Friday, December 5, 2014

December Blues

Winter has finally come to Paris. After a delightfully drawn out autumn, the chestnut trees are finally shaking the last of their amber leaves from their limbs. The city seems to fold in on itself, the streets getting quieter and the days getting shorter. Pedestrians buried under bundles of scarves and hats, rushing from one warm spot to the next, flooding the metro and bus lines.

I am one of those people who is affected by weather, truly affected. If it's rainy, I feel melancholy and introverted. If it's sunny and warm, you'll find me dancing on the streets. But this Paris winter is really doing a number on me. I feel like everything I do is in slow motion, like I'm pulling my arms and legs through a thick mud. I can't seem to fully wake up, as if I'm only 80% there most of the time. It's like my mind is reverting hibernation, and my body is begrudgingly following.
My girl Sara gets me.

I always feel more quiet, more reflective in the wintertime, but I think being an expat makes everything a little more quiet, a little more solemn during the holidays. It hits right after Thanksgiving, after thumbing through everyone's white square pictures of pumpkin pie and family portraits. You realize you have a whole month of holidays away from home headed your way.

It's rounding out that dreaded third month now, the month during a transition that makes you feel like you are going to break. All the au pair blogs and expat forums say it: "Whatever you do, don't leave before month 4," they said. "The fourth month is the hardest month, stick with it," they said. And now I know. By now I've visited most of the big sights to see in Paris, I've explored the neighborhoods, I've met the new people. The novelty is rubbing off, even for Paris.

And my novelty with people from back home is rubbing off too. Friends have moved on, made changes, started new seasons of life, without me. Texts don't come as often. Scheduling FaceTime and Skype dates becomes more difficult. Excuses come more often about not having time, when really they simply aren't making time. And some friends just fall away altogether, because the only thing we had in common was proximity. But it's part of the whole experience, spending a year abroad. It's a new level of independence you learn when you step away from your comfortable cushion of familiarity. It's something special that only being an expat can give you. 

So while I won't give in entirely to these December blues, I will just give in enough, enough to learn about myself and my heart. I will not go back to bed in the morning, no matter how much I want to; I will go get lost in a museum or library. I think that's the key to surviving the dreaded fourth month: not to give in, but to give out. Not to ignore the colder, more somber feelings blowing through the brain, but to use them. Not to drift around in a listless fog of denial, but to excavate the heart, to take advantage of the cave-seeking instincts to find the treasure buried deep within.  Channeling those winter blues into discovering or developing a new layer of yourself. Change forces you to choose, to choose sorrow or joy, to choose to be a victim or a champion. As for me, I choose to be a champion for joy.

Besides, Christmas is just around the corner....

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