i want more…

My mind is constantly racing with things I want, and need, to do. Giving birth to a book is more exhausting than actual childbirth in some ways. This book in particular has picked at the scab that slowly began forming over my wounds. I’ve found my heart and mind throbbing with an ache, wondering if I will ever feel emotionally safe and secure again.

I worry that I will die before I see my girls grow into women—happy women, not completely stunted in their own emotional growth by the premature death of their father. I worry that my time here will end before I get to see the rest of my own dreams come to fruition. I worry that everyone I love will go before I’m ready to say goodbye, or more importantly, have a chance to say goodbye.

I guess, at the heart of it all, I just worry way more than I ever did. Before I was carefree in my understanding of the reality that everything living will die. I suppose this is a natural reaction when death occurs outside of the natural order of things.

I’m not always good at telling others what I need, or don’t need, from them. During our time in couples therapy, Mikey used to get so upset with me for expecting him to be a mind reader. Being in love, at least my sense of being in love, means being keenly aware of what the other person needs even when they are unable to say it for themselves.

This holds true for the relationship we share with ourselves. Nurture being the key word, as I suspect too often we let that relationship lapse. Between work, motherhood, marriage, and in many cases fear, that little voice that screams inside of us all doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves.

That little voice is what I’m trying to focus on these days, and it has taken me back to Paris. After a vigorous six weeks of book publicity, I needed to get away from the responsibilities of my every day life. Of course the girls are always on my mind—motherhood is not a switch one can turn on and off. I’m incredibly thankful to have an auntie who is keeping them under her watchful eye, while I take some time to work on myself. Work on learning to listen to that voice. Before I can expect anyone to ever love me as deeply and wholly as Michael did, I have to learn to love myself that way. Therein lies the key to letting anyone else in close enough to risk having my heart broken again. And I must be honest that my heart will be  vulnerable in any new relationship, whether it’s something simply not meant to be, or I fall madly in love again and that person goes and drops dead again suddenly.

Being vulnerable is a fact of life. It’s how I handle that vulnerability that steers the choices I make. Do I run in fear, or face it head on, ready to accept both what I can and cannot control? That is what I’m working on these days.

I was a little unsure as I stepped outside the airport yesterday. The feelings of excitement, the butterflies I felt as I buckled into my seat on Wednesday evening. It was cold, wet and grey. This didn’t catch me by surprise—it’s Paris, after all. Hours later the sun burst, casting rays of warmth from above. It was then followed by a dreadful downpour, and then yes, the sun came out again in all its glory. Life is much like the weather in Paris.

saint suplice

I went for a walk to Saint Suplice, and had a croque monsieur from my favorite cafe. Sarah knows the place I’m talking about, and it’s not just any croque monsieur. This one is a provencale-style, topped with ruby slices of tomatoes, and served open face on Poilâne bread.

Then I did what some might think downright silly when escaping for just a few precious days in Paris. I went shopping for groceries. I cook so often to show the people in my life how much I love them. The last few days I’ve been using cooking as a way to remind myself that I, too, am worth the time and effort that goes into a homemade meal. It started with a cake I baked myself for Mother’s Day.

As I cut slivers of garlic, and sauteed them in olive oil, a smile slowly came to my face. It was a humble meal of marinara sauce and penne. A simple salad, with a glass of Burgundy. And then I strolled down Boulevard Saint Germain to see The Great Gatsby. Oh, how I love seeing movies in Paris. I can’t really explain why, as I don’t know myself. It just fascinates me to the point of being exciting. Crazy, silly, childish…maybe all of the above?

dinner for one

I managed to keep myself up until midnight— quite a feat, considering it meant I was awake for 38 hours, running on only 3 hours of sleep. I woke nice and early this morning, catching the sun glistening over the buildings peeking above the walls of the courtyard outside my apartment. An apple tart I picked up from Poilâne yesterday served as my petit déjeuner, along with some strong coffee, fresh squeezed juice and a few raspberries.

I’ve been fighting feelings of guilt, as I pluck away at my keyboard writing, feeling like I should be doing something more worthy of my time. I’m in Paris, for heaven’s sake, I should’ve made my way to Blé Sucré by now. I want to spend some time lazily walking around the Musee d’Orsay, and finally get lost in the caverns of the Louvre—things you can’t do as leisurely with children. And then I keep reminding myself that I’m doing exactly what I set out to do when I booked this trip. I wanted to live life on my terms for a few days. No rising early to squeeze in some work before waking the kids. No mad dash to get into the schoolyard by 8:38am. No worrying about deadlines.

For the next few days, all I plan to do is listen to that little voice. Doing that in Paris makes perfect sense. I know the streets of the 6th and 7th, like the back of my hand. I can zip from A to B, needing little assistance from my trusted map. And yet, the customs and language still bewilder me a bit. Yesterday I told the green grocer “C’est fin” when I was done ordering which means “I’m dead”. The moment I said it, I knew it was wrong. Really, it means “I’m done” if you did the literal translation, but in French the expression is used to say the party’s over.

Paris offers me the familiar and unfamiliar. I feel completely comfortable here, and like an absolute stranger, all at once. It’s not too far off from how I feel in my own body sometimes. One thing I can say with certainty, though, is that I’m far from done. And so, my work continues.

