Balance. We all strive for some semblance of balance. Since forever, people have struggled with balance. Chinese medicine gives us yin/yang harmony and Tai Chi. Western medicine gives us tips on countering work with personal life and extreme sports. Checkbooks. Weight. Gut health. We are constantly in a state of trying to function with a sense of equilibrium.
I, too, am struggling. I run, I do yoga. Good balance. I drink coffee, I drink wine. An exceptionally divine balance, especially here in Paris. Baguette, vegetables. Sleep, wake. Study, play. But living thousands of miles away from home, or at least what we refer to as home, makes it seem like I am fighting the disproportion. I stay up very late to catch my kiddos on the phone as they are beginning their day. I get up early to feel some sense of regularity, only to find that the bleak, gray weather makes me fall asleep every afternoon after lunch. I have a feeling I am not going to be able to win this one until Springtime…
Immersing myself into this new life has been an endeavor that I find renewed every day. Learning the language, “pronunciation is key”. The nuances, “Don’t say ‘Bonjour’ to someone twice in one day or you offend them, implying that you don’t remember saying good day to them before. The food, “Demi-écrémé is half cream, but in shelf milk, what does that really mean?” The transportation, “Who gets to sit? Where do your eyes go if you don’t have your Kindle with you?” And, there is the dress. I try to balance not looking like a complete American with not looking like I am on my way to a funeral.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving….Albert Einstein
But no matter how hard I try, there is a little American flair, a little bit of color, a little bit of defiance, that comes out, even when I am not trying. Running a little behind (literally) after my morning jog, I quick showered, threw on my skinny jeans (a French thing for a 54 year old woman), my black sweater, black chukka boots, long coat and of course, the ever present scarf in more black/neutral colors. I am race walking to class and feeling very French. I (think I) have the look, the satchel, the stride. I even have the swagger of inching into the intersection while the red pedestrian light is on, willing it to turn green, despite the traffic. I thought to myself, “I have this! I am really blending in!” That is, until someone at the corner looked at me and said, “Hello.” Not “Bonjour.” Darn! What was it? My red long coat? No. My super curly hair and no umbrella? No. Was it my water bottle I was carrying? Most likely screams, “American.” Or maybe it is just me. My eyes? My smile? My, “je ne sais pas quoi.” I quickly went from feeling “I’ve got this” to “I have got a lot more work to do.” Where is the balance?
As always, the answer is in the Grace. “Balance and scales belong to the Lord; all the weights used with them are his concern.” ~Proverbs 16:11
The balance is all around me. It is in the smile of my French teacher when she realizes I am on the verge of getting that nasal sound just right. It is in the joy we had walking to a vintage theatre near our house and watching the original “Sabrina” on the silver screen, and feeling like I was seeing my favorite movie for the first time, not the fiftieth. The laughter from Liam, the flirting with the little French babies at a restaurant, the captivation watching them renovate the flat across the street. Even though at times it is (literally) watching paint dry, I see things I would do, I see things “very French” and I see things I just don’t understand.
I find the best calm here though is in the plethora of churches around this city. The gift that I can just walk into any church and sit in front of the Tabernacle, bringing my frustrations, my shortcomings, my joys, my fears. All the turmoil inside to stay balanced is brought forth in tears and taken as a gift. No matter the state in which I arrive, I leave feeling peaceful. Equable. Serene. A “ready to keep this ride going” state of balance, whatever that may be!