But if this blog is going to be a window into my personal journey, then I need to get past those feelings. I need to be honest and open about what is going on in my life. The truth is, the results of Abby's tests in early March were not what we were hoping for. Her Neuroblastoma has recurred and it has spread. That news sent me into a tailspin.
First, there was devastation. For Abby. Realizing that she has suffered through 14 months of horrible procedures without the desired result broke my heart. She had responded so well to treatment over that time, and the interim scans showed that the cancer had greatly receded. Our hope was so high that her pain and suffering had yielded a remission. But that isn't the case. And that is so hard to accept.
There was devastation for my son. Knowing what he has gone through during this time. What he has witnessed his baby girl go through. The personal sacrifices he has made to be next to her side. Knowing that the nightmare is not over. As a mother, all you want to do is make things better for your kids. Regardless of how old they are. I wanted to take away his pain, his anguish, his worry for Abby's wellbeing. But I can't. All I can do is be there for him and love him and Abby unconditionally.
Which leads me to the guilt. The guilt of being so far away when my son got this news. Of not being there to hold him and hug him. Of not being there to take Abby in my arms and whisper to her how much I love her. How dare I be in Paris while all this was going on? How could I live with myself? I offered to come home as soon as I heard the news. But my son, my selfless, strong and amazingly brave son told me to wait. Told me I deserved to have this year, to live my dream. Told me to wait until we had more news. To wait until there was a reason to come. Can you imagine what kind of person this man is? How much he loves me? His love truly humbles me. It is endemic of who he is.
The past 5 weeks have been spent trying to get past this guilt. Coming to understand that nothing would have been different if I had not come to Paris. The medical results would have been the same. But it took a while. I went through the motions of trying to get out and enjoy Paris, enjoy my friends, enjoy the sights and sounds and tastes of this city that feeds my soul. But my heart wasn't truly in it. I tried to get through the time day by day, and the days weren't bad. I have amazing friends who rallied around me and helped me through the sadness and guilt. It's the nights that were really hard. Those of you who have read this blog know that I can't shut my brain off. And it usually goes to the worse places. So the what ifs and whys haunted my sleep. When I did manage sleep. I spend many nights, tossing and turning, suffused with heartache, worried about what news I would wake up to in the morning.
So I didn't write. I couldn't write. But slowly, softly, through many texts and FaceTime sessions with my son, seeing that Abby was still happy and giggly, learning that she is responding well to her current chemo treatment, knowing that Derek is receiving support from family while I'm away, I began to let go of my guilt. It's still there, of course. I wouldn't be a mom if it wasn't :). But it's not as debilitating as it first was. Derek knows he only has to say the word and I will be on the first plane home. So I will continue to love and support him and Abby but I will also continue my journey of self discovery and self love. I've accepted that it's ok to do both. If anyone judges me for this decision, that is their issue. The only person whose opinion matters regarding this decision has reassured me that he knows I love him and Abby with all my heart. He is teaching me compassion and kindness and strength and courage.
As spring is springing in Paris, so is my healing. I'm slowly coming back to myself. A very good friend recently gave me a book called Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown. I don't usually read self-help books. But for some reason, I read this one and it struck a huge chord with me. About a week ago, I was reading in the gardens of the Palais Royale. I came to a passage in the book that brought me to tears of self-realization. I felt the anger and regret and pain of the last 4 years leave my body. I just felt total peace. I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the water of the fountain, a fork scraping a bowl as the woman next to me ate her al fresco lunch, the happy screams of children running and playing, the laughter of teenagers being loud and cocky as teenagers often do. I felt the sun on my face and peace and joy in my heart. I felt alive and so grateful to be sitting here, by myself, strong and independent and content. I felt as free as the swallows flying above me, flitting from tree to tree, the magnolias just starting to bloom. That freedom led me to write to someone in my past, to let them know that I am happy and I hope they are happy as well. That we all do the best we can in the moment.
One of the reasons I started this blog was to try and figure out why I am so happy in Paris. Why do I feel like a different person here? A person I like very much. I love my family and my life back home. So why am I so drawn to this city? Why does my soul yearn to be here?
I had an aha moment a few days ago ~ I realized one of the reasons I love Paris so much and why I feel so happy and content and at home is because of the life I've created for myself here. Me. I did that. All by myself. The people I have in my life here in Paris are MY friends, they are in MY life because of me ~ not because I am someone's wife, mother, daughter, sister or colleague. They are in my life because of me. They like me because of me. They belong to me (in the sense that their loyalty is to me, not because of my connection to anyone else). In four years, I have managed to forge intense personal connections with a group of people who now mean the world to me. People I met just before or after my separation. People who just know me as Johanne. People who accepted me for who I was, not because or in spite of my past. These people are such a huge reason why I need to return to Paris over and over again. Their love and acceptance has been such a huge part of my recovery and my ability to love myself and live my dreams.
So the journey continues. Paris is starting to wake up from the dark, cold winter months and so am I. I continue to spend my days walking and exploring, eating and drinking and talking and laughing with friends. I continue to make this city my own. I am looking forward to good friends coming to visit me next month and making more memories. I hope some of my family will come to see me later this year so I can show them the place I am calling home this year. I will continue to Let It Be......
|my angel Abby|
|the view from my apartment window last night :)|