This Strange Summer

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I had plans for the summer. I was going to solve all the issues my family is facing, then relax, write a manuscript or two, work as usual, be the perfect mother and spend some quality time with Feng.

Holy shit, I’m exhausted—and not from accomplishing any of the above-mentioned tasks.

I failed. I didn’t solve anything and I absorbed emotions. Now I’m stressed out too and I feel completely powerless. Any shrink worth his salt would probably ask for €100/hour to remind me I’m not in charge of my parents and other relatives and I’m not responsible for solving issues I’m not even directly involved in. But nonetheless, I feel it’s my duty to do so—and for my own peace of mind, I like to know my loved ones are doing okay.

I resent the fact that I’m technically the child and I end up parenting my parents and older relatives. I wanted to feel loved, safe and supported. Everything is changing too fast and it looks like my French world is shattering.

Certain things will never go back the way they used to be and they could go either way—worse or better.

“How are you dealing with this?” I asked my younger brother this week.

“I don’t think I am dealing with it,” he replied. “I try to… make sense out of all the information, prioritize issues. I step back and avoid thinking about it. And in case of emergency, I’m closer than you—a two-hour train ride.”

“Is the situation… I mean, are the situations, plural, stressing you out as well?” I asked my younger sister earlier this summer.

She lit up a cigarette. “Yeah.”

“And…?”

She shrugged and rolled another cigarette.

Clearly, none of us found the perfect way to handle stress.

I cried a few times this summer, mostly at awfully inconvenient time, like at the dinner table—even though we were among adults, I couldn’t help wondering if there was an adult in the room.

Do you ever feel like absolutely no one has any idea how to deal with life and we’re all making it up as we go along? Do you find it as terrifying as I do?

There were plenty of happy moments, though. We laughed, we had fun in Paris, we spent time together and I did disconnect from work.

It was worth it, in the end.

Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, Quai de la Fosse, Nantes

Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, Quai de la Fosse, Nantes

Titan Crane, Île de Nantes

Titan Crane, Île de Nantes

Grey crane, Île de Nantes

Grey crane, Île de Nantes

Saint-Anne from Trentemoult

Saint-Anne from Trentemoult

Place des Filets, Trentemoult

Place des Filets, Trentemoult

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Crossing the Loire River from Trentemoult to Nantes

Rue de la Marne, Nantes

Rue de la Marne, Nantes

Rue de la Fosse, Nantes

Rue de la Fosse, Nantes

Place de la Bourse, Nantes

Place de la Bourse, Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai des Antilles, Île de Nantes

Quai Président Wilson, Île de Nantes

Quai Président Wilson, Île de Nantes

Quai Président Wilson, Île de Nantes

Quai Président Wilson, Île de Nantes

Château des Ducs de Bretagne, Nantes

Château des Ducs de Bretagne, Nantes

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

12 Comments

    • In my case, this year, it was the opposite–everything is changing too fast! But I get the “nothing changes” (i.e. people don’t change) feeling once in a while too.

  1. Most families have their own issues, big or small. I have a big family, but being the youngest, I probably don’t feel as much responsible as you. I roughly know what is going on in my family in Malaysia, and have to face them when I’m there. The only thing I offer is to listen, sometimes my opinions, but seldom a solution. I feel that, being far away, I can’t overseeing what is going to happen and face the consequences, I might as well shut my mouth.

    My husband sometimes tells me it is very painful to know that one is more matured than one’s parents. People still have childish behavors no matter how old they are.

    • I wouldn’t say my relatives are childish but they lack another perspective. Their respective stories are twisted together and common sense got lost somewhere along the way. It’s sometimes easier for me to provide support because I have a new eye on issues/characters they face every day.

  2. Cecile Puertas on

    Tu as déjà tout compris. Ce n’est pas ton rôle de trouver une solution, même si il s’agit de tes parents 2 personnes que tu aimes énormément.
    Tu as donné tout ce que tu pouvais : ta présence, de l’écoute, et de l’empathie.
    Fais confiance au temps et à la capacité de résilience de chacun et chacune pour que ces blessures passent.

  3. I hate to say this, but the old cliche is true. Time heals all wounds. Well, sort of anyway?
    Everyone will eventually find their way through all the upheaval, adapt and find their new normal. Hopefully, it will be easier next year!
    Probably doesn’t help you much just now, maybe being back in Canada and having a bit of distance again will?
    I learned a long time ago that all I can do is offer a sympathetic ear, give advice, use my “outsider” lense to provide some solutions. But at the end of the day I am not responsible for how other people chose to behave and I can’t be responsible for them.
    In my own life too, I try my best to listen and learn but we all sometimes pigheadidly make mistakes…
    I’m sure you helped more than you think you have. And crying, even at random time, is normal when facing crisis situations!

    • You’re wiser than I am! I always have a mental block with “time heals”, I wish I could speed up time. Maybe I’m not patient enough.

      You dealt with your own share of French crisis (how is your brother doing these days?), so you know what you’re talking about 🙂

      • Easier to say that when you’re not the one dealing with a “new normal”. I often wish I could skip ahead through the transition period… But I guess they are when we learn our lessons?

        He’s doing so much better than what was expected at the start of it all. But it’s still very complicated, and probably will always be.
        I’m going back in October and I’m hoping he will let me visit

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