PARIS JOURNAL 4: The World According to Parisians

After a month in Paris, I have now come to expect the following:

patisserie.chandelierBakeries will have desserts designed by God, crystal chandeliers, and possibly domed ceilings festooned with angels.

We always address people formally, as in ‘May I ask a question, Madame?’

Everyone – from cabbies to colleagues to the lady who cleans the apartment – is greeted with ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Au revoir”.

Arrivals and departures are not marked with sloppy American hugs but precise air kisses on both cheeks.

Tiny dogs have the same rights as children and seem to go everywhere. No questions asked.

Posters, signs and directions will almost always be misleading. A sign on the train station under construction saying that entrée is free actually means you must pay three euros. Because free doesn’t actually mean ‘free’. It means free. Get it?

Follow the rules or you’re screwed. I was actually stopped by the police and severely reprimanded for not having a photograph on my metro pass. (“C’est obligatoire, Madame!”)

Women are the gentler sex in Paris. Seriously. And you will be wearing make up, nice clothes, and have decent hair at all times when you leave the house. (Extra points for a matching handbag, pearls or anything with maribou.)

Dinner with friends will be about 10PM if you go to their house. Maybe by 9PM if you eat out. But who’s in a hurry? There is wine to drink!

You will become extremely large unless you walk. The world’s best Camembert is all of $2 or $3 for a generous piece. The world’s best butter is cut off of huge slabs at the cheese shop. The croissants are simply not of this world. And then there’s the tendency to eat veal liver, sweet breads, kidneys in red wine or a lovely big steak just about every damn night. And we haven’t even gotten to dessert. My friend Francis says the red wine keeps the weight off. The good news is that this IS the best city on the planet to walk in.

Oh … and you’ll never get off the Metro until you learn to open the door.

Et ca c’est tous for my fourth week in Paris, la ville de mes rêves.

 

 

 

How to Find the Love of Your Life

prayers_for_a_soulmateThis is for everyone who wonders if there is such a thing as true love; who spends night after night either alone or in the wrong relationship, wondering … why is love so hard?

True love can be found. It really can.

My friend – let’s call her Kathy – has found the man of her dreams. But such happiness wasn’t won overnight or because she finally discovered the right dating site.

She found her man because first she found herself.

Like a lot of us, Kathy kept winding up with the wrong guy. Year after year she made vision boards with happy couples while her friends looked on, secretly shaking their heads.

In love we create what we think we deserve. And if our opinion of ourselves is low enough – that’s exactly what we create. Our bad choice is usually followed by a chaser of shame: I’d better take this one because God knows I won’t do any better.

 So how did Kathy get to her happily ever after? Through hard work, perseverance, and sticking to her dream. And it wasn’t easy.

  1. She acknowledged that she had a problem. It’s so hard to tell the truth when we keep sinking our own ship, isn’t it? And yet, that is the only thing that will ever bail us out.
  2. She didn’t blame her pain on the other person. Yes, you may have attracted a difficult person or a harsh experience. But who said yes in the first place? Take responsibility and get help. Then you won’t get stuck in the story. Instead, you get to move on.
  3. She stopped and regrouped. Like hamsters on a wheel, when love ends we just want to get right back out there and find more. Immediately. Before our hearts have healed and we have gotten ourselves back. Bad move.
  4. She took impeccable care of herself. Here’s where you get to take a million naps and rediscover lost friends. Good time to reboot.
  5. She got to know herself again. You have to spend time alone tuning into you – what do you want? What do you need? What would delight you?
  6.  She got clear on what she wanted. Can you make a list of what you want — and know in your heart that you are ready to receive it? Only then proceed to Step 7. If it’s hard to figure out, go back to step 5.
  7. She didn’t date until she was ready. This is where the discipline comes in. Try to date before you are truly strong enough to hold your ground … you’re going to crumble. Then you go back to Step 1.
  8. She got support. Some people read books, or use good friends as their ‘wing man’. Others join groups. Kathy did it all – and hired a dating coach who helped her stick to her vision.
  9. She stayed open. Instead of rushing blindly into something wildly romantic and completely unknown, Kathy went on a year of first and second dates. Cautiously.
  10. She didn’t settle. Kathy said ‘no’ a lot. Even when her heart was weary of dating and her soul longed to curl up in someone’s arms. She’d come too far to stop at this point.
  11. She listened to her heart. When ‘He’ finally showed up, she knew it. And there was a moment in the very beginning when she feared he was going to be another ‘No.’ (By now she had become very discriminating, for the first time in her life.) But her heart kept saying yes.
  12. She made herself the highest priority. Kathy kept her feet on the ground by listening to herself. Even when He wanted to rush things a little. She trusted herself and her needs first – and knew that if he didn’t like it, he was not, actually, the one.

