Saturday, September 16, 2017

Coming up for air



Hello. 

Well, the fact that I am starting to get search dog emails tells me that it is time to check in with this amazing community to explain the reason for my silence. And for those of you who reached out, please know that I am deeply, deeply moved by such gestures, especially in this time of transition. One where, admittedly, I have been wrestling with the chimera of loneliness quite a lot. 

I am in Avignon, la Cité des Pâpes, currently working a two-month contract that will continue through October. Such temporary contracts, or CDDs, are very common in France. They give the employer a means of "trying out" someone before committing to the far more binding permanent contract, the elusive CDI (which one needs in order to, say, buy a car on credit or rent an apartment). What this means for me is that I am on an island of seeming-security in the midst of a strong current. And it has been interesting to observe the ugly head of perfectionism rearing its head as a result. I have been pushing myself hard to advance - for there is much to learn - and judging myself harshly when I "fail." All of these modes of being are ones that I thought that I had left behind long ago, but they are apparently very old stories that still need to be brought to light. Hopefully, with kindness. 


There have been some gifts along the way, the most important of which is that my friend Anthony's Mom is renting me a beautiful studio (see above to understand how perfect this is) that I will be able to stay in if my contract is extended. My ex has been kind enough to let me store some of my possessions in the old house and helped me to move a few carefully chosen items to Avignon last week. That was a hard day. While I had long since made my peace with the end of our 15-year relationship and had disconnected from that beautiful home, saying au revoir to Kipling, whom I will no longer be seeing on a regular basis, was brutal. I am crying to think on it, and how much I miss him, so I will move on...

The idea all along was for me to purposefully not try to launch into a third career yet (nor have I, realistically, regained the self-confidence to start my own business but am getting there) but rather to get what my Sister and I used to call "a job-job" back in our acting days that would support me while I could continue to be creative, which is where my heart is and has always been. However, the reality is that I am too exhausted from working such long hours and so have not been able to keep that part of my spirit as active as I would like, save for the occasional short bursts on Instagram (@lostinarles). In time, my wish is that I will build up strength so that I can put down the words and take the photographs on a more regular basis. Or I will have to find another solution. I woke up this morning with a very clear thought in my head: "my life cannot be only this." In France, they call it "métro, boulot, dodo" or "commute, work, sleep" (then repeat). 


Last night was a rare evening off and I walked and walked the streets of Avignon. The light was splendid golden, that September sun fading creating long shadows as the crowds passed in silhouette. It is a city and I have again passed into anonymity, something long since forgotten after so many years of living in the Provençal village and Arles. I listened to jazz in front of the Palais des Pâpes, then wandered through the vernissage of an exhibition in the magnificent Palais de Roure, tenuously clutching my rosé in a plastic cup while watching the old families of this grand town air kiss. It was pleasant. Afterwards, I lit all the candles in my studio, put on some beautiful music and found myself staring off into space, thinking and letting the feelings come up of all that has changed, of all that is in motion. 

I am still coming up for air, rising and rising. And then sometimes falling back. Not drowned or flying but still here, breathing in my bones; filled with longing but also grateful. I am not sure what is next. But none of us do.


One step, then the next, then the next...

It is all we can do. With all that is going on in the world, I am hyper aware that this is just my story. But I feel how it essential it is to try and remain open to the beauty and the good. 


Thank you for being here,
With love from Avignon,
Heather


77 comments:

  1. It is "funny"--funny being more like constantly frustrating--how creativity requires constant recalibration to live with. What worked last year at this time doesn't work this year at this time and won't work next year at this time. As someone who seems to be much more subject to burnout and burying his head in the sand than you, I feel I can promise that creativity is always there. Even when the river runs dry for a bit. you know how many there are of us who believe in you and see clearly your talents! And as I arrogantly remind myself probably too often, no matter what's taken away from you, you'll always have your talents.

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    1. You are so brilliant, Stephen. You always shine a light in your perspective. Always. The thing that is driving me crazy is that the well hasn't dried up at all, it is just that I am too tired to transmit what I see or feel. The physical exhaustion is real...hopefully, I will build up my strength soon because I am also really frustrated by not being able to do. But thank you for the belief. I am not sure that we always have our talents though. Life can rob us of a few.

