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Combatting Loneliness and Contemplating Unusual Activities in Paris

By Bryant Arnold

Even though I didn’t get to sight-see as I had intended yesterday, I made time in the evening to do a bit of personal writing – sharing a few memories about our travels in Italy.  As odd as it may sound, in the midst of my work-work-work mindset competing with my desire to escape from loneliness through fiction and movies, last night was a victory of sorts.  It was difficult to transition to my deserted Paris apartment after living with fellow graduate students and my husband for months.  Other than a few days in which the graduate apartment in Aix was empty, I have been surrounded by lively conversation in several languages and the excitement of making new friends, learning about their lives and research, and exploring new places together.

Too much time spent alone leaves me depressed, unproductive, and takes the wind out of my creative sails.  Usually in a form of self-defense against the creeping loneliness, I lose myself in stories, but last night, I chose a different route, one that I found much more fulfilling and productive. Instead of devouring a novel to pass the time and prolong the night before the next day arrived, I found satisfaction in reminiscing about happy times and memorable experiences with a loved one. I may be doing a lot of catching up on my personal blog in the next three weeks as a result of this experiment and hopefully creating enough memories in Paris that I will have more catching up to do when I return to Michigan in October.

To that end, I’ve found Muay Thai classes nearby (I know – not the normal thing to look for in Paris!) and anticipate starting my French course next week. Muay Thai is challenging enough in English; we’ll see if I can work up the courage to try it in French! I just need a doctor’s note to prove I healthy enough to participate. I’ve found a general practitioner close to my apartment, and if I can brave both the doctor’s office and my first class, I’m sure I’ll have some entertaining stories to share. There are also jazz clubs to check out in the evenings and strolls to be had through gardens, wandering through the catacombs, and a never-ending list of museums and monuments (the more normal, but no-less-interesting things to do in Paris). Hopefully, I can fit all of this in around classes and research during the day… And if not, there’s always next time!

Tonight I set out to find a health food store. Exiting the metro station, I had a good mental picture of where it was, but finding it ‘on the ground’ proved to be more difficult.  Usually I have a really good sense of direction and haven’t had any trouble finding things before, but as I walked past all the shops selling clothing and wares I could never afford, I didn’t see the street I needed to turn down. Before too long I found myself in the now-familiar St. Germain district. With a mental shrug, I revised my plan for the evening and braved another visit Cité Pharmacie (a story yet to be told about a previous visit to Paris) to pick up the juice I had intended to purchase at the health food store.

St. Germain des Près Church

Since I was close and saw people exiting St. Germain des Près Church, I figured it must be open and decided to stop in and take a few moments to pray and enjoy the sense of peace that pervades the oldest church in Paris. Parts of it date back to the sixth century! I also remembered reading that there was a fantastic bookstore tucked in near Les Deux Magots and decided to investigate.  La Hune has actually moved but was right across the street from the church and therefore easy to locate (and for those who are keen to visit, it is only open until 8pm, not midnight).  The bibliophile in me thoroughly enjoyed perusing the bookstacks, and my fingers literally itched to grab several new tomes as titles tickled my imagination. Reminding myself repeatedly that I had more than enough reading material to keep me busy for months, I managed to pass through the doors empty-handed.  Besides, three other bookstores are calling my name – two that specialize in books on Africa, and the third, a famous English-language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, which I browsed very quickly on a previous visit.

First Image: “Old Tree Watches Over Boy Reading at Night,” by Bryant Arnold. Published 4 February 2012. <http://www.cartoonaday.com/old-tree-watches-over-boy-reading-at-night/> (25 September 2012)

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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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Running Free

Last time I wrote of running unplugged and not experiencing any epiphanies but quietly building my confidence. Tonight, the epiphany arrived before, and then necessitated, the run. I’ve been struggling with fatigue, which has made getting up early enough for my morning run impossible the past couple of days. I needed to run tonight to maintain my fitness level so I didn’t fall back into the painful cycle of having to rebuild. More importantly, I needed the emotional release that running provides and quiet time to meditate.

My apartment has been empty since Saturday, and this week is the first time I’ve been alone, really alone after finishing work at the archives in months. For the past two months, I have been with friends and acquaintances nearly every waking hour, which stayed the loneliness. However, once everyone had gone, I had no more distractions from the melancholy that settled in. Despite having numerous reasons, all logical and some quite serious, I have continued to struggle with my eating habits. I tried to fill the loneliness with food, with books, with TV shows, even emailing and chatting with friends, but nothing filled the void because it came from within and not from outward circumstances. I would overeat at times because I didn’t think I was worth taking the extra effort to make wiser choices. And therein lay the key to understanding why I persisted in doing things I knew were not healthy: I didn’t think I was worth it.

Tonight’s epiphany, then, was this understanding and the truth that the One who created me made me for more than this. As I set out for my run, without my iPod I might add, I walked out of the door unafraid – unafraid of the pain I knew was waiting for me from stiff muscles and an overly full belly, unafraid of disappointing myself with my ‘performance,’ unafraid of the stares and strange looks I would get for running at this odd hour – or running at all, for that matter.

I knew that this would be the last time I allowed myself to overeat and so willingly accepted the painful reminder that I was intended for more than the physical pain, emptiness, and shame I felt after eating too much. Despite that heaviness though, the rest of me felt light and free. I was made to live into my full potential and not settle for anything less. I had been praying that God would sink that truth into my heart, and he answered that prayer in a profound way tonight as the puzzle pieces I had been mulling over dropped into place.

So I ran. I ran into town and down Cours Mirabeau, magnificently lit up and reminding me of the magical unreality of Disney World, with hundreds of well-dressed people milling around, enjoying late dinners, and every vendor still displaying jewelry, clothes, and handcrafts after dark. I ran into the softly lit, mysterious medieval streets of Centre Ville and up toward the Cathedral, its illuminated tower shining like a beacon, pointing me home – not home to my apartment in Aix, but home within myself, within my heart, at peace with who and what I am. As I passed it, I breathed a thank-you to the One who affirmed me. I ran on, feeling as if wings carried me up the hills of this ancient city and finally ended at the gated entrance to the apartment complex, surprised to have arrived back so quickly. I ran with and into freedom and a deep sense of peace tonight.

Although the road back to full health remains long and even a little daunting still, I am more confident now that I have what I need to persevere. For those who are curious, I found 2 Peter 1:3-11, 1 Corinthians 6:12, and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 very encouraging, along with Lysa TerKeurst’s Made To Crave. For now, my watchwords are self-discipline and perseverance. I trust God for the strength to follow through and to face my fears with courage rooted in truth.

I realize that I still have other stories to tell of my travels, but I write what I feel compelled to write when compelled to write it and must therefore apologize for the delay once again. At the same time, I believe the inner journey is as important, if not more so, than the outward adventures.

A balance between living and writing about living remains to be reached, but I sense that I am getting closer. More stories to come – and pictures!  🙂

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Self-Reflection

 

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