Three months later, Kathy is now officially ‘In a Relationship’; one that is new, but still grounded and true.

All that dating? It’s really about finding our way back to ourselves … but only if we’re willing. Pretty sweet, huh?

PARIS JOURNAL 2: Les Hommes, l’Amour, Les Scooters

Paris joy.FB I am now officially into Week 3 of my Paris stay. My rhythm now is to work from 8 or 9 until about 3 or so. Then I sit down with my Paris arrondissement guide, map my route and set off for a new quartier every day.

The walking is exhilarating in the crisp fall-winter air, full of ancient looking buildings, cobbled streets, fascinating shop windows full of French eye-candy, and of course … the French themselves.

I passed a gent on the street the other day who greeted me, “Bonjour” … and then added that I had very nice legs. In French! I felt flattered – and psyched that I understood him.

Some impressions from the last week”

– A bride, freshly married on a Friday night, casually sits with her new husband at a marble table in a 19th century café. They are surrounded by dark wood, having an intimate glass of wine for two. Her small bouquet of roses accents the table between them. It’s as if they woke up, decided to get married, she found a dress and some flowers, and off they went.

– A perfectly pink scooter with its pink helmeted driver pulls up to a stoplight in the rain. She has a small lap robe printed with the Union Jack spread across her lap. I notice she is wearing black patent leather stiletto boots with 5-inch heels. A tiny Playboy bunny is stenciled on the pretty pink of her bike. She smiles at me, then tears off when the light changes.

– I am sitting in the infamous Café Fleur, having a celebration for one after publishing my paperback. Sitting two tables over is an elegant older man in half glasses, a black velvet jacket and cravat; it is 6PM and he is having a café. An Asian woman approaches, bowing, and they have a short discussion in Italian. He nods; she is happy. She reappears twenty minutes later with a professional cameraman and he conducts a lengthy interview apparently for TV or the Web. I wonder if he is a famous director.

– I am walking in the woods with thirty Parisians and citizens of the world. They hunt grey chantarelles (grisolles) and something called pieds de mouton (sheep’s foot) from among the fallen leaves. I happen to see one, pick it and hand it to the collecting Frenchman beside me. He is beyond thrilled.

– I find my way to a sweet corner of the city that seems very old, Rue Montorgueil near Les Halles. Oh la LA! Foodie Heaven! (Yes, in caps.) This sweet strolling hour is always wonderful in the great cities of Europe; dusk has people scurrying to grab a café or a verre du vin before going out for the night. Some are carrying boxes of sweets to some sweetheart or a dinner party. The air is full of hope, joy and a tired tenderness. All of Paris stops and relaxes at this hour, which is just as it should be.

I walked away from Montorgueil with the best aged Compte on the planet … plus a spectacular goat cheese, three boxes of raspberries (one was a gift!), and a fat chocolate bar, which I plan to consume very slowly. I eat my cheese when I get home, with chocolate and raspberries for dessert – and my mouth explodes with joy.

Ah, Paree … More Parisian joie de vivre to come next week.

How to Be Alone … Even On Your Birthday

Cake_aerialThis week I celebrated my 55th birthday, and it was actually one of my happiest ever. Why? Because perhaps for the first time in my life, I am truly able to celebrate me.

Without any big accomplishments. No ‘extraordinary cause for celebration’. No bells and whistles.

On my birthday I gave a party for moi. And yes, I was all alone.

In the past, I used to secretly wish someone would throw me a big surprise party. I imagined it would feel like the whole world was lining up to throw their arms around me in a humongous group hug.

Then there would be a mass exodus of all of my demons, and I would live happily ever after. And I would finally know I was truly and completely loved.

But that is when birthdays can be a con. Because it is only when we learn to light our own little candle, and put it on our own little cake, that we get to live happily ever after.

I suspect this was the very best birthday gift I could give myself. For no one is ever going to love me more than I love myself right now.

And here’s the wildest part. It is only when we can sit alone in both happiness and pain, and allow ourselves to feel, own and accept our grief and our shortcomings that we can begin to feel, own and accept true love.

Ironic, right?

Then we don’t need the big elaborate bash with roman candles and champagne fountains to feel appreciated. Nor do we need any other person to tell us how wonderful we are.

Instead, life becomes simple and simply perfect.

Then a remarkable thing happens. My spirit goes into lift off, and then birthday tributes somehow come pouring in. I open Facebook and discover hundreds of people have crowded my page with their beautiful good wishes.

I’m not so alone on my birthday, as it turns out – I have good company.

