Tag Archives: love

“This is an ex-parrot”, Hippocrates and Cancer

There are words received via text that shatter your heart.  Sent from a friend during their latest round of chemotherapy more than 5100 miles and multiple time zones away these are debilitating words. #notadamnthingIcando words. I respond to each line of text, being present without being physically there. In truth, it feels beyond inadequate. I want to jump on a plane and just sit next to him while he has these poisons dripped into his body via a port in his chest – and not only does he not want that, but I can’t. I scan hundreds of YouTube videos and send these as a possible lightening of spirit parrotor at least distraction but he can’t watch them because the noise in the room where he sits with other cancer patients is loud. Very loud. A man sitting someplace behind my friend was evidently screaming from the pain of his infusion for hours. The time before last a woman was bitching non-stop, unnerving everyone around her and especially her family.  (He survives this assault to the psyche earning platitudes from the son for his ability to crack jokes, and generally lighten the environment of suffering around him.)

The last time I was (physically) present to a chemotherapy session was more than sixteen years ago; the brother of my best friend, the uncle to her children, the husband of another dear friend and dad of three kids the youngest of whom was a toddler at the time, brother to another brother, uncle to his three kids, son, friend, et al. I haven’t been in the Beverly Hills Cancer Center (BHCC) to witness first-hand what I perceive as being the antithesis to luxury on which so much of Beverly Hills reputation rests but I was present at the Wilmot Cancer Center at Strong Memorial (Rochester, NY) and the contrast between the two care environments couldn’t be clearer to me.  Sixteen years ago Mike was surrounded by family and friends, shifts of love floating in and out of the room like sunbeams streaming through clouds, there was raucous camaraderie (he being a former Major League Baseball player, the baseball coach of the local Jesuit high school, a widely and much-beloved friend) and I recall at least six people being in the (memory driven) seemingly private room besides myself and Mike.  I could not tell you why I was there.  As Jeffrey describes it BHCC is a ‘factory’, 12 reclining chairs crammed into a single visually sterile room with half walls separating patients, everything everyone says can be heard by every other person in the room, all the bitchingmoaningandcomplaining, the comings and goings of the staff and their commentary.

I didn’t think of this last night as I responded to the texts, but I had two vastly different dreams about those treatment rooms after I went to bed. And it strikes me that the experiences of these two men hang not simply on the distance of years and geography but also insurance coverage.  Mike had robust private insurance and friends and family offsetting some of the costs, my friend Jeffrey was ‘covered’ by Molina Health as part of its participation in an Affordable Care Act Exchange.

The other component is two decades ago, regardless of the circumstances, we were as a nation and as individuals more compassionate toward one another.  That compassion manifest in Rochester in an environment that was calmer and more conducive to healing. The perception of Beverly Hills Cancer Center I have gained through my texts and conversations with Jeffrey reflects an odd dichotomy, on occasion extraordinary but all too often disconnected from the very compassion which Hippocrates advocated and swore to uphold. His first oncologist failed to speak a single word to him in the first nine hippocratesweeks after his diagnosis. His current oncologist, though certainly mending Jeffrey’s body and on a scale, infinitely more attentive, had the most outrageous response imaginable to Jeffrey expressing that he didn’t like the smell of his own burning flesh from the cauterizing knife used to install the port (replacing the defunct PICC line). My head is still reeling from the quote in the text I received on Thursday night.  Compassion. Seriously. Lacking. (Say nothing rather than do harm.)

It pains my heart, my psyche and every aspect of my humanity that Jeffrey’s experience is a mere glimpse into a state of being under-insured in the United States. That “the haves”, those with robust private insurance, and the “have-nots” relying upon a broken system commandeered by shareholder value are somehow less human, less entitled to care and more inclined to be denied basic human dignity, less likely to be approved for the very treatments that they need to get healthy despite paying the disproportionate percentages of their wages to have insurance.

