The Space Between the Chapters of Living

12 Sep

No matter where I go in the world I know in Newport Beach the sun will be shining.  This flawless beauty disturbs me, it doesn’t feel real.

And it isn’t.  Next to me, at lunch, sit gaunt women, with pinched faces who pick at their cucumbers and cottage cheese.  I want to shove a hamburger into their mouths.  I want to turn to them and say, “do you know you are wearing your unhappiness?”

But who I am to dislike what is considered to be beautiful and ideal?  Who am I to judge strangers over lunch?

It is just now I have no fully, constructed life to live in.  I am in-between one chapter and another, and I am impatiently awaiting to acquire what is next.

Yet, in this space I am crystalizing what I want to do with my life; in this space I am creating my next chapter.  At times, though, it feels hot and uncomfortable – like the sunburn I acquired at the beach, making me red with my lack of protection.

And I know better, know to wear sunscreen, to be patient, to understand the importance and significance of this moment that I am sitting in.

People keep asking me outrageous questions, such as, “where do you live?” or “what do you do?” and I want to answer with what I see for myself – what I believe to be ahead of me.

Instead, I say the truth, which sounds equally outrageous, “I haven’t had a permanent address in over a year,” and “I’m a strategic creative consultant who helps other people tell their stories – both business and personal.”

“Oh,” is usually the response – it’s beyond a categorical understanding – there is no box to place me in.

But this is what all of my travels, people and jobs have brought me; the knowledge that you can make a blank canvas of your life and color it any way that you want.

It might not be easy or fair – it might seem hopeless or the result might look very different than the picture that you had in your mind, but your life can be crafted from your own abilities, desires, and whatever else you decide to throw upon the canvas.

Still, at times I am entangled and frightened.  At times, I get caught up with words like, “normal,” and, “typical,” especially when people like my parents tell me, “I have to grow-up.”

I challenge them because, “how am I not grown up?”

I built a career, made a home, attempted creating lasting, long-term relationships, and participate in managing the responsibilities that come with having an extremely ill Father and an overwhelmed Mother.

Are we so caught up in our own societal constructs that we cannot celebrate the many chords and keys in which one can live their life?  Are we so stifled that we cannot be open to what can be the joy of autonomous living?

And I want these things, of course.  I want, one day, to be married, I want, one day, to own some kind of abode that I can dwell within.

But even more than that I want to create – I want to continue to travel down the path that I’m on; the one that sees books and companies ahead.

I want to strike my own notes, so loudly that I forget the doubt, the fear, the uncertainty and pain that has brought me to this very moment of in-between.

The Exquisite Anguish of Being…

4 Sep

I have always written about fire – it fascinates me. Not the physicality of it, but the idea, the metaphor; for what are we without illumination? Yet, what is illumination without the danger of destruction? The pain of truly seeing? The ash it leaves behind? And who are we without our desire for warmth and consumption? Are we to arise again and again to both spark and destroy?

These are the questions that encircle my mind and frame my life, and the conclusions that I have come to regarding human nature often fuel my choices. That I believe we are both our greatest illumination and destruction; that we are born to die, and that it is the fearless act of living that truly matters.

Recently, I came across a quote of Albert Camus from ‘The Sea Close By’ that captured me because I thought it so beautifully illustrated, as what he coined, “the anguish of being,” or the duality of being – the illumination and the it leaves behind.

“Space and silence weigh equally upon the heart. A sudden love, a great work, a decisive act, a thought that transfigures,all these at certain moments bring the same unbearable anxiety, quickened with an irresistible charm. Living like this, in the delicious anguish of being, in exquisite proximity to a danger whose name we do not know, is this the same as rushing to your doom? Once again, without respite, let us race to our destruction. I have always felt I lived on the high seas, threatened, at the heart of a royal happiness,”

I am happy to be stuck underneath this dense (almost unbearably heavy) quote for I believe it is saying that what we yearn for, what makes us feel most alive is also our greatest fear; that our triumphs, our loves, our most meaningful decisions are what we are afraid to lose – and loss is the inevitability of life.

For a “royal happiness” is a happiness that invites envy, and the cliche that, “there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” also means there is always a tunnel beyond the light.

Yet, what is life without an end? It would be a life without, “irresistible charms” because we’d be weighed down with the knowledge that everything would go on and on, so nothing could truly be appreciated. It is living on this edge of doom, the risks, the tingling fears that make us feel truly alive.

