Monday, May 10, 2010

Bon Courage

I'm not ready to go.

I wasn't ready to come here, and now with two weeks left of our life-altering-sabbatical, I'm not ready to go. Actually being faced with packing our bags has flooded me with regret for all the could- have-beens that never were. And anxiety about whatever lies ahead, in the world I used to know.

(Damn if I could just for once get with the program and just be whereverIam.)

As we were preparing to go on this trip, our friends told us how brave we were being, just stepping off a convenient ledge of our lives into the unknown of a foreign world.

This always struck me as a wholly charitable interpretation. They spoke about our trip to Southern France as though we were off to Zimbabwe to dig wells or something.

From my vantage point, as the one setting out on the trip, I just felt stupid and scared. Stupid to jettison a terrific job and a lovely, settled neighborhoody existence for a place I’d never been and couldn’t adequately describe when people asked about it. A place we had never even visited.

I was scared to leave my life and my friends to face the big fat unknown. France was the least of it. I was also facing stay-at-home motherhood for the very first time, and that truly struck fear into my feeble little heart.

I wonder if people who are actually being courageous ever recognize that quality in themselves. On the few occasions when I have been accused of displaying courage, (as opposed to the more frequent occasions when I have been called a rank coward, if not in so many words) I have never seen myself as others see me. In all of those instances, I felt motivated by mission, or passion, or avarice, or sheer dumb bliss. So when it looked from the outside like I was being courageous, odds were that I saw it differently.

For example, there’s our girls, who have showed more courage this year than you could possibly imagine. Grace, the fifth grader who fought back panic every day for two solid months until we finally relented and discovered the miracle of homeschool. Abigail, our sweet little eight year old girl who has fought French school tooth and nail, but still gone to class every day. I’m quite sure that from their vantage point, their own courage has felt at times like failure and futility.

Now, I’m facing down the return trip (on a cheap flight via Iceland, if that counts as bravery rather than stupidity), and going back feels awfully scary again. Today I started packing to bring our little family back safely to its shores, and suddenly all these feelings I had been so assiduously squirshing down into their awful little holes came surging forward.

Anxiety and regret, mostly. Anxiety for all the change I can not yet foresee, and regret for every change that never got made. For all those verb tenses I never mastered, for all those dishes I never learned to cook. For the friends the girls never made.

We've been here for nine months now -- nine months of discovery, confusion, loneliness, and really terrific cheese. And now we're suddenly about not to be, and I can't help but wonder about what I'll bring back, and what I'll have to leave behind.

Here, away from everything we knew before, I've been able to really dig deep and make a home for our little family. What will happen to that home when we uproot it and drag it back?

Here, I've really been able to pay attention. I have nothing to distract me, nothing to get in the way between me and my girls. What will happen to that focus once we’re back in the land of too much to do?

Here, I’ve been able to fall back in love with my family more deeply and fully than I ever thought I could. What will become of that love as we leave our cocoon of French life – à table, and tout la famille?

So far, I’ve only found my answers on this trip by moving forward. Call it courage, if you'd like. Mostly we've gone forward because that's the only way to go.

But this time around, moving forward takes us back.

(thanks to for the thematic inspiration provided by their five for ten challenge. Click over to their site to find many more posts on courage.)


  1. All big moves definitely require courage. For sure. And I can see why you'd be nervous to move back to the familiar. You've been so secluded, on your own, independent, you've found a place of your own without all the distractions. And coming back, must feel overwhelming. But you'll do it, and soon you'll find routine and you'll wonder what you were so nervous about!

    I also wrote today in my post about how you never see YOURSELF as courageous. It's a word to describe others. I never see myself as brave... just doing what needs to be done!

    Glad to find you through momalom!

  2. I just found your blog through 5-for-10. You should remember that you have to have that call, that mission, that passion in order to be courageous. You can't face the unknown without it. You are describing the internal forces that externalize as courage very well!

    I hope your trip back can be as rewarding as the year has been. Home is where your family is, and it sounds like your family, and thus your home, is stronger for having had the experience!

  3. Félicitations! Quelle expérience pour votre famille! Vous êtes tres courageuex. What a huge step and leap of faith. So did you pretty much do what the book describes - pack up and move to another city (country) with no jobs, no friends and just be together as a family? Amazing, truly amazing!
    So great to meet you through Five for Ten! I'll be back to read more about this incredible experience. Merci!

  4. Funny that you are afraid to return. I so want to live in Southern France. Just finished my first YA novel set in Gordes!

