Sunday, November 18, 2018

Beyond words




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,

Be well,
Heather


58 comments:

  1. I am so glad to hear from you and so impressed that you are teaching at a university. Félicitations!
    As for language, I got so frustrated communicating in French to my husband. There was always something--I used masculine when the noun was feminine, or I got it right but failed to make all the adjectives agree, or I used conditional instead of imparfait. And of course my accent. People understand me but I am no Jody Foster (who dubs herself into French!). OTOH, my grandma, who arrived in the U.S. at age 8, still had a hint of an accent when she died at age 99 1/2. Some people are good at accents and others aren't. Anyway, with my husband, I gave up. I refused to be in the middle of making an argument, only for him to tell me something is grande and not grand. So I speak in English, all the time. He feels the same way, preferring to speak in his mother tongue, so he speaks in French, all the time. I understand perfectly well what he says even if I can't quite get the grammar or, to a lesser extent, the vocabulary, to respond. And he understands me. Every time we speak, it's in English/French combined. It's also my way of resisting being subsumed by France, as much as I love it here.
    It is very impressive that you found a job--TWO jobs!--and that you are forging a new life. It took me a good two years to get myself together after my first marriage ended, and that was without the challenges of finding work and moving, and it was in my native language. You are stronger and braver and more successful than you realize.

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    1. I loved this response. Yep, that was how I often communicated with my ex! Each person is able to express themself exactly as they want that way. ;) Thank you for what you wrote too about the time it took for you to heal. I know that we are all on our own timeline but there are moments of insecurity still that rock me...One step forward, one step back...I just need to keep going. Bisous

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  2. Rocket, the innate ability to express these deepest feelings is a wondrous gift .. and combined with your courage to bare and share, it becomes an emotive feast we readers are hardly worthy of. Thank You.

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    1. With much Love to you Bill. You are also one of my ange gardiennes.

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  3. Yes, Heather, I agree with Bill. You have given us, your readers, so, so much. I'm sure you realize this, but with the teaching job (congratulations!), you have come full circle -- you are back on stage, performing for an audience. How I envy them. This post left me with a big lump in my throat. If you don't continue to post, I will miss your words and photos. But I also understand the need to move on. Sometimes starting a new chapter demands that we leave the past behind. Stay well, my courageous friend. I do hope that we will meet in person one day.

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    1. I do too. :) And yes, you are so right about teaching! I didn't realise it would be like that...so much performance but also my journalism too in prepping my classes. It is challenging, but for the moment, worth it. love to you

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  4. Yes Heather "you are good & you are still here"

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  5. Oh, it's so good to hear from you again, Heather. I'm not quite sure where to begin (like 99.9% of your readers, I think "It would be so EASY, if only I could just fly Heather here for a weekend......we could just talk for hours....".

    That said?......I began reading the first sentence of this posting, thinking "Oh, Lord.......she's announcing the end of the blog". I'm glad to learn that you're not, and I'm writing to emphasize that you needn't do so. Your writings/work/this blog have been one of the few gratifying constants in my own life since 2012 (which, as you know, has been marked by some quite painful disruptions and losses).

    I hope you won't "close down" your blog (do the authorities charge you rent for the cyberspace?). I'd be perfectly happy to know that, even if just once per year, I'll hear a "ping" on my computer, take a look, and see that Heather's come back again for a quick visit......like the cedar waxwings that come here about one day per year. Wonderful.....and then gone....until next year.

    So, don't close down......go play Christopher Robin for a while, do your next bit of exploring and growing-up, and just promise to come back and visit us occasionally?


    As fondly as ever,
    David Terry
    Quail Roost Farm
    Rougemont, NC
    USA

    P.s. my portrait of you will be shipped to your family this week. Thanks for the address......

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    1. I like this idea David. You always have been so pivotal of helping my perspective. It is kind of amazing that we are both still thumping along. But we are...
      xo

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  6. Oh my God...I have been a subscriber for a pretty long time but I haven't read your blogposts in awhile and now I feel so bad. I'd get the email that a new post was up - but I didn't click to read it. Part of me was jealous that you were living in France and doing things that I would have loved to be doing! I guess I didn't click because I didn't want to feel badly about my own lack of doing something completely different with my life as you have done. I WAS SO WRONG - I should have been reading all along.

    I have left my own blog to wither in the ether - and I know I probably have left some people wondering what the heck happened to me. I started another blog with content taht's more germane to what I have been going to earn a living. Not many people follow that. But my older blog - I had some really passionate followers. And I guess I am saying that to you because I feel that you should not abandon your blog - just write as you have with this blogpost. Passion...honesty...vulnerability and the journey to overcome and to succeed - these things will always be Top Content. People need to hear how to start over and "to become" - whereas we really should be happy with beginning the task of "becoming"

    Linda

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    1. That last phrase is so beautiful, Linda. And true. And don't feel bad, I avoid certain blogs these days for exactly the same reason!! ;))

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  7. Hi Heather, I really enjoy your blog; please don't stop. You have a unique way of communicating the whole range of emotion of your quest: the hopefulness, the joy, the grief, the disappointment, the exploration, the fatigue, the energy, the ascension. I just came back from five weeks in France--I studied the language (painfully, but gratefully) and felt very at home in the country. But I think your description of how a language can be a barrier to more intimate thoughts and emotions is something many people don't understand about really living and thriving in another country. It's something new that you shared, and that's what creativity is all about. Godspeed to you, and great success and love in your future!

