I recorded something last night, yes, one minute into my birthday. It was supposed to be the post in its entirety. I am really loving doing these spoken word moments. I can choose more how to present myself, my voice, momentum. You can find it here and I hope that you will listen:
As I have said before, this experience reminds me of when I was acting, save for that these words are not make-believe, they are mine. I have nothing to hide behind, nor do I want to. And if I am writing more it is because that I hope to express that so much more was behind those random c's and d's and f's. We are not our own failures. ;) Nor our successes. ;) All around there are forces, so strong if only we pay attention.
This year, I have been searching for an interesting man, one to hold my attention and my body, one with whom I could begin to lay a foundation of trust. Someone who would not care so much about my (important) weight gain. As my dear friend L, lightly chided, "Doesn't this take up so much of your time?" I thought about it.
Breathing hot air into a vacuum. Yes, it does, and as I have written about largely here this year, my personal isolation during the pandemic has marked me more deeply than I could have ever imagined. In blatant honesty, there have been thoughts of "Oh, I might never move beyond this." But...ah...wait...
A few days ago, one of my most benevolent guardian angels sent me a text. She thought it just might be my birthday and so coaxed me from my bed (where I was laying exhausted as work has been hard like a rock but that is another story) as there was a surprise in front of my door. A big bouquet, spiky and original, something that only someone who has paid attention could have offered.
As it is her building, I climbed the stairs in my nightgown, bouquet in one hand, the other glissing the wooden railing, racoon-eyed with yesterday's makeup. She welcomed me and we spoke. At one point, she gently coaxed me to repeat, "I am OK, " but I only could do so with tears rolling down. Stupid, great salt tears.
Skip to the day after and the same guardian angel. She was going to host lunch at one of my favorite houses in the world...quite a few of you would recognize it. And she invited me along to swim and eat and laugh. How could I say no?
Her two other invitées are 88 and 89 respectively. And while turnrd out to be a pre-birthday party for me, they were so kind about the fact that they had lived entire lifetimes beyond my tender age. M and A are completely authentic and my guardian angel remains a pinup. After lunch, I splashed and hid in the corner of the pool under the bougainvillea while they spoke of literature and politics, but lightly, lightly. Afterwards, we all fell into a delicious silence. "A" fell into a light doze and none of us teased her for it upon waking.
Once home, I thanked my angel profusely, but there were still surprises in store for me.
(I am tempted to stop here, to split this into two posts but no, that is not the point that I want to achieve, so forgive me that this is long.)
Because, you see, I actually did have a lovely birthday on the day itself, too.
I have mentioned previously the delicious accumulation of friends in the virtual world that have led to what I consider "real" friendships. It has taken me years to grasp and I am still unravelling it, this delicate cord, silken so strong, between women who have the courage to say, "I love you, I believe in you," even when we have not met in person.
You do not yet know of Tanur (I give her full name as I intend to speak of her rather fabulous guest house soon here, Les Sardines aux Yeux Bleus) but she is someone with whom I had an immediate connection. I had told a few people that I was prepared to pass the day alone as I had in previous years. But wonderfully, she was free to join me for lunch at my favorite restaurant Le Violette (which I have written about often, including here). We speak so honestly together, straight to the bone, as if we had known each other for years. The lunch was astonishingly good. It truly was! And to top it off, Corinne, aka Coco (a dear friend) and her lovely assistant Sonia (whom I adore) brought out their perfect dense chocolate cake lit with a candle singing...in English...happee birzday to youuu. At the end of the song, they kissed me through their COVID masks on either side of my head. I made a very specific wish, laughed and was in Heaven.
When I went to see what we owed, Coco seemed angry. She did that Frenchy thing where she waved her hand in the air in a flutter. "I was going to treat you to lunch but someone beat me to it!" "What do you mean, Coco?" "Bah, this woman called during the rush of the service saying she wanted to buy you lunch!" "Coco, no one knows that I am here. Even my family doesn't. I had said a couple of days ago that I was thinking about it to one person but..." Light bulb moment. She showed me the email. Someone who kept it in mind for days and called the restaurant to offer me lunch on my birthday just in case I was there. Someone who has a million things on her mind and to do list every day. Seriously. Just in typing this, those tears return. Save that this time they are not stupid, they are Love.
Tanur and I did the ritual of digging through the brilliant Collection Lambert. Oh my goodness, the Cy Twombly's. They elicit a gasp out of me every time. It felt comforting to explore with a fellow creative. I sat on the floor of my favorite installation and for the first time...the neon lava spoke of life's vitality, far more than doom. We parted only when I needed to go because friends at work - all of whom could be my children because they are so young - collaborated to offer me a massage at a local spa. The tiny but very strong girl surprised me and I floated through the streets afterwards, a bit drunk on Zen.
Upon arriving home, I was able to connect with the Leo Trifecta, albeit separately. Yana was at dinner on her first night of a well-deserved vacation. She lives in Greece. I want to live in Greece too, although I have never been there. And yet she wanted to Zoom briefly, and her smile like fire so calm, so present told me, "Yes, you are lucky." She is SO strong. But so is Beth in Chicago; the other corner of our three and when we spoke she was absolutely radiant. I can't hide under that kind of light.
And so I told her about what I was truly thinking. "All of these amazing women have gone out of their way to treat me with kindness and respect. They know my path, my story and yet they talk to me as equals. Why? Why is X surprising me with lunch? Why are you here?"
I still feel like such a fallen woman. An overweight "ratée" working as a receptionist in a problematic hotel - this despite what I have accomplished before. But where I am currently at is far, far from where I once was. In material means. And Beth didn't hesitate in her response. "We see YOU. We see you for who you are."
Her face was beaming as she said so, half a continent away, so how could I take it as nothing other than the truth?
I am accepted. And I feel held. Not by a man. Although I would not mind that too.
But today I light up this tender heart for these beautiful women. Exceptional women, truly. Guardian angels, successful in a way that I can't imagine in the literal sense, let me love you so. I haven't had many women friends since I have lived in France and now I have them all over the world and they are incredible. I am honored to be a part of your family. It is just that simple. Thank you for being the best gift a girl could wish for..