The Prodigal Daughter Returns

I spent three weeks at home reconnecting with my family.  I, who has always valued family above friends, because one is constant, and the other comes and goes, respectively, had to reconnect with my family.  It was always my friends who had “messed up families” and group therapy sessions, not me.  I had dysfunctional friendships, but not a dysfunctional family.

It was a surreal feeling returning home after a year of absence.  Even though I have lived across the country from my family for years, I have always returned home every 6 months for at least two weeks.  It often feels like a double life, because I get to forget about my grandiose artistic career, and focus on smaller, community based responsibilities that I have been committed to for years in my hometown.  But, I enjoy shedding one character for the other.  The change infuses life into each version of myself.

During this homecoming, everything somehow seemed foreign yet familiar at the same time.  Small changes like a new highway sign, or a new business popped out at me immediately as my Mom and I rode the highway towards my childhood home together, making small talk.  I felt an overwhelming pressure suffocating me, and had goals to accomplish on my trip.  After the hit and run accident, my family and I didn’t get along, to put it mildly.  I felt rejected by them, and they felt extremely confused by my thoughts and emotions.  I felt they treated me as if I had decided to become a drug-addicted prostitute, and when my mom came to save me, I told her to “fuck off.”  Really, I think seeing me and my life so irrevocably damaged was just too overwhelming, and we coped by keeping one another at a distance.

We had many discussions, yelling matches, and explosions of emotions ricocheting off walls and out the windows for the neighbors to bear witness when I was home.  While I found myself vindicated after a self-imposed trial in front of a few of my extended members of the family, my mom and I remained at a drastic impasse.  We teetered on the painfully sharp edge of leaving each others life indefinitely.  But in the midst of all this pain, all the unforgivable words that left me feeling hollow, as if she had reached inside me and pulled out my innards, the pounding of my own fists on my chest, until welts were raised as I begged for an open ear, something happened.  It wasn’t a click really.  It came about slowly, and unnoticed like a fog, but with clarity.  Something changed between us.  Despite everything, the common ground between us remained.  We each thought the other did not want them in their lives.  But we did.  We do.

Adult relationships are so complicated, and I don’t think I have ever felt a more stark example of coming of age.  My mom and I recommitted to a new relationship with one another.  At first, she was hesitant, and dismissive, questioning why we should have to “fight” for our relationship, as I declared was necessary.  I told her that I didn’t know why, but it was worth it.  She is my mom, I am her only child.  We are not simply two ships passing in the night, or two strangers who get to choose whether or not to be in one another’s life.  We owe it to our past twenty five years of experiences, love and growth to stick it out, and find new, continuous ways to experience, love and grow together.

Cheers,

The ever-evolving, QuarterCentenarianAbroad

September. 2014.

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In the Autumn of My Life

A few days ago at home, I found myself driving on the freeway, with leaves rushing in the wind towards my car.  It became a constant barrage of leaves of all shades landing for an instant on my windshield before being deflected back into the wind.  I realized I was behind a landscaping truck. 

But more importantly, I realized the symbolism of these leaves was so apropos to my life.  I was about to face a great challenge by returning home after a year of absence filled with physical, mental and emotional challenges that led to familial strife in an otherwise tight-knit family.

Children are returning to school, and I am reminded of my own emotions facing the Autumn school beginning.  The feelings of change, and renewal, as well as the daunting feeling of the unknown events of the year to come.  I remember the air gaining a chill, and a crispness that felt clean, and to me, like the promise of a fresh start.  I found it exhilarating, but hard to let go of my favorite time of year, Summer.  I have always had trouble accepting change.  

This is an Autumn of my life.  

When I arrived home, the leaves were even beginning to change.  I could see their green fading into bronze on the trees, as we whooshed down the highway from the airport to my old home.  Everything around me seemed so foreign, yet familiar.  It is such a strange feeling to be somewhere which was always such a constant, and yet to take in so much change.  But it isn’t just the outward change that is jarring, but the inward change of my family members, and of myself.  I am also staggered by the lack of change, mostly for the negative.  

This is a journey in itself.  Yes, I am traveling, but the outward travel is far less important than the inward travel.  For the first time, I feel like an adult returning home.  I miss so much of the past, but it is gone.  Now I have to decide what is left here in my hometown, with my family, and is worth fighting for.

