L'Orage et un Mal de Tete sur la rue Meslay (The Storm and a Headache on rue Meslay)
I woke to a different season in Paris this morning. Thunder was my alarm clock, the downpour of rain quieting the usual noisy morning commerce of my street, the temperature (thankfully) about 25 degrees cooler. Thunder was my alarm clock, because my alarm had sounded at 6:30 am, but I ignored it due to the ache in my neck and back and a massive headache.
My first headache in Paris. It was bound to happen...who is Jude without her headaches, after all...but I thought I would have gotten through a week at least. As usual, the cause is a mystery. I've been sleeping with a fan blowing on me all night, and my sinuses don't like fans. There's the dramatic and sudden weather shift. There's the insomnia of the last several days and erratic timing of meals. There's the fact that I got so dehydrated walking around yesterday afternoon that I could never manage to quench my thirst when I arrived home. The ache in my neck and back probably contibuted, too, and it's ironic, because I convinced myself yesterday that investing 50 euros in a halfway decent pillow and a percale pillow case for the sake of better sleep was worthwhile given the many nights I'm going to sleeping here. Clearly, I slept on it the wrong way, though.
Any combination of these things might be the culprit, but I can't discount stress either. I realize how funny that sounds--I mean, talk about first world problems! I'm having a blast, that's certain, and I'm excited by all that I'm learning and discovering and experiencing, but I came here for a purpose and I'm sacrificing a lot for this grand adventure. Again, I can see all of you rolling your eyes because I would be, too--oh yeah, three months of no work and living in Paris, real tough! But I don't really have the financial means to be doing this, I've left my husband and my dog and my friends behind, and I'm all alone here. If it weren't for a Capital One Venture Card and an incredibly supportive and encouraging husband (the dog doesn't understand, unfortunately), I wouldn't be able to embark on this adventure that does have a very specific objective: a full first draft of a new novel. Which is to say, I'm not the only one making the sacrifice here, risking my relationships, my job and favored status with my dog, but that others are sacrificing on my behalf as well. If I don't achieve this, I will have failed not only myself, but all of those who believe in and are supporting me. People are counting on me, expecting great things, and my fear of disappointing them is real (I wanted to say terrifying).
Being an over-ambitious goal-setter, I had given myself last Friday afternoon to settle in before embarking on my schedule of writing every single day--not just working on the novel, but also doing this blog daily. (I thought I'd also have time for a short story here and there.) I stepped foot in this apartment last Friday at 3:00 in the afternoon Paris time and it's now about 1:00 pm the following Thursday. To achieve my full first draft goal, I estimate I need to write about 35 pages per week. Once I get going, I tend to be a fairly fast writer (especially for messy first drafts!) and so this volume of work should be entirely doable for me. Yesterday morning, I wrote my first page--one page. Then I couldn't get on a roll and I found myself marveling at the gorgeous day outside the window and ruminating on Hemingway
and Fitzgerald and Stein and the gang, and I thought it would be a brilliant idea to stuff my pen and notebook and get on the metro over to Les Deux Magots. Sure, it would be packed with American tourists and, yes, a croque monsieur and a glass of wine will cost me a fortune, but let's just say I'm already at the point that I'll need to thank Capital One in my acknowledgements if I ever do publish this novel. (Although we're about 400 pages away from that.)
What I didn't factor in was a transition. I've been planning this Parisian hiatus for more than six months. At the expense of other things in my life, I had established a daily routine of meditation, writing (my "old" novel) and a minimum of one hour studying French, in addition to the day job--all in preparation for making this time the most creative, productive and rewarding time ever! The time of my life--not just because, you know...Paris, but because I would finally have the time and space to give free reign to all my creativity and whatever talent I may possess. To use the apt cliche, I absolutely believed August 4th 2018 would be the first day of the rest of my life.
Then I arrived, and I thought, okay, I just need a day, but August 5th, for sure. Er, August 6th? All my routines have broken down. I haven't been doing my daily dose of Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, but I've been telling myself I'm practicing real-life, so that's okay. Meanwhile the only reason I've been (usually) holding my own here in stores and restaurants and post offices has been because of those months of daily diligence. Even the simplest of my routines, my morning meditation, hasn't been happening on a regular basis, and the few mornings I've tried, the distractions were in hyper-drive.
Paris is distracting. It's like New York in that three months is only time enough to scratch the surface. I have a long list of things I want to see and do, and the list is ever-growing. I'm the type of person who gets really hyper excited and wound up in a strange place, where there are lots of new things to explore--I'm kind of like Claude (my Cavapoo) in that way. I know this about myself, yet I didn't figure it into the plan.
So here's what I need to do: I need to cut myself some slack (not a strength). I am not Super Woman, certainly not Super Writer. I have been here just five full days. I have unpacked and gotten myself organized in a new apartment, in a new city, in a new country. I have navigated grocery shopping and the post office and I survived the heat wave. I need to tell myself: It's okay, Jude. You still have four days left in this week to work on the 35-page quota and if you get to 20, given that this is your first week, that will be great. Because what was all this for if I allow myself to feel defeated before I've barely begun. I have the luxury of time, something I'm not used to, and I will work and, in time, the work will flow.
Also, I'm not going to beat myself up about going out to Les Deux Magots yesterday afternoon. I thought I'd be gone two hours, but that turned into five. It was a gorgeous day on the Left Bank and I had a very nice waiter who was working his butt off among the expected throng of American tourists and my croque monsieur and my glass of Sancerre rose were as perfect as I'd imagined. I did jot a few notes about the new novel and then I walked around the Left Bank, dropping into Paul for a baguette ("Normale? "Oui, normale.") that was hot in my hands--it had just come out of the oven that moment! Like a Parisienne, I tore off the end and ate it while I did the flaneuse thing over to Shakespeare and Company, which was too packed to even venture inside, but no matter--it was just cool to take a photo with my iPhone and reflect on its history.
And outside the metro at Republique, a block from chez moi, I happened upon a home store and allowed myself the pillow expenditure, one which I'm sure will pay off in the nights to come, when I fall in bed after a day of adventures in this gorgeous city and a satisfying day of writing.