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I’d been sleeping over at a friend’s apartment, as one sometimes does when the friend is in fact a best friend you’re potentially obsessed with (and someone whose presence you feel lucky to enjoy for every second that it’s available).
On that early morning, the best friend was already going about his early routine, on account of his pets and also his psycho internal clock (if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for calling you a psycho). I stirred awake, my attention drawn to the sound of his podcast or non-fiction web series or what have you (EDIT: an episode of Strange Mysteries). I only heard muffled bits and pieces like “slow down time” and “the age of your consciousness,” but it was enough to drag me out of bed to find out more.
I shuffled down the corridor with my hair all askew and only one eye squinted open, since I’m either a vampire or a bitch who hates the world before her morning caffeine (it’s still up for debate). I may have also hissed like a cobra.
I swung the bedroom door open, and as I watched him happily fold his laundry in the way that early-morning psychos do (sorry once more if you’re reading this), I listened more intently to the words flowing out of the iPad. The explanations were technical at times, but here is a summary of what I heard:
…As we go through life, our consciousness ages along with us, and the older we get, the more exponential and rapid the aging of the consciousness becomes. As you can imagine, I found this fact to be deeply disturbing, and although I was very tempted to grab my phone and google “consciousness botox,” I decided to keep on listening.
Okay…so the aging of our abstract self/soul/being or however you want to call it was explained to me as such: when you are four years old, one year represents an entire quarter of your life. And so, as this child of four, you perceive one year to be extremely long in duration. This explains why childhood summers seem endless, and why the joy of building snow forts can last for hours without a semblance of feeling cold. In other words, when a year is 25% of your life, time feels slow.
Fast forward to being say…30 years old, and one year is approximately 3% of your life. 3% eh? What’s 3%? Basically nothing, that’s what. Using that logic…if a year is only 3%, then a month is minuscule, and a week is even less. And guess what happens when time represents so little: it flies. Which basically means…when you’re an adult and time flies, you’re getting exponentially older and barrelling through life on a rocket headed straight towards death…
Best friend and I froze as we had our realization. “Wait a minute…” we said. “Is this why we always hear adults saying ‘where did the time go?’ Or ‘it’s like I blinked and suddenly summer’s over’? Or ‘I feel like nothing happened this year and it’s already almost another new year’s eve.’ Is this WHY?!?!?!?
I was about to have a nervous breakdown, but we kept on listening, and the next thing we heard was a little more promising. The episode talked about how slowing down time would slow down the aging of our consciousness, allowing us to stay “young at heart,” if you will. It went back to describing children, and how they value play and carry with them a sense of wonder, which gives every moment and minute the chance to be fascinating. And so the theory was…if we do more with every hour and every day, time will feel slower, and slower, and slower…ultimately keeping our consciousness “young” and prolonging our abstract life (and hopefully that can also erase eye wrinkles too? Yet to be tested and proven).
The episode then got crazy and talked about stopping time altogether, but then it was getting into “black hole” topics and I hadn’t had my coffee so we turned it off.
Afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about it. For days it was on my mind. Then I started testing it out, just with the littlest things. I started enjoying nature more…making more plans to see friends…eating more meals without Netflix in the background, and so on and so forth. I’m not going to pretend that within a week I anti-aged my consciousness to resemble a nubile fourteen-year-old, but I have to admit, the more things I did with my days, even when it was just doing more interesting things while alone, the more that my days started to feel a little longer.
And then it got much bigger than that.
How so, you ask? (or probably not but you feel obligated to finish reading this?) Well, since you asked, I never would’ve been so spontaneous as to plan a long weekend in Italy with only 20 hours notice, if I hadn’t listened to this episode about slowing down time. There’s just no way I would’ve done that, since I’m a PLANNER and an ANALYZER; it’s simply not in my nature to quickly pick up and go somewhere by myself.
But I did it.
I’ve only been back for two days, but that 3-day weekend in Italy legitimately felt like two weeks. When I returned it was with an exhausted sigh, as if I hadn’t seen Paris for ages. And even despite the crappier weather, I felt like I’d missed belle Paris.
