Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Reconnecting myself with Paris

I donít think about Florence when I am in Paris and I donít think about Paris when Iím in Florence. I try to always be as present as possible wherever I am. I feel more alive when I use my senses to embrace and enjoy my surroundings as well as the local culture and language. When I am having coffee with a friend, I like to be connected to her for the time we share together. I donít want to be thinking about someone else or about what Iíll be doing afterwards. I want to be fully present with her so that I can fully enjoy the moments we share. The same goes for wherever I am, whether it is Florence, Paris, or some other city. I want to create a connection and forge a bond between the city and me.

Me, My Heart, and I :: Reconnecting myself with Paris

Sometimes when Iím walking down the street in Paris or navigating my way through the narrow halls of the mťtro station, I feel as if I have always been in Paris. A strong sense of familiarity comes over me. I feel almost as if I have only ever lived in Paris and that no other place exists. I know that I do the same when Iím in Florence because sometimes I canít believe I live there and yet it too is so familiar and ďnormalĒ for me now.

In Paris, I am fully immersed in French: everything I hear, read, think about, and say is in French. For me, being immersed in the language is also a way of being completely engaged in the place where I am. Itís my way of connecting to it on multiple levels. I donít just connect because I am in a place physically, but because I dive into the language, culture and customs too.

I didnít think I would miss Paris much after being away for only nine months, but I did. Ever since I returned to Florence last November, I chose not to make any plans to return to Paris. I needed my beloved city to hold me in her embrace to nurture and revitalize me. All that flip-flopping between the two cities took its toll on me. I felt a bit disconnected because I was packing up my bags every two weeks to go to my other home. I eventually grew weary of it all and chose to take a break. To me, that meant returning to Florence to get grounded again.

If it wasnít for a friend of mine who asked me to take care of her cat for a couple of weeks last August, I might not have returned to Paris at all this year. I was eager to come to Paris last August because itís my favorite time of year to visit the city. You almost feel like youíre in a dream when you are in Paris in August: the sun sets late in the evening, the streets are practically empty, the mťtro isnít crowded, and the city is a bit quieter. You get to tap into the city without all the hustle and bustle. I enjoyed my time in Paris so much that I extended my stay by a week.

At the beginning of this month, I decided to stop in Paris on my way back to Florence after a trip to England. I had planned to only stay a week in Paris, but once again I extended my trip by an extra couple of weeks. A week just didnít feel long enough for me to truly connect to Paris. Itís almost as if Paris is a good friend of mine I donít see often, but when I do, itís as if no time has passed. I just wanted to connect even longer to Paris while I was here.

In both cities, I enjoy connecting to them by myself. I love walking around both to feel each cityís energy, to open myself up to the sights, smells, and sounds around me, and to follow any inklings to go in one direction or another. While Iím in Paris now, I enjoy navigating different parts of the city by hopping on and off the mťtro and meandering the streets in my free time. I love discovering new places to go to and meeting new people. Itís almost as if Iím looking for other ways to connect to Paris.

Even though Florence is my home and probably my great love as far as cities go, I know that a part of me has been missing Paris and has wanted nothing more than to return for a while. During this trip, I realized that Florence inspires me to listen to my heart while Paris inspires me to act on what my heart whispers to me. I needed all that time in Florence to not only listen to my heart, but also to honor it more. I needed this time in Paris to nudge me to begin acting on achieving my desires.

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