It is hard coming back to this space. And I never thought that would be the case. But sometimes it is important for us to give each other the benefit of the doubt.
When I open up Lost in Arles, I am in direct contact with my past. And while the vast majority of what I have tried to express over the past eight years is in the realm of beauty or happiness, I have also been through so much as of late. I understand; yes, as we all have, each in our own way, I am so aware of it - and yet what I choose to share is a specific prism of my experience. There is the question of respect for others, which is seriously a tightrope tendu, and what is appropriate for me as well.
There have been times when I did not know where I would sleep for the next two weeks, two days. In France, they call the homeless "sans domiciles fixes" - without a home address - and while I was never on the street, that was certainly my case. A wanderer can sound romantic, save when it is enforced and not chosen. Out I went, looking for answers, held quite safe, even at the last moment, truly and mercifully by my anges gardiennes, especially the human ones who took me in, here on the ground.
We don't know the story. Even when we think that we do.
It can be that way communicating with the people that I meet. You could think, perhaps, that after 17 years of living overseas, my French would be just about perfect, but you would be wrong. The locals are often surprised when they learn that I have been here for so long for my accent is still so strong and my written French still so poor. It puts me in a certain category. I never had the money to take the appropriate classes at La Sorbonne in Paris nor the time, either, as I was off and traveling the world....memories which seem like whispers, like strips of silk wind born to me now. Did that really happen? Did I really travel to Africa with the insouciance as if I were headed to the supermarket? Even all that is the beginning of this blog...did that really happen? Did I have Ben and my ex and I were so in love? I think so.
But how could I have known?
And yet, the proof, knowing is not everything.
Our brain keeps thumping, thumping along, churning out thoughts and doing its job, building structures or containers within which we are to organize our life.
It's funny because I have met some truly interesting men along the way over the past year who were willing to meet me on a soul level...there have been many moments that were fiercely sensual and others that were equally isolating. At times, all we can do is some sort of gestural, whimsical pantomime of approximations when a conversation comes to an impasse because we can't exchange verbally in our home language in the manner we both deserve. Someone is always dumbing down and that can be...disappointing. My friend Gérard kind of assumes that I am somewhat of an artist (he is an established one) but he is guessing on a hunch, for these words here hold absolutely no meaning for him, nor do my published articles. It is endlessly frustrating as I have always had une idée that the breadcrumbs left on the blog in a text or photos are something deeply telling when it was, at best, capable of moving you. Or me. Or us both.
Something beyond words.
And yet they can't grasp what, hopefully, you have previously. They can't know. This is often what it is like, finally, to be an expat. Certainly one who is not held within the comforting embrace of a couple. So much of me falls to the floor non-received, les pages imprimées mais pas vu, so that everyday I grieve a little. Just a little. There is a peace to be made with not only all of the shared understanding that is lost but also all of the subtleties of who we are, here.
The eyes can only communicate so much.
Music is better.
And yet there is a new door opening. One where I am now teaching English and at university level at that (this on top of my other full-time job). Admittedly, I have no idea of what I am doing. Every class feels as though I am jumping out of a plane, still doing the test tug on my parachute as I fall.
What can I still communicate?
They are young, you know. Most of them are looking towards me for some bite of the positive apple, if not only education. But can I still do it? Pass the words, light them up and watch the fireworks with no uncertain joy?
Again, as always, I feel my way as I go. Lately, I tell myself before getting out of bed, "Just do the best you can."
And here? Some part of me doesn't want to give this up. A blog, outdated in idea, yes, but I have you, our community, still. And I am fiercely proud of who you are...not to mention deeply moved by the emails that I have been receiving.
"Are you ok?" they ask. Well, yes, I suppose that I am but my life these days is little beyond work. Dating is challenging not only for the above-mentioned reason but also as a matter of sheer logistics. My one dear friend, Tina, has moved to live by the sea. Even my ex told me over a lunch, "You knew it would take time to rebuild a life in France." He was right.
But there is perspective always to be gleaned. My Sister, so filled with pride after my first classes asked, "Could you possibly have imagined if someone had told you a year ago that you would be teaching at a university? You wouldn't have believed them." And she too is right; I was on the floor then. Maybe I am up on one knee now. Looking upwards, even if I still do not feel secure enough to dream.
It doesn't necessarily change much, these configurations of letters and images that might be printed on a page...certainly in the midst of such daily tragedies on a global scale. But horizons are exactly that, open-ended...so, where do I go from here?
I am not sure if I am going to keep this blog going, which is very hard indeed to admit. Heart-breaking, actually. Something you will understand if you know me well. I never would have thought. Never, ever, ever would have thought.
There is still that little part of me that is calling like the sea, song to the siren, to move beyond this moment, this doubt, in order to discover what lies ahead. That which is cast out upon the water will roll back again with the tide, eventually.
I have waded through endless amounts of fear.
If I find you in the waves, so be it.
Let the past wash upon the rocks, for hopefully, it will not break us, or me.
I have used this song before on the blog, but it applies and differently now to how I loved it before.
"I am actually good..."
...and still here.
With gratitude no matter where this goes,
You have held me with Love,
I know that to be true,