Were my days feeling slower because I’d enjoyed every minute in Italy?
I believe that’s true, which for me, makes this more than just a theory…
To be fair, I’m certainly not saying that all of life’s stresses are solved by running off for a long weekend getaway (sure they are, YOLO!), but it seems to be true that the more you do in a day that’s outside of your subconscious routine, the more you will immerse yourself in actual conscious life, and therefore, the more you will savour every minute. I know this isn’t always easy to do, since there are deadlines and obligations and responsibilities, and no we are not the same as four-year-old children who can play in the sun all day, I get that. Still, imagine for a second all the time we spend thinking about what’s lacking, or worrying about what hasn’t happened, or trying to plan for something later that distracts you from today. I’m not saying I’m any better, because I do it too. Despite that, lately I’ve been thinking about: what would happen to my day if I spent even one less hour watching Netflix because I’m lazy? Or one less hour replaying a bad conversation in my head? Or one less hour wondering why my life hasn’t progressed at the rate of my dreams or compared to others? Or one less hour punishing myself for the times in the past I stole a heart but couldn’t keep it? (please stay with me on this abstract plane, since I’m not referring to an actual stolen organ in a cooler)
When I think about how I could change the way I use my time even just a little, and make my words and actions towards others just a little more meaningful, I already feel like so much more could happen in a day. I guess what I’m saying is…when we do what we say and say what we mean, without the games and the pride and the coolness, I suspect life becomes more genuine and real, like this actual thing you’re inside of, rather than a show starring you, a performance you’re just observing from start to finish, until the credits roll and the lights go out and oh guess what you’re a corpse, too late to rewind all those past regrets now! (morbid tough love, I know, but hey, I didn’t promise you roses)
So that’s what’s been on my mind. And the fact that the food in Italy is as amazing as everyone says.. 🙂
Now as a disclaimer: when I talk about saying what you mean, which implies being true to yourself and others, I’m not suggesting that we behave TOO honestly. For example, when pushed into a corner, I will always say a baby is cute, even if I secretly believe it resembles a miniature old man, and I will always say someone’s haircut is good, even if it’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen (except when it comes to a certain world leader’s hideous carpet of hair, but that is a different blog post I will never write, because well..fuck that guy). I would expect the same lies in return, a.k.a. thank you for all the compliments on my February haircut! So yes, we need small lies for society to function, but it’s when it comes to the “big things,” the “life things,” I think that’s when we should always be true, because it makes the ride more real, and the time spent living it more meaningful.
So do that. And eat lasagne in Italy. And that’s all.
Until next time, ciao bitches, and here are a few pics from beautiful Milan (and the picture at the top is Genova which is beautiful too).
Well…yes, no, no, and no (did that cover everything?)
Nothing is forgotten, but the streets of Paris seem full to me, and the only danger I’ve encountered so far is temporarily forgetting that drivers in Paris are always trying to run you down with their cars or scooters or giant looming buses. How had I forgotten this obvious fact after living in Paris twice? Perhaps the streets of Canada had made me a bit complacent, because in Canada the symbol for “walk” means “hello pedestrian, you dear sweet pedestrian, please enjoy this time frame, in which you are the king of the world.” You can skip, dance, or even crawl across the street in Canada, and the driver waiting to make the left turn has to sit there until you’re done.
Fast forward to Paris in 2016, and I found myself as a very comfortable pedestrian. That is until…4:30pm today, when I was nearly flattened like a human pancake on Rue de Rivoli.
This gentle “flattening” reminder is one that I will never forget, and one that I’ll interpret as follows: don’t trust anything with wheels in Paris (except for those attractive cops who roller-blade in the streets and smile—but only in summer, I think).
The other main aspect of returning to Paris revolves around the upcoming half marathon (only 12 days away!), and I, the non-runner type, who is registered to make it to the finish line.
In the last seven days I’ve run four times in Paris, with fitness levels ranging from “I’m going to vomit into that garbage can” to “Hey, that actually wasn’t bad!”
