The unsettling nature of a return to the ordinary.

Perfect autumn day in Haute-Loire

Perfect autumn day in Haute-Loire

Saturday morning was, like every morning since we got back to France, unseasonally warm, though the notion of “seasonal” has lost much of its weight in light of ever-increasing temperatures on the planet we call Earth. We did our weekly shopping and made our way to C’s parents for lunch. Just as we were sitting down to eat, C’s mom pointed outside. “You see that fog?” She indicated a low cloud in the distance. Suddenly it began to snow. It kept on throughout the afternoon and into the night, and it’s snowed a bit today as well. Temperatures dropped from 60-65°F (15-18°C) to 35-40°F (2-5°C) within a number of hours.

And so it is winter.

Coming back from Ecuador to France was similarly disorienting. The trip back was long: an overnight bus from Cuenca to Quito; a night spent in Quito followed by a 24-hour journey from our hotel to C’s sister’s place in Paris; a 4-hour drive to C’s brother-in-law’s parents’ home in Ébreuil where we stayed the night; a 3-hour drive the next day to Le Puy. We only stopped moving to sleep and eat, but all told it took us about 4 days to make our way home. We were overcome by a sense of having only left for a few days. Spanish became French, avocados and mangoes became squash and pears, perennial green became the rainbows of autumn…C was no longer mapping an Ecuadorian natural park, and I was no longer developing systems for an Ecuadorian orphanage.

In the month that has passed we’ve been finding our way into a wonky sort of rhythm: C has taken a post with a local company and is learning as much as he can about all sorts of coding, front- and back-end development, working in France, and working in a traditional office setting 5 days a week – something he hasn’t done in what feels like a very long time. I have continued my search for the elusive meaningful career, have some translation and editing work underway, and have taken back a few of my old students for the time being. We have found ourselves with a healthy social life and good friends whose happiness to see us is reciprocated entirely.

It was only a few months before we left that the horrific Charlie Hebdo attacks hit Paris, and it was only a few weeks after we returned that the horrific events of November 13th took place. The winter of 2014/15 was late in coming and so late in leaving, which meant that the cold we left was the cold to which we’ve returned.

Sitting down to my desk to search for more jobs, write more cover letters and tweak my CV just so again and again is sometimes more difficult than I can find the words to describe. While the future of the planet is looking bleak, the future of my career feels equally so, and to say some days are challenging is putting it very lightly indeed. And the guilt I feel for not appreciating as I should the wonderful things I have in my life doesn’t make any of it any easier.

But I remain the optimist…maybe because I lack the imagination to contrive other outcomes for my professional life. Is all of this evidence of my will to succeed, or the manifestation of a stubborn refusal – a laziness even – to think outside of the box I’ve created for myself? Don’t answer that, gentle readers…rest assured the answer will come to me eventually whether I like it or not!

In the meantime, C is again perfecting his bread-making, and I am cooking up compote and cakes…winter dinners of soup and roasted chestnuts warm our spirits, as do walks in the Haute-Loire countryside, which never ceases to take my breath away. I write sparingly these days because I want so desperately to have something exciting to share, in the spirit of What If and Why Not, but this existential journey I’m on has me only asking questions at present, which doesn’t make for particularly interesting prose.

And life is nevertheless extraordinary, even in the midst of the mundane.

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11 thoughts on “The unsettling nature of a return to the ordinary.

  1. Antonia says:

    It’s all relative, Ann. You are amazing to me, you always have been. Your writing is beautiful and inspiring…. Well, I’m trying to express how much your awesomeness has affected everyone you’ve encountered(my opinion anyway). But it’s hard to concentrate with the swordfight going on in the background! Beautiful photo.

    • Ann says:

      and so goes the life of the mother of sons! thanks tony…do you think i should add “awesomeness” to my CV?

      • I think you should definitely add “awesomeness” to your CV! =)

      • suncitymom says:

        I agree with Shoshana—awesomeness will make them grab a dictionary!

      • says:

        I concur wholeheartedly to the AWESOMENESS being added to the CV!!! Nothing like a little unabashed self-promotion whose commentary is just a touch left of center and acceptably outside the box of norm lol. AND IT’S TRUE!!! You are awesome woman! Here’s an article I had sent to me that I just LOVE lol as it speaks to the endless questioning of life and our purpose here, as well as being where others think you should be when you are somewhere else! Love you sweetie. Stay up and stay strong and shine beautiful like you always do no matter the What If and Why Not of things 😉 Hugz from the snow belt of Barrie Ontario! xo

      • says:

        NOT that I think you think you are falling behind, I just loved the write up and think you might too! xo

  2. suncitymom says:

    As usual your words leave me awed; you have completely captured in words your heart, mind, and soul….and I pray that all your many, many talents and gifts will be recognized by that elusive position that you crave and you are best suited and………you will succeed!

  3. I always try to remain optimistic and wish I had some wise words for you. But unfortunately I don’t. Just keep doing what you do and know that something will eventually come up. It has to. But enjoy life while you’re waiting for that moment to happen. It sounds like that is what you are trying to do. I’ve never told you anything that you haven’t thought of before I say it. I’ll send good job vibes your way and be jealous of the lovely winter you’ll get to have in France. Also, keep writing and keeping us updated. What seems mundane to you always sounds interesting to me.

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