My Paris Decade

sion-by-jade-maitre-128

“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
about 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

Lily pond - wow!

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.

A path in Chapel Hill, NC. (Photo by TranceMist on Flickr Creative Commons).

A path in Chapel Hill, NC. (Photo by TranceMist on Flickr Creative Commons).

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.

You may remember I often meet up with my parents on different trips (see Portugal, Prague, Istanbul, Greece).

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!

Krka National Park. Truly a stunning place. (Photo by Kamil Porembiński, Flickr Creative Commons).

Krka National Park. Truly a stunning place. (Photo by
Kamil Porembiński, Flickr Creative Commons).

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.

At a friend's wedding at Chateau de la Verrerie. A weekend full of everything I love about France. Best to go out on a high!

At a friend’s wedding at Chateau de la Verrerie. A weekend full of everything I love about France. Best to go out on a high!

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.

A great lesson in letting go as I emptied my apartment. My favorite piece of furniture, these vintage chairs bought at a brocante, found a perfect new home in my friend's house. Her Siamese cats immediately took to it.

A great lesson in letting go as I emptied my apartment. My favorite piece of furniture, these vintage chairs bought at a brocante, found a perfect new home in my friend’s house. Her Siamese cats immediately took to it.

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.

Îlets Pigeon, Guadeloupe

Îlets Pigeon, Guadeloupe

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.

On the road in Guadeloupe

On the road in Guadeloupe

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?

My naturalization ceremony. I am French, so of course France will always feature in my future, too!

My naturalization ceremony. I am French, so of course France will always feature in my future, too!

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.

On the left: lost in a forest during my first year in France. On the right: last year in Paris, looking a little more savvy.

On the left: lost in a forest during my first year in France. On the right: last year in Paris, looking a little more savvy.

My, what interesting adventures await in the decades ahead?

Until next time, Paris. What a story.

Until next time, Paris. What a story.

“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

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29 Responses to “My Paris Decade”


  1. 1 Jackie November 4, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Love what you wrote. Good luck with your new adventures !

  2. 3 grblessed November 4, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    May your mother get well soon and may you be blessed wherever your heart and passions take you.

  3. 6 Karin B November 4, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Happy Birthday, Sion! What a year of transition you’ve had. I’m proud to have spent some of that decade with you, and I, too, love the symmetry of leaving ten years to the day. I hope you will keep writing about your journeys, here, or at a site perhaps called SionDayson.com (ahem 😉). I love your writing; I love your posts.

    Happy Journey, Happy Forward Movement to you!
    With Love,
    Karin

    • 7 paris (im)perfect November 5, 2016 at 4:59 am

      Haha. Thanks so much, Karin! I love that we got to share some Paris time together, too! And funny, but I actually do have a siondayson.com, though it’s my static website. Just one of many things I need to reconsider going forward 🙂 Thanks so much for always being such a supportive and encouraging friend. Big hugs.

  4. 8 Jolie Préau November 4, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Love this. Love you. Though our lives are very different, we are fellow spirits and I love your written reminders of that. Inspiration.

  5. 10 Buffy November 4, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

    You have so many opportunities ahead of you. You are right, life can change in a instance. It can be a scary thought, but it can also be a time to get up and do all the things you want to do, and find ones you have thought of yet. Some people wait for life to come to them. You haven’t seemed to have done that.

    That is great you can be there for your mom, and that your boyfriend is there beside you. I’m sorry for his loss. I hope your mom has a speedy recovery.

    I do hope you stay in touch. It has been nice to read about your journey when you share it.

    Take care,

    Buffy

  6. 11 buffyschilling November 4, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! I wrote something then noticed as I hit post I mixed two emails.

    I think it is great you can be there for your mom, and I hope she has a speedy recovery. I am sorry for your boyfriend’s loss.

    You are right, life can change in an instance. We must move forward and accomplish things we want to do, and do the things we have not even thought of yet. Many sit and watch life pass by. You certainly have not done that. Wherever you end up I hope you continue to share bits of your journey here.

    Take care,

    Buffy

    • 12 buffyschilling November 4, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      Ps. I see they both posted. I was trying to remember what I wrote. The fort wasn’t there prior. It’s what I get for working to much!!! So tired.

      • 13 paris (im)perfect November 5, 2016 at 5:02 am

        Thank you so much, Buffy! You’ve been such a supportive reader and I always love receiving your comments. I wish you didn’t have to work so much! I hope you get to rest more! Thanks again for following along all these years. I hope to have some interesting things to share in the future, too 🙂

  7. 14 Karene November 5, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Happy Birthday, Sion! (I just celebrated mine too.) Beautiful post, with beautiful pictures and quotes.

    Wow, though, lots of changes! But they all seem to have come at the right time for you and your beau. Of course, I secretly (or not so secretly) hope that you return to France sometime. I hope to finally make it there with my husband in the next year or two, and I’ve imagined meeting up with you there. Wherever you go, it will be where you’re meant to be. And now, you’re meant to be with your mom. That couldn’t be more perfect.

    I love your writing, so I do hope you keep up with your blog in some way. Enjoy this time in the States. (Keeping our fingers crossed that our country can fulfill your landlord’s plea!)