It started with 4km on day two in Paris, went up to 9km on Sunday, and was a cool 7km this afternoon. Through it all, I’m starting to slowly convert the naysayers who laughed when I said that I would do this (well not all of them…you bastards). Most importantly, I’ve started to build my biggest motivation, courtesy of the greatest competition of all…which is myself. As I outlined in my previous post, I am a hyper-competitive person, and that’s all the motivation I need. And so, as long as I can push myself to the finish line, I’ll be pretty ridiculously happy, but you won’t be able to see my face, since most of it will be buried inside the 6,000-calorie brunch I shall enjoy soon after I finish.
And the best part of all about the race? My teammates and I are raising money for a damn good cause (the Red Cross). I talked all about that in my previous post, but here’s the link to donate if you’ve somehow forgotten, because forgetting is the only reason you wouldn’t have donated yet, right? RIGHT??? (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=FootstepsinParis&isTeam=true)
Aside from all the running I’ve been doing this past week (look at what a cocky running snob I’ve become!), I’ve been reconnecting with the people I call my “Paris family,” and every single moment has filled me with happiness. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but even when I’m on my own, remembering a dinner I had, or a recent conversation, or a sunny stroll with a friend, I’m filled with an immense sense of gratitude (oh god, this is so cheesy). Maybe it means that Paris is magical, or maybe it means that amazing people gravitate towards other amazing people, and we are all just so fucking amazing (and humble too). Or maybe…maybe it just means that home is where the heart is. If that’s the case, then Paris sure feels like a special kind of home right now.
Now that I’ve filled this post with so much cheese, I will tell you that this past week in Paris, I had blue cheese, and I actually loved it! This is significant, because before that moment, I had never even liked blue cheese!!! I can’t remember the name of the cheese at this particular moment, but it was orange with flecks of blue, and it was absolutely delightful (Paris, eh? The new experiences never end…)
The last time I wrote about Paris, the tone was necessarily grim, and though we all remember November 13th, “joie de vivre” stays strong. This resilience is one of the many reasons why Paris is so inspiring, so thank you for that, great city!
Speaking of Paris…six or seven months ago, I was told of the existence of a Paris half marathon in March. I was also told that we should and could and would run it. My response was laughter, followed by “yeah sure,” and an eye-roll that Whatsapp couldn’t see. It was one of those crazy schemes you talk about but hopefully forget, because who actually wants to run 21 kilometres?!
Before 2015 ended, I was reminded of this promise. Had it actually been a promise? Is laughing and rolling your eyes while sarcastically saying “sure” considered legally binding? Apparently so, because the Paris half marathon is 34 days away, and yes I have officially registered.
In the grand scope of the world, a half marathon is only a “half” marathon, and the people who run a “full” one are the people who are actually crazy (42 kilometres?! You’re a PERSON, not a Honda Civic. Take a seat).
In the smaller scope of myself however…I am not a runner by nature. I mean…I guess most humans aren’t, unless they’re being chased, but I don’t actively seek out opportunities to run, at least not for longer than twenty-five minutes. I also don’t use a Nike running app to share on social media, so everyone can know how I’m way more active than they are, and in turn feel guilty about their twelfth Oreo cookie.
Though I haven’t yet used an app to athletically shame others (key word being “yet“), my routine has required a brisk and harsh change since signing up. I’m one of those people who loves theories like “interval training,” where you can actually get a good workout by sprinting hard for two minutes and walking for five, then multiplying that by four, and being finished your entire workout in twenty-eight minutes. I’m also one of those people who owns the T25 workout DVDs, where you can actually get an amazing workout with only 25 minutes of effort! (which by the way is insanely hard, and I always have to stop and take water breaks when I’m doing it). Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, pictured here is my tantalizing T25 workout DVD collection. I mean really, how can anyone say “no” to the shirtless man with the sixteen-pack abs, who’s telling you to “GET IT DONE”?
What was I saying? Oh yeah…running for over two hours? Or however long it takes me to struggle to the finish line?
