Patience, Patience, Patience - The Journey Continues
It’s only funny after the Fact.
For the past six months we have been dreaming, planning, praying, cleaning closets, and trying to make something happen. Anything. We had hoped our book would be sold and ready to go to publication. We had planned on Jean's dissertation being done in the early spring. We had planned that our house would be sold by early April. And we definitely counted on the springtime in Provence to be sunny.
If there is anything we have learned here this past 6 months, it is the fact that you have no control over timing and you do indeed have to be very careful what you wish for.
Jean had been planning to have his dissertation completed by the beginning of April. On March 15, he received an email that the lab that analyzed some of his biomarker data (for hormone levels) had found additional specimens that would have to be included in his statistical analysis. Two months work had to be redone with new statistics and a revision of Chapter's 4 and 5. At least an additional two month's work.
It’s one of those times when you have to put your feelings on hold and just persevere and do what has to be done one day at a time. I could see him about to fall apart as he heard the news.
“Why is this happening to me? I did everything right.”
I gave him a day to be pissed, angry, depressed, and drink himself into a stupor with a bottle of his favorite red merlot. We massaged his neck, took him for a walk, and talked about the fact that whenever we try to control something, it resists.
Day by day through April, May, and June he has been chipping away with Zoé’s and my support. (Even though she told him she is going to throw the computer out the window when he is done). Yes, she has not gotten the attention she loves and has become accustomed to. (That is another story).
Patience, patience and well the new additional data does make his research so much stronger (the bright side?)
OUR HOUSE IN ST. QUENTIN-LA-POTERIE
Meanwhile we put our house on the market a year ago and still nothing was happening. The credit market was tight, the English weren’t buying with the rising pound and the Americans were too poor with the exchange rate. Jean went out to seek advice on what to do.
“The French will buy and they don’t care if it needs some remodeling.”
“You’ll sell faster if they can put their suitcases down and move in.”
“The agents here are useless, sell it yourself.”
Then the conversations started to go to contingency planning. Should we try to rent it out, instead of selling it? Do we want to do that? We probably couldn’t sell for another three years if that is so with the market and we are ready to move on. The discussions continued. I wasted hours on the internet searching sites, placing us on sites, and answering potential customer inquiries from abroad for those surfing for their dream.
By this time we had recognized that in the long-term our house is not the right house for us. We want a home on one level, a garden, a view, and a swimming pool. Where, we weren't quite sure, as we know so many people, love the peaceful slow pace of living. but also recognize our ability to work where we are and make good money (without traveling all the time) was not possible in this area. The Euro dollar exchange was putting a major damper on living and could not be continued for much longer.
Through numerous discussions, Jean and I realized that this home we have had for 15 years has been fantastic as a second home and has allowed us to live here inexpensively for three. But it was time now for something different. What we don't know exactly, but something different for the next phase of life.
SLOW AND STEADY
The entire spring in the south of France mirrored how we were feeling, wet, drizzly, rainy, stormy, and moments of sunshine. We forgot what it is like when it is so gray (in reality and metaphorically).
“We need to stay on our path. It will happen.” - A moment of spiritual awareness
“I’m so depressed. Why isn’t anything happening.” A moment day of total frustration.
“I’m so tired. I can’t stand being in ambiguity.” A day of pissiness.
“Let’s be in the now and enjoy.” Back to a day of enjoyment
“What is their problem?” A day of frustration with the way things work.
“We have to let go of trying to control. A moment of awakening!
And on and on the suggestions went. Recognizing that our buyer might want to just move in and not do any restoration, we opted last summer to repair the roof and redo all the ceilings. They were beautiful and we thought that would beckon a buyer. The kitchen, however, was an eyesore from our decorating attempts 15 years ago. At the time we bought the house we were so mesmerized with the golden sunflower fields that we decided to paint our kitchen a bright, brilliant sunflower yellow covering and rough crêpi wallpaper that hurt when you touched it. At the time we just couldn’t figure out how to remove or cover up the wallpaper.
Living in a house for 15 years each summer, one forgets what it actually looks like to someone else. We so forget what our own home looks like as we close our eyes to the mess, the color, the disorganization and only seem to wake up once it is remodeled.
Fighting our budget we decided we had to bite the bullet and fix the electricity, plaster over the kitchen and living room walls a smooth white plaster and change the color scheme from a bright provencal yellow and green and blue(don’t ask again what we were thinking - a colorful stage) to a soft vanilla white.
