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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention


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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention

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March 22, 2003

Not Alone

"The grip of winter is beginning to be loosed a bit-in typical Arkansas style. The daffodils have cautiously stuck their heads up, but the weather has waxed cold and then very warm. The pear trees have also started to bud up real nicely. Oaklawn Racetrack is off and running, and the promise of tornadoes slinging trailers along I-30 at the county line is only weeks away. I love Spring in Arkansas!"

I love my friend Buddy who wrote this email. Buddy and I have been friends for many years, and we're bad together-like Jack and Karen on "Will and Grace"-which means we're good together. We have wicked fun saying what shouldn't be said and then laughing out loud about our cleverness. If Buddy comes to visit us in France, we'll find him a Napolean chapeau to crown him with, and he can saunter about with mad aplomb.

The same day our new friend Johey from Belle Ile met her Dutch cousin Jolanda at the train station, and they came for a visit. What lucky diners we were. Johey brought coq au vin and foie gras that she'd expertly prepared, and we indulged ourselves with a long and very French dinner with courses of salad and cheese and dessert as well. We opened a delicious Cremant and a blissful red wine from Languedoc (both less than $5). Johey described Jolanda as "an English-speaking Dutch woman of superior humor and character; a 'hail fellow (read: Dutchwoman) well met.'" That nails her. We talked and danced and had a merry old time. There aren't many English speakers in Johey's world, and that is isolating and hard for her. We've found that's difficult for people (including us) living in a foreign country who don't speak the language well enough to communicate in some exact and meaningful way. There are support groups in Paris for Americans living there.

I suppose we're isolated too in a way, but we have each other (from the same culture) and Alice who's been so liberal with her time and assistance here and introduced us to others. Her kindness and friendship overflow. Alice and I have even had a little girlfriend time together, and I loved it. I miss my girlfriends and our heart-to-heart talks. I miss my boy friends too. I've always had male friends with no sex involved. Over the years, there has been a question in the culture, whether that can truly exist (unless they're gay). The answer is yes. There have been times in my life that I've had more male friends than female, but you've got to have your girlfriends. I tell my daughters that men come and go, but your girlfriends stay. Which is very true in the dating life, though people and circumstances change, and sometimes you must leave girlfriends behind too-even if it's because of geography and not a change of growth or heart. The point is the same.

I am most distressed about my things left undone at home. But friend Patti has been our Angel of Mercy and managed most of it. Her husband, B.J., has helped as well. Patti met another comrade, Kathleen, at our house one day, and they finished up more. Patti and B.J. have sat on our porch many nights, and we have eaten and drunk, laughed and danced. We have been though deaths, births, and babies together, though their children are younger than ours. Kathleen is a beautiful woman with long, nearly-white hair with clear eyes and a song in her heart and a poem on her lips every time you meet her. It made me feel better that they were there together looking after these last few personal belongings. I love and value my furniture, but it will be taken care of by the movers. These strong women of good heart and character lightened my worry. They are both dynamos. Blair and our real estate agent, Lynne, have also played a part. Lynn is managing the enormous job of the move, and every single act of assistance is a blessing for us.

We went into Auray to find a laundromat. There was an attendant who helped us. They actually do the laundry for you, too, which is the kind of place I looked for even in college, never finding any amusement in spending my time in a blocky room of rotating machinery, trying to make conversation or ignoring the iffy-at-best crowd. But everything we do-finding a store or something we need, getting any little thing done, and knowing how to manage the next time feels like a victory. As my children have grown older, I've discovered they haven't known things I thought were basic, but why would they know what to do or how things in the world worked unless someone explained? It's part of growing up to learn how to manage. It's part of living in a foreign country at this stage in our lives.

The feeling of being isolated isn't the happy emotion of time by yourself. That's when I really remember who I am. I can think and feel and have ideas and only have to take care of me. I used to love being in my house with no one else there. Once, I had almost two weeks, which was a gift from the gods. I could do things like play my music loud and dance around the room to a song or riff that moved me. Sometimes I did that anyway, but it's not the same thing. I've stayed up late at night and gotten up early to get this personal quietude. But being isolated is losing the connection we need and want from others in the physical and cosmic worlds.

My friend Dianne and I have talked many times about isolation and how much we need time together. With women especially, it helps us process what's going on in our lives-good or bad. Alice has given us three seasons of "Sex and The City," and I've become a fan. Even though the theme is supposed to be about being single in New York, it's really tracking four friends who are going through life with one another, figuring things out, advising, bouncing ideas around, sometimes getting miffed, and holding each other's hands. The men come and go.

Dianne and Lloyd, Jim and I have talked and laughed, argued and cajoled, eaten and drunk and embraced one another for many years and through many ups and downs. They both combine intelligence with common sense and a larger sense of spirit and business and world. Their hearts are gold, and their support of us is astronomical. Lloyd has taken care of all our business at home. We literally couldn't be doing this without them.

Then there's our pal Mims, who is a talker and a storyteller, a mover and a shaker, a standup comic and an entrepreneur who has helped us create this project in the form it's now in with our wonderful website that is documenting this journey. We believe that others have our dream as well and want to travel with us, can live vicariously through us, and/or initiate their own personal adventures. I hope we can inspire and inform them. Mims has guided us to help make this come true. And the guys at have literally created our vision and continue to grow this website with us in such creative ways. Their execution is well done. They teach us as well as support our needs. They are the best!

With the trauma of leaving our pets, Snapp and Cleo, my mother, Bobbye, stepped in to keep our spoiled animal children and has taken extraordinary care of them. And my brother Blair and sister-in-law, Paulette, and their children-Bill, Elizabeth, and Jake-have visited and played with their dog and cat cousins, paid attention to how they fared. This has given us enormous relief and rest from our anxiety of leaving them. Jim's brother, Phil, has helped us with some of the things we need long range as well as watching over their 92-year-old mother, Pat. That's a great gift to Jim and me.

And for my Wise Women of note-Susan, Connie, and Susan-they keep my (and our) spirit moving, propelled into the glorious adventure of learning to see in our New World. I miss our intimate discussions of dreams in our inner and outer realities, but their lights shine to me. And their husbands and companions-Ron, Fritz, and Lee-are the sugar in our pie. Helen and Fred and their family are the cream of our crop, and we look to their good faith, humor, and generosity of heart.

There are others who strengthen us through their emails-Thom, Libbi, my cousin Ginger, Lynda, David, J.O., our dearest children, and more.

These are our heroes. You see we're not isolated. We're not alone.

posted by Beth on March 22, 2003 | View All Diary Entries

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