“Be regular and orderly in your life…so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert
The rentrée used to make me jittery. Perhaps counterintuitively, August has always been my favorite month, not despite, but because of how it changes the face of the city: shops close, streets empty, Parisians flee to the countryside for month-long vacations. Left in the wake is more space, a slower pace and time to properly indulge.
When everyone comes pouring back in September, the flurry of activity after the calm of summer jolts me. The very air brims with nervous energy on overdrive. The start of school, the return to work, signups for everything under the sun from gym memberships to classes through the mairie.
This year, though, I truly joined in the spirit of the rentrée. I’ve realized that it spells renewal and opportunity. Setting new intentions. Creating a new schedule. Really, the rentrée is more important than New Year’s for making resolutions.
As often happens with resolutions, initially my ambitions ran high. Dance classes, piano lessons, writing workshops, volunteering – I wanted to do it all. Lots of people manage to juggle all that, but I was ruthless in my goal: balance. I want to relax after work, get out of the house just enough so I don’t go batty, and boost my energy, not drain it.
And so, I have a new, revised routine that’s not overloaded, but offers enough structure to please, not pressure. 2 dance classes and a writing workshop are the weekly evening activities leaving the other nights for seeing my beau, creative projects and the occasional party.
It’s had the bonus effect of increasing my productivity. Freelancing at home, I can technically work any crazy hours I’d like and have done just that in the past. I’m only a couple months in, but the routine has been so helpful so far. Flexibility remains one of the best parts of working at home, but having boundaries forces me to focus. Discipline does not come naturally to me otherwise.
It seems it almost doesn’t matter what exactly I’m doing, just that I commit to specific time slots. To whit: when I saw a “portes ouvertes” sign at a studio in my neighborhood in early September, I decided to try it out (free often gets me in the door). Though I was looking for modern dance, the studio specializes in Latin dances – salsa, bachata, and the like. They did have a few outliers, however, and outlier that I am, I gravitated to those.
That’s how I ended up in “street jazz latino.” Basically, it’s hip-hop with a Latin flavor. The teacher reminds me a little of myself when I first arrived in Paris. (Well, not entirely: she’s Chilean and has appeared in music videos!) But she came for vacation, fell for the city (and from what I gather, maybe a man, too) and is now leading classes even though she barely speaks French. The classes are a mix of Spanish, English, and français, recalling my own mangled mix-up teaching Pilates many moons ago. (My other class is more traditional, lead by a lovely French woman and incorporating lots of classical moves like pirouettes and pas de bourrées.)
Street jazz latino is really the most random class I could have imagined, but it’s fun. The actual studio space isn’t the most ideal, either, but it’s a reasonable walk from home and reasonably priced and it gets me off my bum after sitting behind the computer all day. So, you know. Just do it.
The other amazing development is my writing workshop, led by another new arrival, Shannon Cain. Only here since mid-June, she’s already lit up Paris’ anglophone literary scene with her racy readings (she writes a lot about sex) and appearances on TV. In a matter of months she’s created a community of serious writers that I hadn’t been able to find for 8 years.
I’m not sure how long I’ll remain smitten with this regular routine. I wonder if part of the attraction is the chance to settle comfortably after several months of traveling. I loved my adventures this year (from residencies to Mardi Gras to the beautiful island of Guadeloupe). But boy did getting back home feel great!
I think even more, it’s a sense of finally starting to belong. Those of you who have been on this Paris ride with me for a long time, know it’s been a rollercoaster. Ups and downs will always continue – that is the nature of life, yes? – but I’m feeling more content than I can ever remember feeling here. Paris has so often made me feel awkward, foreign, frustrated, even as its strong charm always kept me captive to her. To finally feel like I have a real place here is a revelation. I am so very grateful.
The true test begins now, though. France just turned back its clocks this past weekend so darkness will now fall impossibly early. The lack of light and the long winters are what always do me in here.
So as soon as the time change occurred (which I had completely forgetten about – willful amnesia?), I went online and ordered one of those light therapy lamps. It’s an early birthday present to myself and a gesture toward trying to maintain the positive energy.
And you? Do you have a routine (or ritual) that keeps you going?