Let’s be clear, as of 1 September my friend Jeffrey is no longer insured by Molina Health, his Screen Actors Guild Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage went live at 12:01 AM. I think about something one of his doctors said about Molina Health’s consistent position to deny coverage first and then if the patient gets loud about it, or the doctor treating chooses to advocate on behalf of the patient, then approve and eventually pay out. This seems like a path to protecting golden parachutes and seven figure salaries and double or triple digit earnings; to me, this seems more like a Ponzi scheme than health insurance. This strips the humanity from Molina Health’s employees and isn’t a terribly efficient manner of running a company given the human resource cycles of answering phones and ensuing paperwork.

Societies have always been measured by how they care for their most vulnerable citizens, it’s clear we are failing. The three hundred year expansion, supreme dominion, the subsequent decline of the Roman Empire and the resulting Dark Ages seem as though they could be minor in contrast to whom we are becoming.  Maybe a tiny private room for receiving chemotherapy is insignificant in the grand scheme of things but the dignity such affords seems as important to healing illness as putting the ‘civil’ back in service.

This is the fourth instalment in my series on having cancer in America.

 

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 
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C’est Normal. (Not where I’ve ever been.)

I am an American. I grew up near Buffalo, NY known as The City of Good Neighbors. I have lived in cities on both American coasts – notably Boston and San Diego – as well as in Atlanta, Georgia and in many smaller communities in states along the East Coast. I have had jobs which had a commute into New York City. I have had the enormous pleasure to have lived (for considerable blocks of time) in Edinburgh, Scotland, in Trogir, Gospic, Pula, and Motovun, Croatia and in Villardebelle (in the foothills of the French Pyrénées), Angers, and outside Rouen, France.  I have travelled, extensively. And, I can honestly say that NEVER in all of my experiences have I ever encountered the scope of kindness which the people of Paris, France extended to me on 10 August 2017.

 

love locks

Love locks at Pont Neuf

The day started with a creepy, obsessively religious narcissist complaining that I was able to shed tears for his dog but wouldn’t cry tears for him. (The dog was an angel well-deserving of my sadness of leaving her.)  Eager to remove myself from his toxic energy I set off walking to the Sannois, France train station with my 40 kilograms of luggage on a little two wheel cart.  ‘The shift’ was immediate.

All the time who hear people say to be on your guard while travelling. I am not that person. I trust. There are the lines from Ithaca reminding me not to look for Cyclops and none will appear but it is something more. It has consistently been my experience that when I most need protection it will appear.  Of course, there is also some logic to my belief that no one is crazy enough to steal 40 kilos of luggage!

I needed to buy a ticket for Paris, the station was closed. The ticket kiosk wasn’t on the Paris bound tracks I needed but on the other, and at the opposite end of the station. I had an acute awareness that every step of my journey was as though I was a participant in Extreme Fitness Travel Edition so I girded my loins and determination for a long morning. I never assume someone will speak English (in their own country) so I sloughed on with my woefully inadequate French trying to convey politeness, and make my queries understandable.

As I approached the Sannois train station a lovely French woman helped me with the luggage and uttered repeated passionate « Madame, regarde à Votre sac » reminders (guilty as I was of being distracted by the desire to escape the possibility of running into the narcissist again at the station). We secured my ticket. And then she quite literally walked the city block, down an impressive ramp, helped me carry my luggage up a flight of stairs, settled me on the platform and waved me off with kisses, an ‘a bientôt’ and another reminder to watch my purse! Fellow passengers helped me get onboard for our train to Gare Saint-Lazare. At Gare Saint-Lazare things got more complicated by the sheer magnitude of the station, the converging trains and the hundreds of thousands of passengers commuting around Paris each day.  Eventually, with many, and I do mean MANY, more stairs both up and down, one elevator, lots of walking and turnstiles and the assistance of a dozen random Parisians I eventually found the correct Paris Metro track toward my ultimate destination in the 18th Arrondissement.

