A cool wind is blowing through my big bedroom door/windows all the way across the apartment to the other big door/windows on the front side. I am inordinately fond of this white bedroom, my little balcony, our fourth floor views and a plain small kitchen straight out of every Truffaut movie. But now it is time to transition again from resident to traveler and I am finding it much harder than usual.
We have lived in this apartment since last fall but, because of confinement, I have lived or resided or been squeezed into this apartment like no other place I have lived. I walked hundreds of kilometers in my one kilometer radius and my son and I have sat on every corner of the floor, on all the various furnitures for probably more hours than an average year in our lives. We are go-outers normally. Not so domestic. Every since he was a tiny imp, I have ridden all around town with him rather than sit on a couch. But not this year.
Did you know that cocooning was a term invented by the futurist and marketer Faith Popcorn in 1987 and has been quite popular in France. Le cocooning was very in fashion this spring of 2020. When I came to Toulouse I was broken-hearted, bereft, and planning a year where more of my life would be spent doing the things I love. Here in this apartment I have filled many notebooks, cried online with my writing friends, taught and practiced yoga with people from all over the world and seen my son grow from child to young man. Our dynamic has shifted to a place where we both look out for each other. He wants me to have fun and he nags me a tiny bit when I say I’m going to go running and then I dither. When we first arrived here, I was the only nagger.
Here in this apartment I have had long meandering conversations with people I love dearly. I have listened to my mother’s stories about the war years in Germany, I have commiserated with some broken-hearted friends, and I have discovered a whole group of new and lovely Zoom colleagues/friends/peers/people I now love.
In March, I finally got my nerve up to come out of my social cocoon, to go meet strangers, to go dancing more, to try new things late at night. And then confinement and my physical cocoon became a government mandate. A few more months without really seeing new people. And now it is time to step out of this home, to step out of the fall/winter of my heart and soul, and to get back on the proverbial dance floor. But I am reluctant. I am procrastinating. I am dragging my feet.
I have packed up most of my things and gotten rid of the pants with holes and the socks that no longer fit my larger child. Tonight I am going to a different place and many adventures await. The future in the US scares me. Classrooms and masks and breathing and counting are not something I look forward to with much joy. My French cocoon has served me well but there is no room to dance in this apartment. I have scrubbed the little heel marks off of the wall where I did so many handstands and I have scrubbed the little wheel marks off of the wall where my son parked his skateboard. It is time to say goodbye and pull back into the larger stream.
And so, sitting here with one last pile of laundry to do and a few more notebooks to sort, I think of how hard it is for all of us to leave the spaces of safety and recommence our lives. The future is not pretty but it is also not homogenous nor small. I hope to step back into it like I step onto a crowded dance floor in Buenos Aires, with a supportive hand on my back, with a slight nod from the other dancers, with excitement and great, great patience, and a fullness of breath and listening to the music to remind me that the first step, even just the stillness of the first breath together, is the dance itself.