 

It is all so surreal, but I am somehow taking it in stride, the way each individual leaf on a tree grows, flourishes with the sun and the rain, and then so beautifully accepts the change of the season, until it is cast to the wind, to start a new adventure.  One. Moment. At. A. Time.

Cheers,

QuarterCentenarianAbroad

 

August. East Coast, USA. 2014.

In the Autumn of My Life

A few days ago at home, I found myself driving on the freeway, with leaves rushing in the wind towards my car.  It became a constant barrage of leaves of all shades landing for an instant on my windshield before being deflected back into the wind.  I realized I was behind a landscaping truck. 

But more importantly, I realized the symbolism of these leaves was so apropos to my life.  I was about to face a great challenge by returning home after a year of absence filled with physical, mental and emotional challenges that led to familial strife in an otherwise tight-knit family.

Children are returning to school, and I am reminded of my own emotions facing the Autumn school beginning.  The feelings of change, and renewal, as well as the daunting feeling of the unknown events of the year to come.  I remember the air gaining a chill, and a crispness that felt clean, and to me, like the promise of a fresh start.  I found it exhilarating, but hard to let go of my favorite time of year, Summer.  I have always had trouble accepting change.  

This is an Autumn of my life.  

When I arrived home, the leaves were even beginning to change.  I could see their green fading into bronze on the trees, as we whooshed down the highway from the airport to my old home.  Everything around me seemed so foreign, yet familiar.  It is such a strange feeling to be somewhere which was always such a constant, and yet to take in so much change.  But it isn’t just the outward change that is jarring, but the inward change of my family members, and of myself.  I am also staggered by the lack of change, mostly for the negative.  

This is a journey in itself.  Yes, I am traveling, but the outward travel is far less important than the inward travel.  For the first time, I feel like an adult returning home.  I miss so much of the past, but it is gone.  Now I have to decide what is left here in my hometown, with my family, and is worth fighting for.

 

It is all so surreal, but I am somehow taking it in stride, the way each individual leaf on a tree grows, flourishes with the sun and the rain, and then so beautifully accepts the change of the season, until it is cast to the wind, to start a new adventure.  One. Moment. At. A. Time.

Cheers,

QuarterCentenarianAbroad

 

August. East Coast, USA. 2014.

A Paris, Dans Mes Rêves

I greatly miss the City of Light.  I miss being able to go to someone who is an expert in every piece of food you could desire.  I suppose it seems tedious to Americans, but I saw a great quaintness to the practice of going to la fromagerie for my cheese, la boulangerie for my bread, le magasin de fruit et légumes for my fruit and vegetables, le marchand de vins for my wine, et la pâtisserie for my sweets.  It’s those simple things that stay with me after I travel.  Of course, I remember La Tour Eiffel and La Notre Dame in all their gargantuan grace, but it is the little things that are nearly intangible and define a culture that left the greatest imprint on me.     

So, this is how I find myself in my small, private side yard, so reminiscent of a European patio that it convinced me to take the apartment, with a glass of Bordeaux in my hand, a plate of brie, a baguette, and a cigarette, so desperate to reconnect with my literary self reborn a year ago in Paris.  It was in Paris that I learned how to write without pressure.  To write for me.  My degree in English Literature forced me to always be writing for something or someone.  While I felt myself occasionally getting lost in my assignments, and at times finding pride in my words, I was mostly on a mission to complete an assignment, bank the grade, and get outside, or to a party.  

I would never dream of writing with a glass of wine for an assignment that needed to be turned in, but in Paris I learned that sipping and savoring a Bordeaux was a gateway to letting the words flow.  It was Paris that taught me discipline and creativity can coincide, that one does not have to squelch the other.  I learned to write nightly, with abandon, and yet the lack of care proffered superior writing.  Over a nice Bordeaux and my latest cheese trial, I found my inner self.  I am one who thrives in solitude and reflection, especially in the wee hours of the morning.  

I see the world in colors and swirls of movement, like a Monet painting in which everything bleeds together, and yet is one.  My words come from me in some combination of a flowing waltz and a pop and lock street dance, like halting hiccups in which I can see what I feel, and search for the letters to string together into words, into sentences, into meaning, for everyone else.  I hope I am succeeding.    

 

Cheers,

QuarterCentenarianAbroad

 

Cathartic Rain

I awoke feeling incredibly repressed and bottled up.  My chest was tight, and I had the feeling that I needed to let go in order to take on the world, but I found every reason to not get out of bed.  I had to check my phone, or read some chapters in my book, or think about what I had to get done without actually doing it.  Then the sun began to fade, and through the skylight I could see an encroaching gray.  I had read that July is the rainiest month in Paris, but so far, I enjoyed over two weeks of sun.

