Monday, December 27, 2010

-3 Degrees Celsius.

9:15 on a winter Monday morning. I wonder what the Parisians are doing right now. I'm sure the city is mostly desolate, as many of its inhabitants have headed to the mountains for their winter ski trips. But I'm sure the natural sparkle of the city goes on. Family-owned shops are still opened, and sidewalks must be swept up so that les propriétaires des brasseries can begin a new week. And while the weather may be drastically different from the 95 degree sweltering heat I grew accustomed to, and while the clouds may never part during a winters' day, I'm sure that the radiance of the city's wonder will shine on nonetheless.

Madame Dru must still be sleeping, or either sitting in her kitchen smoking while enjoying a cup of steaming hot black English tea. A piece of toast will suffice until she heads off to work, grabbing a bit of quiche or salade on her way. I wonder what free-spirited ring she has selected for herself today. Perhaps the clear ring with all the rhinestones to compliment her black sarong, or maybe a swirled design to jazz up her simple yet purposeful Birkenstock sandals.

«Les Bagues des Rêves», Chez Rosine, 2010

Then again, this is Rosine we're talking about. Two days after Christmas, she probably hasn't seen her children much this fall, and she doesn't really enjoy working. So she's probably traveling, or sleeping in late-- enjoying a good existential piece of literature, sipping tea and/or Diet Coke.

And here I am, restless and neurotic in my home-home, at 2:15 in the morning. My mind wanders from street to street, trying to relive all the life-changing moments of my Parisian escapades. As frustrating and confusing the city was on a day-to-day basis, I couldn't help but fall in love with the wave of emotions. For such a seemingly reserved culture, French folks really wear their emotions on their sleeve. When they're mad, they show hand gestures, in words, and in eyebrow scrunching. And when they're happy, they attempt to smile and usually kiss your cheeks like they've just seen a long-lost friend. But one thing you can count on with any strong emotion is the repetitiveness of their words. Usually in threesomes.

Très très trèèèès bien.

But why do these peculiar details intrigue me so? Why do I weep for the strange friends I made on the streets, in cafés, in dark bars and late-night streets? Why do I crave the scent of foreign second-hand smoke wafting through the streets accompanied by the distinct scent of freshly baked croissants and quiches? And why is it that I'd rather sit on a dirty metro for 30 minutes than in my own air-conditioned car during a traffic jam?

I of course have an answer for all of these questions, but am not brave enough to face it. So I lay awake sometimes for hours each night, thinking about my life in Paris this past summer, the friends I made out of complete strangers, and the odd sense of welcome I felt each night at la fontaine Saint Michel. And despite the fountain being a tourist hot-spot, I never felt like a tourist. I always received a warm greeting from the performers who recognized me, who understood that I could not pay them each night I watched their routines, but saw how much I valued their passion and talent.

So I lie here awake, feeling guilty for wishing to go back so soon in life. Guilty for not wishing to visit my own country in greater depth, fearing that if I don't go back now, I never will. Or worse, my friends and French family will have forgotten me by the time I manage to "get my act together" and return.

But somehow, the mere image of crowded outdoor cafés steaming with guests and their daily gossip brings me right back into the wave of French culture I dreamed about before even embarking on my adventure. My heart aches for so many things. And right now it aches most for my humble yet dark and twisty hippie of a host mother, the reassuring feeling of solitude, Centre Pompidou, a quietly messy salon, the shuffle of the metro, and a 4 euro bottle of Champagne to be shared among friends at sunrise for no particular reason other than the sheer factor of being young.

My heart aches, and it's an ache that hasn't faded. An ache that won't fade.

«The Best Chicken on a Stick Ever», Chez Rosine, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Shack

I'm not quite sure where to begin. This was more than just a book, it was an insightful legend to what it means to be a human being. I probably should have taken the religious aspects a little more seriously, but the advice that was given spoke to me in a much different way. And to be honest, the overtly religious aspects more often than not offended me a little bit. Mack, the protagonist of the novel, raised a question during one of the meals he shared with Papa (an African American female, who we know as 'God'). He inquired about which of the three, the Father, Son or the Spirit, were most powerful. He wanted to know if our version of their hierarchy was the reality of their relationship. And what Papa revealed to Mack was nothing he expected. She explained that they are a circle of relationship, not a chain of command.