A few times surprise parties were thrown in my honor over the years, and there were ‘It’s Christmas!’ feelings for sure. But then the abundant magic always wore off. Life as usual eventually emerged, and I found myself trudging along again, no different than the day before my birthday.

But this year is different. This time the song was a simple ‘Happy Birthday’ sung from the heart by the eight-year-old who lives inside of me. I call her Little Susie; she’s funny, imaginative and wants nothing more than to love people and have fun.

We celebrated by doing one of Little Susie’s favorite things: swimming at a sophisticated spa in the suburbs of Paris. (OK, Little Susie has grown up a titch.) Among other things it had a pool-sized Jacuzzi with all sorts of bubbling stations. Lumbar chairs with jets that massage your lower back. Lounge pools with beds full of bubbles. There was even a lap lane in which you could swim against the current.

It was like a water park for adults with a lot of tension … and Little Susie and I were all over it.

Then we had a lovely, rainy evening doing what we love best: making a little dinner and writing. And building this new business dedicated to sharing more and more writing, books and love.

These days this is what really lights me up.

Of course, I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life alone, but of one thing I am certain. There won’t be room for another in my life until I become truly intimate with myself. Because what I crave more than anything at this point in my life is that deep connection.

As I unfold more and more, following my instincts and surrendering to who I truly am, those connections are appearing. This is what is possible for all of us.

By doing nothing more than telling the truth, becoming humble, we find friendships that truly feed our soul.

Each day our job is simply to get up and do God’s work. That’s all there is to it. Then the drama disappears, along with the overwork, the hand-wringing and the longing for the eternal missing piece.

For me each day shows up like a perfect, peaceful gift for which I am grateful. And woven through all of it is the joyful presence of Teal, ever by my side.This, to me, is intimacy. Pretty soon I will become open to another person appearing in my life, but in God’s time of course – not mine.

It used to be that I couldn’t wait to find the ‘other’ who would complete me. These days, the rules have been lifted and the chains have been thrown off, and I walk freely towards the sun — whole, complete and uplifted.

At 55, this is my privilege and my gift. It is yours, as well.

I invite you to come along, for this path is paved with magic.

PARIS JOURNAL 1: Sticker Shock and the Bliss of Wandering

IMG_0030It is the end of my first week of my experiment of living in Paris. My goal, since the age of 18, has been to live for two to three months a year in this city … the city I’ve always felt deepest in my heart. Can I really LIVE here … like a Parisian? I’m here to find out.

Here is a broad swath of my impressions — because all I’ve done, really, is wander around. And go home and write. And then get back out there and wander some more. I’ve not yet been to any museums, concerts, or ‘famous places’. Instead I’ve been living like a Parisian without the cigarettes and the pricey night life.

It’s all relative, I guess, but this is the most expensive place I have ever been. In. My. Entire. Life. More expensive than NYC. More than Tokyo. Even more than San Francisco. Heirloom tomatoes are $10 for a handful; fresh fish is $25 – $40 a pound. I saw cooked Maine lobsters for $70 each. I spent $200 on groceries my first week being extremely careful. Then I realized it’s actually cheaper to eat out. In fact, the daily ‘Formule’ in most restaurants — about $21 for a 3 course meal — is often a damn good deal. Then I talked to some Parisians and found my way to the cheap supermarkets the Americans never find out about. Ahhhhh ….

Turns out the necessities like an excellent brie, a good bottle of red wine, chocolate, foie gras, chantarelles, black nylons and French cosmetics are surprisingly cheap. Who knew? Clarins anti-aging serum, anyone?

Speaking french is another matter altogether in this crazy town. Parisian french is spoken rapid-fire with many words IMG_0025run together; the  ubiquitous ‘chez pas’ … which means ‘je ne sais pas’ is an example. I now understand about 1/8th of what is said to me. But when I attempt to speak french, apologetically, I am told ‘c’est bien’ … it’s fine. The French seem to appreciate that I try. This is humbling and encouraging at the same time.

The famous Parisian ‘attitude’ is around but not dominant, though this week I saw three different French women completely lose it in the street. One even destroyed her umbrella by beating it on a passing bus — and she was mad at her man, not the bus.  L’amour, you know. It’s tricky.

I recognize that us casual Americans are simply far different from the formal, process-loving French who have a beautiful respect for the way things should be done. Personally, I resonate with this so if people get a bit touchy, I can understand. Ce n’est pas grave, as they say; it’s no big deal. And somehow, it never is.

I have made some new friends, one of the beautiful things about travel. Teal told me once that while traveling she learned that all friendships have a beginning, a middle and an end … and when you travel that just gets really compressed. So should we put ourselves out there, knowing the day will come when we have to get back on the plane to SFO and fly to the other side of the world? Bien sur!

