Time. Is. Flying. Literally.
Luckily for me, in this moment, it is turning in my favor. I am currently jetting westward (and gaining a much needed few hours) for a quick weekend in Washington DC to celebrate the marriage of two wonderful friends with all of the rest of the crew from graduate school. There will be much laughter, dancing, excellent food and wine (there is no one’s taste that I trust more than the bride-to-be) and, for me, it will be a tantalizing few days among loved ones to remind me what I have been pushing for in the last several months.
If you have been counting (and I know I have), I am quickly approaching my few remaining days in Paris. In fact, I am only slightly more than a week away from my last day in the lab and only two weeks away from flying westward again, only this time on a one-way ticket.
To say I have been overwhelmed would be a laughable understatement. The quest(s) I set out for myself mid-summer – to be insatiable in my appetites, for the sights and food of Paris, as well as for scientific discovery (that was the completion of not one, but two, papers on the to-do list) were, in hindsight, not particularly realistic. However, I have done my best, which is the most anyone can do, non? I have cajoled friends and family into joining me at various museums and boat cruises, I have lunged at every edible (and drinkable) delight with reach (and some that were not) and I have put in hours upon hours at the lab, to some success (thankfully). Yet, with each goal that gets crossed-off the “master to-do list(s)”, somehow something/place new gets tagged on.
For someone like me, anxious, optimistic, borderline OCD – my 15 pages (yes, count ‘em) of to-do lists that I carry in an unassuming, appropriately wine-colored notebook weigh heavier on my conscience each day. There are moments when I have Just. Had. To. Stop.
I have had to force myself to breathe (mainly exhale) and sleep, perchance NOT to dream (as I do most nights) of endless last-minute things to do, deadlines somehow missed, and people left behind. So I have been stopping and stepping away from the sparkle of the city and the siren song of “one last experiment”. For a few hours (or, in some cases, days), I’ve run away from the obligations and the endless lists to just absorb time and simple pleasures with those people who mean the most.
Recently this included a weekend getaway to Geneva (where most these photos were taken), to visit a friend who, while not seen often, fits me in patience, humor and philosophy, like a glove. We decided, taking a cue from the heavy rain clouds, to spend the weekend being still. We talked late into the night when the mood struck, and enjoyed amiable silence when that seemed more comfortable. We wrapped ourselves in blankets, drinking pot after pot of hot tea and speculated on when and how 2012 became a year of such change for us both. In fact, we left the house only twice the entire weekend – once to satisfy a craving for coffee and cake, as well as pick up indulgent amounts of cheese, and then again to walk it off – well, at least a little bit of it.
I stepped back on the train to Paris refreshed. Of course, the 10 hours (plus!) of sleep each night did not hurt, but my renewal went beyond that. I am constantly amazed, with all the changes directly ahead of me, how easily I lose perspective. How quickly I panic about not meeting admittedly unrealistic expectations, both those from others and those put on myself. How unforgiving I can be when I do not cross-off everything on the daily list.
At least by being aware of this pattern, I can fight back – in the backhanded way I do. It might be easier, theoretically, to be more reasonable in my list-making or accepting when I realize that I actually do need sleep, but I have learned that it’s just not the way I roll (when I mentioned compulsive, I was not entirely joking).
Instead, I called in the troops – weekly apéros, dinners and movie nights with friends – to keep me laughing and to help me maintain that perspective. The best part? It’s working. I have had so much fun watching normally indifferent Parisians dig into their first Korean barbeque with wild abandon, or introducing Portuguese and Croatian co-workers to the genius of The Princess Bride. I only wish it has not taken such a dramatic deadline for me to realign my priorities.
Yet, there are moments in which the scope of starting over – again – still paralyzes me with fear (even though I am going home). Then I try to push away the fear and shake it off – time is flying and it is all I can do to just keep up. I launch myself forward, on trains and planes if necessary, towards friends and fun. All that other stuff on my lists? It’s going to have to figure out how to take care of itself. At least for the next few days.