This Life Ain’t All Roses & Ocean Views

by gigigriffis

This October was the second worst month I’ve had since I left the U.S. in 2012.

(The first worst is my detainment by British Immigration. Even thinking about it still makes me want to vomit.)

It started when I returned from Barcelona on the 2nd.

I was sick and exhausted with a sore throat and the start of a bad cough and a general sense of fatigue from not sleeping well my last night in Spain. I had woken at something like 4:00 a.m., walked to the bus station, taken a bus, then a plane, and then a series of trains to get home. Of course, on this day, the usually-reliable Swiss train system was experiencing delays and problems like I’ve never seen before. I spent tons of unnecessary time waiting in train stations and by the time I got home all I wanted was to curl up with Luna in bed.

When I arrived home, though, things unfolded very differently.

Something was wrong.

Luna was lethargic. She had been vomiting. She’d had an accident in the house and (not to be vulgar, but…) her poop was full of blood.

I threw down my things, asked a friend to call the vet and let them know I was coming, grabbed Luna, and hopped back on the train. One train ride, one bus ride, and a short walk later, Luna was at the vet on an IV. Dehydrated. Sick. They gave her shots and pumped her full of fluids. They filled my bag with pills and special food and syringe that I would be using every hour to keep her hydrated.

I stood there in the middle of the vet’s office, run-down, sick, and terrified – and I completely lost my shit.

I mean, not just tears, but full-on snot-running-down-my-face-meltdown lost my shit.

The vet actually came over and held me while I fell apart.

Finally, we left the vet’s office and went home. I forcibly hydrated Luna every hour. I made myself a Neocitran packet for my cold. And we sat there in bed watching TV shows and feeling miserable.

Over the next few weeks, Luna slowly improved and I slowly improved, but the punches just kept coming.

First, I was forced to pay a $300 fine for something that really wasn’t my fault. I felt so betrayed by the Swiss government, which had always been so fair-minded and kind to me in the past. This time, they weren’t budging or listening and I felt horribly powerless.

Around that time, my housing situation became dire. I had been asking my landlord to turn on the heat since September and he had been completely ignoring me. Finally, with snow on the forecast, I threatened to report him to the authorities. He wrote back and said he would turn it on the next day.

The next day, it snowed. The heat was still off.

My toenails developed blue lines. I spent countless hours in hot baths, trying to warm up.

And despite my persistent requests, when I left for France at the end of the month, the heat was still off.

The only thing I could think to do was to move out. So I packed up my things, stored most of them in a friend’s storage room, and started preparing to leave. I had just a week to get my things packed up, stored, given away, or thrown out.

After a few more days of frigid indoor temperatures, I took the last of my things, left the keys in my apartment, and wrote to let the landlord know I couldn’t handle the cold anymore and I was out. I was gracious and polite–and angry that I had to be gracious and polite to a man who doesn’t give a shit about anyone else but himself.

Finally, I left for France.

I was halfway relieved, but also skeptical. My luck in October being so horrible, I was on edge for my arrival in Biarritz.

Unfortunately, I was right to be skeptical.

When I arrived in Biarritz, after 13 hours on trains and metros and taxis, exhausted and ready for a hot shower and bed, I discovered that my holiday apartment was absolutely and utterly filthy. The futon was covered in sand or dirt. The bathroom dirty and with loose hair floating around. A wadded up dirty towel was the only towel in the kitchen. The bed was unmade and, though I found sheets in the closet, I wasn’t even sure they were clean. And, on top of the filth, just about every essential (all promised in the listing) was missing. No or very little hand soap, towels, clean sheets, dish soap, sponges, toilet paper…And did I mention the internet, which had been promised, wasn’t working at all?

Of course, with all this trouble came financial strain (which left me spiraling back through familiar, upsetting thoughts about how I just can’t seem to get ahead, no matter how hard I work) and a total inability to feel creative.

The only way through all this shit was step by step. And so every day I made the best decisions I could and forced myself forward one step at a time.

I chose to move away from my freezing cold apartment and the irresponsible building manager, whose history of violence and sexual misconduct had me secretly scared.

I moved my schedule around so that the big writing projects would happen while I was in France, where I hoped that I’d find inspiration and zen in the newness, the foodie culture, and the ocean views. As for the rest of October, I set my productivity expectations low.

And when I arrived in France to the dirty apartment, I managed to report the whole thing to Airbnb and work with them to get into a quiet, clean place on the other side of town.

This is when the tightness in my chest, the quiet anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness, finally started to pass.

My first full day in the new apartment I spent quietly making my way back toward contentment. I didn’t give myself any goals or make any plans. Instead, I did exactly what I felt like doing exactly when I felt like doing it.

I walked down to one of my favorite little streets (so far) and had some Oreo ice cream. I sat and read one of my favorite books for hours. I caught up on TV shows via Hulu. I bought a chocolate chip roll from the bakery down the street. I bought groceries. I found the local cheese shop. And I drank cup after cup of honeyed, milky tea.

