Friday, July 24, 2015

Rough around the edges, part deux


I was sitting at a table amidst a group of smart, charming and interesting people. It was an introduction that had come about through this blog as a few of them read along. There was a surprising breeze on the outdoor terrace perched next to the Rhone in Arles. It played with the wisps of our hair and lifted the conversation to and fro. But honestly, I was talking a lot - quite the rarity as I have grown nervous in groups during recent years. I think it was born out of the delight and relief of being amidst people roughly my own age and culture (highly unusual), a kind of letting go, on top of the fact that I had already been talking for hours while giving one of my walks through Arles. Maybe it was the heat running over my forehead but I could hear my voice beside me as if the words were spooling outwards trying to catch the breeze. Or it could have been the rosé that was generously being poured. But there was a moment, just the tiniest of ones, when I happened to catch - literally - the glance out of the corner of an eye of one of my table-mates. And somehow I instinctively knew that it was - enfin - a recognition of something that they had been hoping to see in me, based on what is written here.

Those of you that have been reading a very long time know that I moved around quite a bit in childhood - every four years or so - and the result of that can be a push and pull within me of wanting very much to be liked or the reversal on a dime of "I don't need anyone" (but you, Baby). Like a lot of people who lived through such moments of blur and constant newness, I adapted. But that left me a bit rough around the edges. I didn't always know where the extension of me ended and where my absorbing the company around me began. That survival tactic ended quite abruptly - or so I thought - during my young adulthood, something that I wrote about a few years ago, hence this is a "part deux."

But here is the thing. I recently reread that post - written in 2011 - and I have a different perspective on both it and myself now. Since then I have mused a ton about the shifting and shedding of personality. The cult of it too in our society. I thought that, especially in these past few years where so much has happened - where we have down-sized twice and moved out into the silence of the country - that I was stripped down to the bone, left with only the essentials. So much gone but also so much gained. What it might be like to be a white bird in the snow. But that side-glance was like a tiny prick in a balloon. Enough to let out the air but not to make it pop. I have been chewing on the questions it awoke in me ever since.

Who are we when we make our way through the world? Where does the how of it come from? I want to ask these questions again. Is that always an extension of our inner selves? I don't know if it is. Or maybe it is for most people but not necessarily for an adapter like me. Actually, during that conversation at the table I told an anecdote about when I was an actress and not wanting to do film anymore after seeing my face during the rushes for the first time and thinking, "But that isn't me, that face doesn't represent at all what I feel." That and I had a memory that floated down like a feather from nowhere last week. It was of the head costumer at the Yale School of Drama saying, "Well, it is for you because you are a girl that knows how to wear a gown." Just that. And I haven't been able to shake that sentence because he was right, I did. And I do? It certainly wouldn't appear so as I am today in tank top and shorts, legs crossed at the angle of a number four. With all of the weight that I have gained in the past few years my body feels heavy. Quite masculine.

And where does that come from? Well, here is the answer I have from some of those questions - beyond the weight which is my own - I think it comes from Remi. Or, to be more precise, in my not, finally, being so reduced to the essential as I thought but - without thinking - picking up on his way of doing things, of moving, of expressing. Truly, when I had that thought earlier today I was like, "Oh come on, really?" but it makes sense and not just from a "couple who have been together forever" standpoint. Me, still a chameleon then, still adapting. Is that a bad thing? It hasn't always been as that flexibility helped me be a decent storyteller. And while I have definitely become ultra aware of that roughness around the edges - certainly since that conversation - maybe I can use that to my advantage to make the changes that will make me feel...better. And then I can redefine that feeling as something more akin to...porous?

Remi and I will be celebrating a big anniversary (that I am quite proud of) in a few days and I have a birthday around the corner so I imagine this post is coming right out of that pressure of time passing and hoping to get some truth from it. I hope that doesn't sound too pretentious, I don't mean it to be. As I have been writing I have been trying to put these pieces together - not only for me but for you as well just in case it rings a bell. But does it? In reading the comments of that earlier post, it seems like this is an issue that most of you tidied up long ago. And while many of us have been writing about the changes to our appearance mid-life (can I begin to tell you how I loathe that phrase?) that isn't really what I am trying to roast over the fire either. For me, it seems like I am not always connecting the dots between my inner and outer self. That is good to know. More to learn then and the best part is...as far my inner self is concerned? That feels mine and true and as solidly delineated as a child's roughly shaped drawing of a heart.



