Sunday, January 21, 2018

Floundering Dreams

What  happens if you plan your life around a dream and then it doesn't live up to the expectations?

Well, I've had a rough start to my dream. We've only been here in France seventeen days, and if I hadn't made commitments to people and pets, I would be tempted to catch our scheduled plane home on January 25.
We bought round-trip flights because it was cheaper, with no intention of take the flight home. We're in the middle of a housesit, taking care of two dogs and two cats in a lockkeeper's house in the Charente, France.

I can picture taking a train to Paris and checking in at the airport with my one bag (I've stowed the other at a friend's house). I would march through the airport and then curl up in the tiny airplane seat, coughing desolately into my inner elbow. When the plane landed in Florida, I'd rent a car and drive straight to my parents' house, dragging myself to the lounge chairs by the pool where I would lie down and sleep, letting the sun beat onto me and dry out the hacking cough that continues to plague me. I'm sure that Tupi would climb onto my lap at some point. That fantasy has replaced my lifelong dream of living in France.
The golf course near my parents' house
Of course, a cold can't last forever, and it's a good thing that I made commitments so I couldn't go running back to my parents' house at the first sign of difficulty.
Those first few days of our trip when we landed in Paris were lovely, walks and runs, lovely meals, wine and cheese tasting, a day spent wandering at the Louvre. 

Then the stress of the train trip to our first housesit. We were traveling with four suitcases and two carryon bags. That's a lot to maneuver.
Our first housesit was a disaster.
My gag reflex still kicks in when I think of it. The only clean place in the house was the upstairs section where we slept. Unfortunately, there was no heat in that section, which probably added to the cold that I fell prey to ten days ago.

I don't get sick very often. If I do, I go for a run to slough it off. This one has resisted. I've never had bronchitis, but I guess that's what I've had as the air crackled through my chest. I must have looked atrocious because people are saying how much better I look now.

One of the reasons I love France is the food, and this illness has affected my tastebuds and my appetite. For about five days, I wasn't hungry.
I Facetimed with my parents last week and my mom said I looked like I'd lost weight. I may have, but not as much as I should have since I've totally given up food.
I drink coffee, another one of my favorite things in France, and it all tastes burnt. I left a glass of red wine setting on the counter because it tasted too strong.

On Thursday, my appetite returned. To celebrate and treat Delana our hostess, we went out to eat at a little restaurant on Cours Mirabeau. Delana and I shared foie gras on toasted triangles of sweet bread while Earl started with a pumpkin soup. Then I ordered duck along with delicious mashed potatoes. I could only manage a few bites of each, but at least something tasted good. I poured the rest of my wine into Earl's glass.

On another night, we might have ordered a dessert to share or lingered over coffee, but I had hit a wall. My husband and my friend were both considerate and asked for a doggy bag (apparently this is required in France now) for my meal, and the check. We staggered home and I fell into bed again.
Friday we travelled to arrive at our next housesit. If the place was disgusting, we were prepared to turn away. This housesit is scheduled for three weeks and we would not put up with sub conditions again.
I won't bore you with the details of the trip, the twists and turns on tiny roads rather than freeways that took us 9 hours to get here (a six hour trip), but when we arrived, we felt a relief.

Caroline, the homeowner, directed me to the "loo" and I saw the pristine floor, smelled the crispness of the wood-burning stove but no hint of dog urine or cat litter boxes. Thank, God.
They had prepared a meal of pasta and Bolognaise sauce along with red wine.
Afterwards, we climbed a centuries' old wooden staircase to the bedroom with vaulted ceiling and the attached bathroom. Radiators in the bedroom could keep it warm, although the warmth from the wood stove below helped heat it as well.

The dogs are new adoptees, but they're well behaved and don't pull on the leash during our twice daily walks. 

I'm still not enjoying coffee or wine the way I should, but I did relish a ham and butter sandwich that Earl made for lunch yesterday, and ate up the leftover Bolognaise sauce for dinner.

I'm still sniffing and coughing and perhaps dreaming of returning home to see my kids, my parents and the sun, but I have to be realistic. The weather at home in Ohio has been awful -- snow and more snow and below zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures.
I sold my house. I packed up or gave away all my belongings. There's no point trying to go back to a life that will be totally different. I need to give it a year.
Then, if I want to return to the U.S., find a full-time job with insurance to support me and Earl, we'll still have that money tucked away ready to invest in a house.
So I guess that's the real message. If you embark on a dream, make sure you have seared the ties behind you so that it isn't too easy to simply turn around and pick up the reins of the previous life. Cause if I turned around now, I'd never know what might have been in my France dream.


Jacqui Brown said...

Onwards and upwards ma belle. It's never easy, especially when the weather is rubbish and you feel poorly, but I'm sure it will be worth it in the end.

Suzie Tullett said...

I had the most terrible cough and cold a while back. In the UK we have Beechams, a powder with paracetamol etc which eases symptoms, so I sent Robert to the chemist to try and get some. He came back with Fervex, the French euivalent. I'm guessing French medicines are stronger than those in mainland Europe because within half an hour I felt wonderful. Honestly, it's marvelous stuff. Try it for your cold x

Lisbeth @ The Content Reader said...

