“I Am Running into a New Year” by Lucille Clifton
i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
when i was sixteen and
twenty-six and thirty-six
even forty-six but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me
Friends, today is my birthday. It’s an occasion I like to think of as a rebirth, a chance to ponder changes for my new year ahead.
Truth be told, I play at these “fresh starts” often (which probably says something not so flattering about my follow-through). The rentree with its bustle after the slow summer vacation is usually that kind of time. My birthday, too. New Year and then Chinese New Year about a month or so later (I never quite manage to have made good on my January 1 resolutions.)
But this post is to share that a major change has indeed come to pass, and it may come as a shock.
Friends, I left Paris. At least for a little while.
I gave notice on my apartment, gave most of my stuff away. I returned to the town I grew up in, where I haven’t lived in nearly 20 years.
Whoa, whoa, WHAT? you may be saying.
I know. It’s a lot.
When last I wrote you, a move wasn’t even in the mix. But things changed quickly and I hopped on the ride.
In late July, we had a family reunion – a full one with parentals, partners, sisters, nieces. We rented a villa on the Dalmation Coast in Croatia. Beauty in spades!
One day, we made our way to Krka National Park, a gorgeous, magical site. Near the end of our explorations, we ran into a section of stairs that seemed to go on forever.
My mom has been having knee trouble for years and as she struggled with the stairs she made a decision. She would have total knee replacement surgery on both her knees. There was too much in this life that she still wanted to do, too much she wanted to see.
For months previously, I’d had this feeling that I would be in Chapel Hill this fall. Strange, because I hadn’t been to my hometown in years! My intuition was right, though. My mom needed me. I still wasn’t imagining in terms of a big move, but one piece of the puzzle had now been revealed.
The following day, our last free one before we all returned to our respective homes, my beau and I walked down to the sea. He swam in the ocean while I stretched out on the beach to soak in rays. When he emerged from his dip, he said “I think I need to be by water.” And I said, “I think I need the sun.”
Then we looked at each other and cocked our heads. “So…Spain?”
It’s something we’d discussed on and off, mainly because it’s an ephemeral dream I have sometimes and my beau supports my dreams.
In some ways, I am practical and organized. I make lists, I think through myriad possible scenarios, I drive myself mad with analysis.
Sometimes, though, with the biggest of things, I simply leap. It is, indeed, how I first landed in Paris. I’d had no idea what a full chapter I’d be embarking on in the City of Light.
In all honesty, we don’t have much of the future mapped out. I’m full on winging it. I just knew I felt the click that it was time to shake things up big time. And the push to do so had arrived.
I’d go to North Carolina and stay with my mom as long as she needed; I didn’t want to put a timeline on her recovery. Then we’d see. Stay? Spain? The South of France? (I hear they have sun and sea, too!) Return to Paris? Some place as yet unknown?
My beau has kept his apartment in Paris and that will be my base there when I need it, as well.
For now I am in Chapel Hill. And already things have strayed from the initial plan. Good thing there wasn’t much of one to begin with. There is freedom in being open to what comes.
My mother’s surgery has been put off indefinitely. The day I arrived she had a painful attack; she has now been diagnosed with another health condition to which we must first attend. Isn’t it breathtaking? That I came right in time?
A few weeks ago, too, my beau’s mother passed away unexpectedly. I flew to Guadeloupe. This life, so fragile, so devastating, so hard. This the crystalline fact: none of us know how long we have on this earth and love is all that matters.
It’s a huge time of transition. One that sometimes, dips into despair. But the best way to keep going: staying alive to the beauty. Acknowledging wonders. Love always.
There’s also this defining moment we find ourselves here in the USA. Another reason I came: North Carolina, a swing state. Our country has deep reckoning and soul searching to do. As I handed over my keys to my Paris landlord, the last thing he said was that he hoped that America would not elect Donald Trump. His eyes were wide with fear. A reminder that we are not an island; the whole world is watching us, too.
Many questions ahead. And the blog? I do not know. I do know that putting my thoughts here have often been a lifeline and I hope I may still check in here, maybe ask your advice! Where to next? What of a job? Would you still welcome some news?
When I gave notice on my apartment it was only then that I realized an amazing alignment. My leave date landed exactly 10 years to the day after I’d arrived in Paris to live. Perfect symmetry. My Paris decade.
My, what interesting adventures await in the decades ahead?
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – Rainier Maria Rilke
“The journey is my home.” – Muriel Rukeyser