Category Archives: Relationship Stuff

Happy Anniversary, Los Angeles. And Goodbye.

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Greetings_from_Los_Angeles,_California_(63828)It’s my ten-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. As I write this, it’s been exactly ten years to the day that I first rolled into town with my piss-and-vinegar cat, Mars. That day was March 15, 2007.

Today is March 15, 2017. I’ll be finishing packing up boxes to load in the trailer that’s being delivered on Friday. Shortly it will be on its way to Indiana, along with me.

I didn’t plan for such a tidy ending. It wasn’t part of some grand scheme to have my departure coincide so neatly with the anniversary of my arrival. Ah, but that’s how life is, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s middle-of-the-night, operating-on-four-hours-sleep messy (like me right now, writing this in my dark kitchen at 3 a.m. surrounded by moving boxes). Sometimes it’s clean and delivers life-changing moments with a plodding regularity.

Life is like a box of chocolates, I guess.

When I got here ten years ago, I was 31 years old. I was tired. I was depressed and lonely. I was eager to fill a void inside me that I knew could never be filled in New York.

I had spent most of those five years in New York struggling – struggling to pay my bills, struggling to find success as an actor, and, most of all, struggling to find the companionship I longed for. I had recently ended the only meaningful relationship I had during my time there, after making the realization that although my boyfriend at that time really liked me, he didn’t love me. And I couldn’t continue investing in a relationship that wasn’t ever going to be enough for me. I decided I deserved more than that, even if it meant giving up the companionship that I so desperately wanted.

It was the most grown-up, and most painful, decision I had made up to that point.

My best friend/roommate had also recently moved away, leaving me feeling adrift in an indifferent city. Though I was terrifically, monumentally unhappy in New York, I didn’t want to leave. Being a New Yorker felt like a badge of honor, some kind of special designation that announced to the world that I Was Doing Something Important With My Life. My entire identity was wrapped up in being a hardened, ready-to-take-a-punch resident of the greatest city on earth.

But I had this nagging feeling that it was time to go. I’d had the idea planted in me to move to Los Angeles by my roommate/bestie who had relocated here to work as a Production Coordinator on a TV movie.

It was ludicrous, really, the idea of moving to Los Angeles. My one experience of L.A. was when I finished grad school. Our class came to the city for 10 days to present our showcase to casting directors and agents. As expected, I was a non-entity, dead on arrival. Nobody ever thought I was Los Angeles material. Not my acting teachers, not my classmates, not the industry muckety-mucks who looked right through me as they chatted with the younger, thinner, more attractive actor standing next to me. I was told, time and again, that an actor should never move to Los Angeles unless she had a reason to go, that reason being something like already having a gig as a series regular on a TV show. Or, at the very least, a decent agent.

I didn’t have any of those things.

Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe I should go anyway. I came out to visit. My roommate/bestie engineered a pull-out-all-the-stops weekend to convince me I would like it here. I saw Ray Romano on the escalator at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. I attended the screening of my bestie’s TV movie where I chatted for 20 minutes with one of the stars of my all-time favorite movie (FYI, it’s Tommy Boy, and that star was Julie Warner who played Chris Farley’s love interest. Don’t judge.). I ate French toast at Dupar’s. I went swimming outside in November. It was fucking glorious.

Still, I resisted. But my intuition kept saying to me, “Go to Los Angeles.”

Since companionship was my number one priority, even above my career, I decided to take a peek at what dating might be like in Los Angeles. I didn’t have high hopes. I believed the stereotype that the only women who get attention here are hot and blond. Nonetheless, I joined Match.com to scout prospects.

I was surprised by the number of quality guys there appeared to be. And how many of them wanted to talk to me. I started regularly chatting online with a guy named Adam. He didn’t exactly fit the description of what I thought I wanted (he was older than me and had kids), but I genuinely liked him.

I decided to give Los Angeles a try. So I packed up my shit and drove with Mars from New York to Los Angeles over the first two weeks of March, ten years ago. I was scared. But I realized I could be scared and still do the thing that scares me anyway. I guess that’s called courage, right? To take such an enormous leap of faith?

And now, here I am, ten years later. Sitting in my darkened kitchen, a purring kitty named Venus in my lap, another named Murray happily burrowing into a bag of bubble wrap somewhere nearby (I lost Mars six years ago). My husband, Adam, is snoring in the bedroom. Yes, the same Adam. We’re leaving, and I’m sad and glad and excited and nervous and irritable and nostalgic and can’t sleep.