Thank you for all of your wonderful wishes for La Contessa on my previous post...


to listen to:


Bon Weekend...



37 comments:

Bill Facker said...

One of the exciting "Positives" regarding our connection in this new world of technological wonder is the gift of participating in one another's personal growth .. enjoying the highs, feeling the lows, sharing our common humanity. Congratulations, Heather, on what is an obvious milestone period of your life .. et Merci for sharing a special and personal moment with us.

Mahalo et Merci,
Bill

www.kauai-to-paris.com

Joan McKniff said...

As I don't expect to live more than 140 years, mid life is a long gone era. But it was perhaps "mid life" when I became a Diplomat, lived on three continents and more countries. I found myself climbing slippery hills pre dawn, in the rain forest, to try to see/ hear the waking Indri, when I was 60. Flat lined in all mod cons USA in January. And am amazed and delighted to be alive now: proud of the years and experiences. Celebrate who and how you are. There's nobody like you, Heather.

Judith Ross said...

Whew, wow.... lots to think about here, Heather. I do think there is a core of ourselves that is developed when we are very young that we may deviate from outwardly that always remains, as you say, "as solidly delineated as a child's roughly shaped drawing of a heart." In fact, in a weird coincidence, just this morning I was talking to my husband about some old, old friends who have had a hard life because they got into and then stayed in the wrong relationship. And he said, he could never see me doing that. And I said I never could stay with someone if it wasn't right. For all of my inferiority complex, I was strong enough to be alone rather than be dishonest with myself. And that is at my core from childhood as well as some other things, too. Too, too much to say in a comment. A lot tied up with my father (okay, now I'm really on the couch!) who taught me to doubt myself and who I have been trying to write about for months now. Aaagh...

I think we must be able to adapt and change, and yet there are things inside us that make us who we are and that stay with us our whole lives.

Congratulations on the upcoming anniversary and birthday! And, I suspect, that you have had as much influence on Remi as you say he has had on you. It's a partnership!

RebeccaNYC said...

Wow. Lots to think about here, and I will be re-reading this one, I think! I have been musing a LOT about my youth, what went right, what might have gone wrong, where do I go from here as I am now in "the youth of my old age". What age and the inevitable change that occurs to women, the loss of a certain "femininity" (your comments about weight ring very true to me) and yet, I am more comfortable in my own skin now more than ever. I am more honest with myself, and with others. I am kinder, I think. It never stops, this self discovery, does it? Thank you for this food for thought! I'm gonna go pour myself a glass of Rosé and have a ponder.

Cleo from Jersey said...

My first thought was, "What a courageous post!" Then I realized that this is one of the benefits of maturity, standing full front, looking in the mirror at what really is, and not what we hope to see...and letting others see it too, because, even though we may still have questions and unresolved emotions, we are comfortable with who we are. And though we may always be a work in progress, we move forward from that comfortable place, because we have learned to trust ourselves. Beautiful, thoughtful post, Heather.

Judi of Little House said...

Thank you for sharing yourself with us - introspection really gives us all much 'food for thought.' Regardless of where it takes us whenever we decide to peer inward and outward, the key I think is to be gentle with ourselves and I think you have shown that you've got it! You are brave, powerful, kind, and gentle! Many, many happy returns for your lovely anniversary with Remi and for your very own birthday!!

donna baker said...

And wonderful comments too. Sixty knocked me over the head. I was still wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up. I guess bottom line is we're all struggling to get through this life. We must be kind to one another, but take time for ourselves too. Introspection is tricky at my age. I try to avoid that, but then again I'm married to a psychologist who says it doesn't matter why, just what to do about it and this all makes little sense, but I'm old enough not to care.

Judi of Little House said...

P.S. Not sure if I responded to Part 1, but just wanted you to know, no matter what I said or say now, I'm not yet "tidied up" and I'm hoping that that's a good thing! Ebb and flow, change and static non-movement, highs and lows, life is kind of like a river.

Jackie Clark Mancuso said...

what a fruitful combination, to be courageous and articulate, at the same time. this post is special and so much resonates. tho my thoughts are blurry like a dream minutes after waking. it's good to be "recognized" (enfin). happy happy birthday and anniversary to you my friend.

chezbon said...