Through the electrician, Jean found someone who with a machine, in two days, would plaster over the crêpi wallpaper and give us a smooth complete finish. (And why didn’t we do this three years ago?) Wanting to live in simplicity and keeping costs low, we were blind to living in our sunflower yellow kitchen.
Shockingly when we saw the kitchen we cried at its transformation and smooth look. It almost felt Mediterranean and adobe like. This is what we needed to sell the house. We knew it.
Remind us again why we didn't do this before?
Seller's remorse came up for discussion once in awhile, but once we rediscussed the reasons we wanted to sell; Jean wanted one level versus 3, a garden, pool for longterm living and a good rental, we knew it was the right decision. Where and when, we don't know, but time is on our side if we have cash in hand to buy something else.
The constant rains of March, April, and May were also keeping us in a fog; what was the world coming to, when the south of France didn’t have sunshine in the springtime. What did we need to do or not do to get the energy flowing.
THE ENERGY STARTS TO FLOW
One day in mid May a 50ish woman, wrapped in a purple dress and pink shawl, with long grey hair flowing down her back flew into our courtyard after calling us 30 minutes earlier.
“I’ve heard about your house from your Yoga teacher. It sounds perfect for me.” (A good sign we thought- a yoga referral).
“I’m changing my life and moving down from Paris. I’m a comedian, teacher, and actress.”
In the next 30 minutes we learned (mostly Jean in French) that she had been looking for houses for 5 days and decided a village house was best for her since she was single. She took a quick tour of the house and pronounced. “This is my house.”
After leaving, I asked Jean. “Do you think she had a good look?”
The next day she called to offer us a reduced price of 15% lower. Already we were selling it direct and there would be no agent’s fee so she was getting a great deal already. She explained she had sold her apartment in Paris and had the cash. (Cash does talk)!
Jean explained we were waiting for another couple to look at the house and wanted to wait.
“Again, I have cash.” She said. I have cash.”
Answering the phone, I replied. “Are you willing to go 5,000 Euro more?
“Yes,” She replied!
“We did it.” I screamed. “I think after a year we sold the house. The kitchen did it! I knew it!”
“Okay, things are moving, but one step at a time.”
Boy were those famous last words.
The next week, Jean is working furiously on the dissertation to complete it as soon as possible. Numerous revisions, feelings of never being able to please, exhausted with styles and standards that take hours to correct and have nothing to do with the dissertation, he was at the end of his rope.
“I am being tested.”
“The energy is moving.” I had to remind him. “At least it is moving and not standing still or raining like the weather.”
Within the week, Jean got the inspector over (600 Euro later) and we were ready to sign with the buyer at the Notaries’ office. That Wednesday, we had an appointment. She was to come look at the house again, meet a possible renter, and go over the furniture she wanted to buy.
Three hours later (when I came home with Zoé from ballet) Jean looked exhausted. He had been managing her emotions, handling her overwhelm and basically helping her to put one foot in front of the other. By 2:30 we walked across the street to the notaries’ office.
Listening in French I was somewhat pleased I could understand 50% of what she said. That plus some body language clued me in to what was going on. Evidently the notaire had to read off everything that could go wrong with the house. The roof had a little room under it that the inspector didn’t know about and had to get into it. Could we cut a hole in the side wall? (French bureaucracy we said to each other later)
Bien sûr! We said. Of course. Anything to keep it going.
The house needed surveying as it was connected to another house and there was a new law in place.
Bien sûr!, of course we said…
Oh and the financing was not as easy as we thought as the house sale was contingent on another house sale and her apartment.
We thought it was all done? What was going on.
Meanwhile, Anna, was turning pink, red, sweating profusely and waving her hands.
Out burst a wind of emotions and fears. Her life story was revealed; her handicapped adult daughter, her husband who died when she was 24, her work, her life.
There comes a time when you know it is better to wait and be patient. Again we were learning patience.
A meltdown in the notaire’s office led to a decision to postpone the signing. If she decided we could send the papers to her notaire’s office in Paris.
Leaving the office, we went back to the house and I calmly told Anna to sit on the terrace before her train left and walk through the house again. I sat her down and placed a bowl of cherries on the table.
Mangez les souris.” I said… Jean burst into laughter at her face. I had just offered her mice to eat instead of cherries (cerises)…
Okay, maybe the mice will do it I said in the car… Anything to help the woman!!!
Zoé hearing the story, promptly went into teaching me how to pronounce cerise. She was laughing and mortified at the same time.
The next day she calls and says, “I want the house. I’m sending a friend to look at it.”