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  2. " I woke up this morning with a very clear thought in my head: "my life cannot be only this." "

    What wonderful words you have spoken. You have touched my heart through the years with your quiet, unassuming, heartfelt thoughts. I began to follow you because of your photos, because of where you lived and the life you were living. I continue to follow you because of you, who you are and your willingness to share the struggles we all face at one time or another. Thank you so much for giving us all of you. I am rooting for you here in Colorado!

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    1. Your response means so very much to me. Thank you. Thank you.

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  3. Anonymity clears the path and opens the gates between our "Self" and our "Gifts". In the loneliness and solitude dwells the seed of new beginning, new hope, new excitement, renewed passion. Rocket, you are on the launching pad .. Brilliant you, poised for the next flight, the next adventure .. connecting with, and sharing, your gift. Congratulations, Mahalo, et Merci for being Unique, Fascinating, Giving .. You.

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    1. This was so beautifully written, and so well said. I wrote the second sentence on a piece of paper and will carry it in my wallet. Thank you.

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    2. I'm so appreciative of what you have written. I was feeling terribly lonely after today's missive, although I'm respecting the challenging effort that's being exerted by dear, dear Heather. I think I must be channeling her, or I'm putting my own projecting spin on 'it.'

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    3. Mahalo my wonderful, dear friend and if you have admirers for your comments it is because they help more than just me...

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  4. Exquisite photos. Glad to read you've landed on your feet, for the moment. A job (albeit contract), a beautiful place to rent, Avignon, the basis for happiness when you steal moments. Food, shelter, the chance for creativity...the next adventure around the corner.

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    1. It is not quite that simple yet but hopefully i am getting there!

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  5. Wishing you all the very best, and keeping fingers and toes crossed for you. Thank you for being so honest and sharing what's happening. Enjoy the present, the now, and I wish you a wonderful future.

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  6. Good luck to you Heather. We all need a little bit of luck in life. I sincerely hope you get to where you want to be . Once you have decided what that is, of course! Nice to hear from you again.x

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    1. What a beautiful message, Diana! And thank you so much for the luck!!!! And yes, I am still not sure what is next, even if I dream of Venice. xo

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  7. Did you sense me wondering what you've been up to? With all your talent you're gonna be just fine! I've been working on getting a new book into production. Xo

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    1. See? But that is the difference between you and me! You have talent (incredible beautiful talent!) AND the mojo to do much with it...

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  8. I know this is a seriously out there suggestion but could you find Teddy? You need a dog and he still needs a human as far as I am aware. If he does have a home could you let me know because I have been worrying about him since he went back to the shelter.

    I love getting your posts, thank you for sharing them.

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    1. No, seriously? Did you actually read my post? Or did you just skim it? And if so, then why are you reading here? Because if you did not see the part where I broke down into deep tears while talking about how I am destroyed because I cannot have the means to be WITH MY OWN DOG WHO I LOVE AND MISS TERRIBLY...I cannot possibly understand how you can be so out of touch as to wonder if I can adopt a giant, untrained dog to bring him to live in a tiny studio where he would be alone for ten hours of the day? What part of that works for you or for him? And of course there is no consideration of me whatsoever in the equation. Did you see the part about my long hours that I am working? That I am too tired to do much of anything else?

      I know that we all loved Ellie and that is the only reason that I was so foolish as to publish that post before verifying without a doubt that Teddy was not available for international adoption. I asked her if it would make her happy to try and get him adopted locally and if anyone would bother to read the original post, that was the clear intent. You cannot begin to imagine how much I regret that post now, nor the hate mail that I continue to receive because of it.

      In the seven years of doing this blog, I have NEVER called anyone out but this is it. I am exhausted and done.

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    2. I have thought very carefully before I decided to reply, just as I thought very carefully before I made my "off the wall" suggestion. For the second time today I have reread your earlier post about adopting Teddy, again very carefully.

      I am sorry to have caused you pain, that was never my intention.

