At this moment, I find myself sitting on the serene terrace of my Airbnb in the 20th arrondissement in Paris, France. It is stunningly beautiful here and I am both overwhelmed and relieved that I have finally made it to this destination in my life. Since the official start of my “mom”bbatical, when I deposited my son onto a train in June, the last few months have been wrought with endlessly long to-do lists and transactions as I prepared to leave my life in Brooklyn and begin a new adventure. Despite the frenzy, that time offered me some valuable wisdom that I know will ground me as I take my next steps.
It’s okay to revisit the pain and scars from the past. “Let it go.” “Put it behind you.” “Get over it.” When we experience pain and hurt, how often are these the phrases that we are bombarded with by well intentioned family and friends to facilitate our healing? For their benefit, we take a deep breath, wipe the tears away and tell ourselves to move on. Liberated from the daily demands of parenting, I took the mental and emotional space to look back, to evaluate, to lament and to often cringe at the valleys of the past.
It is scary taking a raw look at the past. To look at the ways in which we have allowed others to treat us or the hurts we may have inflicted ourselves. And perhaps it is a little cliché, but only in doing so, am I able to appreciate the present moment I am in now, to celebrate the failures and stumbles that led me to this very place. It is humbling and gratifying to know that we are never standing still in life. Our capacity to grow and learn is vast if we choose to accept it.
Joy in the present moment is priceless. Before I made my sojourn to the airport with two suitcases and a cat, I decided to pick up some items that might not be readily available to me in Paris, You know, like my favorite Trader Joe’s snacks and uh. . .well, a certain little something to prepare me for when a certain moment should present itself. . .(hint: Elaine’s favorite from Seinfeld)
So, I go to the CVS drugstore to pick up my “item” and of course, it’s behind a locked glass cabinet. . . downtown Brooklyn. But no worries, all I had to do was push the little customer service button to my right and someone would come along and open the cabinet. I push the button and all of a sudden LOUDLY over the PA system, the following announcement is made, “Customer service needed in family planning.”
I look around and everyone at the pharmacy department is staring at me as I stood there, humiliated, waiting for some tall lanky kid with his special key to open up the cabinet. I felt like Jonah Hill in a Judd Apatow movie. . so embarrassing. But, all I could do was laugh and relish in the hilarity of it all. There’s no question that there’s a lot of crappy things going on in the world today and as one who tends to obsess about the future, I’m glad that I’ve gotten to a place in life where I can be in the present moment and take its joy for all that it is worth, even at my own expense.
Facing the future with courage is a discipline. Without fail, whenever I have mentioned to folks that I was moving to Paris, their first question was usually, “Do you have a job there?” When the answer is “no”, it becomes a very awkward question to answer and it’s so loaded with that person’s expectations and fears. I did make an effort to find a job, but nothing quite felt right and something inside of me is telling me that my life has more in store than just a job.
But, it’s not easy to wake up each day without falling into a panic about my financial and professional future. I stored the resources for this move and I’m very conscious of how much runway I have left, but I’m facing an unknown like never before in my life. So I write and I meditate and I stay grounded in the very present moment. It is a discipline that requires the daily strengthening of my faith muscle as I create a new vision.
Thankfully, I am surrounded by a beautiful community of people who are supporting me every step of the way. It is profound actually. The love of friends and family, colleagues and neighbors, mentors and students. It is what is pushing me through and I am so grateful.
I have no idea what this “mom”bbatical has in store. But I’m taking it on with gratitude and wonder and joy. I really can’t ask for anything more.