Geek Central

Last week-end, Mr Xmas threw a flat-warming party for his physicist and IT friends. It involved a lot of black casual-wear, a few ironic t-shirts, crisps, beer, and because this is still France, foie-gras on toast. Voilà.

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Actually, it was good fun…

Ooh, and my cleavage entertained a few riveting conversations about code.

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Fog

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Tonight, everything is quiet. Outside the city drips, inside the dishwasher chugs, and the fridge whines -no, seriously, my fridge does whine – in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s trying to say something…

Life has been a whirl lately.

Last week, I celebrated my birthday, sitting outside in a t-shirt with my colleagues. It felt like the weather had decided to forego Winter altogether, and go directly to Spring.

An hour later, I resigned. Nothing to do with the weather (or my colleagues), but the paperwork for my next job came through: A dubious birthday present, committing me to another fixed-term contract, assorted with a charming 60% pay-cut.

This interesting situation is about to propel me into the very-financially-challenged sub-section of the French population, which albeit I’m sure will be a sociologically-worthy experiment, I’m not particularly looking forward to.

Over the weekend, I flew to the UK to see a dear friend sob her way through her wedding vows. And for the first time ever, the thought of mariage made me feel like a deer caught in headlights, paralysed, terrified, trapped. Bearing in mind that I’m the girl who keeps pictures of wedding gowns and fairtrade rings on a secret Pinterest board, this was somewhat unsettling.

The mood remained decidedly grown-up as I caught up with three more friends, all confronted with the kind of grief that forces you to cherish life – one is lost after the sudden death of her father last Spring, one was about to leave her alcoholic husband when her father died a couple of weeks ago, and the last one is seeing a close friend lose her battle against cancer at the grand age of 42.

Back home, Winter has arrived: clouds are low and the wind has a new bite. Mister Xmas and I are still trudging along, one day at a time: It would seem I’m the one fleeing commitment… And this feels completely disorientating.

As I wait for the fog to lift, and for some sense of direction to return, this song has me under its spell:

Lana Del Rey – West Coast

Notice

What is more embarrassing than handing in your notice at work ?

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Handing in your notice an hour after your colleagues gave you lovely flowers for your birthday.

Resigning 2 (2)

Penelope and me

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Mountain top by Lady E

It is the end of the week, and my daughter’s birthday. Five years ago, a tiny, mewing person rested on my chest for a first dazed cuddle. Today, the little person hopped around in excitement all day, and condescended to eating vegetables without a fight because, you know, Anna in Frozen does not argue about vegetables.

Otherwise, my head is swimming.

Life this year got so close to becoming a Hollywood romantic comedy (starring Penelope Cruz as me, why not hey) that I am still expecting the credits to roll any moment now:

  • Mid-film, Mr Nice (played by Jude Law) and I would rather inexplicably separate in the midst of floods of tears and music by Tom Mc Rae (tick)
  • Mr Nice would go on to behave like a complete moron (tick)
  • My close, kindly friend Mr Xmas would step-in, sweep me off my feet and admit to falling in love the moment we met a few years back (tick)
  • Mr Xmas and Penelope/me would stand on a mountain-top at sunset. I would feel light, excited, and serene all at once (tick – in fact, above is a photo of said mountain-top just before said sunset). The camera would circle overhead, the music crescendo to something heady and full of violins, then cut to:
  • Scenes of whatever crap new couples do in romantic comedies (which oddly enough always seems to involve shopping centres, rain and Christmas – does anyone know why?), before we move in together, get married on a beach and live happily ever after, whilst Mr Nice sits dejectedly in bed with the flu. Huhuhuhu!…

Except cut. This is not what happens.

In my none-Hollywood, French-Alpine life, I am plagued with doubt about the nature of my feelings for Mr Xmas, who becomes scared of losing me, whilst I feel miserable about hurting him. We hobble along on a slippery crest, trying to balance his legitimate expectation (of simply being loved back), and my inability to give him what he needs.

Will my feelings grow over time ? Deep inside, I cannot feel any certainty, and the weight of it is dragging me down.

Aphex Twin – Avril 14th

A few flakes of beauty before Winter sets in.

Neuroscience and the baobab

My baby baobab

My baby baobab

The rain tip-taps on the skylights, soaked leaves dance in the wind.

I have an hour left to churn out three job applications, and zero motivation.

Doubt is seeping through me like a cold drizzle: This is not the life I wanted.

Ha, hang on a second, I can feel a bit of mid-life crisis coming on: Watch this space, as I will probably buy a Hermès bag, and take up wingsuit flying next.

Erm, ok but anyway, what’s that got to do with neuroscience and baobabs ?

Well, for once baobab trees are the symbol of a small Western African country called Senegal, where people are incredibly resourceful and athletic, and baobabs can grow incredibly old and large.

Secondly, I spent what was arguably the best week ever with Mr Nice a year ago in Senegal.

Thirdly, on our last day, I bought a cute baby baobab from a woman who said it would probably struggle to survive in Europe.

A year on, the baobab is flourishing (and will probably outlive us all at this rate), while Mr Nice has turned into someone else, and my anterior cingulate cortex is having a party.

Wow wow wow, hang on a second, your what? Have you also been smoking those baobob leaves?

Hold on, you Heathen, here comes the explanation:

Your anterior cingulate cortex (ACC if you two are close) sits in a part of your brain directly behind your brow – which I can tell is wrinkling up in concentration right now. Good. Bear with me.

Anyway, the ACC is involved in a variety of biological functions such as regulating heart rate and blood pressure, as well as cognitive functions such as consciousness and registering the intensity of physical pain. In fact, its activation is what makes it difficult to do anything when you’re in pain.

And guess what else sends your ACC into a party ? Yup, heartbreak. So there you go, this is why heartbreak feels a bit like simultaneously stubbing your toes, shins and nails on sharp objects. And why my job applications are just not getting done right now.

More on the science of heartbreak :

Twilight

Photo by Manu Redcheex on Flickr

Photo by Manu Redcheex on Flickr

I drive back with the sun in my rear view mirrors. My daughter has finally gone to sleep.

After hours of her non-stop chattering, my mind can quietly wander over the walnut orchards, the hills, cattle and sleepy villages in the declining light.

Suddenly, the tallest mountain range emerges in front of us, rosy from its first dusting of snow.

By twilight, we reach the city. Tomorrow work and worries will resume, but just for a little while longer, I am still on holiday.

I park and open the door quietly, my house is lit and smells of dinner.

Mr Xmas’ arms close around me.

I am home.

Ok, I know, this song is of the sickening-marshmallow-feast variety, but what can you do, it just reminds me of Mr Xmas!