On A Heavy Note (Besides My Luggage)

I thought this moment would never come. This final chapter about France, I mean.

It’s been growing inside me for months, waiting for this delivery date… and yet, for all the excitement and talk, the truth is I was in some painful labor for the past couple of days while nothing was coming out. This Thought Baby did not want to be born prematurely. I thought I was gonna die trying.

Too vivid? Alright, let me try to explain without the uncomfortable childbirth metaphors–

I’ve had a couple drafts saved. A couple beginnings that I could never seem to follow through on. For instance, here’s one that I started on the plane ride to Los Angeles from Paris:

So just now, right outside the gate, I was feeling all sorts of ridiculous. This old couple just watched me shoulder off my backpack and  oh-so-gently lower my small child/infamous Nike duffle bag (filled with wine glasses and like forty trillion scarves) to the ground, and proceed to gawk as I took off 3 coats, 1 hoodie, and 2 shirts….out of which accidentally spilled my 2 books, umbrella, and handbag that I had tried so carefully to hide between the layers. The old lady leaned over and whispered something to her husband when I took off my rainboots and –panting from half over-heating, half collapsing from exhaustion—peeled off one of the 2 pairs of socks I was wearing and –

…and I stopped right there in my story. Just like that. I lost the energy to explain just how many pounds of clothes I had to adorn in order to lighten my luggage to prepare the Grand Voyage Back to California. For some reason I couldn’t touch the more that I wanted to get at about leaving France.

I tried again. After I got home, after I landed, after I was welcomed home by the warm arms of Mom and Larissa at the airport, we started on the hour-long drive from LAX to my house. I was jabbering away in flawless Franglish from the backseat, lost in the darkness until my eyes adjusted– it was then I was able to make out Larissa’s be-spectacled eye peeking at me from the rectangular space between the headrest and her front passenger seat. My heart exploded at the quiet sight, and I let mom take control of the conversation with her updates. I stared and little La and she just stared back. It was in that silent conversation that she told me how much she had missed me, and my eyes told her I had thought about her every day, too.

And then mom was hitting the garage door button, she was helping me move my luggage out of the car, and then I was home. Just like that.

I sat at the kitchen table, not knowing what to do with myself. I was too tired to think. I kept listening to my mom talk. I kept talking about France, but I didn’t really know what I was saying. I kept sitting. I was excited. I was thrilled. I took a clementine from the top of the fruit basket, peeled it apart, and ate a slice. It tasted bland, like dry juice and watered down. I spat it out into a napkin. I was the same. I was numbed. I was so many things at once I couldn’t even register how I felt being surrounded by so much familiar.

And what I needed most was sleep. My mom told me in the car that they hadn’t touched my room since I left and she wasn’t kidding—down to the laundry basket on the bed labeled “Maybe I’ll Take This To France But I’m Not Sure” and the trashcan spilling over with goodbye-card rough drafts….nothing had moved. I said a heartfelt goodnight to Larissa and closed my door. I laid in bed for a long time, staring up at the ceiling I hadn’t seen in four months. I held remote to the ceiling fan and turned the light on and off, just to show ceiling I was thinking about it.

I laid for a little while longer and got up. I crawled in bed with Larissa and fell asleep.

The next morning, I awoke my bed and started this:

Lesson #5493: Pack light.

Lesson #5500: Remember when you packed light? Yeah, Pack less than that.

I had started two weeks ago, and if I could run back in time and kiss myself on the cheek for that I would. Those preparations at the beginning of December had been so clutch. Sorting gifts from clothes, weighing items, puzzling them into my bright red suitcases like I was on a game show…it sort of felt like the GATE test, actually. Or a brain teaser, but with really high stakes. Like 6-bottles-of-wine-and-2-german-beers-and-4-cans-of-super-illegal-foie-gras high. Like customs-would-charge-me-up-the-butt-if-they-found-out-what-I-was-trying-to-get-into-the-country high.

That is, by some miracle all 3 of my suitcases didn’t go over the 32kg and have to be sent into cargo holding. CARGO HOLDING. The place they put, like, CARS.

…and again, I stopped right there in my story. Just like that.

What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get this last post in about finishing up France?

As I moved through these passed two days in California, I genuinely smile as I caught up with family…but the entire time I was panicking on the inside. Holy shit. I’d think as I unpacked. Oh my god. My heart would pound as I poured some tea. It’s not happening. I’d tell a story to my grandma, smile and laugh.

It wasn’t coming. The Big Moment I had been getting so used to, so spoiled with. That itching in my fingers. The squinting of my eyes. I wasn’t getting any of the signs that I had something to write or something to say. In France it was like magic. Did I already lose it?