    Take care, and enjoy this time with your family,
    Karene

    • 15 paris (im)perfect November 5, 2016 at 5:04 am

      Thank you so much, Karene, and happy belated birthday! (Are you a sister Scorpio?! Woohoo!) Yes, many changes indeed….and more to come, I’m sure! I so appreciate your kind words over these years and we won’t count out a meet-up in France just yet! Wishing you all the best.

  8. 18 Tina November 5, 2016 at 7:08 am

    Happy birthday Sion, and congratulations! You have the perfect attitude for your new adventures, and I teared up when I read the Rilke poem. Absolutely live the questions. There’s no coincidence here. You are ready for the next step! Bonne aventure (is that how they say it?) Please continue to blog. You have such great insight and a beautiful spirit. xoxo

  9. 20 PreteMoiParis November 5, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Sion, I am so happy to have known you during your Paris decade… I hope you come back someday, but you seem to be on the right path for yourself and your loved ones. Sending birthday hugs.

    • 21 paris (im)perfect November 8, 2016 at 3:21 am

      Thanks so much, Melissa! I am so glad to have known you during my Paris decade, too! I will come back to visit for sure! Looking forward to seeing what this new path opens up for me, too. Hugs back at you ❤

  10. 22 Tasha Standridge, CMT November 6, 2016 at 5:25 am

    Beautifully written! Just what I needed to read. Love the poem, and the quotes at the end. Thanks for sharing these lovely thoughts. Happy Birthday! Mine is on the 9th 🙂

  11. 24 jnelson30second November 8, 2016 at 2:32 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your story about your move to North Carolina and moving from Paris after a decade there. I love the pictures and Rilke’s poem. Do keep in touch. I’d love to see you again. Any plans on coming north? AWP in Washington in February? You got me inspired to think about doing a blog…..

  12. 26 lupinssupins November 14, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Ouao! Enormous changes at the last minute, n’est-ce pas? Both for you and yours and, very sadly, for your home country. [My oldest brother also cast his ex-pat vote to North Carolina (from Iceland) and was shocked at the outcome, along with the rest of us.] So sorry that you return to find our country has so regressed so terribly, a mere 8 years after that ecstatic, historic night of November 4, 2008! And I’m glad to be reminded from your photo captions that you DO have French citizenship and the alternatives that can provide in the future!

    I’m sorry as well for your mother’s illness and your beau’s loss of his mother. Care-taking and bereavement each take their own kind of toll. As an only daughter and only sib still living in our home town, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of caring, separately, for each of my long-divorced parents. But, like you, am very grateful to have been HERE, rather than far away, when those times arose. I hope that your new role goes as smoothly as possible and that your mother soon recovers the strength to undergo the knee surgery. Everyone I know who has had knee replacement has raved about how much better they felt after the surgery and the recovery period. One elderly relative was able to return to her beloved garden and remain home on her family farm, another was able to return to her hiking in the mountains and canyons of her Western home and still another was able to resume his golfing hobby. And a teaching colleague was able once again to deal with the many staircases at the high school where we then taught, where none of us had our “own” classroom, but traveled throughout our teaching day.

    All the best and I hope you do continue blogging, even if only to update us de temps en temps. Life really is what happens while we’re making other plans! Bon courage, Sion!

    • 27 paris (im)perfect December 31, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      Thank you so much for always being one of my most dedicated readers. I always love reading your comments (sorry for the delay in responding – somehow I didn’t see this one and I’ve also been reeling from the shocking turn the US has taken as you note, too!) I do feel I’m here during an important moment. Also very glad I have my French passport, too!

  13. 28 Julie Christine November 22, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    I have been holding your post in gentle reverence and affection, waiting for the breath that would bring the right words to respond.

    First, yes, please, keep this blog. I’ve flirted too with letting mine go, having dropped from weekly posts to the only very occasional, but the connection is still there, the thoughts are important, and sharing is still cathartic and of such value.

    Rereading your post with such sorrow and dismay now, knowing the outcome we’d all hoped for was lost in fear and anger and bigotry- the worst of who we are as a nation is now represented by the leader our system elected. Yet, two weeks into this waking nightmare, I see the blessing of a fired-up population, of our communities unwilling to give into despair and the status quo. The Revolution is ours to make.

    I wish you all ease and peace of heart as you navigate the massive personal changes. Caring for your mother, caring for a grieving love, being in this place that is at once so familiar and yet you stand apart, having lived away geographically and culturally for so long . . . and preparing heart and mind for a new life. It is so much, Sion. Even if much of it is beautiful and hopeful, it’s a lot for a sensitive soul to manage.

    I love and admire you. Always.

    • 29 paris (im)perfect December 17, 2016 at 5:35 am

      Dear Julie, now it is I who have held your beautiful words for so long. Whole lifetimes it feels we’ve experienced in just a matter of weeks. Such challenges we are facing now. Some very real terrors. But yes, that gift of being awakened and choosing to transform. So much to say and yet words are harder for me these days. It’s all playing out in my soul. Know that you stir mine. Love you. xo


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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