Don’t give up. January and February are the worst months in this part of Europe. It will soon change, earlier in the south of France. It is never easy to feel sick all the time under such conditions. Courage! It can only be better from this point. I am sure you will find your dream in France, even if it will take a little bit of time.

Anonymous said...

This has been an unusually dark and rainy winter. Lille got 3 hours of light for the whole month of December! It's better in the south--yesterday it was raining but I needed sunglasses.
Why not go to the doctor? As I mentioned before, it isn't expensive, even if you have to pay the entire cost. If you've been under the (exceptionally low) weather for more than 2 weeks, then it may be beyond viral. Or stop at a pharmacy and ask. The change/lack of taste might be a symptom. Paracetemol is another name for acetaminophen (Tylenol), and like Tylenol you have to be careful about how much you take and not mix with alcohol.
Re heat, I know lots of people (even in Belgium, where it's much colder) who don't heat their bedrooms. It's a thing here (but one custom I haven't adopted--cool is good but cold--forget it!). Cool rooms are good for sleeping, though I've been in a few where I was too cold to sleep.
Hang in there. You'll get better, the weather will get better, and you will find your idyllic niche in France.

Esme said...

Tough it out. I know it is hard and it stinks-but give it a chance. I remember having these thoughts twice in my life after big moves. I had the same thought-you would never know what it could have been. It will get better-however the stinky dirty house and cold do not help. Treat yourself-whether it be lazing in front of the fireplace with a blanket or a nice tea it will get better, I know it will. Feel better and watch the cold the flu has bee tough this year.

Philippe said...

Bonjour Paulita ! You are right when you are saying you need to give it a year.When Winter will be over within one month in the South of France your mood and health should be much more better.Homesickness and children missing is quite normal at this stage of your new life project.Be brave and think positive by planning your dream home research ( internet, magazine or real estate agency ).COURAGE !!! I wish both of you a good recovery ( have a try in a Pharmacy to get some help as pharmacians are médicine graduate and often speak good English).

Sim Carter said...

Hang in Paulita, there will be ups and downs in France as there at home. You've dreamed of this so long, it's natural that it be anticlimactic. Getting sick doesn't help. Your parents and kids are right there, talk to them when you need to but hang in. Maybe you won't love it as much as you thought you would, maybe you'll find new treasures you never imagines. C'est la vie, eh? AND YOU BETTER BE WRITING AND TAKING PICTURES, not just for your blog but for the book which, to my ear, sounds more and more likely. An Accidental Life, where anything can happen.
Sending love and hugs.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Dear Paulita . i feel for you sorry about the first house sit sounds horrendous .. and then to get the flu or bronchitis on top ... that would of tipped me too. Hang on in there.. you can do it. And you do have your wonderful husband with you for support. .as you know I am in the next phase of my life but have to go it alone.. I feel sad today well as still achy .. you can do it. Xx

Our French Oasis said...

I agree with Philippe, hang in there, the winter will be over before you know it. The weather is vile and far from normal. We actually have sun forecast for a lot of this week, but it is nothing like a normal Charente Maritime winter, just high winds and rain rain rain. But I promise it is a beautiful place to live! I remember feeling the same once in Brittany, I was actually suffering from morning sickness with baby number 4 and felt hideous, in hindsight I am quite sure that was why nothing seemed right! Once you are feeling better I am sure everything will seem that little bit rosier. It did for me in the end and we ended up loving France! Thinking of you xx

Jennie said...

Be brave,Paulita. Dreams often have a way of being just that, dreams. Reality is often more harsh but keep that dream going for a year. This housesit being so much better is going to turn the tide!!!! Hang in there! You will also get healthier each day. And do go to a doctor.

Jeanie said...

Hang in there, Paulita. I feel for you -- I have a feeling that first house sit was such a grim way to begin your new life, it probably wore down your resistance and then to be sick, well, it just stops everything in its tracks.

But right now you are in a better place. You won't be sick forever and winter will soon end. It's a tough time to begin a new life, but it looks like things are looking up. And I second those who say go to a doc!

Jackie McGuinness said...

Once you feel better everything will be better and brighter. We've rented places that have been horrendously dirty and freezing like that. It is awful.
This place sounds lovely and I know you can do this!

Paulita said...

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes. I made it on two walks today with the dogs because, you won't believe it, Earl is getting sick again, having gotten over his cold first. I'm keeping a careful watch on my cold, looking for symptoms that could mean pnuemonia. We stopped by the pharmacie today but it was closed for lunch hour. We'll go again in the morning. For tonight, Earl found some Theraflu we can both take and hopefully continue to get better.

Our French Oasis said...

Just a quick note, I sent you a pm on Instagram, I am not sure if you saw it, but I was not sure how else to contact you. xx

Working Girl said...

Oh i feel for you. But hang in there---this probably won't cheer you up much, but it's fairly common to get sick more than you usually do when you first move to a foreign country. It happened to me and every expat I knew in Paris. It will get better!!! Promise!
~Karen Burns

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Hoping everything turns around you soon and that France is all that you hoped for in retirement. I thought of you this am when I saw the flooding rains on the news so had to check out your blog and see how you were doing. Hang in there.

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