An American in Paris: Day 5

Lizzie does Paris

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Travel Journal Continued…

“Before coming to Paris, I was starting to feel, or rather have felt for a while, like I lost my adaptability, my spontaneity. Things are so routine at home for me most days. And sometimes often times, I’ve found myself stuck in my ways. And I greatly dislike that feeling. I also think…that’s not the real me!!

Life is what comes at you. And what you make of each moment. I’ve felt like I haven’t made very much of what I’ve been given. I’ve taken a lot for granted. Maybe I’ve rolled with the punches, but I’ve whined about being punched in the first place.

But along comes Paris and ‘Hello, old girl!’Lizzie does Paris - travel blogI got lost on my first day. I found myself wandering in circles around the Paris Opera House and all of a sudden where I was going didn’t matter, cause look where I was! And hey, I saw more of the city that way, then I did from knowing exactly where I was going and making it there in one piece. Sure my pinkie toes are still busted from New Year’s Eve, but along comes over the counter Paris Advil and we’re back in business.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I guess what I’m trying to say is, my will is stronger over here, in a place I’ve never been, in a country where I don’t speak the language, when I’m on my own and lost, than it is when I’m comfortable and settled and home. Over here adaptability is my middle name. Over here I am Nomad, I am Wanderer, I am giving directions to lost Canadian tourists.

Hello, familiar feeling of being capable as H-E-Double Hockey Sticks!! I am much more capable than I give myself credit for in my every day life.

But…this is the challenge. To bring this spirit home with me. I need to find this version of me in my own backyard. I need to keep all this in my mind’s eye and in my heart’s memory and recall it every single day. I need to draw on this strength of character. And I don’t have to wonder if it’s there…I KNOW IT IS!

I know that the every day life needs to be tended to. Bills need to be paid, routines upheld, commitments fulfilled. But, oh yeah…Life is a grand adventure. I was starting to forget that or maybe I even made it all the way to ‘forgot.’

At the same time that I know I have a life back home worth living…I also know that I could be happy living life on the run.”

Lizzie does Paris - Versailles

Interjection: All this existential life searching happened while I waited in a 3 hour line to get into the Palace of Versailles. It was cold and rainy and the line was discouraging at first. But then I put my headphones in, listened to The Greatest Showman and started writing and all of a sudden I was walking through the doors of the Palace!

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“WOW! Versailles is the epitome of French to me. Walking through these palatial hall, I can’t imagine anyone, even a King, living here. One could get lost simply trying to find the closet.

Lizzie does Paris - Palace of Versailles

Lizzie does Paris - Palace of Versailles

Lizzie does Paris - Palace of Versailles

What I can imagine, are the kinds of royal parties that must have been held here and in the gardens outside.

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This was worth every freezing cold minute I spent standing in line this morning. I would love to come back and see these gardens in the Spring (I’ve added that to my to do list for when I return, and I will return!)

Lizzie does Paris - Palace of Versailles

I opted not to have the audio guides as I walked through the Palace today. I’m sure they are illuminating. I’m sure they add a lot to the history and understanding of this place. But I have enjoyed using my own imagination and thoughts as I’ve wandered through these rooms.

Lizzie does Paris - Palace of Versailles

Another banner day! Will Paris ever cease to amaze me? Probably not!!

I ended my Versailles day with dinner AND dessert crepes. Can you have too many crepes…the answer is no! Trust me! And a side of Rosé Cider.

An Emotional Pilgrimage

Sunday, December 31st, 2017 (cont’d)

2017 was challenging for me, to say the very least.

Not only did my Granny pass away at the ripe old age of 96 years old, after a long battle with illness, but a dear friend from church was murdered in cold blood…senselessly, carelessly, confusingly.

It’s something that I’ve spent the majority of the past few months wrestling with. And something that has caused many a night of sleeping on tear-soaked pillow cases.

One night in particular, I was beating myself up about my grief. “Why can’t I move on?” I asked my cousin Sterling. She gently told me that what was happening to me emotionally seemed to be what I needed most, even if it wasn’t what I wanted! She suggested I give myself until Paris and to not even think about being hard on myself about my grief for one single, solitary minute…no, longer than a minute, months and months of forgiveness, even!