paris_metro_map_con_eutouring_lrgEvidently ‘my’ metro is one of only two lines which split, and I took the wrong train.  I discovered this as the train left the station at the split and I got off at the next stop. A man about my age also got off at this station. I stood on the platform with my luggage trying to get my bearings, and determine a Plan B course of action. He stopped. He asked en francais. All I could do was share the directions on a crumbled piece of paper in my hand and say « que je suis bete, le metro » and put my hands in the air.  He took the cart from me. We hauled it up three flights of stairs. We got onto the street and approached the enormous (and helpful) maps found at each bus stop in Paris. It started to rain. He parked me under an awning and disappeared. I waited. An Algerian French man noticed that his smoke was bothering me and extinguished his cigarette. And I waited. I got my bearings and started around the corner and walking. The Algerian Frenchman suddenly ran up asking me to wait, « Monsieur arrive ! » I stop. He had gone and found someone to give him directions. That person had photocopied a map of the area and highlighted the route (blocks and blocks). He took my luggage again. We walked. And walked. And walked. There were periodic stops where he asked for clarification of where we were against the map. There were lots of gestures in my direction along the way. More than an hour later we arrived at 9 rue Désiré Ruggieri where he put me into the elevator of Olivia’s building and then brought my luggage up after I got up to the third floor. His name, unknown up to this point, was Alain. Throughout my time with him I could only express « vous etes tres gentil homme, mille merci beaucoup ». He never replied. Now, safely settled, his reply was, « c’est normal ».

About six and a half hours later I went back out to collect Olivia’s weekly subscription box of organic vegetables. It was raining. In the middle of the street an ancient wren-like French woman walked with her grocery handcart while a car came up behind her. I said « Regardez Madame, un voiture ! » and escorted her onto the sidewalk where she clung to my arm to steady her journey. We stopped for her to introduce me as her new American friend to the baker, the Japanese owner of a takeaway restaurant and a woman at a dry cleaner to whom she gifted crepes. Outside the dry cleaner’s a Muslim woman stopped to chat with her and said to me in English that she would make sure Madame got home safely.

With so much evidence around us it is easy to believe that the world is cruel and ugly. If it is through your lens it is perhaps because you look for Cyclops.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 
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No, Your Hate Won’t Break Our Love

It is unexpressed emotions harboring latent demands for redress which cause violent disruption to society. The seemingly extremes of heinous actions and vitriolic words each casting blame, instead of assuming responsibility and moving positively forward, actually feed eachother to ever escalating destruction. It is in the never ending cycles of human history rife with the absence of hope which manifest anger and discontent and, in some, a call for ‘retribution’. A politician stands up and speaks ‘on behalf of a nation’ with words that only serve to inflame those who hate, and exacerbate the fear amongst the panicked flock who demand a response to their collective fear with demands of isolation, xenophobia, and more brutality.

As Eve Ensler, poet, so perfectly and simply wrote:

“Bullets are hardened tears”.

We must unharden. We must stop the tears and the subsequent bullets and bombs. We must find a way forward between the madness and genius and that fraction of capability to cope with inequities tipping the balance to terrorist actions.

Anger can be a gift that keeps us sane; anger will make us sit-in, go on strike (hunger, walk off our jobs), meditate, light candles, and engage in activism we never imagined embracing fostering beautiful life affirming change. And, just like hundreds of thousands of cherry blossom petals ‘we’, coming together, cast a pink glow over our hurting world.

In various locations in Stockholm statues of St. George figure prominately – in the 12th and 13th centuries his legend came to include the story of a battle with, and victory over, a voracious dragon. In its purest form St. George’s tale is one of good vs. evil, light vs. darkness, life vs. death. Stockholm, Homs, Paris, Zliten, Baghdad, Nice, Kabul, Brussels, Boston, London, New York, Orlando, and sadly many other cities share a pain created in the absence of love. Our responses in each of the tragedies we have borne has been resilience and community.

“Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great.” ~ Roger de Rabutin de Bussy

I believe that within us we are both a cherry blossom petal and St. George and the dragon we must slay is hatred, ignorance and fear. We must be kinder, more compassionate, empower not condescend, find a way to ensure hope remains a constant and together build a great reserve of universal love which cannot be extinguished in the name of any God.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via livelikeadog@gmail.com through PayPal, and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiPlease click here to order my book, thank you! 

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Left cheek kiss, right cheek kiss. Kiss the very ground.