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    1. Hi Julie. Wow five weeks! Where were you?? Thank you for your thoughts, well wishes and understanding.

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  8. When tears came to his eyes he let them fall.

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  9. I'm with David Terry, no matter how infrequent it's always wonderful to hear from an old friend, like an unexpected letter in the mail, or a bottle bobbing on the waves. Take care, xox

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  10. Take care Heather. Sending love always,Katrina ❤️

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  11. Add me to the list of those who like hearing from you no matter how infrequently life dictates the communication. Just a practical FYI: Another friend just gave up her blog, saving some of the best posts and totally obliterating the rest so the 'creepy people' who troll the blog world don't get ahold of it and turn it into something you don't want associated with your name.

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    1. Thank you for the wakeup call...I like all of my posts but as soon as I read your comment, I got back on the ball about keeping an eye on the spam which I had totally let go of. Merci!

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  12. Hi there Heather

    I only discovered your blog this past year. You write with emotion/passion/awareness - I so enjoy reading it. Lost in Arles - direct contact with your past. Perhaps a new blog title.

    Congrats on your new role/another role as teacher - this will open up to new experiences.

    I'm just finishing up reading - They Left us EVERYTHING. Memoir about what parents leave behind.

    Here is a though provoking quote from the father - You only have to turn your ship a few degrees to end up on a completely different shore.

    Tho you may decide to blog infrequently it's good to know we can send you an email to say hello

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    1. Yes you definitely can! It means so much to me. And the quote is not only beautiful but really helpful. Thank you. Sometimes it feels like everything has to be drastic in order to be real, when I forget that it is happening, life is advancing, regardless.

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  13. Open your wings Heather and fly to the open world! You are an amazing woman and you gave us much joy with your words and soul-artistic photos.

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    1. Maria, your support has always been so appreciated. Deeply. My wings still feel a little broken! But I will get there... xo

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  14. I hope you will continue the blog. You have so many interesting and compassionate readers who care for you, even if from afar. It is great news about your teaching English at a university. If you look for happiness, you will find it, even in small things. Same for a quest for beauty. It seems trivial to say that, but it is true. I try to observe one thing each day solely for happiness, for gratitude, for beauty, etc. I myself have been concentrating on teaching myself Italian on Duo Lingo and love the beauty of suddenly understanding a phrase, love the beautiful sound, and of course despair at how quickly it is spoken.

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    1. That is wonderful that you are learning Italian! I started and then gave up!!! Yes, there is great beauty in the smallest of things...you and I both believe that. And it is often what gets me through...

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  15. Now a professor! You are a polymath, a real Renaissance woman.
    Keeping a candle lit, with prayers you will continue to find your way. I hold your hand from afar.

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    1. I feel it. And knowing it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you...with Love to you...

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  16. Dear Heather,

    Some words, which I hope may help.

    https://goo.gl/images/1uF3sw
    ~~~***~~~
    Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.
    ~~~***~~~
    Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can.
    ~~~***~~~
    The way forward shall always be foggy and questionable. You don’t need a foolproof plan. Making mistakes is part of the process. That’s where value is created.
    ~~~***~~~

    So, these were some life lessons I learnt during my divorce, I hope they are universal enough to apply in other situations ;)

    Thank you for sharing your story. It has truly helped me. (“Feeling your way forward”, yes, I’m doing that! Remembering old days and wondering that/whether they were real, yes, so did I).

    And.......please do with the blog what is best for YOU.

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    1. Thank you so much Chiara. These phrases are super helpful. I don't have to be "perfect" or even close. I need to just keep going and keep my heart open.

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  17. I think cutting free is a great idea. Not that I haven’t enjoyed your posts. But think of all the possibilities that open up if you are not posting here for us. There is so much to focus on in life and so little time devoted to looking inward just for the sake of it. Not to tell anyone else but just to feel and think and reflect. Think of all we did before there were blogs. Go back to diaries and poems and letters to friends and more rendez vous etc. I think you will feel liberated. I’ll miss you.

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    1. I have been writing in my journal again, which feels really good. It isn't really a question of time for the blog. It is that I am too tired to be creative. We'll see. Because I hope that the tired part changes.

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  18. I was just thinking about you earlier today.
    They've all, those posting above, said what I would say about your writing and seeking and learning. I've gotten so much from your posts, there's so much of elemental you in them and a richness of spirit that enhances my life as I read. I would add only, do what you need to do to take care of you, whether it's blogging or writing or painting or whatever.
    Although I do like David's idea of at least just one little blog post a year, or even more than one ...

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    1. Emm,this moved me so much. Reading your first phrase, my response was "you were?" I don't really know what I mean to people or what the words and photos that I share here do. But I have been so blown away by the reactions to this post. I have received the most beautiful emails too. It has really surprised me. Made me think. Bisous to you.