What is the point of our choices if we didn’t live with the, “danger whose name we do not know?” To me, we know the danger is our finite time, and yet the length cannot be named.

So the, “race to our destruction,” is living fully, “on the high seas,” which will rise and fall at will for we do not always know the consequences of our choices. Life can only be lived this way if one is striving for a “royal happiness,” which most are afraid to reach for because it is a journey across a choppy sea – full of risk and loss.

But the consequences of living otherwise is often a protective numbing darkness that alienates one from their own feelings and possibilities.

This is why I’m drawn to the fire in all things, and why at times I throw it all in and let it burn – for I want to be taken with the swell, the up/the down, the flame and ash, the beginning/the end, and the anguish of being the in-between.

Experiencing the United States Social Security & Healthcare System

3 Sep

Today I went to the Social Security office with my Mom because she’s planning for her retirement. The offices open at 9:00 am and we got there at 8:45 – there was already a line.

A uniformed man shouted that, “no food or drink were allowed inside,” so I chugged my coffee.

When our number was called the woman told us that we had to go to another office nearby. “This is a problem for the State,” she said.

My Mom looked like her mouth was full of sour lemons and her grey roots were showing. She kept saying, “see no one can help us,” but the fact is they can. It’s just incredibly difficult, especially for someone who has her own things to deal with.

My Father has now been sick for eleven years and each year he gets worse. This experience has taught me a lot about the United States Health Care system, Unemployment and Disability. What I’ve seen is both frustrating and frightening.

Ill people and their families have to wade through a convoluted labyrinth of programming and often there is no one to talk to, “it’s all online,” they say, but what if you’re 65 years old and don’t have an email address?

There are three hour wait times just to be called up to window to make an appointment for the next time or to get told that, “you haven’t been unemployed long enough to receive help.”

It takes 2-3 months to get any paperwork processed because, “they’re behind,” and personally it took my Father two years to get approved for disability, even though he suffered strokes, seizures, has a greatly depleted short term memory and walks with a cane.

And my Family is lucky. My Mom still somewhat holds down her job as a nurse, there are Roth IRAs and Annuities – there are safety nets.

However, despite any savings, how long does money last with medical expenses and no income? Why should people suffer for being sick, disabled, old or laid off? These things are hard enough unto themselves.

They divide families and deplete spirits.

I look around at the Social Security office, or the State office, and I see such anger and suffering. I see people of all colors and ages attempting to understand how and why they got there and what needs to be done to get out.

On our way to the office I hear on the morning news that the United States implemented a Drone attack on Somalia, trying to kill the leader of the militant group al-Shabab.

It all seems wrong to me. It’s a cycle of Defense, Attack, Protect, and here within, ill people are trying to navigate systems that are designed to be difficult so less are served.

I do think a huge shift is slowly occurring in our society; that the generation beneath mine is looking more toward healing, and I don’t think this shift can happen fast enough.

We on both an individual, societal, national and global level need to learn how to recognize our fears, and sit with them instead of always turning against the other. We need to, even on a small scale, look at how the communities we exist within help those in need, and not just assume that everyone who is receiving help is taking advantage of the system.

We need to evaluate what our nations our investing in and hold our leaders accountable because I guarantee the cost it took to build a Drone could also pay for someone’s much-needed operation.

Of course, I hope one day to exist in a world where we don’t need Drones or Bombs, but I am not so naive. Still, we are the United States of America, and yet we so rarely united on any issue regarding the internal care of our people.

I think all teenagers should be assigned a hypothetical income and problem, and then go through the system and attempt to solve it. They’ll see how it feels to be left waiting, clutching a number and being told, “no.”

Then these children will grow up and maybe instead of investing their knowledge in weaponry or material gain, they’ll be inspired to use their brains to create systems that will help heal the many families who live within our nation.

It All Ends Eventually: Turning 30 & A Year of Travel

14 Aug

I wanted to write something profound when I turned thirty. A Joan Didion – esq kind of thing about the end of it all and what it all meant. Instead, my computer stopped working, and then I thought, “but really, computers are on the out anyway,” though I’ve never enjoyed writing on my phone or tablet. Ask my friends, I barely text.

So now it’s a month later, and I’m sitting here trying to write something profound about the end of this year and what it all meant. As if I have the capacity to capture it when I’m still somewhat in it, or in-between it and what’s ahead.