And I’m a little bit scared. But I’ve learned how to have courage.

When I was deciding whether or not to move to Los Angeles, somebody told me what they thought the difference is between New York and L.A. New York is flashy, and will dazzle you. It’s close and tight and you have very little personal space, but it opens your eyes to what is amazing about the world. By contrast, Los Angeles is slow and sprawling and filtered through the haze of sunlight and palm trees. But it gives you the space and time you need to find out what is amazing about you. That is the city’s gift.

I am so full up with love for this beautiful, frustrating, life-changing place. Yes, the traffic is soul-crushing. Yes, there’s crime and vandalism and violence. There’s a great divide between the haves and the have-nots. There’s not enough water and it’s too hot in the summertime in the Valley and it’s way too fucking expensive to live here.

But this is where I grew up. As silly as it sounds, Los Angeles is where I found myself. I didn’t have anything that looked like traditional success here. I did a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I didn’t make much money. But I got to know myself in a way that I don’t think could have happened anywhere else.

I’m now 41 years old. I’m still tired. But I’m not depressed and I’m definitely not lonely. I found the companionship I was looking for. Not just with my husband and those silly cats. I also found the pleasure in solitude. I made friends with myself here. I learned how to love Amy Clites. She’s pretty fucking cool. I like hanging out with her. She’s curious about the world and she has a big heart. She likes to learn and try new things. She loves to garden and make things grow. She enjoys her creativity. She wants to put good in the world. She’s ready to map her own course.

Just like when I moved to Los Angeles, my intuition has been telling me that it’s now time to leave. I could stay and continue happily on, but I don’t think that’s what I’m meant to do. I feel like I’m being called to do something else, to take this experience with me to another place. And while I’m sad to say goodbye to the dear friends I have here and to the city I have grown to love, I feel light and free and ready to set off on a new adventure.

Happy anniversary, Los Angeles. And goodbye.

 

 

It’s Time to Go

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"You Are Beautiful" sign welcoming people to the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary, where we are planning to move. Part of the You Are Beautiful public art project https://you-are-beautiful.com/pages/public-art
“You Are Beautiful” sign welcoming people to the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary. Part of the You Are Beautiful public art project https://you-are-beautiful.com/pages/public-art

I’ve been a firm believer in trusting my intuition for many years now.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as easy as all that. There’s much hand-wringing, and forehead-rubbing, and stomachaches, and internal arguments that go on. I hear that inner voice telling me what to do. And sometimes I rationalize its arguments away. Sometimes I ignore it. Sometimes I listen to it for awhile and then get distracted by other things.

But I always end up going back to that voice. I’ve learned that it tells me what I need to know, whether I want to hear it or not. And I’ve learned (and am still learning) to trust what that voice says.

And right now that voice is telling me it’s time to go.

I know. It’s scary.

It’s been telling me this for awhile, but I haven’t been listening. Well, I’ve been listening, but I haven’t been trusting. I’ve been explaining it away. I’ve been rationalizing arguments not to go.

But I now trust that it’s time to go.

After all, I’ve chosen this life. I’ve chosen a life of creative adventure over financial security. I’ve chosen wildness over stability. I’ve chosen to satisfy my curiosity, not to stock my coffers. And because I’ve been listening to that unpredictable inner voice, that intuition, I’ve found the adventures I’m looking for. I take risks. I uproot myself and start over. I take a fresh perspective. I upend things, even when it appears they are thrumming along quite healthily.

So, now is that time. I’m uprooting, upending and relocating myself.

I am going back from whence I came.

I am moving back home.

It feels REALLY WEIRD. I’ve spent more of my life away from home than I have living there. I have loads of worries. Will I fit in? Will I even want to fit in? Will I make new friends? Will I be depressed? Will I get really fat? Will I be unhappy? Will I hate it? Will I think it’s a mistake?

Will I feel like a failure?

But, amidst all those (VERY LOUD) worries, that inner voice says, loud and clear, GO.

GO HOME.

IT’S TIME TO GO HOME.

So, hubs and I are packing it up and moving from Los Angeles, my love affair of the last ten years, to Indiana. An hour outside Chicago. On the lakefront. In Gary.

Yes, Gary.

We are moving to Gary, Indiana.

I can’t hardly believe I’m typing that, let alone DOING it.