It’s mad I tell ya, mad! The only time I was thrilled with lengthy exercise was during a day of hiking in Switzerland, and only because it contained the most beautiful views I’d ever seen in my life.
But wait…there is a flip side.
The flip side to choosing a challenge beyond one’s skill level is…being a competitive person, and accomplishing it out of spite. Once my competitive nature takes hold, any challenge is suddenly realistic. After that, my Aries nature takes hold, and I picture my astrological symbol of the ram crushing the competition with metaphorical horns. That’s all it takes, baby.
And so…I am excited. Very, very excited.
As an added plus, the training thus far has not been as horrible as I’d imagined, and with each incremental workout, I’m enjoying running more and more (oh god, I’m about to become one of THOSE people…). Even so, I’ve been training on a treadmill, and I seriously need to get outside. This of course means that two weeks from now…rain or shine, I’ll be pounding the Paris pavement, and seeing how closely I can follow the recommended training schedule (which I started five weeks late, no biggie). All I know is that I seriously need to catch up, because the last seven days have included the stomach flu, a hacking cough, a clogged nose, nasal drip, and absolutely zero running.
But that’s okay! Because today is the first day of the rest of my training life, and I’m clearly super excited about it:
If my own competitive nature isn’t enough to help me finish the race, my friends and I are running on behalf of the British Red Cross. I really respect the Red Cross charity and all that it does with swiftness and transparency, so much so that I sent out donations in people’s names instead of Christmas presents this year. Everybody was really thrilled about that, because any reaction aside from being thrilled would’ve made them seem like assholes (entrapment!). Little did I know that a few months later I’d be making my own appeal to others, but here we are, which brings us now to the five ascending pressure stages of fundraising:
After this post, I will have completed the first three items on the list, and despite the expected paltry success rate of 0.5 percent, our team of three has actually gotten some donations! For that, I thank you, but we are only 18% of the way there. Furthermore, while I may limit my level of hustle when I’m trying to sell my books, there is no upper limit to how shameless I’ll be when I’m hustling for a worthy cause.
That’s right guys, I’m comin’ at you with items #4 and #5, so you might as well make it less awkward by donating in advance! Here’s the link: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/FootstepsinParis
See you in Paris,
PS: I offer my sincere thanks to anyone who’s able to donate. We’ve all got our own priorities, and charities are a personal thing, so I greatly appreciate any amount you’re able to give!
PPS: I’ll be back in Paris from mid-Feb to mid-April, to train/try new hangouts/finish a script, so expect regular updates on this blog and on instagram! (“Paris is always a good idea“—> quote from my coffee mug, est. 2013)
As I sit here staring at the two-euro print of “Starry Night” affixed to my Parisian wall by extra-strength transparent tape (I don’t think my landlord would approve), I’m reminded of the movie poster for “Midnight in Paris,” which in turn reminds me of how rainy days were romanticized in the film. As an aside, did you know there are two very different versions of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”? The one on my wall is the one you’re probably picturing, and the other one which I’m showing to you now is a secret photograph I took at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris last year (“no photos allowed” is a loose guideline, in my opinion). You should check it out in person, it’s a treat.
So about those rainy days…today was one of those relentlessly rainy days in Paris, the kind when Mother Nature washes away those random whiffs of “public urination sins” from days gone by; a glorious day indeed.
Or WAS IT???
You see…Owen Wilson’s character in “Midnight in Paris” was all about the rainy days, so according to him today should’ve been amazing. If that’s not enough, I’ve seen the movie at least three times, and I’m pretty sure his character twirled around in the rain with a look of glee at some point; or maybe it was only a half spin, but anyway he fucking loved it.
I was all about the “I’ll have what he’s having” when I stepped into the rain today, but somehow…it didn’t quite live up to the fictional movie scenes I so heavily base my life on. It’s just that Owen Wilson’s character has this soft blond pony-like hair that recovers from a drenching in an effortless way, and as much as we’re incredibly impressed, we don’t all share these follicle-based gifts (and yes I was carrying an umbrella, but sometimes it rains diagonally and what’s a girl to do? I suppose I could roll around in the streets from inside a plastic bubble, but on this particular day I did not have the means). If that’s not enough, his character not only encountered a youthful Parisian dream girl who sold vintage records (which she probably acquired from past senior-citizen lovers), he also ran into her while crossing the river on this extremely rainy day!