“Going back to a simpler life based on living by sufficiency rather than excess is not a step backward. Rather, returning to a simpler way allows us to regain our dignity, puts us in touch with the land, and makes us value human contact again.”
— Yvon Chouinard

No where I have ever visited more acutely embraces the primal need of Chouinard’s words as HugsCroatia; physical human contact is a standard of ‘being’ here, vastly unlike the requisite three feet of personal space which Americans demand. Each greeting begins with this – you place your hands on the upper arms of the person standing before you, lean in to close the space between you, place your left cheek against theirs kiss, then the right, and kiss. You connect, you share physical space, you communicate with your heart as well as your whole being. If you are less than presenting yourself in ‘fullness of being’ you will be felt. Authenticity reigns supreme in this physical connectedness. I love this. I absolutely, unconditionally, LOVE THIS.

I sit here, four days back in Croatia after an absence of five and a half months, and I feel whole again. Really whole. I shed tears of gratitude for the wondrous gift of being here. I light candles in churches for the same reason. I stand calf deep in fountains in her cities and towns and the Adriatic (there is no time for a swim right now). I walk barefoot on Rovinj’s sidewalks in darkness and Pula’s streets in blazing July heat. I see fig and olive trees full of fruit and weep. The scent of the air dense with the sea, and earth’s minerals, pine, lavender and citrus assaults my senses and my heart.  I pull the energy of the land and its people into my being through every possible means as though I would perish from thirst and hunger should I fail. I am HOME.

When we arrived in Venice, (my business partner Ken Herron and I are in Istria, Croatia participating in the #ShareIstria campaign – the final week of a total of eleven – as #IstraKT), I was utterly exhausted. I was drained from the machinations of the culture of the USA, as well as the indifference and greed and IMHO the truly wrongheadedness of core values.  I was weary from the (foolish?) decision to simultaneously give up my apartment, put my things into storage, and stay not for the single week of the contest but through October. To embrace Croatia again, fully, and make sure that this is the path I will take – to make her my permanent home. [The truth is that were it not for remarkable friends in Rochester, NY I would not have been able to get on the plane to get here – they were still picking up the pieces of my life (and my shoes!) and putting these into storage for me as I simply ran out of time to do everything – my angels on Earth, I love you for this enormous gift more than you can know.]

The very first Croatian ‘touch’ on this return trip for me was on my left forearm. Our driver Glen, hired by the Istrian Tourist Board to collect us in Venice, did this several times as he listened to me speak of his country during our three hour drive to Rovinj. This was not uncomfortable to me, this is a balm. This tells me in the most elemental way that someone not only hears what I am saying but wants to reinforce the importance of my words to them on a personal level of what I am saying without using words of their own. I told Ken “I get petted a lot in Croatia.” I haven’t quite figured out the why of this, but it means the world to me that my energy is such that people feel comfortable in doing this.

We drove through Italy to Slovenia, stop at the border to get our passports stamped, drive on 20150724_114904-2perhaps 200 yards, and cross into Croatia, another stamp. ‘Dobar dan’ is expressed, smiles exchanged, our passports handed back to us.  A large sign another 200 yards ahead welcomes us to Croatia. My throat clenches, my eyes fill. I look behind our car quickly but there is traffic, no opportunity to get out of the car, kneel, and kiss the ground (I have now quietly attended to this ritual of a traveler returning home.)

From the 24th to today, the 28th, I have greeted each Croatian I encounter through an introduction not with a handshake but with this intimate touch and kisses on the their cheeks.  Our handler Goran said that I am the first person from all of the #ShareIstria teams to do this; I am shocked. How can anyone come into a culture and not make a tiny effort to know? Yet my reaction isn’t prideful. Rather it is concern that I might have offended. No, no, no he says, it is appreciated. Croatians generally, Istrians in particular right now, make me feel beyond welcomed, as we hug and kiss I better understand this (the second time around) the context of closing the space even further with me on parting company, Istrians are making me feel as though I am a native daughter returning to the nest after being away too long. For all those I have met along the journey to be here, amongst you again, your kindness and hospitality swamp my heart in the best possible way. Hvala lipo.

