trips, my family and I, for, hopefully, another time…and I am sad that some may not come to pass. We line up at the grocery store – one out, one in – and at the boulangerie/patisserie – 2 customers or 1 at a time. I haven’t seen my friends in weeks, no meetings for “un café,” or “une verre” at a local spot. Our freedom to come and go has been greatly diminished.
And YET, I face south over a beautifully green courtyard of mature, flowering trees and plants with 3 balconies where I can sit in the sun, read, and nod to my neighbors. The sun fills my apartment with warmth and light, providing all the color I need right now. I hear the birds again – probably the thing I have missed the most about my house back in the States where I delighted in their songs, their colors, their visits to my feeder. Here, they flit from tree to tree, from rooftop to rooftop, and coo and chirp and sing new songs I haven’t yet learned, and I will. I am trying to smile with my eyes more, so people I pass won’t think me cold. Every night there is a ritual of thanks to the health care workers and first responders who are the heroes in the world right now…we go out on our balconies and clap. One neighbor whom I can’t see for the rooftops, plays a drum with a pulsing beat that stirs me to tears, and we all the time clapping to the rhythm. I play Trivia on Monday nights with friends using Zoom; and I chat with my sister and daughter and friends on FaceTime; I LIVE OVER A BOULANGERIE!!!! Yes, you read that right! Every morning (except Sundays) the incredibly seductive smells of baking bread and pastries waft through my apartment, especially in the guest room which is right over the bakery! My Airbnb host in Amsterdam has blocked the same dates for next year and we are keeping our fingers crossed that the trip will come to pass! No one, no thing can take away my freedom to be happy, no matter the circumstances. No thing can rob me of my pleasure in the little things I have come to appreciate so much. Freedom must first come from within one’s heart and soul, then mind and body. If we banish our THOUGHTS that this is “bad” or “unfair” or “restrictive” or “boring,” or “scary,” then we are FREE to create a pleasure in each moment as it comes.
So, there is more to come of the daily happenings or non-happenings here in France. And somehow, it seemed important to share the inner journey of this experience through a first-in-a-century pandemic. Its significance is not lost on me, and I am thankful for so much. We are all witness to history in the making. Many of us will have teaching stories to tell about it. It is the generations that come after us who will, hopefully, benefit from those teachings; so sharpen up your story-telling skills and create what you would have them know about this time, this world, and what alchemy transformed them.