Finding Me in Paris

Filed Under (To Get To The Other Side, Writing) by Estee on 25-11-2009


After listening to La Vie En Rose, I booked a last-minute ticket to Paris. I leave next week to meet my girlfriend, Leda, who I became friends with while studying in Europe fifteen years ago. Leda is a pianist and her father is a well-known composer from Zagreb. I mention this because I need my artist friends. I need to be around them like I need food or else the daily ups and downs of markets confines the spirit to downward spirals only waiting for outside influences to send them up again. Art puts everything into perspective and reminds me that its wonderful to be a part of the human drama. Perhaps because of our foreignness in a foreign country — we were both struggling to be part of German life in a town called Frieburg – and because we shared Croatian roots, and maybe just because we both loved music, Tori Amos and lots of laughter, we became good friends.

I met Leda again in Paris while I was married a few years ago. Our visit was too short. My ex was not that interested in listening to our memories, which made me feel pressured to cut my visit short with her as most of us do when we know someone is waiting. Thanks to email and Facebook, I’ve reconnected with many of my friends and I decided at the last minute to meet her next week.

I don’t know if it’s part of the divorce process – that bucket list of things we’re going to do only because we are not married anymore. Or perhaps it’s due to the sheer desperation to find and become something new, someone different, and the best way to begin is with a list. Like a compass, it can point you in any direction. All you have to do is choose.

It’s difficult, though, to travel with a child waiting for me at home. A child who knows poignantly when I am not with him, with his few but precious words, I am told, says “mama…mama…” and who is visibly missing me. If Adam only knew the sickness in my stomach that I feel every time I leave him for just a few days. I hate that he misses me or thinks I am gone forever and I worry about it until I’m nauseous. It stopped me from taking many long trips my ex otherwise wanted me to take with him. When your child cannot talk easily with you about his feelings or over the telephone, the worry plummets deeper. So I only booked myself away for five days.

In the earlier days when I knew Leda, when we were younger but not less hopeful, I would have booked several months away under similar circumstances and I would challenge myself even more. It’s like teetering on the edge of an old and new life like standing on the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, which I actually did once at The Royal Observatory. Real and imagined, even with five days, I am crossing a line. While I always hate leaving Adam, I still feel a rush of excitement about going to the airport, which despite the relative ease and economy of travel these days, and with delayed flights, packed airports and flaring tempers, still elates me and I might as well be back in the 1950’s traveling as far and foreign as Asia. I feel excited watching all the people getting ready to go to their destinations – people who speak different languages. I will fiddle with my bag, dig out my book and sit beside strangers knowing that just one conversation can change a person’s life. I love the smell of engine fuel and the sound of them revving before lift-off, the movie selection and bad airplane food and the struggle to sleep because tomorrow will be well underway when I arrive.

As I prepare by launching into a temporary state of transformation, I listen to Parisian music. I have booked a full schedule of concerts, literary walks and dinners with Leda when I arrive. I will bring my journal, put on red lipstick and pearls, and smear my coffee cups and wine goblets with red stains, and find a good pen to buy. I can almost smell the Marlboroughs in the air, and hear the echoes in skinny lane-ways on the Left Bank of lovers talking and giggling and the sound of my feet behind them like Anais Nin’s as the night clears the air. In Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald describes the phenomenon of people changing and becoming like the environment they visit. While witnessing a group of Americans in Paris he describes them as “undergoing a sea-change, a shifting about of atoms to form the essential molecules of a new people.” Travel, he implies, changes us and I yearn to be changed, if only for a week in time.

I am ready walk out into my life again in my little black dress — of rediscovering myself and perhaps who I will become. And I am discovering myself also as a single parent to my son who, even while schlepping to parent-teacher meetings, Adam’s team meetings, O.T., SLP and other like meetings in her Honda, enjoys her red lipstick and Coco Chanel. Discovery is a wonderful thing, and we can be many things to ourselves and to others. But most importantly, the best kind of travel and adventure is the kind where I know I still have Adam to come home to.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.