Lost in Paris – Judy Guilliams-Tapia

I walk across the Petit Pont, over the shimmering Seine, to the Ile de la Cité and pass under the watchful gaze of the grimacing gargoyles and saints, including Saint Denis holding his severed head, on the facade of Notre Dame. I barely notice my surroundings though as all I can think of is being able to plunk myself down on a seat somewhere to rest. I stop at the first café I see, even though it has a dismal air about it and few customers, and approach a waiter to ask for a table. He looks at me kindly and presses a euro coin into my hand. I stare at it in a daze and then realize that he’s mistaken me for someone who desperately needs to pee but can’t afford the pay toilet on the premises. Must be my sense of urgency, haggard look, and shabby outfit. I’m wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and old sandals—my typical comfortable attire when traveling. 

 

As usual, I am trying to fit too much into a day and have worn myself out. I have returned to France, a country I love, after an absence of four decades. My current driven self seems so distant from the young carefree woman who wandered the streets of Paris in the seventies with daydreams in her head. I have lost her somewhere along the way but maybe she’s still buried inside of me somewhere. 

 

For a long time, I have felt caught up in a whirlwind of busyness, pulled in different directions. Managing teams and projects at work while striving to meet tight deadlines and keep narcissistic bosses happy. Nurturing my two kids into young adulthood but never feeling like I had given them enough of my time. Shepherding my aging parents, as much as I could, through the loss of their health. I have rarely found time to just be, to just be me. Despite having a loving husband who has made me laugh every day with his irreverent Chilean sense of humor and has helped keep the household humming, I have often felt overwhelmed and robotic. As though I’m never DOING enough. My brain has long been like a thundering locomotive, barreling day and night through the peaks and valleys of my life, with only occasional stops to refuel. At night it has often awakened me with ideas bursting forth about items to add to my long to-do list, so I keep a pad by my bed to jot them down. Despite my vigilance, or perhaps because of it, some personal calamities have crept into my life, such as two bouts with breast cancer, the first right after my second child was born and the second ten years later. With no time to dwell on them, I took them in stride. However, the national calamity that began with the U.S. presidential election of 2016 weighs heavily on my mind, adding “resistor” to my other roles and making me addicted to my cell phone’s news apps, which continually stream alarming news. 

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