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really honest postcards from lyon: part five

Be sure to check Lip in two weeks for the final instalment of Really Honest Postcards from Lyon, April Smallwood’s six part series on life as a young Australian expatriate in France.

Image Credit: April Smallwood

Image Credit: April Smallwood

Dear JM,

What is the latest and how is your heart? I was watching a talk by author and social researcher Hugh Mackay at UOW yesterday and it was right up our alley. In it, he talks about the misguided way we privilege happiness above all other emotions and how horrible the phrase ‘I just want my kids to be happy’ is because the pressure of this expectation can be damaging. He posits that it’s not happiness that makes for the good life, but wholeness. All emotions have something to teach us, he says, and aiming for just one makes for a one-note life.

This theory speaks to me because screw the pursuit of happy-sunny-jovial. The majority of my life does not lie here. My hot spot is closer to the quiet-content-unsure belt. Sometimes, I like when sadness hits. It gives me an excuse to ball up and go out of sight. To listen to this album and wait for it all to blow over. East and I have been talking about this a lot lately; when he’s blue, he’ll opt for distractions like video games and whisky, while I will look for ways to feel as glum as possible. Generally, this is my way out. What’s your take?

Right now, I am all pissy because I asked Mum to find my wedding dress, somewhere in my old bedroom, in one of those cheap patterned bags for donated clothes. She had a look and then casually explained she didn’t have the patience for this sort of thing. I’m trying to locate it so my friend Stella can wear it to her wedding this October – my heart would swell to see her in it – but a dress hunt was just too much to ask.

Allow me to jump on a mother-issues tangent. (Don’t we love those?) I resent my mum for leaning on me while I was growing up, for making me the mother figure, for having to look after a capable woman who didn’t feel like doing so herself. As you know, a large part of me coming here to France was to put some distance between her and I. I’d hoped the 16,883km would make her more self-sufficient, and prove that she didn’t need me on call. Thankfully, that’s exactly what’s happened. We talk every other day, but it’s all, ‘What’s up?’ and not, ‘Help me live my life’. The less-glamorous reason for moving to France was so that we might have some semblance of a healthy relationship. It’s that whole ‘saying no to her is saying yes to me’ sort of thing.

There must be millions of us who mother our mothers. Add to that the way many Asian parents expect that their children look after them as soon as they’re able. I still struggle with this. My mum asks a lot of me, often more than is reasonable. Small, simple tasks that she has convinced herself she’s incapable of. There’s an internal voice that reminds me helping your parents is great, and another that quietly wishes I were the one being helped. So yeah, it appears I’ve severed this habit of being a mother to an adult woman. High-fives? My hope is that when I come home, I’m closer to my mother and that we continue to stand on our own feet.

This bleeds into a recent goal I’ve hatched of living unapologetically, and not apologising for being a daughter who wants to see the world. I want to give my own daughter the gift of looking after myself. I’ve never heard anyone say that before. Have you? It sounds basic as hell, but it is the core of most of my issues.

I pissed in a bush last week. I was mad at myself for my hesitation – dudes be pissing all over the city! So yeah, please accept my humble brag. What else? The group of friends I made at French school has largely dissolved. The course ended and everyone flew home – to Budapest, Munich, D.C. We had two of them over for pizza the night before their flights. When it got late, we sat at a popular lookout, drank funky beers and admired the hill. Javier said he was sad to be leaving, but that this was proof he’d had a good time.

I’ve loved it here too. I’ve decided that for a city to feel like yours, you need only make memories in its nooks. I’ve bonded with this place because I can point to multiple directions and relay some stupid thing that happened to me there. You keep telling me to not come home. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I don’t think I am. Not yet.

- April

You can read the rest of April’s Postcards here.

One thought on “really honest postcards from lyon: part five

  1. Update on the dress hunt: It was found, my friend will wear it to her wedding, my mama loaned her pearl earrings to go with. I feel like a douche. But hey.

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