We would love your support of our participation in the #ShareIstria contest I hope you will follow us as #IstraKT (across social media platforms Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and help amplify our various posts on social media. Hvala lipo. Aj bog.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Dear Sir, I dreamt of you last night.

Dear Sir,
I dreamt of you last night.

ekaterina yastrebova lovers

Art by Ekaterina Yastrebova

I have no idea who you are but the conversation we shared as I slept, in my dreams, was lovely. On waking I recall but snippets of the content but all of the associate energy. It was the kind of conversation generally held in business, pragmatic, evaluating risks and rewards, benefit statements – yet, we spoke of love.

You had asked me if I would love you. Not in the sense of immediacy associated with ‘hey, would you like to get out of here?’ but in the sense of ‘build something with me’. I have the sense this morning that something ancient ran through our words, surrounded them, infused them with deeper meaning and gravity.  My reply was measured, as in negotiations related to a contract – the greatest contract, the one where two people amplify each other, and in doing so their love expands the universal love that is filtered through the air we breathe and the stars that fall through ink black skies. I told you ‘it never occurred to me to think of you “like that” because I have worked with lots of intelligent men, piercingly handsome men, charming men who made everyone around them weak in the knees – except me’.

But here it was – logical. A question posed and a conversation following. No sweeping, Adrenalin fueled, rescue from epic adventures or courtship based upon glass slippers, letting down one’s hair from a turret or a single kiss to awaken from a sleep of a 100 years which determine the outcome every faerie tale instructing little girls and little boys how it will be when they meet and fall in love. No. You knew, and pressed your suit.

Emily Dickinson wrote, Morning without you is a dwindled dawn.
I think it is better phrased as, Dawn makes up for mornings without you.

My days have never begun without you. You are experienced as the pre-dawn air stirs across my skin from the open window, your hands combing through my tangled curls coaxing them into submission. Your scent mingled with dew, grass, trees, the smote fire in the grate, seaweed and salt water, lashing rainstorms or snow gently falling. The heat of you, as the manifestation of the Sun, pressed against the cool alabaster of my body as manifestation of the Moon. Ying and Yang. Harmony and balance.

I have no picture of you from my dream. I could not tell if you are dark or fair, whether your eyes are blue, green or dark.  A girlfriend shared weeks, perhaps months ago, “you will know him from his smile”. Have I been manifesting you from Mary’s words? I have not a clue in all the universe of who you might be, yet, I felt the essence of your character, your physicality resonate with virile strength, I felt kindness and loyalty and, most of all, I felt safe. Was this a prophetic dream or a memory etched upon my soul from another lifetime?

Do you read this and wonder, what was my answer in this morphing of reality and subconsciousness? When we meet you shall have it.

Teresa

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Fear. Less. Giving a F*ck, and not. Shift. Your. Thinking.

I have written lightly about ‘living exponentially’ in my blog post about Walter Mitty – but this post is planningsomething different. Despite there being plenty of perfectly rational things in my life to be concerned about, however naïve or ridiculous of me it might be, I am not a worrier. I really don’t possess fears. I have this un-erring belief that everything will be ‘just fine’. I have friends that I drive absolutely bonkers over this attitude of mine. Why aren’t you worried? What’s your plan? Plan. Plan. Plan. You aren’t REALLY going to write that, are you?? You aren’t really go to send that email are you? Let go of it. I most certainly am, primarily because I care. There are far worse things.

And, like my girlfriend Mary who has experienced much of the same, there are always going to be people who want to ‘fix me’ ‘help me’ or somehow ‘rescue me’ and I am having none of it (neither, thankfully, is she). I dedicate this blog post to Mary, and her journey of self, because we can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes and everything we carry with us is about reconciling our pasts so that our souls can accomplish their objectives for living in this lifetime. I only ask that Light and Love surround her and keep her safe.fear 2

I dislike high places. I have an inner ear ‘thing’ from damage caused by repeated ear infections as a child that gives me a wicked case of vertigo but I am not necessarily afraid of heights. So much of the lens in which we are viewed by the world around us, by our colleagues and our friends, and very often how we view ourselves, is a powerful catalyst for our continued behaviours – whatever they might be. A refrain of my life was repeated (yet again) fairly recently. It’s a huge compliment to be told that someone perceives you as being fearless, and that because of their perception of you they are pushing away the boundaries of their fears, to fear ‘less’; three people expressed the same in a matter of two days. Respect for danger, preparation to face it squarely, has absolutely nothing to do with fear or worry. Fear is a choice. Worry is a choice.