To inspire myself, I looked at all of my photos, not just of my trip, but of the past ten years, and all I could think of was, “Wow,” which was frustrating.

“This is how articulate I am?” I thought. Wow.

In my 20s, I kept telling myself (and those who would listen) that I would get to writing; that the book was coming. I also told people I was lost, and confused, and sad, and then occasionally people wouldn’t want to live with me anymore, which lead to me to moving a lot.

People would wonder why I moved so much, why I left things, why I was so disorganized, “how could such a smart girl not know this or do such stupid things?” or “why in the hell aren’t you leaving him?” and I thought people were pretty hard on me, but really I was hard on myself.

I agreed with the questioning, and I had no answers. I didn’t know how a smart person could, at times, choose so poorly for themselves, or how a confident person could be so insecure. I didn’t understand how a courageous person could not let go of things, and I certainly didn’t know what I was supposed to do with my life. I just knew that I expected myself to do something amazing, and I knew even that expectation wasn’t original.

However, that expectation was what I lived by, and so I began to blindly and fully throw myself at things like, “Account Executive,” “Chicagoan,” “Girlfriend,” “San Francisco,” and these things began to pile up on top of one another, giving me a drawer full of experience with no definite answers.

I began to feel that I wasn’t writing because my life was my book, and that subconsciously I was acquiring the outrageous to create stories that were to be written in the future.

Privately, I raged at the memoir genre and wanted to ask everyone in the world to stop writing in the first person because there needed to be an existing market for me and my experiences when I felt ready to commit to the solitary discipline of “the work.”

“I tried to at 25,” I would answer to those who asked, “but I just wasn’t ready for the loneliness that comes when it’s just you and your computer,” and I knew that answer was true.

When I turned 30 I was in a town in the Netherlands called Ultrecht. I sat down to an Italian dinner with practical strangers, and drank tea because I was recovering from being sick.

This number that I had been looking forward to seemed so anti-climatic, and as much as I wanted to not care, I couldn’t help but feel sad.

“Why was I even there?”

The year before I had a dinner with 20 friends, went a club, kicked a go-go dancer off the stage, and did a solitary performance to ‘I Am a Woman,’ and I thought, “hell yes I am!” but that was the end of something.

This year of travel was an in-between, an intermezzo of wonderfulness that I needed in some intuitive, inexplicable way. I can’t rationalize it. I can’t pretend that I don’t have terrified moments of questioning; the haunting doubts of what am I doing with my money, or why am I with four strangers in Ultrecht turning 30 before a plate of Italian food in the Netherlands?

“Maybe going to Asia would have been the better option, maybe I should have taken this money and invested in the business I want to start, maybe I shouldn’t have visited so many countries?”

And then it occurs to me that these are the same questions as, “how can a smart girl be so stupid?” or, “why did you do that?”

I know exactly what I am doing. I can articulate who I am and what I want in ways that I thought were unreachable, but most importantly, I have proven to myself that I am a capable woman who has the courage and knowledge to live her life as she wishes – that is the point.

This is what will lead me into the next chapter of my life, no matter how daunting it feels in this moment; this piece of proven belief in myself founded on my experience is what separates my 30s from my 20s.

I am now in the process of reconstructing my life from this place, and no, I don’t know what’s ahead, and yes I will write my book – maybe two.

And yes, this year, this ending, this transition is something I will never forget, though parts of it will fall away with time, or old age, or dementia, or maybe I’ll get hit by a car tomorrow and all that will be left of me are the words that I’ve left behind for others when I found the time and patience to jot it all down.

The Spectacle of Versailles

20 Jun

I was awed by the gates of Versailles and the golden arrogance of them.  I could tell how Louis and  Marie had no sense of the world that they were living and the people that they were supposed to rule.  There is no reality in Chateaux Versailles.  It is a magnificent and isolating universe.

My mind almost couldn’t comprehend the enormity of Versailles.  All I could think of when I took my first steps on the stone plaza was, “I can’t believe people walked here in heels.”

The ancient stones are uneven and have large spaces between them.  The marble staircases are somewhat slanted and the dirt paths are full of small stones.

Though, I didn’t know all of these details as I waited in the queue to get in.  I was just trying to maintain my balance and extricate myself from the German tour group that I got stuck in the middle of.  Finally, I asked if I could  move forward and the leader said, “of course Princesses can go to the front.”