Jesus chimed in and noted that humans created the hierarchical systems of everyday life. "Once you have a hierarchy, you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship..."

So then I started thinking about my relationships, and how I approach them all. In some, it is very evident which role I play in the pair. Whether I'm the strong one, the weak one, the smart one, the chaser, the chased, etc. And others, I find that there is that sense of equality that Papa, Sarayu and Jesus were attempting to teach Mack about throughout his journey. In some of my relationships, I do in fact feel like I am trapped by rules, following whatever the other person orders me to do. And in other relationships, I wonder why I feel like I am the responsible one, trying to hold the two of us together-- when in reality, if we just let each other live and understand we have differences, there would be no need to enforce rules on each other. There wouldn't be a need to fight for understanding or argue against each other's methods of thinking.

Sarayu, the personified spirit of God, further explains, "...broken humans center their lives around things that seem good to them but will neither fill them nor free them. They are addicted to power, or the illusion of security that power offers. When a disaster happens, those same people will turn against the false powers they trusted."

If I constantly live in this illusion of power and weakness, I don't think I'll ever truly be happy. If I continue to live in this world where I think certain people are better than me, while others rest below my 'status', then I will always see people in tiers. This kind of relates to something my Grandmother has been getting me to understand, I think.

She tells me to let go of anything and everything that is not related to Love, Truth, Beauty, & Knowing. It seems so simple in text, but when I try to apply the concepts, the challenge sets in. It's taken me years to figure out just what I find beautiful, and what I usually fall in love with. But knowing and trusting truth, that's a whole other type of game for me to try to play. But something this book has shown me, is that we can trust our gut...after it's been trained. We must train our minds, and our gut instincts to steer away from snap judgments and categorizing habits. Ultimately, it will be my gut who tells me whether or not something is true, but until I can definitively stay away from categorizing people and things, I won't be able to see the beauty and know that something is truly amazing, or truly worth my time. This stagnant routine of judgment I've created for myself closes in on my perception of life and clouds my ability to distinguish good from evil and truth from falsehood.

There were a number of themes brought up in this novel, and many I'm sure I will have to reevaluate for myself, but this one really stuck out to me. This theme of how we treat other humans really swept me away to another world-- a world where I could judge myself and how I judge other people. It seems so normal to shape people into certain types of human beings, to see them in one, maybe two ways, but nothing more. And here I always thought I had a pretty wide open perception of the world.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A little help from a wise woman.

"Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world." --Etty Hillesum

Helping others find peace does not find me peace. And it doesn't find peace for the people I interact with on a daily basis. Instead of looking to fix everyone else's problems, why can't I just stop and look at the situations I'm creating? Why can't I look at the people I'm hurting, instead of the strangers who are hurting themselves and begging for help? I'm a troubled, reckless little girl with only a few vague directions in life. And I guess that's how most twenty-year olds are, but for some reason I find myself in this extreme version of that lifestyle. And I'm not at all sure how I ended up in this place, hurting the people I love the most and only feeling bitter and alone at the end of the day.

"It gets more confusing everyday. Sometimes it's heaven sent, then we head back to hell again." --John Legend

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

midday fight.

ever since i can remember i've fought for the underdog, given the sucker a second chance, and always tried to see the brighter side of things for everyone...but myself. and it's never really occurred to me that fighting for myself is just as important as fighting for the world. i never felt gipped or jaded by what has happened to me-- just hurt and confused.

but i do ignore myself a lot of the time. i do worry about others when i should be worrying about myself; and to be honest, i'm not entirely sure what it feels like to fight for myself anymore. i have these passive mannerisms that i use to imitate what fighting for myself would be like, but i haven't directly fought for myself in a very long time.

that's not to say that i just lay down and surrender to people, but when it comes to making decisions for myself, for what i want, and for what will make me (and sometimes only me) happy, i let a lot of opportunities pass me by.

there's a huge difference between being selfish and wanting what's best for yourself.

so maybe for now i can just work on fighting for myself, for what i believe in, and for what i need from life.