I am beginning to understand that this short life is designed for maximal pleasure if you allow it. So here are some of the pleasure highlights of my first week in Paris …

The chocolate-menthe dark chocolate bar I have stashed in the closet and nip at slowly  … Walking home and seeing the Sacre-Coeur rise up IMG_0037above the 17th century church at the end of the street … Rounding a nighttime corner in the 7th arrondissement to find the amazing Eiffel Tower right there, and lit up like Christmas, with not a soul around me seeming to notice … The small silver tray complete with tiny pitcher of thick melted chocolate, larger pichet of warm milk, and the silver spoon to mix it in the white porcelain cup — for all of $6 … The homeless guy who sits outside the Opera (my concert hall up the block) with his snuggly cat and small dog …  Swimming at La Piscine publique that I get to by  wandering up the twisty Medieval Rue des Martyrs  … “Vas-y” my fellow swimmers say when I want to pass them … And finally, the rain beating outside on a Saturday night, and me tucked in tight, writing, this in my PJ’s for you  …

The Parisiens wonder why I visit now, when it rains nearly every day. Because I want to live like a Parisienne, I tell them, and they smile and shake their heads.

It was ever thus.

How to Listen to Your Soul (in Spite of Everything)

tumblr_m372iqOBN41roy8klo1_1280Here is how our mind controls us.

I am sitting in a beautiful apartment on the Right Bank in Paris. I have all my needs well met. In the refrigerator is a bit of Brandade de Morue I will heat up for supper, with some fabulous sautéed cherry tomatoes and zucchini from yesterday with lots of basil.

My bed is outfitted in pima cotton sheets, and the mattress is high end – one of the most comfortable I have slept on in years. Earlier in the day I took a break from my work, and wandered up Rue des Martyrs, stopping along the cobblestones to shop at the beautiful groceries that had always been there.

Last night I attended a 12-Step meeting in French, actually understood some of the rapid-fire Parisian being spoken, and was warmly greeted by many of my French fellows afterward. One even took my number.

Friends are calling me to make dates to go out. Production on my book is moving along with ease. I even found a fantastic pool nearby to do some lap swimming; total cost $4.50, including a locker.

So … how in God’s name can I feel miserable at a time like this?

Because I am afraid of the ‘terrible mistake’ I’m about to make releasing my book and restarting my career as a writer.

My mind ignores all of this abundance and spits, snorts and bucks in rebellion. It rears its ugly head and insists that I am imperiled. That I have to DO SOMETHING right now to secure my future.

Sirens blare and whistles blow. At any moment the entire bottom could drop out!

My ego wants to make sure I don’t relax – not for one moment. Call it a last ditch effort. Who cares if I’m in Paris living my soul’s dream? Who cares is I have had three books with major publishers, and more than 25 years in the business?

Who cares if I have 38 five-star reviews on Amazon? My ego doesn’t give a damn. Its dream is to hang on to the old status quo that is just about completely gone — and gun down any namby-pamby ideas issued from my soul.

So basically, it’s a battlefield in here. Forget the fact that I am blessed beyond measure and living the life I’ve been thinking about for 35 years.

This mind does not like to let go of suffering at all. Which is why I have to trick it to stealthily advance on the work of my soul.

Here is what would be truly intolerable to this survivalist psyche:

a)   To live in Paris part of the year and wander the same cobblestoned streets as those through history

b)   To be a successful writer and speaker making an abundant income doing what I was born to do

c)    To have my soul mate by my side

That much happiness would basically blow the gaskets sky high.

Or at least it seemed intolerable when first I wrote these words. Now I’ve lived with these ideas overnight and they don’t seem so far fetched at all. The feeble grasp of the old wounds magically grows weaker by the minute.

Standing in the line at the MonoPrix tonight, I started to feel like I belonged here. Somehow the old unworthiness is loosening its grip.

Perhaps just because I finally am paying attention to my heart.

Our dreams are sent from heaven not to annoy us, but to feed us. And to wave that one small, true flag that issues forth from the depths of our soul. Yes, there is a lot of busy work in life … but behind it all, you always know what’s true.

And so does your heart. Therefore, let your mind do it’s thing, but know you are always at choice.

You really, truly are. What is your soul asking from you?

 

 

 

Sometimes I Doubt My Path

I decide I’m not REALLY supposed to be doing what I’m doing. That Spirit isn’t actually guiding me — that I’m making all kinds of foolish decisions. But then the spirit of my late daughter, Teal, appears. “You are on the only path you can be on, for God’s sake,” she says. “Give yourself a break and trust your process.” Anyone else need this reminder?
Only.Path.Trust.FB.BEST