I used to suffer from pretty bad anxiety. My late husband, Jay, suffered from depression. He always told me that anxiety and depression were two sides of the same coin. When he died, though, my anxiety seemed to disappear. It was as though he “took it with him” I used to say. But now, almost six years later, I’m beginning to feel it rise up again.
So when I found out that my youngest daughter had her passport, money and debit card stolen in France this past Saturday night, that her friends had to go back to their study abroad program in another country and that she would be alone until the US Embassy opened on Monday, well, I nearly choked on the panic I felt.
Luckily, I didn’t get the calls in the middle of the night like her sister and father in the US did. (Anxiety for me is always worse in the night.) I found out when I woke up at 4am and glanced at a phone filled with Facebook messages from both my daughters.
I sat up straight and called my older daughter. She was in tears as she told me about her sister. She’d been carrying the weight of worry since no one could get a hold of me. She’d sent her sister the link for the US Embassy in Paris, all the credit card numbers and helped her think through possible options. I thanked my very responsible, deeply caring daughter and told her to go to sleep now, I was on it.
But I didn’t know at all what to do.
So I got out of bed and made coffee.
Then I found the file with my younger daughter’s first initial on it: “L.” I had a copy of her passport, copy of her visa, official birth certificate and all her study abroad papers. (One of the ways I combat anxiety is to try and be prepared, to plan ahead, to keep everything in order.) I called L and, as soon as I heard her voice, it was clear what I had to do.
I had to go to Paris.
L’s friend had paid for an Uber to Charles de Gaulle and we met at arrivals. When I scooped her up, I thought, What are we all doing so far from each other? Me and her and her sister and even their dad, my estranged ex-husband. She sent a photo from the taxi to her dad and sister of me: “Mom’s here.”
I’d booked a hotel on the way to the airport and when we got there, L took a piece of bread out of her bag–I didn’t know when I’d eat again. She took a bite and collapsed onto the bed.
As I watched my sleeping child, I wondered if this anxiety has been flaring up due to the logistics and details of so much travel. The three of us, flying toward each other and away, several times already this year. Our lives have become complicated without a home base. But I couldn’t dwell on my anxiety in Paris. I had to keep moving forward with one detail after the next.
I made a list, which always helps.
- cancel credit/debit cards
- dinner in neighborhood
- find out when embassy opens
- google map it
- acknowledge our good fortune at being able to pull this off
- early bed
“Because you were so provident to have these papers with you, we can process your replacement passport in 20 minutes,” said the woman at the US Embassy the next day. Wow. Since something I’d thought would take all day was over and our flights weren’t until the next morning, we had the whole day in Paris together.
So we walked in the freezing cold, had simple comfort food,
walked by Notre Dame and made our way to the Pompidou.
We had a simple dinner of avocado and smoked salmon on toast and tried to sleep before our 3 am hotel departure. I felt incredibly lucky to be next to L in a clean, warm hotel room. I thought of her going back to the study abroad program and about her sister back at home. Maybe enough is enough with all this international travel. Or just take a break from it for a while, simplify our lives a bit, try to manage a smaller world, figure out what home means to us as a family.
When I got back to Wales, I pulled out my notebook and began making a list for how to make that happen.
Thank you, Paris~