But that voice, loud and clear, has said “IT’S TIME.” And for some reason it’s also saying “GO TO GARY,” which, if you’re from the area, you know that’s just UNHEARD OF. Who moves to Gary?

Apparently, I do. And hubs. Even hubs trusts my intuition, which is practically screaming “GARY, INDIANA!!!!!” at me all the time now that I’m listening and trusting.

I’m in for a major course adjustment. But every other time in my life it has been exactly the thing I’ve needed. But I’ve never moved away from someplace I’ve come to love so intensely.

I love it here. I love Los Angeles. And I will miss it terribly. And the friends who have become more like family. I will miss them more than I could ever possibly express. I will miss the life I have created here.

But new adventures await. I see a world of possibility before me. My spirit, even though it is scared shitless, is also exhilarated about what the future might hold.

There’s much work to be done before the move happens. I’m exhausted just by the thought of it. But it must be done. The wheels have been set in motion, and it is time to move forward with their momentum.

More to come. So much more to come.

Why Rupi Kaur Gives Me Hope For the Future

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Have you heard of Rupi Kaur?

I hadn’t, until my 15-year-old stepdaughter asked if I was interested in reading her favorite book – a book of poetry, no less.

I am not normally a poetry person. I continually try to open myself to poetry, and there are some poets I do love (Walt Whitman and e.e. cummings and Mary Oliver come to mind), but I often struggle to make a connection to poetry. To hook into what the poem is conveying. I have problems finding my way in.

But when a 15-year-old girl gives you an opportunity – an invitation – to peek into her world, to have a glimpse of what grabs her attention, what penetrates her heart, what expresses even a sliver of her own inner life – you don’t say no. It’s an honor to be let in.

So, she deposited “Milk and Honey,” Rupi Kaur’s first book of poetry, on my nightstand. I’ll admit — it sat there for two weeks before I finally picked it up. But the universe has a way of tapping you on the shoulder by way of synchronicity, so when a close friend shared a Rupi Kaur poem on Facebook, I took the hint and immediately picked up the book.

 photo by rupee rags
photo by rupee rags

You guys – wow.

First of all, the language is simple and bold. There’s no fluff, no fancy constructs, no unnecessary elaboration. It gets straight to the point and immediately taps into some decidedly raw feelings.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Secondly, the subject matter speaks to what is arguably the every day experiences of many women around the world. It’s about hurting and loving and losing and healing. It’s about vulnerability and strength. It’s about learning to be female in the modern world. It’s about self-knowing and growth.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The poet is in her early 20s. She was born in Punjab and moved to Canada when she was 3. In addition to writing poetry, she performs spoken word and writes fiction and plays.

But to get to the point – Rupi Kaur gives me hope for the future.

Why? Well, millennials are often maligned in our culture, characterized as being lazy and self-absorbed and stupid. And, OK, when I see interviews where young people can’t correctly tell you who the Vice President of the United States is or who won the Civil War, I worry. I do. This characterization isn’t totally unfounded.

But when I read Kaur’s poetry, and when I know that it resonates in the soul of a 15-year-old girl on the precipice of adulthood, I’m fucking grateful. I’m grateful that our culture has birthed young women who are unafraid to speak about their experience, their emotions and their bodies.

For the past five years I’ve been involved with charity productions of The Vagina Monologues, V-Day and One Billion Rising. I know that odds are 1 in 3 that a woman will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. I know that we have thousands of years of patriarchal culture to unwind before women can feel safe and heard and equal.

But I think we’re making headway. The teenage girls I know are smarter about their bodies than I was at their age. They have less shame. Many have cultivated an emotional intelligence that probably outstrips men twice their age. They are empowered in many ways. There is still work to do, of course, but I can see how positive change has affected this next generation.

And it gives me hope.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

If you haven’t, check out “Milk and Honey.” And if you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

Sadness

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sadness

There’s so much sadness in my world right now.

Well, maybe there isn’t more sadness than usual, but I’m noticing that my friends have more of a willingness to share their sadness.

Folks are sad for a myriad of reasons, all of them perfectly good, tangible reasons to feel sad – a break up, a sudden and unexpected career shift, a life-changing illness.

There’s also a deep well of sadness for those things that aren’t so tangible – disappointment with oneself, a perceived sense of failure, a lack of meaning with one’s life, a feeling that one just isn’t quite enough.

I look around at my friends, my family, at myself in the mirror, and I see sadness reflected back at me. Defeat. Anxiety. Fear. It has many names, this multi-headed beast.

