Who knows?

No job under the tree this year

No job under the tree this year

I hang up after a few more polite thank-yous, and just sit at my desk, stunned.

The thing is, that I had become really excited about the prospect of my very own, much coveted, Christmas present: A permanent, well-paid position, with a good strategic slant and room for development, all wrapped with a shiny bow, and my name on it…  After three interviews and enthusiastic feedback, I had rather foolishly allowed myself to believe in Santa.

Triple pants!

It’s no consolation that I apparently missed the job by a thread, I feel like rolling on the floor and kicking: Not fair!

So it’s back to square one, to my upcoming six months contract on a laughable wage, having to scrimp on Christmas presents, and constantly worry about the future.

Ooh, and just to make it clear: I’ll punch anyone who dares utter something along the lines of “onwards and upwards”, or “something else will come along”. Ha!

Alright, alright, perhaps, I am reluctantly aware that my situation is not a dent on err… , say South Sudan, but still, being a grown-up sucks sometimes.

And the confidence bubble that had for a while lifted the fog, and put my relationship with Mr Xmas back on sunnier tracks has kind of popped. I am back to doubt, not knowing what I want, or where to go.

Right, methinks it’s time for an old classic by The La’s because really, who the f***k knows what the future holds?

Anyway, come on, give me your ideas of songs that can bring a smile to your face when you’re feeling down?

The La’s – Who knows?

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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.

GC1

Actually, it was good fun…

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

GC2

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

Penelope and me

IMG_0575

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 :

Peace

imageIt has been a quiet sort of week.

The kind I had not known in a long, long time.

I stayed at my family’s holiday home near Montpellier, on the Mediterranean edge of France.

Time slowed to a gentle pace, punctuated by mealtimes with the children, who inevitably bemoaned the unfairness of having to eat courgettes, or pumpkin soup…

Before vanishing again in a flock of my cousins’ children, to cook elaborate mud, gravel and mint-based delicacies for the five-year old, or to hotly dispute table tennis tournaments, and occasionally give me pre-teen attitude about the unfairness of having to go to bed before everyone else, or not owning a smartphone like everyone else for the 11-year-old.

Most afternoons involved sitting on the beach, chatting and baking in the sun, while children splashed about in the sea… A million miles away from the notion that back home in the Alps, Winter is on its way, and that I really need to find my next job in a pretty crappy job market.

Evenings saw assembled relatives -clutching mugs of the garden’s lemon verbena infusion, discuss grandchildren and weather forecasts.

I did not let the sum of my preoccupations go beyond menus for the next day, and how much resistance to vegetables I was prepared to put up with from my offspring. I let myself forget.

It’s been a kind of week when recent trauma recedes, and every breath yields peace.

This song has been my soundtrack:

Archive – Controlling crowds

Guess who…

… Came for dinner the other night ?

Are you sitting down ?

Ok, no, don’t get that excited, it wasn’t Channing Tatum… Indeed, it was only T. I’ll let you get over the anti-climax for a moment.

But still, can you believe it ? The man who broke my heart and our family in hideous ways, before dumping my son came for dinner … and it was actually ok.

At times, it felt as though the last time we’d had dinner together as a family was the night before, rather than just under two years ago. It felt a bit surreal, a bit sad too, as little details of what was nice about our life together came flooding back.

But overwhelmingly, it was good. The children were happy, I actually felt relaxed, T and I have definitely entered a new phase: We get on well, in spite of everything that has happened.

When after a steep climb, I contemplated the breathtaking view from a local mountain-top last weekend, I felt dizzy with how much it felt like looking down at my proverbial past (well, it may have had something to do with low blood-sugar too).

But anyway, if you’d told me a year ago that I would be inviting T for dinner, and actually mildly enjoying the experience, I would have scoffed. But there it is, as incredible as it may sound, I have mostly forgotten what pain and despair felt like.

I remember how much I hated and feared this man, in much the same way I remember crushing his hand in agony after our daughter was born, swearing that I would never do this again. It feels so distant, so far away, as though all this was lived by a different me…

I haven’t taken leave of my senses though, and for anyone who is wondering, there is no way I could let him back into my life. I have some self-respect.

Right, ready for a little boogie ? This song is totally addictive and has had me shaking it uncontrollably.

The black keys – Lonely boy