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: