The last few months had wiped me out. If I’m being honest, it was probably more like the last few years. The worst part was over (I hoped). I survived the trip across the ocean alone with four cats in tow. The research only took me so far. There came a point that I just had to trust I could handle whatever happened next. I suspect this is what scares people the most.
“OMG I could never do that. You’re so brave.” is a common response when people find out I’ve moved to France. “OMG you’re insane” is also a popular choice. I never see it that way. If it needs to be done, I do it. I needed to leave so I did. That’s how I was raised. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ was one of my mother’s favorite refrains. I was profoundly unhappy in New York and for me the only solution was a complete do over. I guess you could equate it to a mid-life crisis, one that was precipitated by the loss of the most important person in my life. This is not to say that everything was roses before the Hell of 2014 but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
My coping mechanism for dealing with uncertainty is to act as if things are completely under control. They seldom are. The ability to pivot when things don’t go as planned takes a strong stomach and nerves of steel or at least the acknowledgement that if shit’s gonna hit the fan it might as well be while living the life you want.
I managed to get the cats situated (food, water, litter box) before I collapsed into a blissful state of unconsciousness. When I awoke a few hours later, there were no outward signs of cats in the house, except for the litter boxes everywhere. Cats are savants at finding creative hiding spots and my guys had out done themselves.
The apartment was a small duplex with the living area downstairs, bedrooms upstairs and lots of nooks for hiding. I figured they would come out when they were ready. Despite being on the second floor, the apartment was located on a very noisy street which did nothing to help calm their nerves. Upstairs, the din abated slightly but the living room was almost unbearable and initiated a scattering of furry feet every time a car passed by.
I set up my laptop, phone…. my lifeline to the states and my connection to all things 3D. I didn’t have the luxury of taking time off to move so I had to work through all the chaos. What’s life without challenges, right? (eyes roll) I was secretly happy that Marion, my real estate agent had cancelled. Despite the urgency to find an apartment, my body needed the rest and it allowed me to get organized before spending my days house hunting.
I had packed everything for the cats and nothing for myself. My only sustenance after leaving New York, twenty-four hours earlier, was a couple of cupcakes from Magnolia’s Bakery – a surprise going away snack during my farewell tour at the airport. Thank you Cookie! Deliciousness aside, a cupcake can only stave off hunger for so long and my stomach was starting to growl. I needed to go food shopping. I checked with my host and she directed me to a supermarket not too far from the house.
I must admit I was completely unprepared for what I saw when I got there. I had in my mind an image of a quaint French village with small shops and outdoor markets. What I found when I pulled into the parking lot was exactly the opposite. It was an enormous shopping center with superstore after superstore. The supermarket itself was huge, like, fit ten Walmarts into it kind of huge.
I entered the store and immediately felt overwhelmed. The place was enormous and in French – of course. I walked up and down the aisles looking for the shopping carts but I couldn’t find any so I took a rolling handcart instead from one of the registers. Nothing looked familiar and there seemed to be a million versions of everything. Although I had full use of the kitchen, my cutlery and pots and pans were still in the car traveling across the ocean so I kept it simple and purchased prepared foods until everything arrived.
I grabbed a bunch of different things, some juice and cat food. I got on line, greeted the cashier, placed my stuff on the counter and walked through the register. (Pause: The French are very polite. When you walk into a store, a doctor’s office, or literally anywhere you must always say hello first. Either ‘bonjour’ or ‘bonsoir’ depending on what time of day it is. If you don’t do this it is considered very rude and you are likely to have a very unpleasant interaction with the person you just snubbed.) Alarms started sounding. The cashier looked at me and said something which I of course, did not understand. She repeated herself again…clueless all the while the alarms were blaring. The woman behind me says ‘Your handcart.’ Each of the aisles are fashioned with a metal detector of sorts which goes off if you take the handcart (or anything lo-jacked) past the threshold. I felt my face turn beet red. I thanked her and returned the cart to the front of the register and the alarms stopped. So much for blending in.
I returned to the apartment and unpacked everything. I bought at least five or six types of cat food at the store. I brought a bounty of food for them from the States but something told me it would be better to start the transition process sooner rather than later. As it turned out, the process never really ended. It has not been a smooth transition at all. Purina is a multinational company but despite making cat food for both France and the States, the food is quite different. It seems French cats have a different palate than their American counterparts and my guys didn’t love the change. Maki flat out refused to eat anything I put in front of him and would proceed to cover it over when the odor offended his delicate sensibilities. He’s a cheeky little bastard.
The time for rest was over. I had to find a place to live and Marion had suddenly gone MIA. I knew I needed a plan and possibly a minor miracle. But I had come this far, surely I could get it done.