My Existential Crisis

Getting well was traumatic. I was not prepared for that. I thought I would only be happy if my dreams came true. No, I had all sorts of new problems, none of which I seemed able to solve.

I tried, but I kept flunking out of therapy in sunny, shallow Los Angeles. I gave up. Who wants to be happy, anyway? That is so shallow. And what is wrong with finding out your life is not what you thought, I mean other than how completely destabilizing and confusing that feels.

I decided to go deep.

I diagnosed myself with an existential crisis.

I embraced it.

I packed my sequined mini skirt, a cooler of injectable ascorbic acid, and my unhappiness. I squeezed into compression hose and my skinny jeans, ate extra salt (I love blood pressure!) and boarded a flight to Paris, as many lost Americans have done before me, minus the Ehlers-Danlos accoutrement, and perhaps the sequined mini.

 International terminal at LAX. Bye, Zach!

International terminal at LAX. Bye, Zach!

From French wikipedia:

An existential crisis can come from the new perception that an individual has of life and existence. By analogy, existentialism postulates that a person can and defines the meaning of his life and his reason for being, and therefore must choose to solve this crisis of existence.

What better place to sort out one’s existential crisis than Paris.

Radishes, butter, salt, French wine and my unhappiness. Delightful!

 Hot day in the 5th.

Hot day in the 5th.

When I was in Paris, I tried to get an appointment with a French psychotherapist. I wanted a French take on ma crise existentielle, which sounds very dignified, if not sexy, when said in French. 

I found a French psychotherapist who said he would see me, if I would take a train to the suburbs, but regretfully his schedule was so full before everyone in Paris leaves for August vacations, so he had no time. 

Serious disappointment. 

Then I received an e-mail. “You must meet my Parisienne friend,” my wonderful neighbor in Los Angeles, who I have so much fun with, wrote me. 

Yes please!

I took the Metro to her office in Neuilly-sur-Seine. We spent the day together. This is her Paris apartment.

IMG_6436.jpg

Charming, n’est-ce pas?

We had Korean food, which was nothing like the authentic Korean food in Los Angeles. In France, the Koreans have to tone the spicy down for the French palate. I felt a bit homesick for the real thing. That was my only moment of homesickness.

 Korean restaurant

Korean restaurant

My new Parisienne friend kept asking me questions about my life that would only have led to conversations of sadness, so I answered evasively. She kept asking. Finally I said, “Do you really want to know? These are not nice stories.”

Yes, she really wanted to know.

Over steak tartare and kim chi, I plowed through an abbreviated version of the story of my illness and my life. She listened with passion for my anguish, without needing to cheer me up or get me to look on the bright side or encourage me to reframe it. She did not tell me how great this was. She did not tell me how I could help others. She never even said how lucky I am to have a disease that makes my skin so beautiful, which absolutely no one with Ehlers-Danlos wants to hear.

She soaked in my story and told me intense stories of her own, savoring the glorious agony and irony of it all. There is beauty in suffering. Suffering is part of life. 

It was the best psychotherapy ever.

So was my entire trip, which I will write more about later.

So unhappy I was, but everyday stimulated to rapturous joy in this beautiful city. I began to remember who I was. I began to feel like I might have a place in the world. 

Jumping for Joy

Yay! My French final is over! The trip had been a resounding success!

IMG_7817.jpg

Packing day. Laundry, ironing, sadness. The only day in France I was sad. I wanted to stay.

IMG_8144.jpg

Mr. Pennington made his way to Paris. We planned this, in case I had a total EDS meltdown of one sort or another and needed help getting home. Nope, I was fine. He came anyway, so we could go on vacation.

 Changing planes at London, Heathrow.

Changing planes at London, Heathrow.

We breakfasted in Paris, in the 6th where I had stayed. I showed off my excellent Franglais.

 Phew! No more self-adulting for me!

Phew! No more self-adulting for me!

A French bee joined us. Who doesn’t love a baguette.

 Bee populations are healthy in Paris.

Bee populations are healthy in Paris.

We walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg and up to the Panthéon. For all his travels, Mr. Pennington had never seen any city as beautiful as Paris. He understood why I wanted to stay.

 The French Senate.

The French Senate.

Looking back, I wish I had ditched French class everyday and just sat in the Jardin du Luxembourg, breathing, sweating and soaking in the sun like the Frenchies do.

That afternoon, Mr Pennington and I rode a train out of Paris to Brussels. 

IMG_9330.jpg

Ma crise existentielle était terminée.

My existential crisis was over.

Or at least much improved.

Madora PenningtonComment