But I think that’s okay.

I think it’s okay that we’re all a little sad right now. A friend of mine who is going through a career shift, a life-defining transition that was self-imposed – wrote a beautiful piece on it today that I thought was absolutely lovely.

Which got me to thinking about where we are. Where I am. I have sadness, too. Sometimes it’s pretty heavy. I’ve had storms of tears over the last couple of weeks. I’ve had crushing disappointment with myself. With my mistakes, my failures, my stubborn insistence on following this path I’ve forged for myself, which is pretty rocky at the moment. I actually said, “I hate myself” out loud more than a few times over the last few days.

Then I got tired of it. I just got tired of hating myself. It serves no purpose other than to set me back. It depletes my energy. Hating yourself takes so much energy, it burns up your resources. It tires you out quickly. And I realized that’s just bullshit.

So I decided to stop hating myself. Seriously – I made a decision to not do it anymore. I decide how to treat myself, and I decided that I deserved better than that. You do, too.

Don’t hate yourself because you’re sad, or you feel defeated, or you made a mistake. Even in you made a really, really big mistake.

Instead, practice self-forgiveness. I’m quick to forgive others, why can’t I treat myself the same way, right?

So I’m going to sit with the sadness for a little while, hold its hand, tell it that it’s okay for it to stick around as long as it doesn’t mind sharing space with happiness, joy and excitement. Because I feel those things, too. Sometimes all at the same time! Our emotions can co-exist. Sadness is just one part of who we are.

So, if you feel sad right now, know that I feel sad, too. And that it’s okay.

We’re human.

 

 

Where Is the Breaking Point?

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I’ve been having this recurring dream.

Well, I don’t know if it is really recurring, but I had this dream last night that felt so familiar and lingered with me when I awoke. I felt the need to write it down, to share it with you.

In the dream, a man I once knew was trying desperately to get in touch with me. He would show up to different places where I would be, in a limousine driven by Little Richard. He would come to the front door, dressed nattily in a gray pinstripe suit, soft pink button down shirt, and fedora. He would politely inquire if I was there, and ask if he could speak to me. In every case I told the person who answered the door to tell him that I wasn’t there. But I had the feeling that at some point I would have to confront him and hear what he needed to tell me. I woke up before that happened.

The man in my dream is a real person from my past. From a more unhappy time. A time when I was engaging in all sorts of unhealthy behavior. In other words, my 20s.

He was a regular in the bar where I worked. I remember the first time he came in. He struck me as being both handsome and elegant. He was a light-skinned black man with a shaved head and shimmery, caramel-colored eyes. He walked with a cane. He had had knee surgery, or some such thing, so it was temporary. But it was endearing. It made him seem vulnerable. He wore tasteful sweaters and khaki pants. I think he was a stockbroker – many of the regulars were – but I don’t quite remember.

I maintained a mild flirtation with him for several weeks. That seemed to be the case with many of the regulars. It’s a job hazard when you’re the one pouring the drinks. You help them into their beer goggles. I’m sure it was also an attempt to score free drinks. But our bar had a strict buyback policy, which I had to adhere to or risk losing my job. They had to buy at least three drinks before I could pour them one for free. I don’t know how many of them ever figured that out.

At this time in my life I was desperate for attention. I was recovering from a divorce which had devastated me emotionally and financially. I was a struggling actor trying to make it in New York, and always seemed to be just a few days pay away from total ruin. I did not have the recipe for success. I was attracted to these men who came into my bar and spent hours there drinking, even though I also held them in mild contempt for that behavior. I judged them all harshly for their seeming lack of anything better to do. But I still accepted most requests for dates.

This man was not someone I thought I would ever go home with. But I was wrong. I ended up at his apartment after my shift early one morning. I don’t remember much of what happened, but I don’t think I slept with him. Mostly I think he talked about himself. I learned he had a young daughter with whom he shared partial custody, or at least had visitation. I learned he felt stagnant and unmotivated. I learned he was 40. I learned he was one breath away from being dead inside. Not exactly boyfriend material.

But he lead me on just enough to keep me interested. As I said I was desperate for attention, any attention. I don’t recall ever having gone on a real date with him. I do recall that on the evening of my 30th birthday we had made plans to go out. He was coming back on the train, I think from visiting his daughter in Philly, and he was going to come by my place and take me out for dinner. He never came. I sat on my bed most of the night, waiting for the phone to ring.  He never called. I fell asleep in my date night clothes.