Music Pairing: Dreams by The Cranberries

Announcements, life

Comments

  • Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.): Jennie enjoy your YOU time in Paris – well deserved after your book tour. This will revive and inspire you for sure. xo

  • Vera: I think it’s wonderful that you have this opportunity for time on your own. It’s rare that we listen to that little voice deep within us.

  • Luisa: Loved this post so, so much. There’s so much here to read over and over again, think on and be inspired by. Enjoy Paris. Enjoy the time by yourself. xo

  • Lorette Lavine: Jennie, such a lovely post. Time does heal in many ways…so enjoy Paris and all it has to offer you right now! I am so happy that I was able to meet you here in Chicago …you are a special person!

  • Tracey: Good Morning Jennie,
    I would try and be clever and say something in French, but alas, I would probably say something to the effect of, “I wish you were dead.” That would be so wrong. So I will keep with my limited language skills and continue writing in English.
    I always look forward to your posts. It is amazing and wonderful to watch you move through the many passages in which I have moved in the years passed. When you go through them (and possibly it is just a life thing) you can never see the growth, but looking back, it is a monumental thing. So pat yourself on the back and say “Job well done, Jennie-girl.” as you deserve it.(just don’t try and do it in French).
    Wishing you sunny days in gay Paris,(where did that come from anyway?), delicious baguettes and wine, and growth that comforts you and fond memories to help sustain you,
    Tracey

  • Wanda: I so love reading your words. I can relate to you in so many ways. I want more…but, sometimes the fear of the un known or un controllable gets deep on my bones & keeps the best if me. I’m working on it though. Many projects in my heart that needs to be organized, named & realized. I’m so proud of you, even though you don’t personally know me or each other, I’m very proud of you. You are a strong soul! I admire that in a person, in a woman. Good job girl! Carry on with grace and be fearless. Walk down the streets of Paris and let us know all about it, someday we might just meet there. I often need a place to rediscover myself & recharge!

  • Lou Ameduri: Jen, I truly hope that this trip gives you not only what you are looking for but what you truly deserve…Happiness! If memory serves me correctly you were always able to see things differently than others, especially me. Please allow yourself to be fully immersed in this trip. Why? Because you truly deserve it and you may come away with a fresh perspective. You will always be a mom, but you must find yourself to be truly happy and pass that on to your girls. Enjoy-Lou

  • Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste: This is such a beautifully written post, Jennie. Enjoy every minute in Paris!

  • gillian: Always, such beautiful writing.

    You capture so well the feelings of an expat in a place they love and don’t quite belong. It is a wonderful, delicious kind of freedom. (I am going to see Gatsby here in Rome on Sunday – Can’t wait!)

  • Laurie: Enjoy!

  • LisaMK: Brilliant post, and timely for me. You are doing what I know I must for myself. Inspiring and uplifting – I have printed this out to keep as I learn to love me first so I can love those closest to me the same. Have a blessed trip Jennie! You are a truly beautiful being sharing yourself like this, thank you.

  • Carolyn: Am in awe of your strength, bravery, and your wishes for your children’s future…
    Listening to Dreams and silently saluting you.
    :) Carolyn in Canada

  • gardenbre: i really laughed when I read you were feeling guilty about sitting mulling things over and writing instead of being out and about in Paris … instead of somewhere else instead of with yourself & your thoughts … I suffered through this and those thoughts every time I gave myself some ME time in Paris – then I got over it by not telling anyone – you told us … that’s why I laughed. You are brave! I love that you stayed up 36 hours and woke refreshed and that bought groceries. I bought groceries for every meal but 5 while I was in Paris for 3 months. There’s something about preparing food for yourself. I hope you thoroughly enjoy every moment while you are there and come back with a bit of yourself and Paris to have as your own every day when you return home. Such a vicarious thrill to read this. Thanks!

  • Karin Gould: Paris is just the place to learn to love yourself again. Before we moved to Belgium, Paris was still a big, confusing city to me. Now 3 trips there in 8 months in which I could really walk and enjoy it and I see it in a different way. Good for you for taking the time for you! I need to learn to do that more. It is not in my comfort zone – in some ways it is easier to continue with the daily grind. I sat at the kitchen table last night with your book in my hands after eating our homemade pizza, and looking up what to do with my rhubarb from the market, and told my husband that your cookbook was absolutely perfect – for me. I can open it up and find any recipe that completely agrees with how I think good should be – simple and easy, delicious in it’s natural way. The AP baking mix saved us the other night when the girls wanted waffles for dinner, and I had run out of baking powder for the recipe we were following. They turned out perfect. I love all of the tips & pointers. We need more books like this that simply teach people how to cook and enjoy food for what it is. Simple and delicious. Thank you Jennifer. Enjoy your time in lovely Paris!

  • Selfish Mom: I love that you allow yourself the time and freedom to do this.

  • Cécile: Hey Jenny,

    I just recently found you on the internet and I love your writing. I am a girl from the Netherlands who lost her mom 4 years ago (she was 55, I was 21 back then) and I very much recognise the feelings you describe, even though we’re in a different position. When my mom died, my father also went travelling, because he needed time for himself and to get used to being alone.

    Enjoy your me-time in Paris, I think it takes a lot of courage to do this for yourself and I really believe it’ll do you good and give you the energy you need.

  • Andrea: I hope your trip was all you needed and more. This post, different than the others, has brought tears to my eyes. I love how you have cooking to ground you. To remind you to put you first with your children and those you love. So perfectly said.

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