Anyone who has traveled internationally with me knows that I am an absolute stickler about the most important rule when landing in another country after an overnight flight–do not sleep when you arrive. I live by this rule. If you sleep, you mess up your entire internal clock.
And I know it’s a painful task. Your eyes are so heavy from what was just a cat nap on the plane. Your brain is foggy as you’re digging in your bag looking for your passport. You’re walking through the airport feeling like a zombie trying to figure out where to go and the growing pressure on your bladder from bypassing that one last opportunity to go to the toilet on the plane because you didn’t want to wake up the passenger sitting next to you is becoming pretty unbearable. Your brain keeps repeating the mantra, “pee, luggage, sleep. . .pee, luggage sleep.” All you long for at this point is to pee, get your luggage and then sleep.
At that moment I am an annoying yippy dog bouncing up and down to my fellow travelers, “You can’t sleep, don’t sleep.” Yip, yip, yip. “Throw water in your face.” Yip. “Have some coffee.” Yip. “Eat something and you’ll feel better.” Yip, yip, yip.
So. . .once I arrived in Paris ten days ago, after having heaved my luggage to my destination and processed about a million instructions in FRENCH from my Airbnb host, I did the unthinkable.
And slept and slept. The entire day away.
I briefly redeemed myself the following day by running around Paris with a friend, playing tourist. But, my body and mind quickly pulled the plug on my fun and demanded more sleep on day three. On day four, I confided in a friend that all had really done the past couple of days was sleep. I was feeling a bit guilty. But in her perfectly French way, she told me to rest. That if I am in need of rest, I should rest.
I embraced her counsel and let myself rest. Sometimes that meant sleeping for hours on end. Sometimes it meant working on a jigsaw puzzle in my pajamas. The other day, rest meant sitting in the grass by the Louvre eating a sandwich, watching a man command the local flock of pigeons. It was the most uncanny thing. He would clap and they would fly to him, land and then follow him. He had no food, merely the sound of his voice. He walked, they obediently followed.
With all of the work that went into preparing to move here, I didn’t realize how tired I actually was. Being a single parent requires an extra set of gears that you shift to because if you don’t, life will stall. You do it because that is the choice and you do it with love because there is no other way. But I’m accepting that there has to be a time to rest, to shift to neutral and to let other forces do the work.
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”–Alan Cohen