Saturday, May 9, 2020

Invisible indivisible






My Mom has long said that when I was very little, I was known to go up to everyone and anyone, to say hello. Being infectiously friendly is and apparently always has been, a key trait to this redhead. I remember being in the alley behind our house in Michigan after having recently arrived there, so that would be at about age 7 for me. I was picking blackberries, purple-stained hands. Suddenly, there was a group of girls my Sister's age walking down the way. I might have told this story before. I introduced myself and then marched them up to my Sister's room with a swift knock on her door. Susan, one of the ensemble, is to this day one of Robin's best friends.

That was the first time that we had made a major move and it would not be the last. Every four years or so, my parents would announce that we needed to "have a talk" and I always knew what that meant. Off we would go to another part of the country and slowly, I lost that will to befriend, tired of always being "the new kid" who had to prove herself all over again. Eventually, I went so far as to dress in what was considered "radical" fashion at that time...new wave, punk, goth...just to confirm what seemed already evident, that I was "other," someone not meant to belong.

I tried to do so with pride. To be adolescent is to wear a mask lightly.

But that sense of separation created such loneliness. There is an inherent discord within not feeling being appreciated. As if it were bad to be uniquely myself, topped up with a heady longing to be loved. As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in the poem, "I am prayer again,":

"It’s here in all the pieces of my shame that I now find myself again.
How I yearn to belong to something, to be contained in an all-embracing mind that sees me as a single thing.
And I yearn to be held in the great hands of your heart.
Oh let them take me now.
Into your hands I place these fragments, my life, and you my God spend them however you want."

Why am I writing about this now? Beyond the beauty of Rilke's words (and please, feel free to exchange "God" for whatever suits you), I have been rolling in the shadows of this seeming distance as of late, during this time of isolation, this pandemic. It has been since March 14th that I have been alone, so for nearly two months. I thought that I would be fine as I am used to solitary living but I did not take into account all of the interactions during my workday that buoyed me. I miss them.

One evening at the hotel this winter, a couple that I had been chatting on and off with for days came to the reception desk. Somehow, they started to speak about their religious beliefs and forcefully. Quickly, I understood that they both were trying to convert me to Christianity. The wife was more insistent than her husband, himself a preacher, who said something important. "What if this job is exactly where you are supposed to be for now? You are very talented at it and the difference that you make in people's lives...Perhaps that is enough? That you are celebrating the gifts that were given to you by God? To make others happy. To connect."

I thought about that for a long time after. And it echos with me now, in my empty room. What if? What if he is right?

I share these thoughts with the ghosts of the past. The issues not healed, having been ignored. In these days and nights, I find myself incapable of hiding from them. Grief, fear, anger...they have all arrived one by one, and rarely politely. I breathe through them, I feel where they are lodged in my body, I try to handle myself tenderly, with grace. This moment is a definite opportunity, or a demand, to heal those wounds once and for all. Sometimes, when I cannot take it anymore, I walk. But even then, in the abandoned streets, I am too aware of the massive space all around me.

I want to be seen again, to be recognised for who I am. In this time, often, not always, I feel invisible, indivisible from the hidden as we hold on, each in our own home. The lockdown will start to ease up in a few days time in France but the issues that have arisen will not so quickly be forgotten.

All I can ask is that we be aware and share for each other. As we can. I am not sure if we will ever approach others as openly as we once did but we can hold space for that desire to connect and not separate. Because of course that separation is only illusion. Can we remember to belong? To once again belong to ourselves and to each other? It could, quite clearly, give us all the force to go forward, in so doing, through love.




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Valèry, one of my recent French readers, has suggested that I do a simple audio recording for all of my posts, not only as for the recent collaboration that I did with Rémy Deck on "So far to go through". He said that it helped him to better piece together the meaning and that the sound of my voice added to his understanding. So here we go, as a little test. I would love to have feedback if this is of interest. You can find it here: Invisible indivisible recording.


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I had a really amazing discussion with my friend Mayra a few days ago. We have followed each other on Instagram for years and have written each other quite a bit but I was especially delighted when she suggested that we have a video chat. It changes everything. In the course of over two hours, we both cried (actually, I flat out wept) and laughed and recognised each other as old friends, newly found. 

Something that we have both been concerned about recently is the emotional impact of this pandemic. On Instagram, Mayra has created @pauseandremember which invites us to take time each day at noon to mourn the lives that have been lost due to COVID 19 as well as to share the grief of their loved ones. 

For my part, given that this is Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to help break the stigma of those who are suffering emotionally during this crisis. It is easy to put shame upon depression during this time, with thoughts such as "who am I to be down? I should be grateful to be alive. I am being ridiculous." While the truth is that all feelings are valid and are to be respected. As someone who has struggled off and on with depression my entire adult life, I fear that the repercussions of this crisis may be far-reaching indeed.

So, just in case anyone might need it: 
En France, SOS Dépression, 24 heures sur 24, 7 jours sur 7, appelle gratuit. 
In the States, IM Alive Crisis Prevention with trained responders available to chat at any time. 

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So let's do our best to stay connected. Be well, be safe and be kind.
With great love and gratitude from Provence,

Heather





26 comments:

  1. I, too, have felt the loneliness of being "other." And living with someone who I know loves me, but is not always so expressive, I sometimes still feel unrecognized, even if I know that I am appreciated. Know this, dear Heather, those of us who read and love your words and photos see you, admire you, and always want to hear more from you.

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    1. I have a hard time reading how I supposedly feel. I wish I could just ignore your assumption but in these days of life and death, truth and feelings, you've stopped me in my tracks.

