Sunday, June 28, 2009

Paris

(Posted from La Rochelle)

As I begin this entry, I am sitting on the Metro in Paris, listening to an old man play the violin for money.  This happens all the time in Paris, apparently.  People will actually come on the Metro, whip out an instrument and then ask for money—sometimes full bands will do it, even. I quite enjoy it, given my obsession with street acts, but it’s obvious that most Parisians do not.

Paris has been a roller coaster of a journey. So challenging and difficult, yet wonderfully rewarding.  I can’t really remember a complete itinerary of this time, as I did not plan one.  I simply decided to plop myself in Paris, and go from there.

I set up a host for my stay via CouchSurfing.org.  (If you haven’t heard of it, check it out; it may increase you’re chances to travel, if not that, at least your drive.) His name is Laurent Bruneau, and he explained to me in the beginning that, as much as I tried, I would not be able to pronounce his name correctly.  He was right. I will try many times and think that I have it, only to see him shake his head at me or give me a look with a smile that says, “Sure, that’s it. …Not. “ He’s a very nice host, though, and he showed me around the city and was very kind.

I arrived late on Saturday, the 20th.  He gave me some seemingly-vague directions on how to get to his house from the Metro station.  When I got to the station at which I needed to be, I exited to a random street in Paris somewhere (to be honest, I’m still not necessarily sure where it is—I know what station it’s near, though).  I looked to my left: some French store, a small market, some boring apartments. I looked to my right: some scaffolding, a Kodak store, and, oh, the top of the Eiffel tower. 

I guess I had some idea of where I was.

Paris, baby.

I arrived at Laurent’s house (the directions were actually spot-on), and me Laurent and his nice flat.  It was quite late by this time, and all we really had time for was a quick chat and then we had to get ready for bed. I was tired, anyway, from all the stress that came from finding the right train, to the right line, to the right station, and the right apartment complex, for crying out loud.

The next day, Laurent showed me around the city a bit. I briefly saw the Eiffel Tower and took some pictures, but I knew I’d come back to it later.  


After that, I had the rest of the day (until 8pm) to myself. I walked around the city a bit more, saw some sights, but then realized something: I’m not enjoying myself. I was incredibly anxious and could not concentrate or enjoy anything.  

I decided to go back to Laurent’s house and calm down.  I sat around for a bit, uploaded the Galway entry to GCIA (God’s Call is Abroad.  Can I call it that?), and then tried to leave. 

But I couldn’t. 

I realized then that I had been away from home for a month. A whole month. This trip has been a month’s worth of amazing experiences, but it’s also been a month’s worth of challenges and stress. And I found that I was simply terrified to go back out there.

There was something huge and scary building inside of me. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I needed to call somebody, just to hear their voice.  After getting a few answering machines, I called the person who I knew would make it better: my mom. I called her—who, at the time, was eating lunch with my grandparents—and said, “Mom, it’s me. I’m feeling fine, I’m completely safe, and there’s nothing for you to worry about, but I’m really scared to go outside right now.” And at that point I couldn’t go any further. I broke down completely, crying uncontrollably. I tried to say some things to her, but not a lot came out.  I just cried and cried.

And cried and cried.

And cried.

Cried to the point where I was done being scared, but then kept crying. Cried to the point where I could have a conversation, but kept crying.  I even laughed a few times, but kept crying.

Something in me told me that this was good. I had a month’s worth of emotions built up inside of me, emotions I had held on to from way back when I was packing for Europe. And all of them had to go.  I realized God was doing something very interesting inside of me through that.

He was cleansing me.

He and I knew that I still had two months ahead of me, and I’m quite scared about it, so I needed to get rid of all the junk that had welled up for a month.

And Mom just kept telling me that she loved me and told me updates on the family and what she had been doing so far this summer when I couldn’t speak. It was absolutely wonderful.

And, after more than an hour, I had one more sob, and then I found that I could take a deep breath. “I think I can go now,” I said to my mom. I was ready again to go out into the world and see what I could see.

After we got done talking, I went back out in time to meet Laurent for a music festival.  I still have no idea what it’s called, and even if I did, I would not be able to pronounce it. Beforehand, Laurent introduced me to a friend of his and a friend of that friend. We had a really nice conversation. And, the woman in the picture lives in Venice and will be there when I’m there, so I may have a homestay. J

Laurent is to my right, and the woman I may be staying with in Venice is on the end.  (She's the only woman, too, so that should make it easy.)

The music festival goes from 8pm to 8am.  Musicians can sit wherever they want and just play the music, and no one can call the police on them. 

These guys were good. 

I mean ANYONE can play. 

Anyone. 

We only stayed until about midnight because Laurent had to work in the morning. (This was Sunday night, by the way.) And I was considerably, peacefully drained, so I went back to bed as well.

And that was my first full day in Paris.

You see, because of the fantastic genes that my parents gave me, which inevitably made me live with an anxiety disorder and depression, my body is almost engineered to not want to do things like travel the world alone.  It’s too stressful and I can’t handle it, my body tells me.  But I want to do these things. It is difficult, and it’s stressful and can sometimes leave me sitting in my room at Laurent’s and being terrified to leave. But one step at a time, God is cleansing me and helping me.  Just today (as I write this, three days later…started writing this entry yesterday) I had a small freak-out session which stalled me for at least an hour, but I’m working through it. I talked to my parents again and had only a short cry (apparently there were a few things left in there) and now, once again, I am sitting in the Metro station waiting to go into the city, and exciting for what new things I’ll see today.  I don’t doubt that I will have tough days again, but I’ll get through it.