I allowed my nights to blend into my days, and going to bed at four or five in the morning wasn’t a problem because I could just get up and start my day at noon, enjoy a cafe with my cousin or a friend, and then enjoy the occasional bar or a glass of wine at my apartment while writing in the stillness of the night.  Most people, then, would probably be disappointed to wake up and find the gray, and feel they lost their day.  However, it is as if the world felt the same urgent need to acquiesce.  There is a beauty in the act of letting go.  It is cathartic.  I feel like I am crying with the earth, but it a pure moment of clarity.  I feel cleansed by the rain.  I came to terms with the fact that somehow I have fallen for this place, or this time in my life, and I am terrified to have it end.

But for now, like the Earth and the rain, I am going to let go.  Today is the day I am going to explore Paris in the rain and see how the locals deal with weather.  I might even get on a bike here for the first time.  Playing in the rain makes me feel alive.  I’m like the birds in the trees singing through the rain.

I just had a de ja vu while proofreading this piece.  I know I’m in the right place.

Strangers and Social Norms

My Dutch friends came to town, and we only had one day together.  It took a while to coordinate, and we finally met at a cafe, shared some wine, and decided that instead of sightseeing, we wanted to relax together in a park.  We got provisions for a picnic, and went to a more residential area.  We found a spot in the grass and joined the locals in soaking up the sun, and watching the birds fly.

After enjoying a languid afternoon, we decided to head to a cafe for some dinner and a drink.  Just as we were about to leave, a man entered the park.  He was about forty-five, well dressed with Khakis, a long sleeve button shirt, and canvas loafers.  He paused as he entered the gate, and looked at our group with deep interest.  I noticed him, and he circled slightly around our group.  There was a mix of intensity and childish interest in his eyes.  He didn’t seem threatening, but he certainly was stepping on some social boundaries.

He was staring intently at my friend who has very unique, gorgeous fiery orange and red hair.  The sunset was behind her, illuminating her hair in a very stunning manner.  I had already commented on it myself.  He came over, and immediately in English said, “Please, please, I must see your face. I must look at your.  You are so…so…” and he searched our faces to see if anyone knew French, because he could not find the word.  He made eye contact with me and said, “jolie?” and I said, “beautiful.” He turned to my friend and said, “you are so beautiful.”

Why did I engage with him?  Well, I have experience working in the field of medicine with psychiatric patients.  This man seemed more the type to respond to being “yessed” away, then ignored, or asked to leave.  And, he didn’t seem like a threat.  He was staring at my friend like an artist with a deep appreciation for a piece.

The man went on to ask, “can I just, sit for a moment with you?” and he began to crouch on the ground. Someone said something about the fact that we were about to go to dinner and he got up quickly and said, “No! Please, don’t let me bother you.  Please, you could just sit here for another half hour, and look like that with the sun behind you.”  He began to back away, as if he would rather leave this art, and miss seeing it, than be the cause of its demise. Then he tried to explain himself to us, saying, “you see, I am…I am losing my mind.  I am not right up here.”  I felt so bad for this man-caught between two worlds, between his mind and the world we were in.  I could see a deep sadness in his eyes.  He was at the point where he was aware of the fact that he is slipping away, and yet there is nothing he can do to stay.

I looked him in the eyes, and said “okay” because I wanted him to know someone was listening.  He said, “sometimes I feel like I am dancing, but I am not.”  I thought to myself, at least he has positive hallucinations!  Then he looked at me and asked, “why does this happen?  Why do we have to age? Why do our bodies have to get old? Yours is too.” “I know,” I said. He was looking at me, searching me for answers.  The only thing I could come up with was, “C’est la vie.”  It seemed like a trite platitude and I felt bad that was all I could offer. However, he looked at me as if I was enlightened, and had given him a new way of thinking of life.  “C’est la vie. Thank you.  Thank you. You are right.”

At this point, one girl was shifting uncomfortably because he was next to her, the other girl felt objectified by him,  her brother was silently sizing the man up, and my cousin was looking down trying to ignore the whole matter.  So, I was the only one that would make eye contact with him.  He looked at me, and with urgency he asked, “do you love?”  Again, I had the inclination to say something broad such as “I try to love everyone,” and he must have seen this because he corrected, “are you in love?”  I gave a very emphatic “yes” and he continued, “does he know it?” Again, I responded emphatically, “yes, definitely.”  “Good! That is good!”