I inwardly laughed because I was staring at what a real Queen created, and I know that never will I possess such audacity nor would I be comfortable inhabiting it.

My pounding hard could barely take in the gate, which was blinding in its brilliance each time the sun struck it.

Everywhere there were swarms of people from all over the world.  Once I finally entered the Chateaux, I saw an American man lean over to his son, glance at a Tibetan Monk and say, “bet you don’t see that every day,” as if the Monk was the spectacle.

The ceilings of the Chateaux were works of art.  They made me feel like I was standing inside a painting.  There were long halls of marble statues, magnificent chandeliers and a battlefield of paintings.  Each detail enhancing and adding to the theme and beauty of the room.

After an hour inside I had to get some air.  It was almost too much to see the King and Queen’s bedchamber, to imagine the Lords and Ladies that strolled these halls.  I could see the many spaces for intrigue. I could see how easily once could slip behind a stunning chair or curtain and exchange an unnoticeable secret.

The weight of history was apparent in Versailles every particle, though it’s also a neighborhood.  As I went to the Garden, I saw people running through it.  Versailles is where they exercise and this almost blew my mind more than the Chateaux, though this is Europe – where one lives with history and sleeps within it.

And what is history anyway?  Is it the iconic lanes shaded by the vertical pines?  Is it the canal where now laughing families row boats?  Is it the site of Petite Trianon and the thousands of people that enter and leave it daily?

I don’t know if I heard the ghosts of all those that tread before, but I do know that when I was invited to take the same walk that Louie did daily, my brain wasn’t fully comprehending.

The sun was too strong, and I saw the need for these trees and the intelligence in which they were shaped.  And my heart broke a little when I saw the floating garbage in the fountain that was home to four stunning Grecian statues.

How could one so casually desecrate one of man’s greatest accomplishments?

And yes, it’s easy to see Versailles as the blood it took to built it.  To see it as a symbol of our gluttonous egos that use others to construct the things we want to be remembered by.

But often our greatest accomplishments are also a product of what is both good and bad within us.  We have the capacity to imagine Versailles and the horror that happened within – we are both the brilliant golden gate and the garbage in the pond.

We are what we’ve dreamed and forgotten, and the forgetting haunts our days.






How I Walked Through Lyon

17 Jun

I’m sitting next to a sleeping Colombian on a bus that’s making it’s way toward Paris.  Outside my window the rolling hills are green, the grass is yellow and the small houses are cream with red roofs. 

The scenery feels provencal, but I know it’s not.  It’s just the backdrop from Lyon to Paris, and I’m not sure if Paris will imprint itself on my mind like Lyon did.  Paris is an expectation, Lyon was not.  It was small, scenic and sliced by two rivers that people sat by day and night.

How can I describe Lyon and its many moments?  How can I share with others what Lyon will always be for me?  A city that I walked through.

There I am, strolling with an upper-class, British student.  We are discussing our Faith over ham and cheese crepes at a cafe we stumbled upon. We are saying what God means to us after attending my first Mass in the most beautiful Church I’ve ever seen.  While we are of very different faiths, the grounding act ritual sits at our centers; it’s how we connect with what we believe.

Again, I’m standing on Medieval cobblestones, gazing at the ruins of a Church that was built in 150 A.D.  Then I’m visiting a Sunday market and devour Macaroons made from the local candy.  

But really, I’m sitting at the Hostel bar, making friends with the owners over a glass of Rose.  They make me a plate of some of the local cheeses, which are mountain and blue.  Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye play in the background, and I can’t help myself. I quietly sing along.

Oh, but I am so tired, and feel that we will never find the Hostel after our Lyonnaise dinner of duck tartan and chocolate mousse.  My new Israeli friend Daniella, is absolutely finished, exhausted after a night with a Puerto Rican who reminded her of how one should be treated by a man.

We are giggling and watching the Gypsy fire dancers.  We are acknowledging that we can only share these secrets because we will probably never see each other again.

I am speaking Spanish to the Colombian, and his French friend Matias is talking with Max in German, but English is what we always go back to.  It’s the only language all four of us know.

The waiter is joking in French, and he smiles in my direction, trying to make me laugh.

The city, both Medieval and Modern, with a Basilica up on a hill that I continue to claim I own is always overlooking us, an ever-lasting symbol of Catholic Faith.

