My trainer had been asking me a couple of weeks ago, repeatedly, what I am doing for Valentine's Day--and telling me she needs to find me a date--though she knows full well that date is a four-letter word for me, way down low on the priority list, because like my situation with Excel spreadsheets, I (i) am hopelessly terrible at it, and (ii) have neither the patience nor mental energy or motivation to work on improving said lameness. And I would not have even thought much about this at all, but for her mentioning this at every one of our recent 6am workouts. Good thing that with all this "snow and ice" in Austin we have had to cancel some workouts, leaving some breathing room from the "let's find Liz a date" conversation as my abs are burning from plank walks with push-ups. And in these critical lead-up days to Valentine's Day, she has been sick, further diminishing the opportunities for having to listen to this.
Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, January 2013
Years and years and years ago, in the early post-divorce stage, my [awesome] therapist back then mused out loud if my renewed France focus, bubbbling up around that time with intense vigor, was an escape from dealing with all that other, harder stuff. I'm not saying it is, she said, just wondering. Right.
As much as I loved chatting with said therapist, it was finally time to leave that nest. Eventually some equilibrium was attained, and eventually I started to notice le 14 février kept coming around, again and again. And because of that annoying repetition, two years ago I chose to leave for a business trip to France on that day. That meant I enjoyed a Valentine's Day dinner meal contained in small plastic dishes, covered with foil, comprising mashed potatoes perfectly formed to the foil container and mushed into and around an unnaturally formed piece of chicken covered in a gelatinous brown sauce. The red wine was from a little plastic bottle.
I did this on purpose, thinking I'd wade on into pathos confidently. Whatever. It makes for a nice little vignette, barely, but the more important thing is I ended up in Paris. Where there is no barrage of Jared's commercials (or that Turbo Tax commercial this year that makes me weepy with that sweet little couple getting married, and all the adorable couple moments of carefree togetherness the commercial goes through to get to the point).
Walking over to, or maybe from, the Ile Saint-Louis, in the snow, January 2013
Only now, years later, I am willing to admit that said therapist may have been on to something. For many many years later, I would find myself questioning the personal life such that I thought my lodging in Paris for a business trip regarding the agricultural sector should envelop me cozily, like a big hug, and that would mitigate wasted energy in that arena. The fluffy down comforter in the studio was indeed super soft and comfy, but that escapist lodging choice turned into the place where I would stay for 30 hours straight with some vicious norovirus, but for a few minutes for the walk down to the high-end Monoprix on the rue du Bac to buy crackers, toast, more crackers, something close to ginger ale, and a bottle of bleach to sanitize for everyone else's protection the cool whites and greys of that very chic, little studio near the Serge Gainsbourg wall.
A small portion of the Serge Gainsbourg wall, 5, rue de Verneuil, Paris.
Some people reflect on their lives and how they are doing on all fronts--professionally, physically, spiritually, emotionally--on their birthdays or the start of a new calendar year. For me, that day of reflection tends to be Valentine's Day, perhaps because it has been such a longtime nemesis. This year, like last year, and much like last year's 2013 musings, I am not going anywhere for that day, which is not just fine but also very necessary given the overload of fun this past weekend squeezed into a working weekend.
On Valentine's Day Night 2014 I will probably be cozied up another way: pondering the new mantras for the year, and dealing with that other thing I'm really bad at--if not Excel spreadsheets per se, learning how to use Quicken, finally, and tackling a year's worth of bookkeeping for 2013.
Fortunately there is a little bit of France in the fridge to help with all that: a bottle of Taittinger.