I don’t know who I hated more – him, for standing me up on my 30th birthday, or me for letting him.

I’d like to say I learned my lesson that night, but I didn’t. There were more men like him, probably quite a few more. I finally had to quit that job. I feared if I didn’t I would come undone.

I look back at who I was then, and try to have sympathy for her. It’s hard, because she made countless poor choices. She willingly put herself in harm’s way a number of times, and always paid the price.

At what point do we say we’ve had enough? What does it take to finally have some self-respect? Where is the breaking point?

I don’t know what my breaking point was specifically, but I knew the only solution was to break from my whole life. I picked up, and left New York for good. I have not looked back.

When I visit the city I am reminded of my former self. I feel her in the pit of my stomach, scratching for attention. It’s not a great feeling. But I do occasionally like the reminder of who I once was, and how far I have come since then.  I am so grateful.

I don’t know what the man in my dream was trying to tell me. But I also don’t care. I no longer lay myself at the feet of those who find me disposable. I do not wait for them, and I hope you will not, either. YOU have worth.  You DESERVE to be treated with respect and compassion. We all do. But first we must treat ourselves with respect and compassion.

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel you have no control? Where you were unsatisfied, and as a result not treating yourself with the respect you deserve? How did you overcome it? Where exactly is the line, and what happens when it finally gets crossed?

breaking point

 

 

An Afternoon in Paris – Then and Now

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/13/14)

I am engulfed in wonderful memories today. On this day one year ago my husband, Adam, and I were on our honeymoon in Paris. We spent three wine-soaked, wonder-filled days bumming around the city with our good friend, Wally, after having spent the previous three weeks exploring rural France, Sicily and Marrakech. It was epic.
On this particular day – November 13, 2013 – we spent the afternoon tracking down the location of a photo that Adam’s parents had taken on their honeymoon in Paris in 1949, in the hopes of recreating the photo ourselves. Adam wrote a beautiful story of our little adventure, which is posted below with the pictures – then and now.
On a side note we have recently learned that the Frank mentioned in the story below, Frank Mankiewicz, has recently passed, which makes this memory all the more bittersweet today. Frank was Adam’s father’s best friend, and later became the Press Secretary for Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Adam’s parents were at the Ambassador Hotel with Frank on the night Kennedy was assassinated, which is another story for another time, but certainly makes all of the below even more poignant for us. We certainly wish to express our deepest condolences to Frank’s family. He will always be remembered quite fondly by us.
I do hope you enjoy.
paris

An Afternoon in Paris – Then and Now

by Adam Hall

Paris, 1949. Four years after the end of the world’s most destructive war, which had destroyed large swaths of Europe, my parents chose to celebrate their nuptials by honeymooning there. Most of the details are lost, and perhaps not particularly interesting. But central to this story is the sole surviving photo from their trip. It shows them on a motorcycle, in front of a cafe, on a street corner in Paris. I came into possession of the picture following my father’s passing in 2011. Framed simply, it hangs in the central hallway of my house, above the usual line of sight.  For the last two years I have occasionally glanced at it, trying to conjure images of what their trip must have been like. They seldom mentioned it, not out of any reluctance, as they obviously enjoyed the adventure, more from a perception that no one would be interested in the telling.

Los Angeles, 2013. I have recently married Amy, a wonderful woman who enjoys travel, and specifically travel with me. A fortuitous combination of factors led us to plan a honeymoon trip to Paris, from which seed a general plan of travel emerged. As I began the planning, the image of that picture of my parents on the street in Paris took more precedence in my mind and I began to view it as a quest for our trip. My most traveled friend always advised that one should have a quest on any trip, something which guides and provides directions in the absence of any other motivation. Even a honeymoon can benefit from some focus, so I imagined tracking down the location where the photo was taken and recreating it with my wife. We would be visiting our good friend, Wally, while in Paris, and he thought the challenge to be an admirable one.

As you can see in the picture, there isn’t a lot to identify the location. The Rue de L’Université is a rather long street in a city where streets tend to change names at every brasserie. Thanks to the advent of Google Street view it is now possible to take a virtual drive along a street, and so I had hopes of being able to spot the corner from the comfort of home prior to visiting Paris.  Unfortunately, that did not pan out. Or more precisely, I could not pan in close enough to match any of the details. Of course, it has been over 60 years since then and not surprisingly the buildings have undergone renovations, redecorating, change of tenants and use, and even entire buildings torn down and rebuilt (although, this being Paris, that is a rare event).