Do you know who I run into on rainy days in Paris? An old British woman asking me for money. And a tourist family of four that decides to link arms so they take up the entire width of the sidewalk. Not only that, but rainy Owen Wilson’s character never experienced how all those missing cobblestones in Paris fill up with water, so when you accidentally step into one you’re ankle-deep in a puddle. And your foot goes “squish squish squish” with you all the way home. And then you spend twenty minutes sitting there blow-drying your shoe.
It seems evident that the cynical part of myself was running point on this rainy day, except for one notable fact: the dinner I was about to cook for myself needed bread. And so, with one last stop at the corner bakery, I now beheld a fresh hot baguette in all its Parisian glory. A baguette so good it didn’t even matter that its tip had become rather moistened by the steady rain (there is no way to make that sound G-rated). I bit right into it as I squished my way through the streets, and just like that, I was home…
Okay…so now that the optimist in me has been re-established, I will swiftly dive back into the cynical world. Last year in Paris I wrote about my experience at the lock bridge, where couples affix a lock on a bridge to guarantee their love will last forever. Or something. I tried not to be too cynical about it last year, in fact I even tried to appreciate the wedding photos happening right in front of me. Overall, I only rolled my eyes about six or seven times while strolling along the lock bridge; not bad.
And then…last week…I saw THIS:
So basically in June the main “love lock bridge” in Paris (Pont des Arts) partially collapsed under the weight of those super-romantic locks. This was especially hilarious to me, since last year I’d pointed out how some of the locks are ENORMOUS, with the intention of…displaying the sheer insecurity of a relationship?? (sort of like how men with small penises drive big fancy cars—I would insert the name of a car here, but I don’t give a shit about cars). So alas, I was right for insulting the giant-lock offenders last year, but hey don’t stress, the French tax-payers will fund your insecurities via restoration of the bridge…no biggie!
So take another look at that photo. Yes, you’re seeing that right, i.e. several panels of the bridge are blocked off with wood, to prevent any additional weight from those lovey-dovey locks. And so…love birds have taken to declaring their love with…a marker. On a piece of wood. There’s some random graffiti as well (what do all those fish mean?), but take a close look and you’ll notice lots of names enclosed in hearts. I mean…what?? Granted, the original purpose of attaching a lock as a sign of love was pretty cheesy and a whole lot weird, but at least it had an idea behind it. But now? Scribbling some stuff on a piece of wood? And what do these couples even post on Instagram? A picture of themselves kissing, next to a section of wood? I’m not being a dick, I am genuinely confused by this.
So that’s the latest from Lock Bridge central (which I only found out about last week, since I consciously avoid that bridge)…
The cynic in me is clearly taking over again, so let me just say this has definitely been the best summer in Paris, with eight days of wonderment to go. I mean I only have two summers to compare against each other, but this one was full of unexpected discoveries, and new friendships that will surely last beyond these silly limitations of space and time. I will definitely write all about it in the upcoming book, but since this next book is a non-fiction effort…there are some things I was previously all set to write about…which I’ll now keep under wraps. It’s just that sometimes random friendly encounters at say, a cool bar…convert to something way more meaningful over multiple occurrences, and those are the memories I’ll keep for myself. But hey, fret not, because I still have way more stuff to write about than I’ll ever be able to use, and on that note…I will include an important Paris pro tip here: if you ever plan on riding line 12 on the Paris Métro (particularly from Montmartre to Porte Saint-Denis), please ladies, wear a sports bra, or duct tape, or anything to contain your bountiful breasts, because line 12 is the most boob-jiggling metro I’ve ever ridden! I’m serious, no matter what your cup size may be, on line 12 it’ll be like loose coconuts knocking around in a bouncy castle, so please, dress accordingly. You’re welcome.