Someone mentioned that we should get going to dinner, and he said, “yes, I will leave you.”  Then he looked us all firmly in the eyes, and he pleaded, “make sure you do what makes you happy.  Make sure you do what you like to do.  Do what you like.”  The space around his head seemed to be filled with unspoken thoughts.  Maybe he didn’t do everything he wanted to. Perhaps he made choices for money, and not happiness.  Now that he was losing his mind, he felt he no longer had time.  The regrets hung thick in the air around his face as he pleaded with us to live happy, fulfilling lives.

I don’t really care if he was losing his mind.  His advice was sound.  He was a paradox.  He spoke the sage words of an adult, and yet had the glint and gleam in his eyes of an earnest six-year old.

At that moment, a couple asked him to take their picture, and he seemed torn.  He didn’t want to leave us, but he knew that in polite society, he should.  It made me think about societal norms, because if we were all a bunch of six-year olds in a sandbox, it would be okay for a curious child to come over and talk about what is pretty, and what is scary, and what is happy and important to them.  We have been so trained in society to be wary, because there are malicious people who can take advantage of kindness.  However, this man just wanted to appreciate the basic beauty of everyday life, and impart wisdom before he slips away from reality, and is unable to connect with others.

I felt terrible sorrow for this man.  On the one hand he has a good perspective on life, but on another, I could see his despair and fear of slipping away from reality-afraid he would not be able to enjoy this world much longer.  I know that my cousin and my friends found it easier to shrug him off as a person with mental health issues.  However, at times I wondered if he wasn’t an angel-some sort of guardian or messenger, or even a regular human being used to channel a higher message.
We are all on a journey, and we are all traveling.  I learn the most about life and myself when I travel, so it would be a fitting time.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we never saw that man again, and if he never even existed at all.

Bastille 2013 en Paris a La Tour Eiffel!

Liberte! Fraternite! Egalite!

I had the pleasure of seeing the fireworks over La Tour Eiffel for Bastille Day.  It was fantastic!  My host was kind enough to meet me, and we grabbed a drink before the fireworks.  It was already a pretty big day for me walking-wise, because I went to Versaille with my cousin.  It was a pretty great experience, but very tiring.  It was an extremely hot day, and we walked further than I did when I visited Versailles last year.

Luckily, my host is as much of an excited six-year old as I am when it comes to big crowd events.  So, we spent the beginning of the fireworks trying to get closer and get that better view, and it actually paid off.  We were able to see almost the entire tower, and have a nearly clear view (minus some tree branches which I did not mind), of the entire show.

The music was timed to the fireworks, and every once in a while they worked a speech about freedom into the soundtrack.  It was beautiful, and inspiring.  It did amaze me how many songs were from American bands, and in English, considering we were celebrating France’s independence day.

Then, my host and I headed back in the sea of people.  At times it reminded me of an apocalyptic scenario-all the stores and restaurants were closed down, and everyone was headed in the same direction, but could barely move.  It was strange because in my country when there is a national holiday like this, arrangements are made-the metro is open longer, bars and clubs stay open.  In France it was all the same, and my host had to rush to make the metro back home.

She walked me back to my apartment and showed me that there is an entire street I have not yet discovered.  She also showed me that there are places to get liquor late at night, more bars than I thought, and snacks, too!  We parted happily, and have plans to hang out again.  That makes me happy because I get to practice my French, and I am making a local friend!

Vive la France, et vive Liberte!

Anonymous Abroad

I do not want to have a name. I do not want to have a face.  Whenever I claim my work, it becomes stunted because I worry too much about the details, when the beauty is in the obscure.  I do not want to coax friends over Facebook, Twitter, etc., to follow me so that I can feel good about myself and my writing.  I have decided to do this the, er, old fashioned way (using contemporary tools).  This may end up being nothing more than a diary, with no online presence, and no followers, or, maybe it will inspire other artists who feel the same burning desire to turn their observations, experiences, thoughts, dreams into something more tangible.

For me, it is a journey of self-exploration-one that I have been on for twenty-five years now.  I am a quarter-centenarian, and I have decided to stop making excuses, stop allowing my fear of failure to limit myself, and to just. keep. expressing.

Paris, July 2013.