I kept it quiet to myself, but I was confident I was reaching a record-fast silent depression. I hadn’t even been home seventy-two hours and I already felt less special. Every second that ticked by I was more and more aware that I didn’t have a Goodbye To France post, and every second that ticked by I was more and more sure one would never come.

And then it happened. Just like that. The Realization. It happened like this:

I was sitting cross-legged on the tile of my kitchen, flipping furiously through my journal for The Page. Where are you, you stupid stupid STUPID list? I know I wrote you. It was lying to me. I had all these Christmas presents and no idea who I had got them for. I had made a list while I was on the plane, and I NEEDED THE GODAMN LIST SO JUST SHOW ME OKAY.

The secret fears and anger of the past couple days were taken out on my flipping. I was flipping too hard. A couple of the front pages flew out onto the white marble. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself out this sudden, irrational tandrum of mine. I went to pick up the pages.

One of them had unusually pretty cursive on it. My eyebrows, which had been furrowed to match my unreasonably pissed-off mood, loosened out of surprise. I don’t really remember writing this… As my eyes ran over the lines on the page, my eyebrows had transformed to being full-on raised. Then so did my gaze. Then so did my posture. And then so did my mood.

I was struck by the memory. Man, but that felt like a lifetime ago. I suppose, in a way, it was.

Now, I don’t know who kept up with my blog. I’ve been writing it and hoping that it was doing an okay job of keeping those that I love updated with some key points in my journey—that it made some laugh, that it made some think….that it made someone’s day grow a little larger, knowing that someone else is out there making grand mistakes and silly significances on the other side of the water.

And I don’t know who’s kept up from the start, or who’s hopped on-board, or who’s bounced around. But I had written way way back a piece called “If I Was To Actually Write A Book This Would Be Chapter One.” I had typed it up while I was waiting in the Ontario Airport to start my Study Abroad trip to Bordeaux, France. (In case you wanted a short cut back to it: http://katrinanelson.tumblr.com/post/95756051740/if-i-was-to-actually-write-a-book-this-would-be)

I had written first in soft cursive in a journal before I typed it up. On those very pages that spewed across my kitchen floor.

And dudes, I don’t know about God or a Higher Power or anything…but that wasn’t an accident that I found it.

I Realized—right then and there, staring at my naked, vulnerable, passionately excited beginning—exactly where I started.

And it made everything so clear, I almost laughed at how obvious it had been.

I was trying so hard to write a final post about France that I didn’t even notice that I was supposed to be writing a beginning the whole time. The things I touched during those past four months, those parts of me I hadn’t ever spoken with before…there was so much more to it then TomKats and trams. Even more than devil men and gentlemen. More than brilliant cities and brilliant sisters.

There wasn’t so much an “end” to the story as much as a start of an even greater one.

Past me was 200% right. I fell in love while I was in France, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t realize it until just now, as I read my own words. It added up into an explosion of inspiration and clarity.

For me, Inspiration moves in slow-motion– it’s a giant crescendo of silence, a chaotic (and yet still?) explosion that assembles itself into the most intricate pattern—so intricate, in fact,  it looks like it was created like that ages ago instead of seconds ago. It looks like the perfect surprise and the perfect plan at the same moment. It’s spread out across space of everything inside and outside of me, and yet so easy to pinpoint: It’s riiiiight…there. I pick up the perfectly-formed little world and examine it, deeply moved.The idea. The ideas. This newborn truth. And even though it feels like it happened in slow motion, that process from nothing to knowing happen in the blink of an eye.

So I don’t know if inspiration strikes everyone like that, but for more it’s kind of like my own personal Big-Bang. Which gets me thinking– maybe Earth is just one of God’s best thoughts, floating around in the grand galaxy of his mind. Maybe space is just where God thinks, creates, and wonders.

….Oh well, food for thought.

Anyway, with the dawning of that memory upon me, my brain started spinning it’s new Earth of a thought. It was all over the kitchen, the story-line splattered on the walls. And I sat up straighter because I realized exactly what I felt myself itching to write next.

That book.

Because why not?


So as this chapter of my life closes, another is definitely opening. I just want to take this opportunity to thank those who even read anything I wrote once. I don’t know who you are, or if I’m even just talking to my grandma right now (Hi, Grandma!) but I just want to let you know…. It really meant a lot. And I also want to say good luck on all your future travels. Go get lost. Go fall in love with stupid things. Go steal cats. Don’t give them back. Eat many croissants. Skip workouts. Talk to strangers. Don’t smoke cigarettes. Make siblings out of beautiful friends. And most importantly dear reader, my best advice for you…

Go be naked in public.

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