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    2. Thank you Judith, with all of my heart. I do most certainly feel seen by you. For so many years. Sometimes I think that you are the only one who hears me really just because we are so close. And of course I will never forget the article that you wrote about this blog in which you were so tolerant of when I try to find new ways to express myself...
      So it is here. And it was hard to write. Merci amie et bisous

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    3. Sending Peace and comfort to your heart, Madagascar. It feels important to try and be honest with ourselves, when we can...with kindness.

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  2. I see you! And recognize you for all you are, but I guess you would expect that from me! Thank you for sharing all you are here; hopefully that makes you feel less alone? I know online connection isn't great (it's how I'm trying to make my living right now!), but it's something! In a way I think your sentiments could come at any time; we can often feel alone and not seen, appreciated. I think my most lonely time was, ironically (?), was living in NYC! And now we can feel the seeming separation in all the different views here in whether to open up or stay in lockdown. But inside we are all the same; we all want happiness and to be loved. Thank you for voicing the difficult parts of this pandemic - we all feel it!! And here's to video chats and connecting with others in any way possible! And: self love! p.s. when you marched in with Susan, my memory is that you said, "I found a friend for you!". : ) I think you are absolutely still that friendly soul.

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    1. I love you so much Sister. :) So much of this resonated with me. Yes, this could apply during any time period. And yes, we all want the same basic things. Yay for connection. Especially when it is with my awesome Sister!

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  3. I hear you, dear Heather. And I see you. I moved around as a child too ... 5 times before I was 14. My father was in the mining business. So I because accustomed to being the "new kid" and all that entailed. As an adult, I began to feel that I actually had benefitted from those experiences as I had grown accustomed to taking initiative and developing friendships. Perhaps that is part of what brought me to you. And for that I'm eternally grateful. Keep up your audio readings ... brava!!!

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    1. For certain you are truly talented at cultivating friendships! :) I adore you and we have never even met...although the longer that goes on the harder it is to believe. Next year. Oooh, I am glad that you liked the recording. Yay!

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  4. sometimes I feel like a motherless child

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    1. Oh Maria, this made my heart sad. I listened to Odetta sing this song and sent you energy and strength while I did.

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  5. Heather, I am so glad you wrote about this! So important that we all know that we are not alone (even if we find ourselves physically alone). That if we are honest, we belong to each other & that belonging comes with a responsibility to not look away, to see each other. Grateful to see gorgeous you! Going to listen to the sound version now & ever grateful for the mention! Bisous. Xx

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    1. What you are doing with Pause and Remember helps me every day Mayra. So grateful for you and our talk the other day. It cleaned out the attics a bit!

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  6. Such beautiful writing. Your openness is so helpful. Thank you!

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    1. Oh, thank you. This is wonderful to hear... xo

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  7. Very inspiring and thoughtful words. As a person who lives solitude, this quiet time was not of great hardship to me. I missed some things but did not yearn for them. Now that normality is on the horizon I am anxious because I feel I don't want it. That I have felt safe, cocooned here in our home. It feels selfish, I know, bit I can't help it.

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    1. No, it is not selfish at all and probably what I am going to write about next because I feel the same!!! A little scared to get back out into the world.

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  8. You have a lovely voice - I have voice envy! My accent is how pirates talk, my pitch is pixie :-) It is good to hear from you, Heather - connecting has always been important but now we can all see how much xxx

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  9. "My accent is how pirates talk, my pitch is pixie " - THIS is why you are so brilliant, Lisa. Damn I wish that I had written that line! :))

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  10. Chere Heather,
    You've been on my mind lately and it was with a sigh of recognition and relief that I found your writing still alive and well. Not only that, but you are still helping by feeling and sharing your heart.
    Love to you,
    Aidan

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    1. Aidan!!! If you could have seen my face as soon as I saw your name! So excited to hear from you. I no longer have an email address for you that works. If you want to email me (robinsonheather@yahoo.com) so we can get back in touch that would make me super happy.
      Love to you back...xoxo

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  11. Hi Heather,

    Oh my you have a beautiful voice. I would love to have a book on tape with you narrating. Have you ever thought of doing that? Not only is your voice captivating but you are an excellent story teller.

    As you may remember, I too have bouts of depression...but I am doing great. Being an introvert...this staying in has not been difficult. Of course I am not alone. Thank goodness for that as my Tom has also been my chief cook and bottle washer as I recover from a total shoulder replacement. Peace and good health...Janey

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    1. Oh Janey, I am so sorry to hear about your shoulder replacement! That is quite something to go through! But I know how resilient you are. Thank you so much for this lovely response. I have never thought about doing a books on tape!

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  12. These times are hard. No question about it. The isolation combined with the social distancing feels not right. Yet it is right and important now. Generally we are social creatures (some more than others). The whole situation seems sureal and like some kind of higher order punishment. I try to put it all in context of the virus. Then I think about an endpoint when the isolation and social distancing are no longer required. This gives me joy, relief and a goal to look forward to. Shall we call these all coping mechanisms?

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    1. Absolutely. I am completely there with you. Thank you dearly for this wonderfully articulate message. Namaste.

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  13. What a gift you have..... in all your honest writings - expressions of anxiety, eagerness, sadness and love - you seem to speak directly to each reader, not an audience. Your words resonate personally and deeply because we may not have had the exact same experience but we all have the exact same feelings. Keep doing what makes you feel better, without worry of judgement. ❤️

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    1. This really might be one of my favourite compliments that I have had in nearly ten years of doing this blog. Because this is exactly my intention. I was just trying to describe it to someone the other day. Thank you for seeing and understanding. Much Love and Gratitude to you.

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