Life in Atlanta seems so unreal and disconnected and wrong sometimes. I like some things about being here, but it’s stifling and isolating and I can’t help but feel that overall it’s unhealthy for my spirit, mind and body. I feel like I’m walking in a ditch. I feel like I’m trapped in plastic wrap.
There are probably a lot of other places that I would enjoy. In the States, I feel that I’d like Washington or Oregon, maybe parts of California. I enjoy some places in the southwest – at least to visit. I love New England, but I’m not sure that I’d really do well there over the long-term.
Every once in a while, I wish I could have stayed in Paris.
Here are some things that I hold dear in my memory:
- Our tiny studio apartment on the top floor of a building on Rue des Carmes, in the Latin Quarter, Left Bank, 5th arrondissement. Rooftop access allowed us to view the city from a spectacular viewpoint between Notre Dame Cathedral and the Panthéon. Because of a strange arrangement of windows, we could see Notre Dame from inside the shower!
- Food! Every kind of food. I never had a bad meal. Even when I received a pig’s foot (thinking I was ordering pork chops) it was delicious. I ate everything – and was thin.
- The intellectual style, the flirtatious style, the rude style – every style. I have never been so fascinated by other people.
- Street markets overflowing with gorgeous fragrant fruit – and the lilacs that I could never resist.
- Walking. I walked everywhere. I was never so fit. There was something new to explore around every corner. Glorious places, historical monuments, public gardens, the riverwalk, hearing street music, getting caught up in a parade.
- Trying to buy nail polish remover over the counter.
- The long nights. It seemed as though Paris nights last forever. We would stay up until 2 or 3, and never feel it.
- Dear friends. You know who you are – and one is gone forever.
- Bookstores and booksellers – lot of places to find amazing things to read, even in English.
- The ambiance that somehow allowed me to feel free and happy – and a little wild. I felt comfortable being myself.
- John was teaching in Lille, so he stayed there for part of the week, and we had a rhythm of some days together and some days apart. That worked out very well for both of us.
- Throwing my high-heeled shoes over the bridge and walking across Paris – stockingfooted – in the middle of the night.
- The wonderful woman in a nearby pâtisserie who taught me the words for everything in a bakery – and relentlessly corrected my pronunciation.
- The crazy shops of Montmarte and the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur at the tippity-top of the city.
- Excellent public transportation! The Métro is easy and fun, and I’ve never been on a faster train than the TGV.
- The Parisian way of saying “oui” – with an in-breath, and the hint of a long “a” at the end.
- Père-Lachaise Cemetery, especially the tomb of Abélard and Héloïse and the wonderful sculpture over Oscar Wilde.
- Centre Georges Pompidou. I could wander around in there forever.
- Movies! Tons of movies!
- I loved almost everywhere we went, especially throughout Haute-Provence and Haute-Savoie. My favorite meal was in a crypt in Dijon.
The contrast – and not just because I was young and in love – is so striking.
I feel a strong desire to be living in some place where there are a lot of vital, creative, intelligent people. I miss and want an intellectual community – live, not only just over the internet. I miss debating. I miss the rules of dialogue and discourse.
At the same time, I can’t really blame anyone but myself for my isolation. It’s not as though there aren’t great people here in Atlanta, too – and I’ve withdrawn somewhat voluntarily. I just don’t feel that I have anything to contribute to the various scenes here. I don’t belong here.
Maybe it’s just being married, being a mom. Maybe it’s that I’m much more tired than I used to be, and it’s hard to motivate myself to leave the home nest. Maybe it’s that my working hours take up so much of my time and energy now that I feel guilty leaving my son and husband to do much of anything else outside. I’m already gone so much. It might get better when Ben is old enough not to need childcare.
I think the biggest factor, though, is that so many of my good friends have moved on. Who can I call anymore – even to go catch a movie? As far as the more local options are concerned, I’m not a member of any church – which seems to be the major venue – and I feel too old to be involved in music, or even the art world. I’m not an academic anymore, and truthfully I don’t have very much interest in engaging with the kind of intellectual life I see.
Today I had lunch with a dear former neighbor. It was so fun just to go out to lunch with her and help her a little on some computer things. We ran into someone else that we both knew – and who didn’t know that we knew each other. Such a little thing – three women laughing – made me realize how much I miss things like that.
John and Evan and Ben took the opportunity to go hiking up Stone Mountain. They had a fun time and I was trying to think about the last time we all did something like that all together. I think I’m probably the party-pooper of the bunch – they even had to drag me out to launch the rocket. I wonder if it would have been different if we had had another child – a girl, maybe. Too late for that, though – I’m just outnumbered. Or maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. Maybe I’m just becoming too introverted.
I can’t decide if I’m just trying to hang onto a life I should have abandoned long ago (maybe even a romanticized version of it) or if I really have just become a hopelessly boring old woman. I don’t know how other people manage to do all the things they do. I can only do anything in bursts of energy that don’t come along as often as they used to. Maybe it’s just the winter doldrums.
Years ago, I made a tape that I called my K-Tel Self-Pity Collection. Those same songs don’t let me sigh and weep and be morbidly self-absorbed and morose in nearly as satisfying a way anymore, so I’m looking for new items.. I mean, how many years can you listen “Shilo” or “Daniel” anyway?
Do you any have suggestions for really good music for wallowing in depression/sadness (until you can get sick of it and work your way out)?
If I’m going to feel sorry for myself, I’d like to do it right.