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  19. Well it´s no wonder you´re frustrated trying to communicate in French what you do so brilliantly in English. I selfishly hope you will keep posting, however infrequently, because your writing is so thoughtful, insightful and elegant. If it´s any comfort, my Spanish suffers the same grammatical limitations and I´m still identified immediately as a foreigner, though my accent is supposed to be pretty good, even after 20 years.

    But you have to do what feels right to you, despite our hopes and appreciation. Congratulations on your accomplishments under extremely difficult circumstances. You continue to inspire. Thank you.

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  20. Dear Heather,

    That's just the greatest news! You see this is the reward for all your work, all your resiliance and also in a way of this blog which is part of your efforts for language, art, communication. (if I am allowed to say that without wanting to judge or categorize or anything like that.)

    Remember when you were told that there were demons still to work out? You are on your way! And a door has opened up for more to come! I am happy for you! Enjoy!

    And if you do not write this blog anymore it is sad for us but a new chapter has begun for you and that is about living.

    I wish you all the very Best and Strength and Love on that way!!!

    Silke

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    1. I love you so much Silke. And am honored to call you my friend. xo

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  21. I hope it's not a goodbye but if you stop writing here, I completely understand. Things change over the years and after a while we may be quite different from the person we were when we started our blog. So, if this is goodbye, I want to wish you the best of luck for the future.

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    1. Thank you Loree. We have both changed a lot, I think. Its kind of amazing to think about actually. How many years ago was it that I wrote about you? 2013 qnd 2014... :)

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  22. I don't want your blog to end either - but I can see the benefit in making a break with the past. Whatever you feel will carry you forward best - but keep the email address please! Living outside your comfort zone is truly living, and truly exhausting, even without two jobs, so you must look after yourself whenever and however it can be done. Like any big journey this resettling will take time, but time is going to pass anyway so we all might as well keep going to where we would like to be. Go Heather!! xx

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    1. You are, quite simply, the best. :) I love this. And you. xoxoxoxox

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  23. Thank you for coming back. It’s wonderful.

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    1. You are a big reason why. And yes definitely a guardian angel in human form. Thank you for being such a good friend, Edgar.

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  24. Let's be honest here. Heather, you have been posting so infrequently lately, that your blog is not a burden to you at all. Nor are you obligated in a burdensome way. I think you have been angry at the unexpected response you received from your post in which you pitted yourself against a little girl and her birthday...and her Dad's most appropriate response to his daughter. Some folks also said you were getting a bit weird about relationships and romance..and you were surprised by this. It is hard for you to return here because you are angry that you didn't receive the usual over the top praise you are used to getting.

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    1. Dear Puzzled...Look at all the beautiful responses here...so positive and loving. And then there is yours. So sad in its spitefulness. I feel so sorry for you. May peace come to your heart so that you no longer feel the need to write such things...Truly. All blessings upon you.

      And you are completely off the mark but it is touching that you think that you know me better than I do myself. Again, I choose what I share. It is not always representative of "reality."

      So, to be clear:
      I have never said that this blog is a burden. Au contraire, it has brought me such joy and steered me through deep pain.
      If I have taken a pause (and am considering stopping), it is because I am simply too exhausted from working two jobs to be creative. If I can't create, I can't do the blog.
      The breakup of my last couple had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with my birthday (but it is interesting that several people jumped on that idea). And the real reasons behind the breakup are not of anyone's concern beyond what I chose to share about it.
      Those "folks" that you mentioned are actually long, long, long-term readers. And while I was surprised at the vitriolity in some of the comments, I know that they were meant with my best interest at heart, something I in no way can say regarding your comment here.

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  25. Bad me...it was YOUR birthday...and you decided to pit yourself against what...an eight year old?

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    1. Again, all blessings to you but please do not come back. You are not welcome here. Namaste.

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  26. Heather, I just found this post. I thought you had stopped blogging. Like most of your followers, I would miss hearing from you. I don’t comment very often, but always read, and look forward to your outstanding photos. You are a true artist.
    You need to do what is best for you.
    Ali

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    1. Thank you so much Ali. It is so lovely what you wrote. I know that you have been reading for a long time too. :) I will try to keep this going when I have the energy to do so in a way that seems right I think. bisous

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  27. Life changes and sometimes it drags us forward despite us wanting it to stay where we are. Folks wanting you to continue as nothing has happened....is completely understandable...You have so many gifts to share. I am happy that you have found employment, even if you don’t feel comfortable with it yet. I see a happier life for you ahead...although I am not sure where and when it will be. I have so enjoyed knowing you Heather. Take good care of yourself...Love, Janey

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    1. Thank you Janey. We have been through a lot together. I hope that you are right about what you see...Sending Love.

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  28. I returned to reread this tonight as I was writing about Arles and thought of you. I hope the teaching job is becoming enjoyable and will grow into something more. You "light up words" better than anyone else I know. Bisous

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  29. Wow. That compliment left me absolutely stunned coming from you. And I am SO happy to know that you are writing about Arles again!!! You know how much I completely adored "Drawing Lessons"... bisous ma belle amie

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