Murder is a heavy thing to deal with. Death is not something you get over in a day. Is there a time that can be devoted to “getting over it?” She thought NO and she is one of the smartest people I know, so I thought it best to agree with her. I let her clear-headedness and discernment guide me in a time when I could not rely on my own.

She also suggested that when I got to Paris, that I could try to do something symbolic, something that would release this emotion into the universe and let it go like a balloon on the back of the wind.

I resolved to take a ribbon to Pont Neuf (one of the many Love Bridges…not the original.) You may have heard about it and the locks that people flock there to lock onto the bridge in the name of LOVE.

I went with a ribbon because I’d heard the Parisians were worried about the locks eventually weighing the bridge down from the unanticipated weight. So ribbons it was for me.

Between the time of Wally’s murder and my trip to Paris, another thing happened. A secret emerged that really changed a lot of things for me. Something I can’t and won’t share. But what you need to know is that I was angry about it! Truly, deeply angry. An anger I don’t know that I’ve ever felt was constantly bubbling inside me, threatening to burn me up and leave nothing behind.

So, I made a vow to release this anger as well on the bridge and I offered the same to my family members who might be feeling sadness or anger of their own about this secret, about Wally’s murder, about the death of our Granny. All of these were big things to wrestle with and I wasn’t alone in needing a gesture to symbolize a new year.

What started as a small gesture turned into an emotional pilgrimage.

I wasn’t sure which day I would end up at the Love Bridge, so I kept my little ziploc baggie full of my family’s tokens, with me at all times. In case I happened upon it when I wasn’t expecting to be there, I wanted to be ready.

Lizzie Does Paris - Love Bridge locks
This is my ribbon for my Granny. I wrote her favorite saying on it, “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without.” I also wrote the initials MHROTD on there. Another favorite of hers. She faithfully wrote it on birthday cards and in the memo line on checks for years and years. I think I’ll get a tattoo of it some day! It means: Many Happy Returns of the Day.
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This is the ribbon I tied on for Wally Worman, my lost friend! I wrote “Farewell, Dear One” on there. “Dear one” was a term of endearment we’d often hear him call people. I thought that was a fitting tribute to that kind man!
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This is my cousin, Sterling’s contribution in honor of our Granny. You have no way of knowing this but, Florida oranges are a very fitting tribute!!!
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My father forgot to give me his ribbon, so I had to improvise. I always carry a hair tie on my wrist. So I took one and added it in honor of my dad…in honor of his mom (My Granny.)
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And finally, this one is more of a totem than a ribbon. My Aunt Beck (my father’s older sister) made this herself and sent it along to be added to the bridge. And let me tell you…this bridge has never seen it’s equal! Each piece on the totem is symbolic and personal. She sent this in honor of her mother (my Granny.)

I wasn’t prepared for it when it happened. I stumbled upon the bridge somewhere between Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle on Day 3 of my adventure. How interesting it was to find the most touching moment between me and God and have it not be in either of the churches I’d stepped in that day, but rather outside on a bridge full of locks. God met me there.

Lizzie does Paris - love bridge locks

As I tied each ribbon on, I let go of what I was holding onto.

Lizzie does Paris - love bridge locks

I symbolically let go of what each family member who’d taken me up on my pilgrimage was holding on to.

Lizzie does Paris - Love bridge locks

And when I walked off that bridge after fulfilling my mission…I felt lighter, like a burden had been lifted. I felt lighter, like a darkness had receded. I felt lighter, like a candle had been lit. I felt lighter, like the souls of those I came to honor.

On this, the Eve of a New Year, as I prepared to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018 with open arms, I let it all go. I forgave the secrets that had hurt me personally. I accepted hard truths about the world that I had been either unwilling or unable to accept. I remembered that these emotions, these big mountains cannot be climbed or healed by big symbolic gestures alone. Rather, the practice of forgiveness is something to consider each and every single day. Some days harder, some days easier.

The journey I took travels forward with me as I walk off this bridge and into the future that awaits me. The ribbons I tie here for me and my family…they stay, but we walk forward…lighter, better, bolder, brighter!

I think it’s fitting that I chose the word “Bright” as my word for 2018, because with this weight lifted from my shoulders…forgiven, not forgotten, I sure do feel Bright!