À bientôt Toronto, and even though I will miss Paris for a million reasons, some writing stuff on the script front is brewing; it’s too early to talk about, but for this particular dreamer, anything and everything is possible…
On a crisp sunny day last year in early May, I made my way to Paris with a suitcase full of dreams. As a wide-eyed newcomer to Paris, the following six months would prove to be nothing short of a soul-replenishing experience…
Is that cheesy enough? Are you grossed out too? I almost made myself dry-heave.
So here’s what really happened: didn’t know a single person, got lost, forced myself to randomly meet people via awkward meet-ups, got lost, ate a lot of pastries, stopped getting lost, proved the “negative Nancies” wrong by making friends with actual Parisians ( they’re just as friendly and ready to laugh as anyone else), ate more pastries, got to know my Left Bank home pretty well, ate a lot of other food/came up with a list of favourites, joined a running club with a group of locals so I wouldn’t gain a hundred pounds, celebrated Bastille Day in pure Parisian fashion, firemen’s ball included (see: outdoor nightclubs for a two-euro cover charge, with handsome firefighters as the primary entertainment), picnicked on various grassy knolls throughout the summer (then compiled a list of favourite grassy knolls), wrote my next book, published my next book, and ate more pastries.
It was a fabulous six-month stay (with its share of personal moments that don’t need elaboration), but I will say that going into it with a book-writing deadline influenced a lot of my stay, in terms of locking myself away to write when I should’ve been strolling around Paris, and thinking a lot about plot lines and character arcs, when I should’ve been taking note of certain experiences in greater detail. I don’t begrudge the wine-induced, “talking to myself” writing nights one bit (and thanks for reading book 3, everyone!), but it left me with a bit of a Parisian deficiency. This deficiency equates to a slightly incomplete historical record of my experiences in Paris.
SO I’M GOING BACK TO PARIS FOR THE SUMMER!
It was the only logical conclusion.
The big difference now is that with last year’s experience behind me, I have the benefit of jumping back in from the moment I return to Paris. The other big difference is not worrying about a deadline. And so, 1 + 1 =…living on the Right Bank this time, and at least five hours a day of strolling, interacting, consuming, revelling, and taking notes (could’ve been ten hours a day, but I need to catch up with with old mates, you see). By the time I finish, I’ll have so many thoughts and so much information on Paris, that it’ll only be a matter of organizing it all. This is really for my own future reference, like if I go back to Paris thirty years from now and realize I’ve forgotten everything. At that inevitable point, I’ll easily reference everything from the handy book on Paris I wrote, along with the moods and ambience that characterized those experiences (Will the tone be flowery? No. Blunt and sometimes embarrassing? Yes). I guess that’s what bugs me about Paris books, as they are today; the entire experience isn’t centralized. Like first I have to read a whole memoir to get in the mood, then I have to read a guide book to learn about good places to eat, and then I have to read at least a dozen blogs, depending on what I’m looking for (i.e. ten croissants from different districts face off in a battle royale, but only one can survive (insert “Hunger Games” joke here; oh wait, I kind of already did, and it wasn’t good. Remind me to never apply for “Last Comic Standing”). By taking all three of the above categories, and putting as much of each into a single book, I will have myself an inspirational yet efficient reference for when I’m elderly, forgetful, and uninspired. It’s a time capsule, made my me, and gifted to me. If anyone else wants to read it, that’s cool, as it will be published like all my other books, but it’s rooted in that all-important writer’s jumping off point: write something you care about!
Well I should go; only two weeks left ’til my return to Paris, or in other words: two weeks left to diet and work out like crazy, to prepare myself for a summer of eating whatever the hell I want…(red flag: my dieting plan will be challenged by a road trip to DC for the next four days, which aside from checking out a few monuments, will be entirely centred around eating. This can only mean one of two things; either A: “Hard body in two weeks” is an unrealistic expectation, or B: next stop, bulimia express!
PS: I share this picture way too often, but I can’t get enough of it, and I plan on finding those 2013 birds when I return…
PPS: I will pepper this blog with updates direct from Paris throughout the summer; stay tuned!