By day two, I was feeling more peaceful than I’d felt in months. Grateful to be in this clean, lovely little apartment. Grateful that Luna is healthy and here with me. Grateful for sea breezes and light French crepes and a town (God bless Biarritz) where every cafe seems to have a strong internet connection. Grateful for Airbnb, whose exceedingly helpful and friendly customer care reps got me out of my old place and into the new. And grateful for the freedom of being once again untethered to a permanent address (even if it happened suddenly and not on my terms this time).

Things here have still been a little up and down, but overall they’re smoothing out.

And that’s the thing with life (be it a traveling life or a life standing still), isn’t it?

Everything changes.

All the tough parts of my life—depression, anxiety, fees, visa delays, immigration nightmares, losses, betrayals, dirty apartments, horrible landlords, heartbreak piled atop heartbreak—ebb and flow. They pass. They change. And even if I can’t see it yet, there’s something else on the horizon. If I only keep going, I’ll eventually get there.

In this case, it was one month of fear and discomfort and tears and fury, which has already dissolved into a sweet few days of agenda-less zen, then writing productivity, and now a welcome sleepiness that, unlike the utter exhaustion before it, comes from days spent uncoiling the tension and doing what I love.

And so the cycle continues. The storm has passed, for now. Perhaps inspiration is just around the corner.

Happy Luna

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26 comments

Lynne November 13, 2014 - 8:03 am

Great post on the ups and downs of life…glad all worked out. Love the bottom pic of Luna! Thanks for sharing this, Gigi!!

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gigigriffis November 13, 2014 - 8:15 am

Thanks, Lynne.

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Ali November 13, 2014 - 9:10 am

I’m so glad you were able to get out of both of those apartments, that Luna is healthy again, and that things are finally starting to look up. Enjoy your month in France and whatever comes next!

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gigigriffis November 14, 2014 - 3:28 am

Thanks, love!

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Judy November 13, 2014 - 9:11 am

Here in the Colorado mountains one needs only a cup of coffee this morning and a fireplace. It’s simple compared to the tunnels through which you have traveled. If you are looking for a good book to read, I suggest: THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 OLYMPICS. You willl love and honor and admire Joe . . . and the other fine people in this top notch true story. So far, it is my favorite read for 2014.

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gigigriffis November 14, 2014 - 3:28 am

Thanks for the recommendation.

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Brandy November 13, 2014 - 9:16 am

God wraps some of his greatest gifts for us in the ugliest wrapping paper, asking us to trust Him that there’s something great here in the midst of all of this. One day – maybe not too far away – you’ll look back and see that this whole incident ushered in a beautiful change in your life.

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) November 13, 2014 - 9:57 am

Yep. That is one seriously shit month!! Yikes!! I think it speaks volumes that you can focus on the positives (like Airbnb being so very helpful) and put one foot in front of the next until you make headway. Thanks for sharing. We all forget that no matter the lifestyle – there will be bad days. I am glad you and Luna are well now and in a better place and state of mind. Hugs.

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gigigriffis November 14, 2014 - 3:30 am

Yeah – sorry again that we didn’t get to meet you guys! Yet another consequence of said crappy crappy month.

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bonnie melielo November 13, 2014 - 2:39 pm

Wow, that was a seriously crappy month!! Amazing you could rebound so quickly. Kudos to you and your sense of self AND humor!!

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gigigriffis November 14, 2014 - 3:30 am

Thanks.

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Kathryn November 13, 2014 - 10:14 pm

That was a HORRIBLE month. You did a MAGNIFICENT job getting yourself and Luna through it sick, alone and let down. You didn’t deserve that. You’re a tremendous warrior because I imagine you were digging into depths of resilience and resourcefulness that were deep, deep down. Thank you for sharing, and for sharing a pic of Luna full of vitality. Keep going Miss Gigi!

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gigigriffis November 14, 2014 - 3:32 am

Thank you. You are right that I had to dig deep to deal with it all! I can only hope I at least get a good run of smooth sailing before I ever have dig that deep again.

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Kelly November 14, 2014 - 8:30 am

That certainly does qualify as a crummy month! Glad you have developed the perspective to see those things are just bumps in the road… not the end of it!

Just wanted to comment to send a little virtual “love and light” your way to help Nov. be great!

Love following your adventures, keep on!

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gigigriffis November 14, 2014 - 8:46 am

Thanks! I appreciate the love and light more than you know!

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Brianna November 16, 2014 - 10:50 am

Wow! Thanks for sharing about this absolutely terrifying part of your journey. I love that you were able to self-care when you were finally safe. I’ve been learning a lot about the importance of self-care and cutting myself a break to heal, reflect, or simply unwind. We all stay healthy, work better, and love others better if we take care of ourselves first.

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gigigriffis November 16, 2014 - 3:18 pm

Thank you – and agreed. I feel like the concept of self-care keeps popping up everywhere in my life these days and I’m getting better at it as a result.

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Stephanie Booth November 10, 2015 - 2:31 am

Ugh, talk about a nightmare! I’m curious as to what the fine was about — always wonder how expats/travellers navigate Swiss administration. Landlord sounds crazy, were you dealing directly with the owner or was there a “gérance”, as we say in the French-speaking part?

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gigigriffis November 10, 2015 - 8:47 am

In the case of the housing situation, I was unfortunately dealing with a building manager. The fine was 300 francs. :(

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