As a child, I moved no less, and sometimes more, than every year, until I was 11. Sometimes two schools in a year. Yes, my mother was a bit disturbed, and it was just her and me. Talk about having to adapt! It made it very easy for me as an adult to meet new people, and deal with new situations. It also made me somewhat unwilling to engage, as no one was around for very long. Fortunately (or not) I am not particularly sensitive or artistic, so I was able to deal with all of it. I'm technically elderly, and have been living in the Languedoc for several years, planning to make a move to Provence and start a new business with a friend. So I guess I've managed to cope. And so have you.

rosie said...

Hi Heather.

First of all I am new to your blog . There are so many blogs & books about French style written by people who are supposed to be authorities, who do not live in France or are not French. Maybe they were there years ago or go once a year to France. You are the real deal & I am loving it

My survival tactics & outlook on life (for better or worse) were honed by my growing up in downtown Manhattan. I was friendly but cautious, thanks to my immigrant family Also, every summer for 15 years I lived with my grandparents in the upstate NY at their small hotel. So I learned to relax more & enjoy nature.

'When I married and immediately moved to the burbs for many years, I rarely acknowledged my city youth & thought I was more open. But I was still & basically am the culture vulture, cautious kid who who loved art museums, music, books & particularly theatre. I made plenty of friends but very few loved all the culture stuff; and I adapted; or, thought I did. There was something missing; so, my husband & I moved right outside Manhattan 8 years ago & go in often. My old neighborhood is now so exclusive it is beyond expensive. We also live a good part of the year in a warm climate in Florida. Talk about adapting.

So, now I don't ever tone it down & enjoy all the arts & particularly theatre, more than ever. There are benefits to being a certain age & living in your own skin Its now kinda cool when I meet millennials & when I say where I grew up - they say. "really". And I say "oh, yeah".


Vicki Lee Johnston said...

Your blog always catches my attention and is the one I have to stop, read and re-read. You have such a gift with words and expressing feeling - and one needs to slow down to absorb what is being said - but it clearly resonates with me, as though I were writing it, thank you.
"it seems like I am not always connecting the dots between my inner and outer self."
I have always felt that way but as the years go by the connection between those dots is getting stronger and one day I hope that the inner and outer self will be one and the same in essence.
Funny how nature emulates humanity - the shell - tougher exterior facade to protect what's inside - we need that shell, however we choose to decorate it or display it and every day is different, every hour for that matter.
The energy source is deep inside - affected by those who managed to crack the shell, tip it over, discard it - but one day - as in nature - we won't need the shell or the facade to become one.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”
- Anais Nin

Maywyn Studio said...

Intriguing post. The gown memory is wonderful.
I wasn't looking for a moment to think. I read blogs for entertainment. Yet, more often than not, reading your blog means thinking. I didn't catch onto that until just now. I didn't hear a bell ring until reading the first sentence in your fourth paragraph. Past mid-life, when I look back, I see a me that is mostly molded by other's concept of who I am, the to-fit-in, needy-like-me thing. I played the part, and the part played me. Who won isn't important. Its the experience that matters, and the good memories.
I look forward some day to reading a novel you wrote.

D A Wolf said...

Of Heather, I love when you open up this rich vein of introspection. It is a bridge of both delicacy and strength to anyone who searches for answers to our whys and our when's and their mysteries we may never entirely fathom. It is fascinating to me to hear that when you saw the rushes on film you could not recognize yourself. And yet this seems entirely natural; how can the external vision ever match up or catch up to the person we sense we ought to be or become?

Your 'rough around the edges' is sketched most thoughtfully; that in itself a moving 'auto-portrait' for us to celebrate as you head into your anniversary and anniversaire.

La Contessa said...

