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March 18, 2006

Le Vacation and Le Fear

Hi! I am crazy. And also maybe red-wined. Hello, whine.

Thinking about vacation and its impendingness. Vacation is an amazing thing, a lovely happy leap that I can't truly afford but I need it, the same way I need sunshine or caffeine.

But I have fear. Scary fear.

It's because of the Fear Life.

See I believe there are two kinds of people in this world -- those who divide everything into two categories, and those who do not. I guess you know what category I fall into. My penchant for dividing things into this-or-that led me to the "Real Life vs. Fear Life" theory.

In my Fear Life, I worry about things, sometimes not even rational things. Living becomes very small, it's harder to visualize new and unusual things, or people, and the house that used to be a nice place to rest becomes your sanctuary (and then your hideout) and you start telling people... "Call before you come over. Email before you call."

In my Real Life, or what I want to be my Real Life, I take chances (even though I am scared) and I leave my house (even though I want to stay home) and when I get scared -- which I do, because this is me and I Have Issues -- I write down the scary things and they seem less like Real things and more like Fear things.

So, I am writing it down.

I'm scared. Scared that I will be the facade of happiness and the inner part of me, the one who never traveled anywhere without her husband, will ooze out at an inopportune moment and I will think of the Paris I Have Loved, and be sad. Every night, sitting in front of the open windows, me smoking off the balcony, him with a rum and coke in hand, no ice because it's Paris. I take a photo of him, he shakes his head.

(Is it possible to be me and to be only present-day? Some women are right-here-right-now women. I am the sort who often thinks fondly back upon life events, even sad ones, and I feel maudlin for things that were not even that great at the time.) (Not a terrific quality, I might add.)

I was barely twenty-three years old the first time I went to France. I had never been off our beloved continent ... who am I kidding! I had barely ventured outside the South, and was still in deep culture shock living with Mr. X in this crazy Los Angeles city. Before he introduced me to Europe, to Paris, the most exotic thing I had experienced was one hedonistic summer vacation with my parents in Cancun where I went buckwild crazy and ate these mysterious things called MANGOS.

I always wanted to travel, wanted to see the cities of Europe and hear people talk in strange languages and eat food I could not pronounce. I wanted to be bigger than my litle tiny one-stop-light world. I needed to see life, smell it, eat it whole.

Anyway. I got the eating part down pat.

He and I bought the tickets on the spur-of-the-moment, packed our mismatched suitcases ("Do people in France wear blue jeans?" I was very unsure) and after eleventeen million hours in an airplane we were officially not in America anymore.

I fell in love.

The signs, the smells, the people, the baggage carts, the swanky-looking taxis, all of it. Our hotel that first night was up on the top floor of an ancient building under thick dark wooden beams and slanting ceilings and I couldn't sleep I was so excited. I went into the bathroom to scribble in my notebook, always a notebook, and with the rusty old crank handle I opened up the (possibly hundred-year-old!) bathroom window and peered out across the rooftops of Europe. It was one of the most exhilirating moments of my whole life. And I was alone, in the bathroom, my husband sleeping across the lumpy bed in the next room.

Paris was for me:
a living museum
people in chic clothes and women in high-high heels
booksellers along the Seine, just like in Henry Miller novels!
smoking in public
strong, good coffee
the sound of those sirens (wee-wah wee-wah)
tiny cars on the motorways
men who opened doors, briskly
good wine
good beer
amazing foodgasmic bread and croissaints
little sugar cubes
lumpy beds
"deux vin rouges, sil vous plait"
"ou e le toiletes sil vous plait"
"Bonjour madame"
"Where the fuck is the E-11?"
"You think the metric system will ever catch on?"
"You look lovely in that light."

About every hour and a half I would pinch myself, could NOT believe I was in THE Paris, France! Not Paris, Texas mind you ... the real Paris France where they have French people! Where they do not need to call 'em "French fries" ... they are simply called fries. (That joke never got old. For me.)

Honestly, though, it's better looking back than it was at the time. I was the one who said, "You look lovely." I was the one writing alone in the bathroom with the door closed. We traveled so much because it was the only time I had him all to myself and he had to pay attention to me.

Where does the fear come from? The fear of being lonely in a crowd, a whole city, a continent? It's not like I don't know lonely. It's good to write this down. The fear loosens up. The Real life takes over. This past year I found out that sometimes the dreading of a thing (worried you'll be sad, miss him, fall apart) is worse than the actual emotion. Just sit with it. Write it down.

Other fear:

I am afraid something will happen to my cats while I'm gone. I have a house sitter and then Karman is also checking in on the furballs, and every neighbor (except Crackhead Bob) has been briefed and given long lists of phone numbers and emergency contacts, and I know that they're good people who will alert the po-po if someone is hauling out my sofa or something, but I worry about the cats getting sick, or one getting locked in a cupboard accidentally, or that my house will spontaneously burst into flames and burn to the ground.

I am afraid that the plane will crash, or someone will have the Bird Flu or Ebola, or that we'll get to the hotel and it will have bedbugs.

So, I have fear. It's part of who I am, it always has been, the fear of the unknown, the unhappy, the unloved. I'm writing this down, out loud, so I can see for myself how it's just scared, it's not reality, my life is an unopened book, an unwritten chapter, and even though I am anxious I will continue forward, onward, upward, Franceward.

The small-town girl inside me knows it's a luxury to have a memory of THE Paris France. And I am thrilled to my toes to go on a vacation. With my best friends! It's a gift. And if I get sad one night after too much wine and a trip down memory lane, I will probably cry and my friends will hug me, and I will not be alone, and I will make jokes about it and we will be in Paris (!) and he is the past and I am the future.

And the cats will be fine.
Real Life vs. Fear Life ... Real Life wins.

Posted by laurie at March 18, 2006 8:16 PM