Paris Can Wait.
I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was in Paris, in the Montmartre section of the city, in a hostel and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I had fulfilled my lifelong dream of visiting Paris in 2014, but I was aware that many people back home were envious that I was travelling Europe. Because of their circumstances many family members never had the chance to travel internationally. They would love to see the sights in Paris. I was lucky and I knew it. And yet, I couldn’t get out of bed. I worried about what all of the women I worked to inspire would think. I was always talking about overcoming your fears…
When I did drag myself out, it was to roam around the neighborhood, telling myself “I’ll go look at the Eiffel Tower tomorrow.” The hostel was at the foot of the hill leading to Sacre Coeur. I visited the thrift shops lining the street in search of a jacket for my next stop, Ireland. I also took photos for my blog posts on the NoseWhoKnows website. I only had two full days in Paris. This was supposed to be the fun part of the trip. But, I had been so focused on my workaway projects that I hadn’t planned out my time in Paris.
And now, here I was, exhausted and burned out. My last two workaway projects had completely drained me. One project was emotionally draining as it required me to manage someone who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when I arrived. Over the course of the week, I helped her move into a more calm and solid space. But, it had taken its toll on me. And then there was the Metro.
Every few years I had had a dream about being on the subway in Boston, either heading the wrong way or just plain lost in one of the big stations. I’m not sure if the dreams reflect the actual anxiety of using the subway in Boston, or if they are metaphorical messages from my subconscious about staying on track in life. In any case, every time I’ve had to go somewhere on this trip there has been some anxiety and trepidation, whether it’s going to another country or taking a local bus. Each trip has required some emotional energy. And I was also a bit concerned about travelling to Ireland. I was going to have to navigate the huge Charles de Gaulle Airport alone.
And at that point, I literally had none of the reserves left. On the second day, I gave in. I said “You know what, I don’t care if this is Paris. What I need to do is just relax. I don’t need to push myself to go beyond my capabilities. Paris can wait.” So, I allowed myself to just follow my instincts and my feelings. I focused on eating well, writing, and just taking things easy. I’m convinced that I will make it back to Paris at some point and I’ll give myself more time to enjoy it.
On the day I was supposed to leave for Ireland, I woke up early and just allowed myself to lie there for 15 minutes before getting up at 7:00 am. I thought I had allowed myself more than enough time to get to the airport. The flight wasn’t until 10:20 am. There had been a strike of the Paris train operators the day before, but that was supposed to be over. I managed to haul my suitcase around the Metro and find the platform where the commuter train goes to the airport.
A voice came over the loudspeaker in French, telling us to go upstairs to catch the CDG trains. All the people around me hauled their suitcases to the upper platform. We were in the train and waiting when the voice came on again telling us to switch to the opposite platform. We all got off and got on the train across the way. This literally happened two more times. I was starting to wonder if I was going to make the flight. Finally, the train I was on pulled out of the station. We were heading along when I started to smell smoke. I didn’t think anything of it until the train stopped and we had to get off. I looked over to see smoke billowing out of the next car. “Seriously, the trains on fire. What next?!”
We boarded another train and I was standing there holding the railing, doing deep breathing exercises. It was literally my subway nightmare come to life. I didn’t even know if I was on the right train. We had to get off and switch trains one more time. I was sure I wouldn’t make the flight. It was 9:15 am. I tried to imagine what I would do if I didn’t make it. And yet, I tried to keep a space open for the possibility that I might make the flight. When the train finally pulled into CDG, I hustled and easily found my carrier’s desk. The attendant seemed entirely too relaxed when I asked him to call the terminal and tell them I was on the way.
After checking my passport he calmly told me that my flight had been delayed by a half hour. And from there it was smooth sailing. Everything went completely perfectly. The Aer Lingus part of the airport was spotless and everyone seemed so competent. The pilot didn’t even sound snarky when he reported that the plan had been delayed because the Paris Air Traffic Controllers were on strike. “What?! How is that even legal?” I thought. “Whatever…” I knew that somehow the Irish pilots would figure it out. I settled back in my seat and relaxed. Nothing was under control and everything was just fine.