ANNIVERSARY..........BIRTHDAY IN SEPTEMBER but I do not remember the date!If I think back you just turned 40............if this is 45 I will FALL off my chair!
You have always said you were shy and not comfortable in GROUPS...........would you believe that to be TRUE of me TOO!!!YES, it is.................
Oh and that body of OURS.........forever changing now!Each day brings a new awareness.I suppose it's OK cause it beats the alternative!Most of the weight goes to the BOOBS!
REMI will LOVE THAT!
You live in a spot where Food and Wine are important to LIFE.Enjoy it............
As for knowing how to wear a gown....................WELL,I am still searching for a GOWN for YOU for the driving lesson!(IT will make you calmer and more in control!)Maybe thats why I am not coming this summer as I haven't found it yet!!!!
I love that you were surrounded by WOMEN who READ YOU!LOVE IT................XOXOXO
I THANK ALL of YOU who left a comment too for my VERY SPECIAL BIRTHDAY POST!!!!
YOUR POST just made my DAY HEATHER.WHAT A GIFT YOU GAVE ME!
THANK YOU.

simpleimages2 said...

Our maps have sharp lines, curves, tangents and rough edges which make our lives rich, complex and interesting. A constellation of qualities.

Skyscrapers, snowflakes, green pastures and muddy lanes, maps that connect the time in life, the phase when we become members of the community of learners, drawing our hearts.

Congratulations. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY.

Karena Albert said...

Heather, I loved reading this post today as I think of all of the changes I too have gone through.
The past few years I like to believe i have become more open to possibilities, more accepting of change, of yes, even the aging process and the experiences I've had. We have no idea what is in store right around the corner in our lives. This will be an exciting and meaningful anniversary and birthday for you!! Brava!!

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena
Ceramic Artist Leah Bowring

Heather Robinson said...

I don't know if it is a milestone period yet Bill...maybe...let's hope so! And I love "common humanity".

Mahalo to you,
H

Heather Robinson said...

Nor like you Joan - your story inspires me to no end - what I know of it! - and always has. How grateful I am that you are here and healthy to share your stories and amazing perspective. Merci...

Heather Robinson said...

It most certainly is, Judith, certainly when you live and work together nearly 24/7 for so many years! But in every relationship too of course. I really agree with that idea of the core essence of who we are...I struggle (obviously) with many of the issues that are outlying that core but at least that I feel solid about. I know that I am a good person no matter what with a good heart. And as for the influence of Dad's...well, if I am always trying (at times too hard) to be liked it is for a reason!

Heather Robinson said...

No, it doesn't seem to stop! And I have friends who are much older than I am who feel the same way, although I think - and in reading some of these comments here - some of the issues fade away - I am so looking forward to that!
Although we have a lot in common in regards to this issue, I have to say right up front that I am NOT bien dans ma peau right now. I am trying to be cool with this version of me but I have to say that the weight gain is a big part of it. I wish that it wasn't. Again, trying to find the balance...not always easy...

Heather Robinson said...

Honestly? I think that I am still not always trusting myself! But it is through moments like this that help me to wipe away a bit of the fog on the window that help me think that it is ok, I can.

Heather Robinson said...

Ebb and flow...Judi I have been thinking about that phrase since you wrote it. So thank you...yes, and the reminder to be gentle too!

Heather Robinson said...

What your Husband says really goes along with what I was reading during the writing of the White Bird in the Snow post. The past is past and what are we doing right now? I did have three years of CBT in Manhattan before moving to France and loved it but I understand what you are saying too...I don't think about the age itself (yet) too much but rather how I am doing and feeling...

Heather Robinson said...

Merci, Jackie. Your beautiful books are right here on top of my desk. I like to keep Hudson's spirit and your conveyance of beauty in my sight-line. Good reminders. And oh to be "recognized"! I could go on about that one...and certainly from an expat point of view where I often feel utterly invisible...
Gros Bisous.

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you for this, very much. That actually rings quite true about an unwillingness to engage - I am sure that Remi would have something to say about that in terms of my reluctance to make friends since living in France. As for me, my Mom is still my best friend, so we had each other to hold on to during those moves. Alas, I am both artistic and ridiculously sensitive so each little skip in the record takes time to digest.
I am so curious about your leaving Languedoc for Provence and wish you ALL success in your new business venture!

Heather Robinson said...

Rosie, I must have read your response five times already - there is so much in it that I just adored. And thank you for the initial compliment - it drives me absolutely bananas that there are so many books out there written by folks who have only visited here...