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  9. well, I did wonder ..... I have just finished a period of nearly 4 months with not a single day without visitors here, or contractors, or both usually. I'm delighted to hear you have a good apartment, even if it isn't totally permanent. I hope your next post will tell us what the mystery job is! Persevere.......
    bonnie

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    1. Miss you Bonnie! Will you come see me for lunch in Avignon?

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  10. You have been on my mind......It will work out....whatever it is....
    Ali

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  11. I was wondering.... but suspecting that something was in the air. So glad you have found the job job, though I know how difficult it is to be creative while putting one's energies elsewhere. It sounds like yet another break with the past, like tearing off a sticky bandaid verrrrry slooowly. You'll get through it -- sometimes you have to take it just one day at a time, sometimes just half a day at a time. Thinking of you and sending all my best thoughts your way always.

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    1. Oh my gosh Judith, of course you get this perfectly and reflect back so wonderfully what I am trying to express. And I completely agree...sometimes I am down to "just get through this hour". Much love to you.

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  12. It is pleasing to read about your new beginning, but your heart must be aching for Kipling. Life will be kinder to you Heather, but it takes its own time."Métro, boulot, dodo" has been the story of my life and I'm forever finding it extremely difficult to break out of this cycle. Bisous

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    1. I am sorry to read that you understand so well about that particular cycle...and yes, a great thank you for your empathy about my missing Kipling so very much. If only I was able to have him her (under completely different conditions), I would not feel so alone at times. I miss his crazy personality and his sweetness equally. It has been the hardest part of this transition.

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  13. Cheer and force! life has kept you pleasant surprises, you just have to resist. Kipling and you have a special story that will last forever.
    Blessings and good energies for you life goes on ...
    Miriam from Ecuador

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    1. Miriam! You are amazing! And you know of the love that our dogs bring. So you understand. Thank you for your beautiful message with all heart.

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  14. Heather, I think you're incredibly brave to be making a semi-new life back in France. I'm in awe that you had the courage to go back after your time with your mother (?) and sister. I'd still be rolled up in a ball under the covers.
    Please keep us posted about whether you enjoy living in this part of France. It's an area I've heard of, of course, but no nothing about.
    Btw, your picture of the stairs with those shadows is incredible. What an amazing photographer you are! ( Your pics of Venice are the best I've ever seen--and I've seen A LOT!!
    Wishing you all the best...

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    1. Thank you so, so, so very much! Sally, your words of encouragement - especially as far as my photography are concerned - are always truly taken in and appreciated. How much I wish that I can return to Venice to take more but it won't happen for the near future. I still have many photos to share though! :)

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  15. Embarrassed by my typo--Know!!!
    ( I'm a former teacher of English!)

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  16. I missed you! Now I know about your life. Keep going dear Heather, life is going up now

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    1. I missed you too Maria. And all of my lovely, incredibly gratious commenters here! I hope you are right!!!

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  17. Remember little steps, you will get there, so proud of you. Big hugs from the Charente Maritime xx

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    1. I am super tired right now so the fact that you said that you were proud of me brought tears to my eyes.

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  18. Oh dear Heather, I enjoy reading about your incredible life journey. You give me courage to continue to be creative and live life wholly. bESOS TO YOU.

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  19. Ah hah! There you are. You are a very courageous woman, Heather. This move, along with the others you've experienced, only a brave woman like yourself could endure. You're already on your path of creativity - don't stop. I'm just so sorry to hear that the hours are exhausting, but if it helps to know -- I'd come drink rosé from a plastic cup with you anytime!!! xoxo, Michelle

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    1. Oh my. Is this Michelle P? I would drink rosé out of the bottle with you! And if not, this is just so beautiful that I will reread it on the days that I need strength (and they are many) just so you know! Yep, I am so crazy tired.

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  20. I was just thinking about you the other day and wondering... I am glad to see your stunning photography and read your beautiful words.

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    1. Julie? I am really touched just to know that I came up in your thoughts the other day.

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  21. Keep rising! Know that we are all wishing you every good thing. xoxox

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    1. Not everybody, apparently. But I am so delighted to call you a friend and grateful.

