Critical Inertia

We’re nearly at the end game now: My husband and I have told our bosses that we will not be renewing our contracts. He has sent his letter of resignation, and I am turning mine in tomorrow; only five weeks remain. And yet I’m as afraid as I am hopeful. Can we escape the inertia of the lives we’ve always led as we approach critical mass?

I feel weighted down by the seriousness of the decision, the fear of the unknown, the niggling questions and details that I’m afraid could hold us back. What if my father-in-law has cancer? What if the payment won’t go through on my husband’s British passport, forcing us to restart the paperwork process? The strange fact is, I feel nearly as much trepidation of going as I do of staying. It’s like this tug of war waged between the momentum of life as I know it and the pull of the life I’ve hoped I could lead.

France is not paradise. I know that it has its problems and drawbacks, but I have felt for a long time that the French philosophy was more in line with my own. Le travail n’est pas la vie or “Work is not life,” has come into my mind over and over since I became a (disillusioned) working adult. The fact is that I want to live in a society that works together as a community instead of being continually at odds a league of individuals, and I just plain don’t like capitalism. There, I said it. However, I do like the American proclivity to think outside the box, honor individual choice, and to root for the underdog. On the other hand, my concern for the environment, desire to be exposed to other nations,  and my love of culture, art, and cuisine pull me firmly in the European direction. Then there is the history: You’re absolutely surrounded by it in France. You see human achievement at every turn and can even live in an apartment building that was constructed in the 15th century, the same century in which the western world established the existence of my continent.

The French are a courageous people. In 1789, they chose to pull their society up by the roots and change everything, to start from scratch. And they keep revising their government and rewriting their constitution as needed. The people use their voice in protest, petition, strike, and sometimes riot to express their discontent, and I’ve had some of the most stimulating, intelligent conversations with average citizens whose lively minds, sharp tongues, and quick senses of humor remind me that even speaking to one another is an art form.

Come what may, I want to remember the preciousness of each moment. With my mind and spirit unfettered by culture or time, I choose to explore the world and life with my husband. We’re being called to a new home. I feel that France is welcoming us with open arms even if America is holding on for one last embrace.


No Foolin!

We’ve been busy these last few days. On Thursday, my husband told my father in-law about our plans, and it went well. Let me put this in perspective: My father-in-law is a disabled veteran in his 60s who has difficulty communicating and interacting with others. He has a strong sense of justice, hates dishonesty, and for the last 18 months or so, has been living with my husband in part because he has difficulty leaving the house. My father-in-law also despises “faites accomplis” or significant decisions concerning him that have been made without his knowledge.

Thus, while there was a larger emotional toll in telling my parents about our plans (to move to France indefinitely beginning this summer after quitting our jobs), telling my father-in-law loomed large in our minds for months. My husband was concerned that his father might feel seriously abandoned and have significantly reduced functionality for weeks after hearing our news.

In spite of all our concerns, my husband told his father on Thursday, and it went very well. My father-in-law was curious about our plans and later, concerned about how he would manage if left on his own for as many as 12 months. However, he remained supportive, and from what I can tell, attentive to ideas about what he could do to stand himself in better stead before we, though reachable, are separated by the Atlantic and seven hours.

Over the past week, we also spent much less on going out and entertainment by using gift cards, getting some help from my father-in-law, generally going out less, and chosing cheaper options like renting movies (you still can!) and watching Netflix or DVDs we already own.

In addition, my husband and I co-wrote an email to the French Consulate in D.C. and Houston with specific questions about requirements for documentation and about the visa process to find out what we have to get done before  we go over.

And finally, we went over our finances and found out that we can absolutely support ourselves on a budget of $2,000 or about 1 500 euros per month for 12 months. This will give us enough time to explore and look for jobs along the way. I’m ecstatic! This is the solid ground that I’ve been needing, the proof to show me that my dream is possible, that our dream is possible and not just hopeful thinking. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had this year, and I’m soooo ready to move on to new challenges and to return to the place that continually calls me back. Each time, I feel like I’m going to my spiritual home. The place with which I connect more deeply than any other, and I’m delighted to wake up and see that the dream is coming true.

Yet, the sweetness of all our blessings is tempered by some bitterness: We have to keep telling people about whom we care, that we are leaving and that our relationships will change significantly from here on out. My parents are very supportive and positive, but they are still sad. I am their only child, and we are very close; I know it’s hard on them because it can be difficult for me at times if I really stop to think about it. People I work with ask me about future plans, and I have to be a little evasive, which I hate. Some of my favorite people to be around want to know what I’ll be doing in a year, and I can’t tell them definitively, yet. Because I have to be careful about what information I share and and what time.

I’d like to leave you with a quote that moved me this week. I hope it touches you as well:

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of imagination. What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth – whether it existed before or not.”            John Keats


In Hot Pursuit

Today my husband and I went straight over to the County Recorder’s Office after work and got three copies of our marriage license for my passport and visa paperwork.This might sound easy, but we’re coming back from a honeymoon in Hawai’i that was very active and put us a good five hours behind our normal work/sleep schedule. We work hard and we … crash hard. We were exhausted today, and I was at the end of my rope energy and pleasantness-wise. Luckily, my hubby is steadfast and was too silly from his sleepiness to pay attention to my grousing.