And the young Brit tells me he loved traveling the States because all the girls went mad for his accent.  He said that his East Coast friend got caught pretending he was from London as well.

The ham and cheese crepe is the perfect antidote to my hunger.  The nourishment I need after walking for hours.

Passing by the new and the old, the Arabic and the French, the student, professional and tourist blend of this unforgettable city of shops, cafes and of walking without purpose, toward nowhere, toward the game, toward the river where the boats float from beginning to end, to the bus that I’m on now, toward Paris and all that I expect.

Close Your Eyes and Dance – Lyon

14 Jun

At a certain age you suddenly become less cool in the way that eighteen to twenty-three year olds define cool.  You begin to believe this kind of cool doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t, but in a way it does because we are always looking backwards, reminiscing.

“Remember that time we got really drunk, then got lost and it started to pour, but finally at 3 a.m. we found some corner store, bought a beer and watched the sun rise.” but what we are really saying is remember when the whole world was just an imagined possibility…now we know.

And this past Thursday, I was cool, and being cool was deeply satisfying, but satisfying because I knew it was just for a night.

I went to a club  in Lyon called Sucre.  The club was a rooftop started by people who run, “some of the best music festivals in France.”

The rooftop had structures of flashing blue, red and white lights and people sat in circles beneath them.  There was a long bar outside with picnic tables and a bar inside the dance house, which was a covered structure on the roof. No one was getting drunk but no one was totally sober.

I met a twenty-one year old Moroccan girl who had almond eyes and hair that rose off her head.  She unknowingly possessed a model’s body and it was clad in green silk shorts and a printed top.  She wore white Keds and and told me she was studying art.

When I asked her about her work she launched into a passionate speech about how the world ignores other’s suffering; that we are indifferent.  She told me she burns her art to bring attention to what we ignore.  She said, “Paris is the city of the World,” and I could see this beautiful idealist permanently living there.

Another young literature student turned to me and asked if I knew who Rimbaud was.  When I replied, “yes,” his face lit up.

He said, “Rimbaud is the Father of modern literature,” and we discussed his life and his impact on the written word.  He reminded me how much I love Charles Bukowski and we joked how Bukowski was always drunk in interviews.

The literature student introduced me to his Algerian friend who evoked a shrunken Jimmy Hendrix with a red headband horizontally wrapped around his Afro.  Once we entered the Dance bar, he never stopped moving, his nineteen year old body didn’t need a break.

The Jimi Hendrix character turned to me and said, “I can tell you know how to party,” and I wanted to say you have no idea, but I just smiled.

After forty minutes of dancing I was done, but it was clear that my new friends weren’t ready to depart.  I noticed that the bar had an espresso machine, which I adored, and I ordered one and took in the scene.

Bodies leaned toward the DJ; bodies were covered in music.  I could tell most people thought that this was THEIR moment; that there hadn’t been music like this, or youth like this.  That it didn’t occur to them that generations have danced to their moments and were probably on a lot more drugs.

I thought, “we loose ourselves in the music.  We want to escape our terrible youth, we want to dance it out because who can lightly carry such possibility?”

Eventually, I went outside, sat at one of the picnic tables and enjoyed the fresh night air.  I  chatted with the rest of the group who wasn’t interested in movement.  I inhaled half of their cigarettes because they didn’t think to turn their heads and blow the other way.

My heart was filled with the twenty year old Samantha who wanted the world so badly and who was terrified that she would never get close to all she wanted to grasp.  I thanked whatever that was within myself that brought me here; that could be both in and outside the moment.

At two a.m. we left.  The subways had stopped and so we slowly began the long walk home.During our walk, we stopped at various points to chat, taking small swigs out of the bottle of wine the boys had hidden outside of the club.

We encountered a stone map of Lyon, and my young friend pointed out Lyon’s original borders and how far it’s spread.  He continued to educate me as we meandered back, telling me the history of the gorgeous statues that are scattered throughout the city.

When we reached the river, we stopped to finish the bottle of wine, and discussed the importance of openness and how it can enrich one’s life.  Then suddenly it was 4 a.m., and it was decided that it was really time for bed.

A bike station was found, and the mini Jimi Hendrix decided to rent one as he had further to go.  He jumped on, waved goodbye, and in his arrogant youth shouted, “close your eyes and dance!”



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