Prendre du recul

Sometimes you need to step back to gain perspective. Look at things from a different angle. That’s the beauty of going to different places. You see things differently. And it can be life-changing.

‘Prendre du recul’, the French expression for putting things in perspective, is helping me see what’s important during this time of transition. To ask: what do you wish for, really, and what can you jettison? And who: the people you care about and the ones you keep up with for form’s sake. What are the things (especially self-imposed) that are holding you back? I know I want less of some things (screen time, self-flagellation) and more of others (physical world, joyful pursuits, real-world connections). And I see how I’ve been turning in circles on certain things, like my current writing project, a novel of which I’ve written two-thirds of a draft but not felt committed to for the past several months.

It’s been a funny old time for me lately. Sort of like being in the Twilight Zone. As we settle in to our new apartment in Switzerland, our house in France sits empty. We’ve left it, but it’s still ours. A cord has yet to be cut.

Since we moved a few weeks ago I’ve felt half way between two lives, the new one chosen and the old one abandoned. It’s not that these two lives are so different. My work is the same as ever, although there are a great may things to accomplish to complete my relocation in Switzerland. I see a lot more of my husband, that familiar face of thirty years but which has been so often absent of late. But it is a different country, a new language of which I know nothing. Even though the locals are mostly willing to help me out with some English. And when they can’t, Google Translate is my guide.

What else is different? No masks around here, although you see the same information signs about the virus and hand sanitizing stations by the entrances to all the shops. Each canton does its own thing and here in mostly rural Schwyz, mask-wearing is not a thing. Unless on trains which is nationally mandated. I’ve worn a mask a few times when shopping and quickly felt like a pariah. I suspect it will soon be dropped.

Yet when we were back in Geneva last weekend, masks were mandatory everywhere indoors. Being so close to the border with France, and with an uptick in cases in Suisse Romande (Cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Fribourg), it was almost like being back in France. Without the endless debate over every last thing the government is doing. (When I heard they were closing all restaurants and bars again in France this week, it felt like another world.)

Last week’s trip had been arranged around our house sale, which then fell through. But we had to go back to the house anyway. Make sure that everything was okay. Pick up the mail and consider next steps. In the meantime one of the buyers has decided to go it alone and the sale may still happen. More on that later.

Besides, it was our son’s birthday. Perspective, again. There were candles to blow out and champagne to be drunk. Which we did in socially distanced fashion outdoors on a beautiful, warm night. Surely the last of the season.

It’s officially fall now and the weather has decided to align with the calendar. The days are cooler and after two weeks of sun it is raining here where I am. I don’t know what it’s doing there where I was. But I suspect that in a little while, this whole period of turmoil, of being neither here nor there, of feeling trapped in the space between life-before and life-after, will be behind us. Not just for me but for this whole, crazy pandemic-plagued world.

A little perspective, it seems, goes a long way.

How are you feeling?


  1. francetaste · September 25, 2020

    Your book project is impressive! I hope you feel motivated to finish it. And one of these days, you will be at home in your new home. It’ll be a slow realization.
    I’m very sad about the restos. The weather here allows for outdoor dining well into the fall, even at night and year-round by day. It gave some semblance of normalcy. But above all, I don’t want to go back to the lines to get into the supermarket and all the other shops closed. I don’t shop often, but it turned my necessary errands into nightmares.
    Don’t be bullied into not wearing a mask. Protect yourself! You can set a good example for the others.

    • MELewis · September 25, 2020

      Thanks! The only thing I find impressive about the writing is my faith to keep going with it despite the ups and downs. We have slipped out of summer and straight into winter here. There is snow on the mountains very close by. I hope you are able t o continue to enjoy the outdoor patios despite the rise in cases of corona. I will try to stay vigilant with the mask-wearing. Amazing how easy it is to be influenced by social pressure. But you are the voice of reason!

  2. davidprosser · September 25, 2020

    I hate the period of turmoil that follows a move, even down to looking for a handle on the new place that only exists in the old place. It must be very difficult being tied to two places at once.I hope the sale is soon resolved so you can concentrate in the new life without once forgetting the sweet memories of the old.
    You mask wearing may make you a pariah but it might also keep you healthy. A balance you’ll have to decide for yourself.
    Sending you Huge Hugs from the soon to be very damp UK.

    • MELewis · September 25, 2020

      Right you are, David. The turmoil of moving is painful! We are not all equal in our experience of that, though. My husband manages with whatever he finds at hand — while I bemoan the one item I can’t find. It will pass, and hopefully we will live to reminisce over this funny old year. I will try to be wise about the masks. So nice to hear from you. Stay well in your corner of the UK! xo

  3. The Pink Agendist · September 25, 2020

    Prendre du recul is very similar to what Trump would say before trying to grab women’s bottoms in the South of France. He too used Google translate 😁

    • acflory · September 25, 2020

      -giggles- Pinky!

    • MELewis · September 27, 2020

      Lol! I can only imagine what little ditties I will trot out in Swiss German. As for ‘recul’, anything with that dreaded root word is bound to inspire word play. Bien joué! 😆

  4. acflory · September 25, 2020

    That part of Switzerland sounds very safe. Is it, or are the locals simply unaware of the possible danger? Stay well and keep wearing that mask. :p

    • MELewis · September 27, 2020

      Schwyz is among the Swiss cantons with the lowest infection rates. Yet the trains are like arteries that link us to all the major cities, so I can’t imagine it is any safer here really than anywhere else. I know I should keep the mask on but it is hard to fight on one’s own, especially as my husband won’t wear one unless it is mandated. What can I say, he’s French! 🙄

      • acflory · September 27, 2020

        Gah. Men. I’ve given up on the species.

  5. Suzanne et Pierre · September 26, 2020

    “Prendre du recul” is always healthy and it is probably not something we do enough of in this pandemic. We only see the restrictions and the fear of the second wave but we don’t see that it won’t last forever and one day we will be somewhat free of this virus; we will have learned to live with it like we have with the flu. I do find that the current situation makes one stuck in inertia. I don’t find any energy to do much these days apart from going for long walks everyday and read. We don’t seem to be able to embark on any big projects not knowing when this current situation will end. I understand that you feel in between but that will also pass…good luck with everything (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · September 27, 2020

      Sorry to hear you are also suffering from the dreaded inertia, Suzanne. I think it is also affecting me independently of our move. It’s like we are all waiting in one big departure lounge for life to move on. The perspective that this too will pass is so important yet so many people seem to ignore it. Thanks for the moral support. Hope you are able to plan a trip somewhere soon!

  6. margaret21 · September 27, 2020

    Yes, inertia rules, but I’m impressed that you have a novel on the go. Keep all your loyal readers in the loop! Fingers crossed for progress in the house-selling saga.

    • MELewis · September 27, 2020

      Thank you so much, Margaret! I really appreciate the moral support. Hopefully once the house sale is behind us, focus will return. 😍

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