This blog post was written in 2010, but in so many ways, it is still relevant and filled with reminders for me.
The Michigan tourist board had this advertisement that said, “When you get to a place where no one knows us, we become more ourselves”. That slogan has deeply touched me over the last few years. I explored why my husband and I enjoyed each other when on vacations in ways that seemed impossible once we returned home. On vacations, especially in the beginning of our marriage, he was the man I had fallen in love with.
The marriage hasn’t lasted (maybe not enough vacations) but having returned from my first holiday to Paris with my adult daughter, I’m again reminded of the Michigan slogan. Not only did I rediscover my confidence, happiness, and even acceptance of the course of my life, but also my daughter discovered who she wants to be. France for whatever reason embraced her in a way that the UK and Ireland never have. Maybe it was the first vacation without worrying whether her parents were going to argue or not, maybe it was the joy of “doing” with cooking classes and private walking tours that included numerous café stops, rather than standing in long lines to see the castles of old kings and queens. Whatever it was, Paris refueled her sense of self, kindled her dreams, and nourished her fragile self-confidence.
For me, Paris was where I needed to be to reclaim the woman who had gotten lost in my life of responsibilities. Paris gave me a glimpse into a life I want to have. Everything in Paris is small, and yet the beauty is in the details. Gardens like those at Versailles, Jardin du Luxembourg, and Jardin des Tuileries on the surface appear massive, but stand within each garden, and you’ll find small vignettes of beauty. Turn around, walk 100 yards and you’ll see something new, so special and unique that it will take your breath away. Paris is about the unnecessary details that create beauty- the curling iron works on buildings, the shaped shrubs in the gardens, the purse on a woman’s arm, the flowers in the window boxes, the streets that come together, men who greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks.
Nothing in Paris is linear. I suddenly realized that I had been stuck in a linear mentality. I’m the queen of those linear timelines! I had my “during divorce” and “after divorce” must-do lists, which were ruling my life and extinguishing all the joy and beauty around me. My plans had none of the unnecessary details that create that joie de vivre I saw in Paris. My plans were heavy, stagnant, and very “grown up.”
So the lesson from this vacation is that what I see on the surface is just one perspective. Turn around, walk 100 yards, and look for another possibility. When I’m panicking about an unequitable asset distribution, turn around and find a smaller, but exquisite home I can live and thrive in. When I feel old and unattractive to the men in America, fly to Paris and see beautiful, confident, middle-aged women who are still sensual, even though they look and dress their ages. When I get angry because I have been erased from all my past accomplishments, turn again and look for where I can make my impact in my career, and love the process. This next life phase isn’t about making my partner look good. It is about shining my own light. When I grow concerned about all the family photos, mementos, and treasures that I will never get back, turn and cherish the few I do have and relish the mementos of my new life. My home should reflect my past, my present, and my future.
This trip to Paris gave me many gifts, but most importantly, it opened a window to another perspective, one of the possibilities, beauty, happiness, and nourishing goals. Yes, “When we get to a place where no one knows us, we become more ourselves”.