It was looking like the only way of identifying the building would be to walk up and down the street hoping to find someone old enough to remember how the street appeared all those years ago. How far back would that be? Did the cafe survive 10 or 20 years before succumbing to progress? There are many cafes still in business from that time, for example the ones Hemingway wrote about in The Moveable Feast. Would I get lucky and find that this was such a stalwart? At least then the cafe might have old pictures of its history, or an owner with ties to that time period.

There was one remaining link to their trip – their best friend Frank, who I recall them saying was with them at the start in Paris, and who, at 90 years of age, is still going strong and has vivid recollections of their times together (as evidenced by a set of recollections and stories he sent me on the occasion of my father’s recent passing). Whether those recollections are reliable is debatable. Frank’s family was as literate as the Kennedy’s were orate. He also had the demeanor of a top poker player, of which there was already a representative amongst the family. The combination led to some memorable family word games (trust me, it was more interesting than it sounds.) The point being, no matter how firmly and believably Frank might respond to my questions, I had to take his answers with a grain of salt.

Paris, 2013. Upon landing in Paris, I called Frank and asked if he remembered the photo. After some confusion about who was in the picture he quickly described how they had decamped to the Hotel de L’Université, using it as a base for trips around Europe that continued through the end of the year. He recollected the address as being number 5 or 6, and the intersection was Rue des Saints Pères. The cafe, he thought, was the hotel cafe and called the Bonaparte. This was all promising information, and informed by that intelligence I set off with Amy to see what we could find. We made arrangements to meet up with Wally in that general area later in the afternoon.

Amy and I arrived at the Rue de L’Université by Metro and began walking towards the location we had identified. Eventually we came to the 10s and found ourselves in front of the Hotel de L’Université. My spirits lifted as a major piece fit the puzzle. But there was no cafe fronting the hotel, nor did it look like there had ever been a place for one. More importantly, it was not on a corner, so unless a street had been closed off Frank’s data was a bit off. And in Paris, changing a street like that would be unheard of.

We continued on down the rue, looking for the next corner. The hotel ended and we started to pass other buildings. This meant that the cafe couldn’t be in the hotel. Further down the street, number 6 was just a store in the middle of the block. But then, coming to the intersection with Rue des Saints Pères, I found two cafes on opposite corners on the north side of the street, matching the shadows on the picture showing that the café was south-facing. On the near side was the Galette Café. On the opposite side across Rue des Saints Pères was the Comptoir des Saints Pères bar brasserie. To confuse things, a sign on the outside of the Comptoir touted their “cafe a la tasse” and “chocolat chaud”, similar to what was on the window in the original picture. But everything was different from the photo. Then, looking above the Galette Cafe, I spotted the window and filigreed iron railing on the second floor, and a smile lit across my face as I realized that I had found the same building. Amy and I excitedly looked back and forth between the photo and the building, and confirmed that it had the right features.

We crossed the street to the cafe, but it was closed until lunch time. With an hour to wait before it opened, and also for Wally to arrive, we adjourned to the bar on the other corner to do what Parisians love to do anyway – enjoy an espresso and watch the world go by. I showed the picture to one of the older waiters. He said that had indeed been the cafe across the street many years ago. I had my confirmation!  After a bit Wally arrived. We shared our success with him, and all sat down to await the opening of Galette.

Shortly after noon, the blinds went up and Galette Café was open for business. We walked over, sat down, and showed the waitress our picture. She and her husband were the owners (he was from Brittany, hence the specialty of galettes – buckwheat flour crêpes – in the name and on the menu) and we all traded mutual travel stories for a few minutes, including me telling about my parents’ trip 64 years ago. They had opened the restaurant about a year ago, and the previous place had been there for 30 years, which still did not go back to the original from the picture. But we knew we had the right place. We then sat down to a delicious lunch of galettes, and planned our next steps.

