Monday, July 20, 2009

Evolution of a Self

The more we live, the more we grow. The more we travel, the more we learn. The more trials, stumbling blocks, frustrations and sadnesses we experience, and if possible overcome, the more our confidence could grow; or, the more our sense of humility and gratefulness for our place in this world is deepened.

Perhaps trite, perhaps a bit over much. But, there's a reason my closest friends are women who've lived through difficult separations, women who are at times struggling, and yet always find it in themselves to be generous, to listen, to come to another's aid. Who can judge another? Whose right is it to be the arbiter of what is truly acceptable?

I've had one of those cross cultural moments (yet again). I love living in France, but I am tempted to live in the States. This makes sense. It's the world I come from, and a world I hope my boys will know and perhaps love as I do. I'm still toying with the question of where they will some day go to college, and where I'll be best able to communicate values and structure to them.

So, I'm tempted by America, and in that case, Americans? Yes, if I could live a whole life, and bring my children into a home with a traditional "archetypal" family. I'd like to provide them that. The articles I've read in the past months tend to stress that above all, children need structure and reassurance post-divorce. Far worse to move your way through multiple love affairs, encouraging the children to grow attached to a new 'almost' parent, and then have it all fall apart. Second marriages, recombined families, these can be wonderful or, add to the mess of emotional confusion. So it's rather risky either way.

Thus, living in Avignon, taking in boarders, adjusting to my current life. All this is pretty much okay for my boys as I'm there, and I'm consistently there, and my rules and requests are clear and understood. So, do I accept the virtues of my current arrangement (love on the weekends, family during the weeks), or listen to that little voice inside who wishes I could put all that together into one package?

To that end, I am confronted by the complex person that I am, and the reactions I inspire in others. To put it simply:

In France, a first impression sees that I am female, blond(ish), a bit flighty, and American. Any notion of substance or past education, etc., come later, though I do always get the "if only I could speak English like you speak French" comment.

In the US, I come across as hyper-verbal (perhaps joyously speaking my mother tongue which I master just a bit better than French?), East-Coast and Waspy. It's a visual thing, but also a family thing. In any case, I apparently intimidate and overwhelm. Watch out for the babbling blond....

And so, I fall back on playing monopoly with my two very amused and happy boys. Realestate moguls both, they left me indebted to the nth degree, till I begged out of the game.


Zuleme said...

A very nice thoughtful post to find on a rainy Sunday morning here in northern New Hampshire. You're right, women friends are the best. I am a videographer with my husband in the White Mountains. my blog is about cats. I don't like to write a lot of personal stuff on it.
We plan to be in Avignon August 29th. We'll be staying with a houseful of folks from Texas and then meeting our French friends for a drive to their home in Brittany.
Sometimes I think I would like to spend more time in France. Husband is Swedish. Sometimes I think we'd like to spend more time there.
Would have to bring two cats.
The dragon puppet is way coo, do you have any more information on it? I have friends who run a small school here and do a lot of theater. They would love this.

Zuleme said...

I meant cool, of course.

Nathalie said...

An interesting post again, on the topic of how you come across to people on both sides of the Atlantic and how to manage your life post-divorce. Wishing life was more simple sometimes perhaps? It did appear simpler to me when I was younger. Was it because we had less options than today (I think more people stayed married, albeit unhappily) or because I was more naive?
Meanwhile, enjoy the Monopoly and the rest of your life.

Madeleine Vedel said...

Zuleme, the artist of the dragon is named Bill Allen -- he lives up here in Northern Michigan and his gallery is in Leland. A lovely man who specializes in creatures of all sorts. Please give me the name of your blog? I used to adore cats (till I started having allergies) and my mother still does. Yes, I do waver into the personal on my blog, though I try to keep the posts somewhat universal, for someone in my situation... I love living in France, and hope to find balance somehow, somewhere. There are moments when the thought of leaving France to live in the States tempts me, but also, when it simply terrifies me. I've no idea at this point where I'll end up, but keep on living, testing, contemplating, and caring for my kids as best as I can.

Nathalie, thank you for your comment -- you have experienced, as I, the shifts and confusions of many allegiances. Life is anything but simple when we've so many options placed before us. Not to mention, do I choose for myself? or for my children?

Zuleme said...

Hi Madeleine,
my blog is but just will take you there. My email is zuleme at
We are looking forward to being in France. Our French friends arrive here next week so things will be lively.
When will you be back in Avignon? We'll have a car and bicycles.

Zuleme said...

I looked up Bill Allen's work. Very nice. If I win the lottery I will buy the lion and maybe the giraffes for the back yard.
Some of it would give me nightmares. On a moonlit night in the back yard.