Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ooh la la

My temperature is rising!  I am about to take the tarnish of the past away from a city that has called to me since adolescence, since Audrey Hepburn said “Paris is always a good idea.”

I knew that when I would finally meet Paris it would be significant and while I have journeyed to France many times, sampled the grape, even generated a French version of The Big Chill in a 17th century villa in the Languedoc region, I have avoided actually going to Paris.

Once upon a time yearning for romance I booked a long overdue trip with (as Buns puts it) my wasband, to Paris. I found out on the eve of our departure that he was living a double life. He took the mistress and I donned bunny slippers and a housecoat to shuffle around on my birthday feeling sorry for myself. I was a hot mess for a time. 

Then began my excavation into understanding that everything…absolutely everything can be a catalyst for authenticity and joy. I had only a few choices I realized, fight (and turn bitter in the process) or flight (and entrench in the hopelessness of a victim). 
The third choice I had to learn to make and it remains my most cherished accomplishment…. how to spark gratitude and stretch into opening my heart no matter what. Softening in the midst of pain turns my armor into an invitation for connection.

So cut to today. My birthday is coming up in August and I wanted to make a plan that shouts YES to the forces that be.
Yes, I am alive and loving it! 
Yes, I know who I am and own it! 
Yes, I can allow all those around me to truly be who they are!
I invite authentic connection by being real. I let go of the rest. 

So when I got an email from an old friend, someone who actually was at The French Big Chill reunion years ago, asking me to join him in Paris and further adventures in the south I paused. I was torn between sharing a lake retreat with friends as a birthday celebration and the European trip, not to mention my son's very important out of town graduation.

He painted the journey like a moving postcard and challenged me.  ‘If you really want to shake things up, he said, why not do it all!”  I love your sense of romance, however I think you are sacrificing a potential of  'unknown wonder' by trying to construct one, at a certain place, on a certain day.  By which, it already has exposed certain limitations.”    I have wise friends, what can I say. 
He went on to seal the deal by inviting me to sit back and allow him to be in charge of everything.  And then later, like an experiment (see he really does get my experiential essence), you can decide which event, a planned one or a leap of faith into new discoveries, holds greater significance and why.
I was more than half way convinced but when he wrote “Trust me, let me show you around and just sit back and soak it all in and meet new friends along the way.” I melted.

So I said YES to Paris! And yes to a Parisian blind date I met on the internet, just for fun. And yes, to the Love Lock Bridge where I plan on creating a ritual that marries me to me. More on that next post.

I inhale this itinerary and relish the sensation of imagining it in advance. After a few days in The Marais in a typical French flat, sunlight streaming through floor-length windows, enjoying  baguettes, café au lait, and fresh produce from the market, we drive to his friend’s place for music, good wines, and creative interacting. Then across the south of France to a vineyard owned by friends, through to Avignon, and if time permits a detour to the gastronomic capital of Spain, San Sebastian.  Eventually of course there is the inevitable and mandatory jump into the Mediterranean at Collioure, then lunch with a bottle of fresh, crispy pink wine! 

The soundtrack in my head flirts with strains of La Vie en Rose and some French ditty Maurice Chevalier once soft shoed  to in a film with Audrey or some other waif like ingénue.  I am a walking cliché. Quelle domage!

Branded by the vowels in ooh la la:

Authentically Yours,

Mademoiselle Marty


Thursday, April 10, 2014

An old dog with some new tricks.

A couple of days ago I was asked what I thought was the biggest change I had ever made in my life and what it did for me.

If you count all the moves I’ve made over the years, the different careers, the varying hairstyles (from buzz cut to waist-length, from eggplant to blonde), there would be many to choose from.  These have all been visible, and some quite dramatic.  But the one I chose for our conversation was my decision to quit smoking over four years ago.

I hated that I smoked, but I loved smoking.  My kids and family hated it too and I always felt terrible doing something that I knew really bothered them. For me it was a social lubricant and in some cases a smokescreen to hide what I didn’t want people to perceive – that I wasn’t cool, that I was just a nerd. If I smoked, people wouldn’t see that.

I had tried many times to quit, and mostly white-knuckled my way through the process.  Hypnosis, acupuncture, reward/punishment techniques, and sheer willpower was brought to bear.  Nothing worked.  At least not for long.

And then one day, I just decided that the person who was smoking wasn't me.  I no longer needed any external accoutrements to cause people to think a certain way about me. Not only that, but it really didn't matter what people thought.  That was the nugget. It only took four decades to figure that one out.

But what was really important to me was not just the obvious health benefit.  It showed me that I had the capability of evolving my ways in spite of my belief that I was who I was and ain’t nuttin’ gonna change.

This has had a profound effect on other parts of my life. It seems once I got it into my head that anything was possible, letting go of other habits became easier. What may be subtle to others, is hugely apparent to me but I’m not attached to whether or not anyone notices.  I do, and that’s what counts.

I’m not talking about physical habits like nail biting. It’s more about realizing that I can change the way I respond to life in general.  I’m much more relaxed, safe in the knowing that most of the stuff that I used to react to has nothing to do with me.  My ability to handle stressful situations has gone from anxiety attacks to rolling with the punches and recognizing when it’s simply not mine to do or worry about.

A very wise friend reminded me that I’m not the only one with a “To Do” list.  The universe has one too, and I’m permitted to put some of my stuff on that list instead of my own.

I don’t know if this happens to everyone as they approach the last third of their lives, but for me it is a blessing.  I already am appreciating why people rave about hitting 60. 

For me it’s just a beginning.  I’m looking forward to it.

Branded by pre-birthday excitement,

Love Buns

P.S.  Here’s a little ditty to add to the mix…