Like the millenials, I am fascinated by your youth. I moved to Manhattan at the end of the eighties when I had just turned 18. I didn't know anyone so made friends with all of the institutions that you mentioned -starting with going to the Met once a week, paying with the change in my pocket. I went to art openings in Soho by myself (would they even let me in these days without an invite?), concerts at the other Met and operas but also downtown at CBGBs. At least a movie a week. I was a sponge! And it was as important as an education as my bachelor's in acting from NYU.

When we moved out into the country last July, it took me a while to figure out that the reason why I felt so off-balance - this despite our renting a really beautiful house - was that I missed that energy, that possibility - even Arles always has something going on to see. So maybe such a move as you did with your Husband might be in order at some point. Or maybe I just finally need to learn how to drive! ;)

Welcome to the blog. So happy to have you here!

Heather Robinson said...

Tit for tat because you gave me so much here to think about. Thank you too. I am fascinated by your idea of a shell, something that I was always really aware of while living in NYC especially but it is still here, more than I realize. In writing, at times, I can set it aside. Sometimes. And that Anais Nin brings tears to my eyes, no matter how many times that I have read it...

Heather Robinson said...

I am not sure if I have fiction in me but I will let you know if I do. And I agree that it is the experience that matters...

Heather Robinson said...

In some ways, now, I don't know how I could have ever hoped for those rushes to show "me" but I was younger then. It was crushing. And "sketched" is the word! But I am very moved by all of the wonderful responses here...I never would have imagined...

Heather Robinson said...

I hope that you are sitting down and holding on to the table because I will be...46!! ;)

And oh, there is so much wonderful food and wine here to enjoy...too much! But I love it and will spoil you rotten when you come to visit...

You are welcome for your birthday post - I was so happy to do it! Many thanks to Carla and Drew Wright for my using their wonderful portraits of you...

Heather Robinson said...

So many textures, such intricacies and scale. I just loved this Edgar, thank you and will share your wishes with Remi.

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you so much, Karena - I hope you are right! :)

Lisa Southard said...

Read this on my phone and tried to comment- am definitely not a natural with technology! But - yes, changeable is good, otherwise life has not affected you - that's how I see it. Happy birthday for when it comes, and happy anniversary - may the wine and life keep flowing :-)

Lorrie said...

What came to mind as I read this post and the comments was Brene Brown's The Power of Vulnerability. (It's a TED talk, available on YouTube.) When someone opens up and makes herself vulnerable, as you have done here, so much resonates with others. I think we are all looking for ourselves, reinventing ourselves throughout all of life. Fitting my personal narrative into the meta-narrative of the world requires constant realignment. These are the questions asked throughout the ages and yet I'm continually surprised that I keep asking them.

I had breakfast with a group of fellow teachers the other day and one mentioned feeling like she playacted in the classroom. There were nods all around and I found myself thinking, "you, too?" We are so complex. Each role I play requires different characteristics. Connecting all of them seems impossible. But when we share our questions and introspection with each other, we connect with like-minded individuals and there's something healing about realizing we are not alone.

Moving a lot and living as an expat adds richness and layers to life, but lots of puzzling complexity, too. After 21 years in Ecuador meant that I belonged nowhere - I thought differently than most Canadians and had a hard time fitting in here. Even now I'm careful about what I say to most people.

Oh dear. I'm rambling here. Life is full of mystery. May your birthday and anniversary be celebrations of love and life.

Heather Robinson said...

I always love your perspective, Lisa. Changeable IS good, it is good that life has affected me, you are right. Thank you...

Heather Robinson said...

Lorrie, thank you SO much for this response. I had watched and loved Brene Brown's TED talk a while ago (and Glennon Doyle Melton's too). I think I might watch it again today. Because I just might be putting labels on the MASSIVE vulnerability that I have been feeling as of late that just aren't serving me well.

It has meant the world to me that so many people have responded in kind to this post - I truly never imagined that would happen, if anything the opposite. So I am extremely grateful, not only for all of the incredible perspective but yes, exactly as you said in that reminder that I am not alone, we are not alone.

Of course, I agree with you about being an expat. Finally, we end up being in some sort of No Man's Land that is neither here nor there and it can be terribly confusing. And alienating - especially as it is only fairly recently that I have started reaching out towards some of my fellow expats here to swap stories.

Life most certainly is full of mystery and it is comforting to know that I am not the only one to say, "Wait, I am back here again?" from time to time.
Gros Bisous et mille fois merci...