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    2. Give none of your precious energy to that. You are loved and respected. And next summer? WE ARE HAVING A DATE!

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    3. YIPPPEEEEEE!!!! Oh I will give you the biggest hug ever. :)

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  22. Have courage, dear Heather. Sometimes, when we least expect it, the sun peeps again from behind the clouds and starts to shine again.

    P.S. are you still in touch with Suze (Girl Wizard)? I cannot find her anywhere online and miss her a lot.

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    1. I know! Where is she?! Will you send me an email (I am so tired right now that I know that I will forget) at robinsonheather - at - yahoo.com? I will share what I know.

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  23. Heather, you are so incredibly strong! I have nothing but admiration for you and your efforts at making a life! I'm glad you are safe and ensconced in an apartment in beautiful and fascinating Avignon. Working is always a double-edged sword, sometimes a reward within itself, sometimes a means to another way. I'm wishing you well, and hopefully, a good night's sleep after an exhausting day!

    A friend told me this, this past year, year two after my husband's death and it has helped me at the most opportune times, to calm myself. I pass it along to you - I may have already sent it before, but that's ok. It's like a mantra and needs repeating (for myself anyway:)) "It's all going to be 'good' in the end. And if it's not yet 'good,' then it's just not yet the end." Bisous, mon amie!

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  24. Patricia, you certainly took the high road in your reply and I am sure you did not mean to cause Heather pain. When I carefully read Heather's post the first time, I focussed on the fact that her friend's mother was renting her a beautiful studio. I didn't really think that it was tiny although that may be implied because it is a "studio" and that heather has to store some of her things. I never realized that Teddy was untrained. You were very well-meaning in your "off the wall suggestion". It was meant kindly. Don't think twice about it. Enough said.

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    1. You are very kind to have written this comment. I am sure that Patricia did not mean any harm.

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  25. Heather, It is so nice to see you back here! I am happy the hear about your beautiful studio and your "job-job." Transition is always hard. I am sorry about Kipling...

    Take care of yourself and even though you are working long hours try to find a little time each day just for you.

    xo

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    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. It is really good advice. I miss Kipling terribly each day though. I know you understand all of this.

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  26. Coming up for Air...

    We were hit by a greatly weakened hurricane, not the Cat 5 that hit places south of us. But I was in an evacuation zone and when returned home, days later, had no power or water in hot and sticky Florida. But I was home, clothing option and found a position that might catch a breeze. Then thought fine. I didn't panic in the shelter, my for sale home not ruined, I'm breathing. Have done and am doing all I can. Calm for first time in a week. Breathing in, out..... POWER ON FLASH First reaction: A/C - hooray. Second reaction: looking around the room, all the things to do, things undone. Suddenly being brave and calm didn't feel enough. Your essay reminded me of this feeling. Coming up for air can mean so many different things. Go well dear Heather.

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    1. Joan. You always, always understand all the levels of what I am hoping and hoping to communicate. Yes, you were in my thoughts and how grateful I am to read that all went well. I think I would I have felt it if it wasn't the case for you. Our reactive instincts are our old stories, aren't they? The ones we go to when we aren't entirely sure of ourselves or our conditions for whatever reason.
      I am sending you so much Love, Joan. Thank you for all that you inspire in me.

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  27. Ellie's friend from Canada is being nice. Heather your reply to Patricia was uncalled for ... nasty. I too worry about Teddy. Untrained because he has lived in a shelter. This is so sad.

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    1. No actually, the dogs there go through training and are deeply loved and cared for. But of course you don't know that despite my always responding in the comments, over and over again, that Teddy is actually in the place that he is supposed to be. Except for when he was with Ellie. And I can tell you that he was great with her, an angel but a serious challenge for everyone else. Again, I should have never done that post. Ever. For so many reasons. Including that I am typing this when I am so exhausted to someone who does not give a whit about me but only about a goofy, lovable but also kind of scary dog who is being cared for by people who love him under great circumstances.
      So, Sweet Retreat? Please take a sweet retreat from my blog. I am NOT going to keep having this conversation.
      This was not at all what this post was about. Not trolls allowed here.