Paris has a system of bicycle rentals on streets throughout the city, and we decided to rent one of them to recreate the picture ourselves. Put our own spin on it, as it were. We found a nearby bank of bikes and took one back to the cafe, which by this time was half-bathed in bright sunlight coming down the street. We needed to wait for about 30 minutes until the sun passed behind the street’s buildings, so we settled into the Comptoir bar across the street again for another libation. It was a very European thing to do anyway.
Presently, the sun went behind a building and we were clear to take the re-creation photo. We took our places with Wally assuming Frank’s role across the street as photographer. I tried imagining what those three experienced on that day more than 60 years ago.  Of course theirs was a spur-of-the-moment photo. Between getting the pose right, lighting, and constant foot and vehicle traffic, it took us about 20 minutes to get the shot. I felt very uncomfortable with people staring at me so I guess I could never have a career as a model/actor. Amy and Wally (both actors) on the other hand, enjoyed the hell out of it.

Respect Vs. Compassion

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/8/14)

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the concepts of Respect and Compassion. Specifically, I have been thinking about them in terms of how they relate to the challenging relationships I have in my life, relationships that are nearly impossible to walk away from. Since these relationships are here to stay, I must find a way to come to terms with them.

Learning how to deal with contentious, long-term relationships has given me many opportunities for personal growth over the last few years. I say that a little tongue in cheek, of course, but I have truly looked for ways to let these contentious relationships make me a better person. After all, it is not how you deal with the good things in your life that determines your character, it is how you deal with the negative things that inevitably show up from time to time. It’s easy to behave with grace when life is going well, not so much when shit continually hits the fan. So how do I learn from these experiences, these painful relationships, and grow from them?

This is where the idea of respect and compassion comes in. The lesson I have learned over and over during that past few years is that compassion is king. I want to approach the world with compassion. I want to find compassion in my heart for those who speak ill of me or do things to harm me or those I love. It is not easy to find this compassion, but if I can distance myself from the relationship a bit, if I can disengage as much as possible, and step back a bit from the hurt, I can more easily find compassion and extend compassion. Compassion not only helps to mitigate disharmony, but really it just makes me feel better. The bottom line is compassion is good for my heart, so practicing compassion is kind of a no-brainer.

But what about respect? Are compassion and respect the same things? I sometimes see them used interchangeably, but I wonder if that is true. Perhaps it is just a question of semantics. But respect seems to me something that has to be earned, whereas compassion is something I can extend to anyone regardless of their perceived worthiness. I can have compassion for someone who speaks harshly about me online, but I don’t necessarily need to respect them.

What are your thoughts about respect and compassion? Are they the same thing? Two sides of the same coin? Or is one earned, while the other is freely given?

Dear Dad: On the Occasion of Your 70th Birthday, I Want to Say Thank You…

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/26/14)

Dear Dad:

On the occasion of your 70th birthday, I want to say thank you…

dad1

…for working hard in the steel mill for all those years so that you could support your family and send me to college.

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…for taking me to Disney World for my 5th birthday!

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…for being an excellent dance partner.

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…for coming to my rescue when I was scared during a thunderstorm, even though it meant breaking your foot.

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…for making sure there was always some time to have fun together.

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…for your service to our country when you were a young man.

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…for giving me an appreciation of country life.

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…for loving my mother, and showing me through your example what love is.

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…for always being the person I can call when I have car problems.

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…for coaching me and going with me to the dealership to buy my first car, which I drove out to Los Angeles.

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…for having a bit of a mischievous side.

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…for having an excellent sense of humor, and showing me how not to take myself too seriously.

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…for being the kind of guy who can rock a pair of suspenders.

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…for showing me through your actions how important it is to help other people and to be of service.

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…for traveling to the far sides of the country to visit me.

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…for taking me to and picking me up from the airport, endlessly.

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…for giving me so many birthdays to share with you!

With Much Love,
Your Daughter,
Amy

 

Deciding To Go Out: One Introvert’s Thought Process for Accepting a Social Invitation

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/12/14)

introvert

As a self-diagnosed introvert, talking myself into attending some kind of event/party/meeting/seminar/class/friend date/anything that requires leaving the house results in a pretty intensive, although totally predictable, thought process.