Aside from being the love of my life and a fantastic human being, he also is a man of not one, not two, but three nationalities! That’s right: He was born in Canada giving him a Canadian nationality and passport; his mother was born in England, giving him United Kingdom citizenship, a British passport, and European Union connections; and his father is American, so my husband was able to move to the States with no hassles, no visas, and barely a border check with his American passport. Oh, and did I mention that he’s a registered, card-carrying member of the Pottawatomie Tribe? Yeah, that’s right. He’s a total stud. It’s a good thing he loves to travel, or all those awesome keys to various kingdoms would be wasted!

Though I am French at heart (but American by heritage and upbringing), I have but one measly passport to my name, and it has recently expired. The shame! Actually, it’s fairly convenient as we recently got married, and I would have had to put in for a name change on my old passport anyway. But I’ve got one (well several really) up on my husband: I’ve lived in France twice and visited St. Petersburg and most of Western Europe. He’s traveled a good deal in Europe and went to school in Scotland for a few years, but my old passport has a long-stay visa for France, an Assistantship visa, and a visa to enter Russia as a tourist, along with many stamps of various European countries that ended up wasting precious visa space (brushes off shoulders).

I’ve filled out my passport renewal paperwork, gotten my name-change papers copied, and taken new passport-sized photos (and coughed up $170 bucks) to get an expedited passport with fifty-two glorious pages that will allow travel, exploration, and proof of my identity in lands far and wide (especially France, of course) for the next ten years! My husband, for his part, has tied up loose ends going through the process of renewing his British passport for our voyage. This included getting a British citizen to vouch for his Britishness, filling out the necessary documents, and forking over a chunk of change.

In addition to our paperwork completing, obtaining, and sending prowess, my husband and I are being savvy about our spending (especially now that we’re wed and back from our honeymoon) and spent a mere $1.80 for a sandwich that fed both of us. “How’s that?” you might ask, agape at our brilliant thrift. Giftcards, my friend, giftcards well-used from two years ago were the key. Team IvElise: 1, Expensive-and-Tempting-Food: 0.

Once we both have our passports in our hot little hands, the next step will be preparing for and going down to the French Consulate in Houston to apply for a Spousal Visa for me to remain in France for more than three months. We’ll leave a paperwork trail for thousands of miles in the end, but were on the path to success and looking straight ahead at the goal.

How Important Is It?

This AA slogan has one meaning: It encourages us to let go of little things. However, I’m beginning to see its application in another area.  That is, II want to invest my energy wisely. I want to do things that matter to me in life because, like it or not, we all only have a certain amount of time that we can play with and accomplish or do things in our lives. So what do I want to do? The answer to that question has changed over the years: I want to be a doctor like Dad, I want to be a linguist, I want to write creatively/write movie scripts because I love movies, I want to teach English overseas so I can travel anywhere and support myself, I want to get married, I want to get out of here, I want to go back to France, I want to teach French, I want to marry the love of my life, I want to follow my dreams/my passion.

But can we ever have one driving passion? I guess if I had to pinpoint mine, it would be related to honesty, authenticity, recognition of others’ importance and acceptance of self and others. Gaga puts it well in “Hair:” “I just wanna be free. I just wanna be me. And I want lots of friends to invite me to their parties. Don’t wanna change, and I don’t wanna be ashamed.”

But how to be free? Being my own boss, living where I want to, and not being weighted down with stuff. Freedom cannot come from possession or acquisition but in being and appreciating what is. My comfortable house and nice things distract me from that and having those things requires working a job that can often take the life right out of me (no exaggeration).

My husband and I talk about how we feel we give our best energy to our work and come home empty, drained, exhausted. We had little or no force left to engage in activities that enriched our lives, and we asked the question: What are we killing ourselves for? Money/lifestyle, achievement, status/recognition, and security seemed insignificant with the price we paid every day. Some days I literally felt that I was growing older or dying from how much of myself I expended. But what horrified me the most was that it was never enough. I could never do enough, prepare enough, finish enough to satisfy myself or, I imagined by proxy, others. Me: “So I’m using up all of my power at work and leaving none for myself so that I can buy or save up for things that I want or for some future situation like children, education, recreation, or retirement because society thinks I should but get little to no satisfaction in the present moment because I’m A) dead tired B) cranky from low energy C) asleep D) at work or thinking about it.” American Society: “Right, of course that’s what you should do. Get a flat screen and an iPhone. Got them? Ok, now get the newer and bigger ones.” Me: “Wait… WHAT?!” Don’t get me wrong; I like stuff. But it’s not worth giving up my power, freedom, and life for.

After a lot of struggling and frustration and thinking, my husband and I realized we had to go for our dream: Move to France and have a different life. I’ve had this dream since about 2006 and my husband has had it since about 2008, and it has kept me up nights. I feel France pulling me back like the moon beckons the tide. Now we’re climbing out by our fins and going for a moon launch. We’re young, fluent and semi-fluent in French, haven’t started a family yet. But it’s not simple, there are 2,000 steps to take before we can leave this summer for what I feel is to be the greatest adventure of our lives. This shared dream helped to pull us together like gravity, and it helps propel us forward and put our lives in perspective.

Stay tuned as I streamline my life, make sacrifices like you wouldn’t believe, and possibly go for broke because, baby, we’re going to France!