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    2. I thought it was very cruel to respond to Patricia the way you did. I believe her comment was truly written with kindness. I was shocked you saw it in another way and I think it must have hit some sore point that we couldn't know about or should we be responsible for. Calling your readers who choose to politely challenge your opinion trolls and suggesting Teddy is in the place he's meant to be is just outrageous. I see a side of you I no longer want to read and follow. You won't need to disinvite me.
      I think you're a great writer but may I suggest getting out of your own head when you're writing and finding other subjects to write about. I promise you it will do you a world of good. I guarantee when you stop dwelling on yourself and look to those beyond you, your world will light up in ways you can't imagine. Written with nothing but kindness in my heart.
      Not a troll, just an honest and kind person.

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    3. I too believe that her comment was written with kindness but with a complete disconnect to what I had written so as to be shocked. Just as with Sweet Retreat. Even though I am a redhead, it takes A LOT to get me angry. And my response was full of anger and I stand by it. Because I felt disrespected in both cases. That Teddy's needs were put in front of my own. That no one actually does believe me - without having visited the shelter and know the volunteers as I do - that yes, he is in the right place. As I have said before, he was adopted after Ellie's passing but was rescued by the shelter because he was being mistreated. He was adopted again but was returned because he was unmanageable. He lives in a big penned in area with a big doghouse with a dogbed in it. He shares that space with another dog who is his BFF. They love each other and everyone at the shelter loves Teddy dearly. He is a favourite. He is taken on long walks in the country twice a day. He is fed high quality dogfood. I walked right by Teddy when I adopted Kipling as he was not one of the dogs begging and barking to get out. This is his home.

      As for getting out of my own head, I do write about other subjects, just as I had for years as a professional travel writer. I will say that they are by far the least read of what I do here. And those posts are a luxury that I can not quite afford yet. I am working non-stop, I have no friends here, I am alone. This blog was started by me, for me. That is still very much the case. I have not had even remotely the energy to write anything because of the physical and mental exhaustion created by my current work schedule but I wrote this post because I needed the support of the community that has evolved. I really did. So yes, I was angry to get what I felt was just a truly disrespectful and completely out of touch comment - and then continued backlash from my response - and I still am. I know that you are a long term reader and I am sorry to see you go. But I am me. This is an extension of me. I am not perfect nor do I want to be.

      With all my best wishes to you.

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    4. First, I will say I did not know that about Teddy and that puts your comment about him in a different light.

      And I understand that you are saying your blog was started by you, for you and you are who you are. I get that. But by publishing 'yourself' you do open yourself up to observations and critiques. You may not always be up for that. I've always been a person who looks hard at myself and expects others to do the same. I know many many people who won't or can't do that and that's their normal.

      I do wish you well in your future Heather. We all find our own way in life. Basia xo

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  28. I don't believe I've ever commented here before but....

    Good grief, but when I tally up what you've been through in less than 2 years, of course you're exhausted! I hope that the "job-job" will allow you to feel you're on solid ground. Your deep artistic talent won't desert you, even if you can't give it your all at this particular moment in time.

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    1. This gives me hope, Jean. Thank you so much.

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  29. Coming up for air can mean so many different things. Go well dear Heather.


    ดูหนังออนไลน์

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  30. Sorry for the tardiness of my félicitations. The first step of a new journey of self-discovery. Your photos are, as usual, worthy of framing.

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    1. I am super grateful for all of your support...

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  31. Sympathy in spades for your exhaustion and the separation from your dog - and the trolls, which you really don't need right now (if there was ever a good time for them, but let's remember, only miserable people spread misery) and massive respect for your beautiful openness to life. xxx

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    1. Lisa!!! It is so good to hear from you! How are you??
      xoxox

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  32. Hello Heather,
    I hope your new job is going well. I am confident you will do very well. Avignon is a beautiful city and I wish you happiness and success.
    Fondest wishes
    Helen xx

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  33. Heather, Very brave of you to reveal the fears we all face and yet do not show. Coming up for air is a much needed emotional place. Wishes for all good things, including a new animal rescue. My best, Anne

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