Friends may wonder why I’m generally not very spontaneous. It’s because I have to allow time for this process to talk myself into going to whatever it is I’m invited to. It goes a little something like this:

  1. Receive invitation. Read it and pretend not to have seen it for at least two hours. (I say read, because all my good friends know that I don’t do phone calls. Text messages and emails are my preferred modes of communication.)
  2. Two hours later, read it again.
  3. Look at the date/time this event is to take place, and hope there is already something on the calendar.
  4. Realize there is nothing on the calendar and that I have no reasonable excuse to not go.
  5. Think up alternate reasons why I may not be able to go. Don’t I have some kind of deadline looming or something? Doesn’t someone need to be driven somewhere? Is my favorite TV show on at that time?
  6. Realize I have no good alternate reasons not to go.
  7. Decide to do nothing about the invitation for the moment, until I can think about it some more.
  8. Next day, revisit the invitation. Imagine what it might be like to go, if I decided to go.
  9. Think about who I might see, what I might wear, how long the event could go, how much energy may need to be expended.
  10. Fight the urge to just not accept the invitation for no reason.
  11. Ignore invitation again for a little while until I can think about it some more.
  12. Look at the invitation again, and think about saying yes.
  13. Do nothing.
  14. A bit later, practice saying “yes” by telling my husband that I think I might go to this thing.
  15. Feel disappointed that he can’t come up with a reason for me not to go.
  16. Do nothing.
  17. Eventually, come to terms with the fact that I am accepting the invitation.
  18. Finally, after exhausting all options, accept the invitation with enthusiasm.
I realize I am outing myself to all my friends by admitting to this thought process. Please don’t hate me or stop inviting me to things! I think what is important to understand is that I don’t go through this because I don’t want to go to something. I actually do generally enjoy myself once I’ve gotten out of the house. But I know how much social energy it takes for me to enjoy events, and I know that I have a limited supply. Too many things happening back to back exhaust and deplete me, and I worry I won’t have time to re-charge when I need to. This is simply a tool of self-protection. I agree that it’s kind of ridiculous and needlessly confounding, but it is how I am. My inner introvert insists on it.
Anyone else out there relate to this? Do you have a crazy personal process you go through when confronted with social opportunities? Does it make you feel guilty?

On Solitude or Being My Own Best Friend

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/7/14)

I’ve really liked myself for quite awhile now.

Wow, that sounds arrogant, doesn’t it?

Let me rephrase that in a more palatable way. I’ve learned how to enjoy my own company and to not get anxious about being alone. In fact, those times when I am by myself are some of my most enjoyable and satisfying.

It wasn’t always like this. I remember being a teenager and worrying about whether my close friends were hanging out without me. That was such a terrible, lonely feeling, knowing they were at the mall without me. Probably having lots of fun and buying some new, cute thing to wear. Or maybe going to the movies and seeing that one film that I really wanted to see – but they didn’t think to invite me. God, that was an awful feeling.

I was an awkward adolescent (who wasn’t?), and certainly wasn’t a good friend to myself. But sometime around my mid-20s – it took me that long to grow out of my awkward phase – I discovered I enjoyed hanging out alone. I found that sometimes when friends would call to invite me out for drinks or a show, I would actually decline, just so I could continue doing whatever it was I was doing by myself. It could have been organizing my CD collection or rearranging the living room furniture, it didn’t matter. I was having a good time and I didn’t want to stop.

Now that I’m almost 40, I’ve found that time alone is absolutely essential to my well-being. I don’t know if I’ve been an introvert all these years and didn’t realize it, but after time spent out with friends I need a couple days by myself to recharge. I love being with my friends, of course – they’re my friends for a reason. But I have a threshold for social activity that I reach pretty quickly, and only time away from all the interaction can recharge my batteries.

I see things differently when I’m alone. When I’m quiet, my mind has time to wander, uninterrupted, revealing new thoughts and ideas. I hear sounds I might otherwise miss – that sweet little bird in the tree, singing his little heart out, unaware that anyone is paying attention. Or the sound of my cat, Murray, laying ten feet away and happily purring in his sleep. When I’m alone, I have permission to linger, I don’t have to explain what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. I can just be with the experience.

I’ve been actively working on being a good friend to myself for a few years. I smile at my reflection in the mirror. I sing songs when I’m alone, just because it feels good. I celebrate my accomplishments and don’t let myself wallow too much in my defeats. I’m better at saying no when my schedule is getting too full, even if that no is met with disappointment from others. I give myself permission to indulge in the activities I enjoy – browsing garage sales for nothing in particular, creating a miniature gnome garden under the tree in the front yard, making a complicated dinner just for fun.

Discovering the pleasure of solitude has been a gift to me. Having alone time is part of my personal equation for happiness. And as I’m getting older, I’m getting more adamant about making time for me, just me.

Do you enjoy being alone? When was the last time you took yourself out, alone, just for the fun of it? Or turned down an invitation so you could have some time to yourself? Did you feel guilty, or is it important to your well-being?

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