"She thinks that her life could be drawn as two intersecting lines: one horizontal, which charts everything that has happened to her, everything she's seen or heard at every instant, and the other vertical, with only a few images clinging to it, spiraling..."
— Annie Ernaux, Les Années
I've been reading a lot this past week, more than I have in months, really, and it feels incredible. Annie Ernaux is a writer I shared a lot about on social a few years ago when I first discovered her book, Les Années, or The Years, as the translated title goes. I was living out in France then, and doing my best to absorb the culture via its writers. She sure did the trick.
What I love about the French culture, which Annie echoes, is this deeper level of thinking. It feels like it's woven into their being over there. That may sound overly romanticized, but it isn't. Truly, my French friends have grown up in a way that, if you ask me, puts North American culture to shame.
Philosophy being a key part of their school curriculum is inspiring to me, for one. I wish ours was built like that here. And for two, from what I've seen first hand from my friends with children over there, French parents do a lot to encourage thought.
For example, they take their kiddos to museums on Sundays vs. the movies. And though I've no issue with the movies, museums are less passive in terms of consumption, and so thought and dialogue are encouraged, which I appreciate.
The other thing is I've seen how hunting around les puces, as they put it (that's markets), is a family tradition. One of my favourite ladies, photographer Mélanie Rey, told me that this was a way she'd spend time with her grandmother on the weekends. And if you were to explore her beautiful mind now, you'd see the effect—she also has the most beautiful collection of books (pictured below).
Oof, well. That was all a side tangent, spilled from my missing of that country. This is the first year since 2007, I believe, that I will not step foot on French soil. To anyone who doesn't know, my dad did further education there back when I was in grade 8, which kicked off my family's love for that country, and my repeated return. I'd do anything to go spend time in Emmanuelle's home again, admire her family as I eat tomatoes straight from her garden...
Back to Annie Ernaux, she's the sort of memoirist who's books are extraordinarily relatable. She mastered the art of using her own life to reflect the reader back to his/herself. Really, you can pick up and read any passage at all and find yourself staring at the lines, entranced, with your own inner wheels beginning to churn.
Or, at least, she does this for me. And here's what I really wanted to write about: what I took from the quote excerpted above is how we do so much with our days. So much! And yet, there are only some moments that we catalogue away.
I've been thinking about this a lot the past week, considering how many moments I've spent not really feeling alive because they've been spent staring into my cell phone. It's a bit scary, and I do not want that going forward.
(Note: Life is obviously not without its mundane moments. But I'm not talking about those. There's a low-grade beauty in mundanity. I'm moreso talking about diminishing the ungrounded, pointless ones.)
Which brings me to social media. I thought I may miss it this week, and so this realization that, in fact, I don't at all has surprised me. Maybe it'll come in time, but for now my heart is saying there's no space for it. I've freed up so much space for things that matter so much more—writing, working, intensifying my Ballet Beautiful routine, painting, and, notably, still communicating with people, but in a more meaningful way (i.e. via email with some writer pals, in person with my Toronto friends, or over video chat with those further away).
And I must say, work wise, I've never beared so much fruit. In literally all aspects of my multi-faceted career.
On that note, as I must get into work now, let me end by saying that this is a week I will catalogue away. Because it's been pivotal. I've felt nerves melt, had some truly beautiful conversations (especially with my novel-writing partner in crime Michelle Hughes), received huge support from people I'd consider to be mentors, and made friends with the other senior citizens that frequent this coffee shop I only recently stumbled on. Haha. But, well, I am 80-something years old inside.
All in all all, the moments that piecemealed this week have been felt, and so if you are considering taking a social media break, honestly consider it. Because it may just be impactful for you, my friend, too.
Header image by French artist Bruno Klein.