Let me tell you now, for all those who are worrying when they read this blog: I will be fine. The difficulties that I'm facing are all part of this journey. I want to be completely transparent with all of you who are following, because like I said in the beginning, this is not just about my trip, but my journey. So don't worry.  Pray for me, ask God to be present around me and give me strength through His everlasting Love. I write this paragraph from La Rochelle, and trust me, I've had much more anxious times since. But one step at a time, God is taking me through. I'm learning wonderful, life-changing lessons here, and even though it is very difficult, I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

My second post about what I did in Paris for the rest of my time there is coming soon. With more pictures, too.  

Brian

8 comments:

  1. hey, love.
    wow, this posting was intense. i mean, i know i've already heard these stories from you, but reading about them all together again brings up mixed feelings of worry and hope... but also pride. because you are doing AWESOME in europe. you've made it so far already and each day is getting better!
    i'm glad you got to go to that cool music festival and see the eiffel tower.

    i love you so much and am continuing to pray for you, of course.
    may the rest of your stay in la rochelle be even more amazing!
    christie

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  2. Brian -

    I echo what your lovely lady has to say. The key for anything we are intimidated by is baby steps. You have it figured out and with God's help, those baby steps will get bigger until you are ready to run in long strides. I love you and I know that this is good for you and so do you. Take care of yourself (normal ending, not because I am worried) -

    Carrie Bergum

    P.S. Feel free to call me if you need to. Home is 608-526-4134 and the cell is 608 - 769 -0790. I'm not sure how it works but please feel free to call. hugs to you.

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  3. We love you, Brian. You have a whole lot of people that love you and are praying for you. You're doing a very brave thing by traveling Europe solo...it's a hard thing to do, even for a person that doesn't suffer from anxiety!

    We're proud of you. I know God will give you the strength to overcome this anxiety.

    I love you, honey.

    Mom

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  4. OK...I have to ask what the J stands for? I'm not up on my blogger abbreviations.

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  5. Brian,

    I have happily been following your blog for a while now with much sentimentality. Carla and I met while studying abroad 12 years ago (yikes I'm old). We studied an hour or so north of London and the way things were set up, there were no classes on Fridays. Travel was encouraged/expected. And so we'd take weekend whirlwind trips to wherever we could go for cheapest. The travel agency in that little town we were in loved the 120 Americans studying up the road! Anyway, I'm finally chiming in here because I just read your 1st post from Paris. To be honest, I'm surprised it took as long as it did for all the emotion to flow out uncontrollably. And I don't say that because of you or your makeup, but because of the real stress your body, mind and soul are experiencing constantly throughout your trip: no routine, away from day to day people & habits that usually keep you sane, money crunch, a dash of guilt for your absence all summer from things & people you love, pressure to see and do everything everywhere you go because who knows when/if you'll get back there again, food that may or may not agree with you, people who may or may not agree with you and then the primary concerns that constantly require your attention: shelter, food, safety from crazy people. Traveling through Europe sounds fantastic. And, of course, it is. You have no sympathy from me. But you do have my real empathy for the hardships that are coupled with this joy. Each day offers amazing opportunities that you will be called toward. But don't be surprised to receive a call from God to rest. to do very little for perhaps a good while. In fact, I think God is calling me right now to Montreaux, Switzerland (my favorite place in the world) for just such a rest... for about a month:) Truly, though, I don't know your plans or itinerary or your own expectations for yourself, but whether you 'plan' rest or just take it when necessary, you should never feel guilty - like you're somehow wasting a day or something - for doing nothing for a while. It may make the busy tourist days even more fun than they'd be otherwise. Keep up the great work! This trip will continue to shape you. I know my 4 months abroad still inform my experience of God's world. May God bless you!

    Jason

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  6. thanks, everyone, for saying such beautiful things. yeah, it's hard, but God's with me. and so is your love.

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  7. Hi Brian,

    I agree with everything that everyone else has already shared with you, especially the sentiments of Pastor Stanton.

    I'd like to add, as some who has now lived about 2.5 years of life outside our country: I STILL get these feelings. This place is sometimes as comfortable as home for me and other times I feel like a total stranger. Sometimes I know what brings the feelings on and other times I just get an instant huge rush of emotion and cry all day long. Sometimes I feel better afterwards and sometimes I don't.

    I've never been diagnosed as such, but my family, too, has a long history of depression and anxiety which I am 100% sure I have inherited. But even without all that, it is still so hard...and rewarding.

    Calling your mom and crying a lot were good choices, and I'm glad that you are man enough to admit that's what you did. Crying is healthy! :) I usually deal with the emotions in the same way: crying, talking to people back home. Another thing that always helps me is to eat things from home: PB&J sandwiches, chocolate-chip cookies, pancakes...things that no normal Palestinian would ever think of. The term comfort food exists for a reason. Exploring new foods is fantastic and exciting, but don't be shy if you just need a big ol' American cheeseburger or something.

    You will be in my thoughts and prayers. We all know you can do this. Remember to rest. Fatigue is your worst enemy when travelling. Good luck and have fun!

    -Sarah

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  8. to jason (pastor stanton) and sarah: thanks for your wonderful advice and hopeful words. to have people that know what i'm feeling and can talk to me about it is great. thank you so much. what you're saying is profound.

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