Paris and Me: A High-Stakes Relationship

My very first evening (age 25) in Paris, Luxembourg Gardens


Paris is many things to many people.

My relationship with this city is long-term and often long-distance, a love affair nurtured and sustained over many years, tens of thousands of miles, and numerous changes on both our parts, as happens with individuals — and cities — as time goes by.

As with the people I’m closest to, so it is with Paris — we may be far apart at times, and distance can be a challenge, but my love and commitment to them, and to Paris, is strong and deep.

A High-Stakes Relationship

I’ve posted before about my efforts to balance our global family  and other activities and commitments with my free-of-the-corporate-chains focus on writing.

My relationship with Paris is the subject of the book I’m working on, so I’ve been giving a lot of thought to why this city means so much to me. The stakes are high, in terms of my lifelong dreams and the investments I’ve made to be here. At key turning points of my life, I’ve overcome parental, career/work, financial, geographic, and emotional obstacles to journey and spend time here. In doing so, I’ve caused Paris to become irrevocably intertwined with the most important decisions and events of my life: separation from my family and country of origin, career ambition, money and its uses, intimate relationships, love, and death.

When I left the corporate world two years ago, I thought, naively, I would somehow, magically, find more time to spend in Paris.  But despite that particular liberation, I find myself still struggling with conflicting demands and responsibilities, as I have shared on this blog. and still longing to spend more time in this city.

Paris has taught me so much; Paris gives me my dreams and has been there for me when I was joyful and with the people I loved most and when I was alone, unsure of the next step.  Being in Paris has caused me pain while at the same time the city embraced me with exactly the comfort and support needed to ease that pain.  In the midst of its rich, renowned offerings of sensual and intellectual stimulation, Paris has given me feelings of grace, redemption, and peace.

In my unfolding journey to self-hood, my times in Paris represent the range of my experience:  my joys and sorrows, my challenges and choices.  How did a girl from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, now living in Sydney, Australia, develop a life-changing relationship with Paris?

I’m writing a book to explore that question (it’s a little scary ‘going public’ about it but that’s my main writing project); I don’t know exactly when I’ll finish it, but for now, being here, if only for just under a week, is cause for joy.

Paris, My Sanctuary

Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris

Once again, Paris is a sanctuary for me. This time, we’ll recharge our batteries from our multiple-event days in the U.S. before we take the Eurostar to England early next week.

Three weeks ago we were here in transit, looking for our lovelock on the Pont des Arts. We left the U.S. day before yesterday, where my mother and son are both doing wonderfully well, but my father’s wife was hospitalised, while we were there, and is very ill. Everyone told us, including my father, ‘You should go; you can’t do anything more here.’ I wanted to see my son again in Washington, and Clive’s 90 year-old father awaits us in England, where he can now walk only a short distance and otherwise requires a wheelchair. While I handle my mother’s business and have daily conversations with both parents, Clive has been researching and reserving wheelchairs for our upcoming visits with his father.

So yes, Paris is, once again, a sanctuary for me. Some writers and bloggers adore Paris; others share their experiences of the less-than-attractive aspects of living here. Nowhere is perfect, but I’m definitely closer to the adoration end of the spectrum.

I wish I could meet all my favourite bloggers during these few days, but it’s not possible.  I’m hoping we’ll be back again soon and able to organise more in-person get-togethers.

Happiness Sounds: Your Partner’s Steady Breathing, the Washer-Dryer Humming, and French Being Spoken Outside

Our little cow lovelock on the Pont des Arts

Just a few things that make me happy right now:

  • Paris is such a relatively short flight from the U.S., compared to the long-haul journeys from Sydney
  • We arrived to the bed already made up (having left it that way); heavenly not to have to remove plastic from all the furniture and clean the apartment upon arrival
  • Our local cafe owner and waiter welcomed us back last evening
  • The woman behind the counter at the boulangerie recognised me and went to the back to get me a super–fresh, hot baguette

And most of all, when we finally hit the jet lag wall last night and I came out of the bubble bath (another piece of heaven), found Clive asleep in bed, and lay down beside him:

  • The sound of his breathing, calm and steady beside me
  • The hum of the washer-dryer doing its job in the kitchen (we always start laundry on arrival since each load takes hours if not days to complete)
  • The French language occasionally floating up from the courtyard through the tall, open window, reminding me that Paris, the city of my dreams, is right outside the door

Montparnasse street and hotel where I stayed on my first visit to Paris

I know some of you reading this understand what it means to have a relationship with a special place (in addition to those with special people).  It may not always be easy, but I think it’s always worth it.

Cheers and more soon from the City of Light.

5 Responses

  1. You’ve made me homesick! Enjoy those precious few days in Paris.

  2. Thank you, Nadege!

    What a gorgeous place to be homesick for — hope you get back here soon again, too.

    In the meantime, sending all best wishes from Paris to Los Angeles 🙂

  3. Hi Carolyn & Clive,

    My God; this is so touching 🙂 It is incredible the attachment that we cultivate to places. I was just talking to another blogger about this, and he moved just from one state to another !

    Since I live in the burbs, Paris is seen always for short periods; I come to walk,shop or dine and I move on to the RER & out.But, I feel comfortable here and no longer feel odd or out of place, but as a part of the whole scene.

    Remember too that one’s neighborhood is very important. The fact that you both are recognized and welcomed in your neighborhood makes you locals! I


  4. Beautiful reflections, Carolyn. How wonderful too that you have that photo of yourself on your very first night here.

    And so exciting to hear your ‘reveal’ of your writing project!!

    Have a lovely time in England this next couple of weeks.

  5. Barbara, thanks for your kind words. You understand about the power of place in one’s life. And you’re definitely a local around here 🙂

    Kim, thank you too, and appreciate the good wishes. It was great to see you on this trip – I wish we’d all had longer to catch up!


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