    Moves are difficult for so many reasons. But your family is your home as you know and together you will be fine.

    Glad to find you.

    I'll have to go back and read your posts. Can't wait.

  5. I know I have read your blog before but I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why or when. Totally lost but have to tell you that to leave the comfort of day-to-day life here in the States for a total unknown with children in tow is courageous!

  6. Courage is one of those things, like beauty, we can't see in ourselves. You and Bill took a leap of faith, based on kind of a whim, albeit a well-educated one. That you wrote about your failings and blessings gave us, the readers, courage in our own leaps, however small. Much love to you and the family as you re-enter the Brooklyn zone. And may I request one thing: if I'm ever in Brooklyn, please please please cook me that stew I read about... yummy!

  7. that last few lines of this post really resonate with me. well said.

  8. Wow. What an amazing journey, all around. I'm stopping over from Momalom, and am so taken with your site, your words and stories.
    Wishing you strength and the courage you already posses.

  9. I am so bad at travel and would be just terrified to do what you've done. And yet, a large part of me is envious of your journey. And I certainly admire your courage during the entirety of your journey, there and back.

  10. Looking forward to all the stories you'll bring with home with you.
    They will be a part of you all forever!

  11. WOW, you moved to France for a year? That is completely amazing, cool and courageous! I shake in my boots just thinking about it.

    It might be worth it though, just for the cheese...

    Popping in from Momalom!

  12. I am with TKW, moving to France is awesomely courageous! But, as with all moves, coming back will be hard. You are brave. Don't forget to tell yourself that!

  13. Look at all the confirmation you are getting, Launa, for the journey you and Bill have taken with your daughters. I applaud you over and over.

    It has been a wonder for me to follow you thru your writing and photographs. I hope you will continue to blog and tell stories going forward.

    And I wish you nothing but the very best as you pack your things, take the last photos, pick up the last goodies, and make your way across the ocean.

    Turning for home? Perhaps... perhaps you are already at home.

  14. What a bold move. We moved last year for the first time to Arizona after living in Texas all of our lives. It was certainly a time of challenge and a shift out of our comfort zone. I commend you for taking such a plunge and am eager to follow you on your journey.

  15. So courageous! We talk about doing this frequently, our little family. We have children schooled in French and would live for them to experience a larger focus for their skills. But we are scared too, to leave behind our strongly built community for new waters. So glad to have come across you via Momalom!

  16. Oh no, Launa, are you going back? What will I do without my escape -- and, more important, your gorgeous words about not only France but life. How I'll miss your blogging. I hope you'll keep writing (I love Brooklyn, too!) -- Kathryn
    P.S. I tried writing this three days ago, but couldn't get it to post!

  17. I'm new to having more than a comment or two -- so please accept my apologies for not getting back to you (all!) right away.

    @dramaformama and Amy -- you are both so right. I never saw this move as requiring courage, but boy can I see it in my kids!

    @goofdad -- thanks for pointing out something I hadn't seen... YES our little family is much stronger now.

    And for everyone who praised our courage -- THANKS. Runnergirl and Gail have been with us all year long and cheered us along (and up) through the many ups and downs.

    And squishy, or any body else who is thinking about doing a year overseas -- get in touch, because I'm full of advice.

    Again, wow. Thanks. Particularly thanks for 5 for 10 for introducing me to all these cool new blogs and writers!

  18. Found you via Momalom. Great post. I'm your newest follower, and can't wait to read more!

  19. Please do let us know how it is, making re-entry. That in itself is another kind of courage. You may find - all of you - that you are forever changed. Far more than you know.


  20. I am late to this post, but I agree with the others. I am so impressed by your courage, tenacity, and faith that things would work out and that your family would be stronger for making this leap.

    Courageous and brave and inspired.

  21. Wow, I'm so impressed that you had the courage to take such a journey (and a little bit jealous). I hope that your transition back is smooth and that you bring some of the French lifestyle back with you. What a fantastic experience for you and your family.

    - Popping over from Momalom.

  22. What a perfect description of how we don't see courage in ourselves! I love it. I've been through a lot this year thanks to a baby arriving 16 weeks early. The whole time she was in the NICU all I ever heard was how strong/courageous/tough I was. But to me it was just putting one foot in front of the other and holding it together so my other two daughters didn't fall apart. In retrospect I kind of get it, but still...

    I'm going to have to go back now and read the whole darn thing, and I am looking forward to getting started. Good luck on your trip home and for god's sake, keep on writing!