Hello...I have the tiniest smile curving up my lips as I type. Call it a baby Mona Lisa.
Because I finally figured something out. It is so basic that it is of the hit yourself over the head with a frying pan until stars google out of your eyes kind of simple.
You see, for weeks now I have been wanting to reach out but as I would whine to my friends, "Oh, the words aren't coming. I don't know what to do. I can't find the words. "
Well, if that isn't the biggest load of ego on a train track of malarkey that I have ever heard, I don't know what is. Of course I have the words.
I have exactly the words that I need.
I miss you.
I love you.
Are you ok?
Let's get back to that last question in a moment. For, some of you (I am not being insincere when I say "bless you") have come wondering. To check in or to ask about my how and where. I will most happily fill in the blanks a bit because if I would like to know about you, I am - hopefully - rightly assuming that you would like the same from me.
I don't often talk about the day to day basics of my life here on the blog. Not only do I like to keep a certain degree of privacy, but I was also simply ashamed to admit the details. I am, finally, just plain tired of comparing my present life to my past. I have worked hard to get where I am now. There is nothing to be ashamed in that, nothing.
I have two jobs, sometimes three. The bread and butter full-timer entails being a receptionist/concierge at a luxury hotel in Avignon. The property is, under mandate, closed until at least mid-May and we will see if I have that job to go back to when the time comes. The amazing news is that I am getting paid 84% of my salary until then - Vive la France! Additionally, this is my second year of teaching English at the University of Avignon. Can you believe that I am a professor? That too has been suspended but I will apparently now finish up the rest of my school year via Zoom, even if I am highly dubious of my ability to understand how to do so. And lastly, if you would be so kind as to look to the right, you will see that I give walks in Arles. We will leave that one alone as a dangling participle for now. ;)
All of this means that I am in lock-down, alone, in my apartment in Avignon. I was quite ill a few weeks back but no one was willing to test me (this despite my explaining that I was in daily, close contact with tourists from China, Japan, Korea et al.) so despite my having EVERY single symptom, I don't know if I had COVID-19 or not. Gratefully, I am better now.
Emotionally, it has been a web of a more complex weave...or of an on-rolling wave if you prefer. For the first two weeks I couldn't label that listless, numb feeling for exactly what it is - depression. Shock. Fear that is both excruciatingly specific or nameless, blind. The sleepless nights were/are not my old insomnia rearing its head, but due to anxiety. Now that I have accepted that to be true, I am actively using the tools that I know work. Yoga. Meditation. There are some days when I reach out to every person who might listen to say, "I need help. Are you there?" Or I turn the attention outwards, such as taking food to Cyril, a sweet homeless friend who is sleeping in a tent on a nearby overpass. His situation is so far worse than mine. The phrase "one day at a time" has become my mantra, whether exhaled gently or clutched invisibly between fists topped with tears.
Perhaps I am wrong, but it feels as though we are being stripped down to our essence...from the micro (our internal, personal existence) to the macro (our world, society). On my good days, I see an incredible amount of possibility in this. After the virus has run its course, after the deepest grieving, we can, perhaps, choose to begin again. I know that I am hardly alone in saying so and yet I wonder if it might take more courage than we realise to not run to our former anaesthetised comforts and ecologically expensive ease. Or. Maybe there will be no choice. No turning back.
What I do know, and I know it completely, is that what remains once everything else has been stripped away is Love. I see it in how we are strengthening as a community, the new old ways of connecting. Amidst all of this pain and suffering, there are a million silent, unknown stories occurring that are filled, propelled by just that. The clapping for our health-care workers, the couples swaying on their balconies, the police serenades, artists supporting each other...the examples are all across our bruised map. So let's see them for where we are. Take me there. Dance me to the end of Love.
In a beautiful exchange with Brooklyn-based artist Camile O'Briant, she wrote, "How the world is/was set up did not take care of everyone and we can no longer do this. There will be some bumps ahead, but remember your own power to create and be a source of grace and good in the world." She concluded by encouraging me, herself, us all: "Let's be a light in this world." We can.
Apparently, I had more words than I thought. But to return:
I miss you.
I love you.
How are you?
Tell me please.
It actually isn't a rhetorical question at all.
The title of this post arrived on a sleepless night and I scribbled it on a post-it. It was only later that I realised that it was that of a wonderful Leonard Cohen song. My Mom mentioned this version today and I love it (although not as much as I love her) so here we go. This one is for you, Mom.
Dream. And be well.
With Love from Provence,
We keep going...