A month ago, I posted about my New Year’s Resolution to re-connect with France and all things French. My France was not a particularly mythic one where women never get fat and accordion players play a jaunty tune as I leisurely sip a coffee at the corner café. Mine was more nuanced and complex. French historians, such as myself, can’t look at, say, the Eiffel Tower without remembering that it was a temporary structure that was only saved from being dismantled by its usefulness as a weather station. Romance meets a more complex reality.
Yet, connecting with French culture—through novels, music, film, art–and my own sense of being rooted in France has long been a touchstone in my adult life. France wasn’t a place where I went as much as a place that I lived (even if only in my mind). As I look back, it all seemed effortless since the connection was real and continuous. I lived in France each summer…spoke French weekly if not daily…and carried over that sense of connection in my world of south Texas.
My epiphany on New Year’s Eve, dear readers will recall, was that the connection was no longer easy or effortless. France had changed (as the empty streets of Nice that night reminded me) and so had I. And I missed it—both the real connection with France and the connection of myself that drew inspiration from its culture. Thus was born my Resolution to Reconnect.
Reconnections are always a bit tentative. What I needed were goals that could be placed on a list and measured for success. As I noted in that first post, re-connecting with my “Frenchness” is, frankly, a wee bit abstract and even felt a bit silly at times. I decided to start with things that I remembered from my years of living there. These were simple things that brought me joy. So I started with flowers. Flowers in my bedroom each morning is what I remember. Even when I was scraping every centime to get by in Paris, I could always find an inexpensive bouquet for my bedside table. It was a simple gesture, but it was a start.
Simple turned out to be a great idea since there were small gestures that were easily achievable. Here is my run down of simple things I added to my daily routine this past month:
- Opening my French cookbooks and adding a few French classics to our weekly meals. (One of our favorites can be found here.)
- Watching the news (in French) on France 24 as well as tuning into France Inter instead of my endless stream of that American staple of NPR.
- Re-discovering old favorites from the past. My son who, as fate would have it, is studying in Lyon this semester sent me a care package with some of my favorite French products. This included things that smelled good (like my favorite brand of deodorant) and tasted divine (an artisan chocolate bar). He even included packets of Hollywood Chewing Gum, which somehow always cracked me up.
- For added support, I read blogs by others looking for that connection to France. These are sometimes based more on stereotypes and clichés about France, but I appreciated the heartfelt desire to connect with their version of Frenchness. Even a little more clichéd were the YouTube videos. I am reminded, however, that even cliché’s have a hint of truth. My favorite videos ended up being the ones created by the French Lingerie Council.
- And, perhaps easiest of all, I made a list of French films that I have been meaning to see like this one. One a weekend with a little champagne seems a great way to re-connect to pleasure if nothing else.
As you can see, these were simple changes that cost little or nothing. Yet, after a month, I can’t say I have felt that effortless that I once knew.
Too early, however, to give up. I am dedicating myself to another month of simple changes that will climax (mid-March) with a trip to France. Any simple changes that you might suggest are welcome. If nothing else at this point, I can report that I am sticking with my resolutions.