We all have things that we have cognition of but that we (largely) keep hidden; fear of offending, fear Harrellof failure, fear of others thinking us foolish, fear of dangerous situations. These fears are not necessarily bad things but they can be debilitating things. Fear is always having a monkey on your back. Fear keeps us from fully living.

I function best from the realms of authenticity and love. That expressed, I vividly recall my father saying “I don’t care if you like me, as long as you respect me” (generally directed as dinner table conversation about people not in the room). Close friends can attest that as a result of my having been bullied from the 3rd grade onward by boys with the names of Joe and Victor (amongst others) I have honed my fathers’ attitude to I don’t much care if you like me or respect me, please just leave me alone and, if you can’t for some inexplicable reason respect polite boundaries, I assure you that you will simply ‘cease to exist’ (I have found that indifference is the greatest survival skill ever learned). Which is why in reading Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck yesterday I was like, well “Hell Yes!”

Now, most of you who know me in real life know that while I might “think it” and “act it” and “truly don’t” I also VERY RARELY actually use the word. Which is what made my Croatian-American friend Bruce’s “Croatians using Jokerthe word…” tutorial back in late January very funny to me. Evidently if a Croatian says IN CROATIAN F*ck You (or was it ‘off’?) it is actually 100x more offensive than the English use of noun, verb, adjective, expletive F*ck You. Who knew???!! So, TO EVERY ONE I LOVE, and the things I passionately care about (and you witness by not just my words but by my actions) it’s true, it’s true, it’s true – I do not give a F*ck if some unknown dweeb is challenged by my attitude to let it all fall where it should, and TO HELP IT GET THERE faster if need be. Because quite frankly my choosing to care, my giving a F*ck is one of the things I am most proud of about me. So when something is totally F*cked up expect me to do glovesomething and say something and take no prisoners in the process (though it might be a iron fist in a lovely velvet glove making it nearly impossible to distinguish what is actually happening). If that makes you uncomfortable then it is patently clear you will never be worthy of my respect or my giving a F*ck about you or your indifferent little life. I challenge you to CARE about stuff, about life, passionately. No regrets. No ‘what’s in for me’. Don’t try to control everything, or anything – it’s impossible to do so – but show up for life. Truly. Caring about what the wrong people think, SMH. And for someone that is deeply rooted in creating branding and identities this might seem contrary but it seems more reckless to me to be fearful of opinions and perceptions of the great unwashed masses rather than functioning from a position of authenticity and integrity.

Mr. Manson is spot on. Don’t “give your F*cks away” to the wrong people and situations. Don’t worry about the inconsequential – will whatever it is matter tomorrow or the next day? Fear is an extension of giving a F*ck about the wrong things. Shift. Your. Thinking.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Croatia, my love, if need be I will walk back to you.

– Last year at about this time I wrote the post entitled A Thousand Years, when love isn’t a smaltz-y commercial event it’s still valid (I invite you re-read it or read it if you haven’t already).  Last week National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States asked its listeners to nominate love songs in conjunction with Valentine’s Day. The resulting list is impressive, filled with happiness and a variety of the kinds of love that cross our lives. But Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” sounds like I feel right now.

