(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


today as I indulged myself with a long lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Brantome (how convenient that I can walk just up the lane to arrive) ... I sat in the soft, warm sunshine ... gazed at the park adjacent to the restaurant (and also just up the lane from my home) ... listened to the chimes emanating from the oldest Bell Tower in all of France ... and nearly welled-up from my sheer and utter disbelief that I am here.

Not as a visitor. a tourist, checking off the sights in my green guide. But here, every day, savoring a new life that I cling to with precious hope to sustain.

Here ... working hard ... learning a new language and culture ... meeting new friends ... straining to adapt and integrate. Profoundly shocked and pinching myself.

I don't believe in God. I believe in me. but if there is some sort of universal reconcilement, a balancing of the virtual scales of justice ... I suppose I can find reason to deserve the good fortune the universe has bestowed upon me.

I'm not certain how I made it to this point. From the age of 10 through the age of ... hmmm, say 35, I toyed with all of the various means of not continuing existence. Having been physically, sexually and emotionally abused in every conceivable fashion from the start, I was a cutter. a secret self-abuser. Having been raised in a cult, I learned quickly the value of suppressing my true existence from the general population. I went along to get along. And then secretly tried to find ways not to be along anymore.

I married early and to a much older man. Halfway into a pregnancy, he was killed. So in my early 20s, I was alone with a baby, having already lived more life than many folks in their 40s have experienced. Within 3 years, I had my second child.

These two beautiful people are undoubtedly the reason I am still alive today. Somehow I retained enough sanity to know I could not possibly pass on the madness of my early existence to my beloved daughter and son.

I spent the next 10 or 15 years avoiding my true self and the emotions involved with my compacted life. I discarded more men than I can count like last year's fashions and simultaneously drove my way to higher rungs on the corporate ladder of success. Primarily through sheer will, determination and a modicum of talent. All the while, plotting various exits from planet earth, but managing not to take the trip.

In my mid to late-30s, I took a hiatus from the dating merry-go-round. I did meet and love a very good person, I suppose just not the very best person for me. Nor I for him. I've really been about as emotionally alone as one could be for the past many years.

Somewhere along the line, I developed a dream. A dream of a different life. This newly imagined life became my pet project. My justification for continuing the corporate climb and grind. Which everyday killed a little bit of my soul.

I honestly never thought I would be able to pull it off. Somewhere deep inside, I believed that this dream was more like a balm. An over-the-counter sedative designed to sustain me through the doldrums of my life. Another placebo to avoid taking real action.

And yet, like a bolt of lightning, six months ago I conceived of a plan. A plan which for me was revolution in the making. A leap into the black hole of the unknown. My own personal "On the Road" experience, fifty years late in the making. Scared shitless, I closed my eyes and jumped.

And here I am. unable to envision any other possibility for myself. whatever drastic measure is required. believing in karma. well believing in my own, non-god version of karma. I like this version: through the law of karma, the effects of all deeds actively create past, present, and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain and joy it brings to him/her and others.

I also like the idea of karmic scales, wherein hopefully by the point of death, all the occurrences in one's life, with some conscious effort, have somehow "weighed-out" in due measure and one can pass over in a balanced fashion to whatever the next experience will be.

Now that I've lulled you close to a nap-like state, let me just again proffer, in extremely insufficient terms, the fact that I am unbelievably, indescribably, undeservedly, most humbly grateful. in a continuous state of unsettled awe and random periods of joy. alternated with unfounded though lessening periods of worry!

(I might also point out that I believe I owe this latest state of clarity to the remarkably good night's sleep I enjoyed yesterday. In fact, when Jean-Yves arrived at 8:30 a.m., I was still blissfully unconscious. Sleep is amazing, no?!)

(photo from goodkarmaland.com)


Our Juicy Life said...

grateful and a think a bit happy....can I say that to you my friend...happy! You are. I love it and so it may have taken you longer to find it than others, it is lovely to see and read. You have started a new chapter and you deserve nothing less.

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

OJL-meh, you just like the happy talk ... lmao. okay, okay, je suis contente (which I learned yesterday is a far more common expression of happiness in France. Je suis heureux is a more philosophical expression of one's internal life view, etc.)

but thankfully I still have my black periods I can mine for ranting, raving and blogging in general!

Randal Graves said...

I bet it rains tomorrow. Unless you like rain, then I bet it'll be sunny.

Hey, I just learned something! You're like a free French teacher. Here's a virtual apple.

You'll have funky days, ones where vous n'êtes pas contente, mais je crois que vous soyez heureuse.

La Framéricaine said...

A good role model for believing that one can make a successful, radical change, if one is so inclined, is hard to find. Your own narrative offers just such a model to others wondering if change and evolution are truly possible.

Thank you for being so courageous and magnanimous as to share your feelings about what you have experienced and accomplished with us. I could not be more delighted to be able to go along riding virtual shot-gun with you.

La Belette Rouge said...

Oh, JNRR, you deserve all this happiness. And, you are a fierce goddess who has turned the tables of karma. You made this happen and you should be fiercely proud of the life you have created.

I do not feel at all sleepy. I feel a sense of profound wakefulness after reading this post. I could feel through earlier posts that you had been through some stuff--but I had no idea.

I am so deeply inspired by people who do not let where they have been determine where they are going. You could have got stuck in that story and not created a new one. I am inspired by your ability to see a different story and then go about creating it.

I am in awe of your honesty and your openness. You inspire me.

Huge and heartfelt hugs.

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

Now Randall (unable to maintain disapproving tone...) you are absolutely right. God I hope you are. I like my serving of happy with a big side order of angst and confusion.

LaF-virtual shotgun, eh! now there's an image! I can't wait until it is actual shotgun and we are toodling around some french lane together!

LBR- I must confess I didn't know (or think) I had it in me. I thought I had exhausted my quotient of fierce goddessness on survival. who knew?! thank you for the affirmation - it means so much to know my story connects ....

wcs said...

Isn't nice how we can make our lives work out.

You're doing a great thing. Taking control. Doing it your way.

I've done it too. And there's nothing better.

Someone once told me, "Don't let the bastards get you down." Good advice.

La Belette Rouge said...

I tagged you! See my blog.;-)

Randal Graves said...

If I'm wrong, I'll just do what any good American does: pass the buck.

Utah Savage said...

Well, younger me, only smarter and more courageous at a better time in life, I congratulate you on surviving and doing it with such elan, such panache. I'm hoping those are the right words, hold a bit of the meaning I intend. Saying anything in a language you don't yet know is very tricky. Congratulations on everything. For the house, Jean-yves, the restaurant a stroll away, the bell, the good sleep, and even the past. Talk about transcendent! Talk about material. Use what you have my dear, it's cathartic. Karma or nothing, it doesn't matter. What matters is the incredible living-fiercely in-the- moment, aware in every cell, and always self-reflective. My god, you know who you are and best yet, like her. Better yet, you love her, honor her. If I had a glass in my hand I'd toast you. Clink!

Diane said...

I feel like I've lost my dream. The only thing at this point that keeps me going is wanting something better for my daughter than what I have had. But I've pretty much resolved that I won't ever be truly happy myself ever again.

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

D-I've been there, many of us have. You suffered a blow, an ugly and undeserved blow. But you are strong. and a fighter. and you can (and will) form a new dream. Your daughter will be gone in a few short years. Form your new dream now (or soon, after you are done grieving) and create your new plan towards achieving that, once she leaves. Because, be certain that she WILL leave, and you will need to have that new vision for yourself ... and for her. She needs to continue to see that her mother strives for happiness. not only for B. but for yourself.