Well, it is official. I am in love. With Paris. I have spent my days wandering through her streets, eating her food, and absorbing her atmosphere. And I am just smitten. In planning my time, I thoroughly expected that a month in Paris would give me a more balanced view of this city. I might get sick of the aspects of many big cities, like its pollution (noise, air, trash). I didn’t. It was there, as my first experience with cars banned from the streets evidenced, but I didn’t notice or care. I might get frustrated with navigating a busy city. I didn’t. I gladly took the long way if my navigation skills weakened, and discovered a new street, a new shop, a new perspective. I feared that the people in Paris would be less than kind to an American with a terrible accent and weak high school French skills. They weren’t. Most of the people I encountered were lovely. They quickly spoke English to me without making me feel like I was inconveniencing them. They engaged with me in the polite way that is their custom. I learned to say “Bonjour, Madame” when I entered a shop and “Au revoir merci” when I left. It has made me wish that we were that polite in the States, rather than thinking they were too formal or rigid.
At one point in my daily wanderings through the streets of Paris, I found myself walking down a block where, in 1991, I had once stayed in a boutique hotel on the Left Bank. As I walked in 2016, I looked at the apartments on that block, and remembered my thoughts 25 years ago as I looked at those same apartments. I had thought “What would it be like to live in an apartment in Paris? How would it feel? How would my experience of this city change or deepen?” And it struck me. I WAS living in an apartment in Paris for a month! I had created the experience that my younger self dreamed about. I was, in fact, “living my dream”! It was a wonderful feeling.
It is the feeling I want to continue to experience as I shape my life in my “bonus years”. What did I dream in my life that I can now make happen? How fortunate I am to even be in a position to consider this. Can I stay in that experience of gratitude, and, from there, create circumstances in my life that put me in the flow state that I so desire? As the man who coined the term, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi described in an interview withWired magazine, the state of flow is “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” I want THAT. I can create that for my next few decades, using my experience and insight from my lived life to craft my new life.
In the meantime, I am in Paris…