Fine we said. Let’s hope the friend thinks it’s a good house for her.
Madame arrived three days later, an elegant older French woman who had lived in England for 30 years. Her daughter was a mathematician at Stanford, and spoke fluent English but only would speak French as we were in France… After touring the house. She exclaimed
“Delightful. It is perfect for her. “She went on to explain that Anna wanted to buy her house but she told her it was not right for her. She needed to be in a village. She was too fragile.
Meanwhile Jean contacted the builder to put a hole in the wall so he could peek his little head in and say,”all clear.” Even the builder said it was stupid. But that is some of France bureaucracy and the law, he informed us.
The geometricians (surveyor) came and let us know he needed to get into the house above.
Another obstacle … another day. Jean called the owner to get access from the renters with more delays, more conversation and more negotiation.
“Oh you also need another survey because the house on top is over 50 years old.”
Another call, another negotiation with the neighbor to open up his apartment and another check written.
Finally we got the call to come and sign. She now has 7 days to back out after that all is on track.
We pray for 7 more days.
We clean, we attend the vide de grenier, Jean continues to work and we try to stay sane.
Impossible, but we try.
Having targeted to finish the book, we were nearly there. We were feeling elated and ready to send out for reviews.
Then we got some feedback. Some important feedback. Some feedback we couldn't ignore.
We have a good book, but we needed to go deeper, add more tension, more drama, more emotion.
"You know I don't want to do this, but she is right."
"I know, I dont' either. But if we want a great book we need to listen to the feedback."
Recognizing we were up to our eyeballs in the sale of the house, Jean's dissertation, and the move, the revisions would have to be put on hold. Setting a plan in place we will get additional feedback from some reviewers and focus on the revisions in August and September. Ce la vie. Again, Patience, patience, patience. The harder we push, the more something resists.!!
The problem is we are ready to start the next book and still have to finish this one... Oh well .. the life of the writer!
Jean's Dissertation Defense
Coming down to the last week of Jean’s preparation for his defense he is working arduously at completing the final revisions and preparing his 80 slide PowerPoint. (Later reduced to 40 at the urgence of his professor). All of a sudden, I hear.
“Oh shit, my keyboard, I just spilled some water on it.”
“Quick, go get the hair dryer see if you can dry the water drops.”
The hairdryer plugged in, Jean turns the nozzle over the keys and a bomb of little plastic keys blow off the keyboard right into his face and the air. “Poof, Poof, Poof.”
“My keyboard just blew up.” He said with such shock.
“Oh my ___” I said wide-eyed laughing at the site of the keys blowing up all around and turning into dust. “Poof, Poof, Poof,” went 3 more.
“I guess it’s time you finish your defense.” I said. “Those keys are overworked.”
And so we coped for the next week buying 3 different French keyboards in which Jean had to look at the keys as they were in different places than the American keyboard. Virus protection kept screaming and little “2” showed up when he typed.
“Forget it.” He said and continued typing on the little silver knobs that looked like half sawed off fingers.
“I am being tested. If I can get through this, I can do anything.”
And so we persevered and we are happy to announce that we now have a second doctor in the house. Introducing, Dr. Jean P. Roux, Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychologist and Neuropsychologist.
Oh and the house is on the way to being sold… Now we just have to clean out, sell more stuff, give it away and pack some suitcases. This time we have learned that it is easier and more freeing to get rid of stuff than keep it in storage. A few pieces of art and pottery is all we are keeping at a friends house and otherwise we will leave with the clothes on our backs and our computers with one keyboard with knobby half sawed off keys.
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
The other night we started crying talking to our English friends who we have known in the village for 15 years.
"I can't pop around for a quick kir" I said bursting into tears
"I love it here."
"I love it here."
So what is going on. Well, we aren't sure except we are trusting our inner compass and taking it one step at a time. At this stage we are planning less and letting the tide take us with a general sense of options. We have the world open to us and we truly can do anything we want to do, live anywhere we want, and create the work we want that will give us the lifestyle we want. There may be (will be) stops along the road, stepping stones, twists and turns, but today we are feeling okay, feeling we are ready for the next phase of life.
Stay tuned... who knows what is next!!!
Oh by the way, you do get what you ask for.
Jean always said he wanted to finish everything and stay in the house until Zoe's last day of school. Well, he received his PhD. June 20, our book is on the way and Zoe finishes school July 3 and we are signing and moving out that day. Plus it's our 25th marriage anniversary - May the next 25 years be the best to come!