croatia88 days in Croatia. Standing on the wet tarmac in Split, waiting to board the plane that would take me first to Munich and then back to my other reality in the United States, the skies were grey and the fierce overnight rain had diminished to what would be called dreich in Scotland. I love that word dreich, I felt it and the sound of it resonated into the marrow of my bones even though I only thought it.  My throat clenched, my eyes filled with tears – I have fallen in love with a country, again. I have fallen in love with people, rather a population whose collective kindness, hospitality, generosity and understanding of what is truly important felt more authentic and organic to me than in any country I have ever traveled and certainly more than where I was born and currently live.  I walked upon sidewalks of pure white stone smoothed to a fine polish from 2000 years of footfalls that ‘spoke’ to the soles of my bare feet as I walked with a man in the same rain the day before I left.  I laughed more frequently (at myself and life) in those days than at any time I can remember, I cried tears of gratitude and humility just as often. I listened (rather than heard) church bells echo across urban and rural landscapes.  I knelt in churches (which didn’t fall down) to pray for dead I never knew from a war whose scars can be seen everywhere. I spent nearly three months becoming more of who I am than I have ever been – a striking revelation on the eve of a birthday in numbers that in most previous eras would have been considered old age.  I met a wonderful dog, named Medo (honey bear), who helped to heal a part of my heart that I didn’t Medoknow was in need of mending and in the process earned his trust and protection simply by brushing him, sometimes multiple times in a single day, for three weeks. I wasn’t running from anything, and it turned out I wasn’t running toward someone.  I found a home in the truest sense, a piece of Earth where humans have lived for 12,000 (or more) years. I became part of the Dalmatian phenomenon of pomalo. For someone whose family drama was about learning self-reliance, out of necessity I found (in not speaking the language) that I needed to rely upon complete strangers for survival and, I grew.

I wrote a blog post at the end of December which suddenly this week, evidently because Jupiter the planet of luck and expansion was rising in my Aquarius birth sign and despite Mercury being in retrograde meant that communication was heightened, went viral earning more than 110,000 unique readers in two and a half days.  While friends said OWN THIS, I was (I remain) humbled, I am just the messenger for the Adriatic – it’s she that rightfully stands in the spotlight. Over the last three weeks, from a wide range of people, I have been called to leadership which I shun unless I can be ‘in service’. Sharing lunch with a man that read my blog post about the Croatian bikini I was told that I was “Mediterranean but didn’t realise it” – as fine a compliment as I have ever received. The men who variously waited on me in Split’s hot chocolateLuxor and Bajamonti cafes smiled in recognition, touched my arm in fondness as I would take my leave, and yes, told me lies about the weather in the United States in an attempt to keep me in Croatia. People gave me lettuce, flour and millet, and homemade wine. The old women in the marketplaces dressed in black, smiled, made small gifts of Clementines or lemons with my purchases of dark, fantastic Pršut and pale gold Linden honey and almost always hugged me hello and goodbye.  As a huggie person this surprised and delighted me given the three feet of personal space demanded in the United States.

Being away from my apartment for three months meant the cupboards and refrigerator had a lot in common with Old Mother Hubbard’s, so six days after returning I finally went to the grocery store, and wept over pears. Not because they were beautiful, they are, they are perfect – too perfect. I shed tears over these pears because I didn’t know who I was buying them from, the people behind the pears, I was disconnected from the person selling them to me as well as the person who grew them and it felt like I had been abandoned.  I have been back in the United States a week and the scene in my local Wegmans was not about the pears so much as the experience of any traveler. When we have thoroughly immersed ourselves in another culture we are never the same, we can’t go home again. Not really.

The DanceMy dear (never met in person) girlfriend Jocelyne has an uncanny sense of what will touch my soul posted a picture on my Facebook wall this morning. It is a painting by a Greek man named Antonis Kalantzis called La danza, Quint Buchholz. I see the woman I wish to be in the centre of this composition, held in the arms of her lover dancing the Argentine Tango in a snowdrift. A fleeting moment of human connection and restrained desire, something ordinary and extraordinary, a rendezvous realised by riding in on a white horse for one, and a yellow bicycle for the other. So close to Valentine’s Day it’s easy to think about romantic love, wanting it if we don’t have it, cherishing it if we do. I have no regrets about my requited love with Croatia, anytime we fall in love it is a gift we give ourselves. While mountains of snow pile up around myself and my fellow Americans from Minnesota to Maine the ‘things that matter’ that touched my being keep me warm now – at a distance of 4400 miles.

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