I just got back last night from a week-long trip to France. I revisited a few favorite spots, but most of the trip focused on places that were new to me. I finally visited Giverny, Fourges, and Versailles (all of which have been on my bucket list for a very long time, and they’re all superlative); I revisited Montmartre and Sacré Coeur, but that same day I finally got to spend several hours at Le Musée d’Orsay; Thursday was eight hours at Le Musée du Louvre (I could live there…); the next day I revisited La Sainte Chapelle (which is even more beautiful than it already was, now that the windows have been cleaned and restored) and Notre Dame, and finally got to see La Concièrgérie; and Saturday was a day trip to the Loire Valley, near where I used to live in Tours (seeing Chambord again was great, and Nitray was cute, but my first visit to Chenonceau was just splendid).
But more important than the trip itself (which I absolutely loved), is the fact that I finally, finally, finally had an emotional breakthrough. The last year has been a wretched one. Period. Point blank. It started last September and was unrelenting. Death, death, death, death, death, death, death, family chaos, career transition woes, 39th birthday foreshadowing the abyss of “40,” news about my cholesterol (and my decision to refuse taking statins to treat it), and then a three-month stint with a vegan diet (which I absolutely cannot recommend: I’m certain this led to hormone imbalances that set me up for the worst bout of depression I’ve had in a decade). Then a series of terrible therapy sessions reopened old wounds that made everything worse. I had to remove myself from participating in social media, because the headlines (and people’s replies to them) were just too disturbing. Out of nowhere Rentboy was raided. It was long in digging, but suddenly I fell over into the well. I was drowning. I stopped working altogether, and I stopped taking care of myself. I was convinced I was dying of grief, and I even had all my estate planning rushed through. What should’ve taken 10 weeks took only 10 days, because I wanted it handled before I left for France. I sincerely thought I was going to simply puff out like an exhausted candle. It was a bad time, and I was utterly frazzled when I departed for this visit to France.
.And then something wonderful happened: I was exploring Giverny, I was surrounded by all the beauty of that place, and I was overcome with a sense of awe. If you’ve never watched “The Dark Crystal,” you won’t understand this next reference. But if you’ve seen it, I felt like the castle at the end of the movie. All the darkness, decay, and filth simply started sloughing off in chunks, and I was erupting with light. I hadn’t felt so authentically happy in so long, that I’d forgotten how good it feels to feel good. All the colors, textures, sounds, and smells of the world came pouring into me, and I was radiating it like a white laser beam. I was enraptured by the lily pond. Transcended away. Suddenly all the noes that had been obstructing me didn’t matter. All the yeses crowded them out. For weeks I hadn’t been able to take full breaths. It was like a rope around my lungs was preventing me from getting past 90%, and it felt like it snapped open. Getting a 100% full breath was like floating. I cannot say enough how happy, relieved, grateful, and pleased I am to be back to myself. I’ve had a long process of examining mortality, but what I finally remembered is that I’m not done yet. There’s so much living to do, and I don’t want to lose any more time in obsessively contemplating the inevitable. And if I do find myself in the clearing at the end of the path (thanks for that turn of phrase, Stephen King), I know my affairs here are already in order, and that I did a pretty damn good job of being me.
(Edit: I am reminded that, yet again, Janet Jackson is releasing an album right when I needed it most… Can you imagine a better album for her to put out right now than “Unbreakable?” I love that woman so much.)