The Weaver

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I posted a version of this at BeingUnbound yesterday. Please forgive the first (and likely last) cross-post but the story has as much to do with inspiration and intentional enjoyment as it does with travel bounds. As I am wrestling with some big questions (like where I will live and work next) telling this story helped remind me what it is that I love to do.

Once upon a time…

Over the rim of his coffee cup he gazes again towards my feet and says, “I am completely mesmerized by the fabric of your scarf.”

I smile and look down to the pashmina loosely tied as usual thru the handle of my rucksack.

“It has a story.”

“I’m sure it does.”

With ripples of pleasure that deepen my crows feet, I tell it.

For this is what I do. This is what I love to do. I travel and collect stories. And sometimes I collect a physical thing which is like a beacon that points to the story behind it.

A talisman.

A true memento.

The Scene

The expanse of grey and blue is one of my favorite things.

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Weaved with the threads is the story of my trip to Tanjier, Morocco. The place where I have most felt like an outsider. The place where I was able to break through and embrace my own strangeness, no blending here child, and walk along streets taking in sights and smells that hurt with their beautiful pedestrian place.

I know I asked his name but I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember it. I remember his smile. I can clearly recall his tiny little shop, with loom looming large, taking up over half of his space.

For the brief 3 days we visited he beaconed us with his disarming, true smile. Inviting the American girls into his workshop to see his lovely wears. We put him off until the last evening and then finally ducked in to his warren of color.

After winding through a combination of French, Spanish and English he says with evident pride, “here, I show you.” The quadrilingual weaver sits down to his wooden frame and starts sending the shuttle back and forth. We are entranced by the simplicity.

The moment

After the demonstration we start touching and pondering. I already new I would be leaving with one of his pieces of art in my hands but haven’t found the right one. Then tucked under reds, purples and golds, I see the grey and blue.

I caress it lightly, feeling the rough nubs and lines of handmade cloth. Seeing the gesture he quickly pulls it out to show me.

“150 Dirham or 15 Euro,” he says.

I know I am supposed to haggle. I know I am supposed to fein disinterest.I also know, if I were to listen to the voices of “ought” and “should” and “responsibility,” I am not “supposed” to be in this little shop around the world living a wild life of adventure free of the bounds of a prescribed path.

“This. One day’s work.”

It is done.

There is no negotiating down from that. I pull my wallet with pleasure and it is all I can do not to double his offer.

The Memento

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I have worn one day’s work on my shoulders, arms, neck, and ruck with immense pride. Even through the warmer months it accompanied me if for no other purpose than to remind how lucky I am. I am thankful to be tied to a man with a sense of place in life with tangible, beautiful results. I am honored with his story and quite functional evidence of love’s labor.

I finish telling my friend of the weaver in Morocco while reaching down unconsciously to stroke the fabric. His eyes sparkle and he shares my smile. We sit in companionable silence, each lost to our own thoughts about work and travel and life and purpose.

This is what I love to do. I find the small moments between, the little tucked away spaces that are somehow the most important, and weave them together into substantive tapestry.

This story is my one day’s work.

Weaving stories is my life’s work.

 

A peek inside the author: Looking back at many of my life lessons posts I realize how much I am drawn to people with such sense of peace and place. Perhaps it is because I have little of either — a restless spirit constantly searching. So I ask: what memento do you treasure that tells a greater story? What do you think it says about you?

The many lessons to be learned from failure

“Winners want the ball”

Gene Hackman in the Replacements (guilty pleasure movie, not just because it is based on my ‘Skins)

Failure as the “best teacher” and “is a good thing” (and even to be encouraged) seems to be a common theme this month all over the webs. My web-FAIL and whole key fiasco fits here too. I am not the only one.

The night of the web-FAIL, my yoga teacher and I were having a conversation after class about how hardcore one of his teachers from NYC is. This teacher apparently walked into class one day and said something to the effect of: “Everything in this world fails. Projects fail. Things fall apart. Relationships fail. Your body fails… What we do in yoga is teach how to be present, witness the struggle and deal with those failures. Let’s go.

To me, the “yoga” in that sentence is “inner strength.” The actual practice of yoga helps with breathing and concentration which certainly help in stressful situations. I also think the well from which we draw in moments of crisis is our confidence– our internal power to stay calm to find a way. 

The problem and solution is on me — I like it that way.

I like video editing because I am usually the last line of de-mess. If I eff up then it is on me to put in the extra effort to fix it – usually solo.

Say a camera guy didn’t white balance or did crazy-crop a shot, then it falls to me to try to correct. Or take an audio guy who neglected to get room tone or even a PA who failed to release properly… those things could take hours if not days to rework or fix — and not by the people who created the mess in the first place.

Look, we are all human and shit happens. I get that (my own strong of failures illustrates this). I don’t think there are many out there that want to be an eff-up but I am the type that wants to be the savior and not the goat.

If I make a dumb mistake costing hours? It falls on my shoulders to get it done. It is usually reparable within the confines of the edit and are my hours to spend. Circumstances I like and can deal with.

My lapses falling on others to fill is uncomfortable bordering on painful.

They haunt me.

On a recent freelance project, an application crash at the worst possible moment sent me and 5 other people into a mad scramble. I didn’t do anything stupid like moving and deleting files willy-nilly, but I did underestimate timing, unnecessarily squeezing the deadline and I didn’t follow “backup plan” protocol so that, well, there wasn’t any. I hated every moment of this meltdown especially because it stressed so many others.

I stayed calm, did everything I could do, and with the help of an awesome crew, we got something to screen. It was far from perfect but it wasn’t an utter, complete failure. But it left’s indeleble mark on my confidence.

Walk away and learn.

 

Surviving Divorce to Thrive

I am just shy of 6 years in my post-divorce life.  I ran across this writing a few weeks ago and struggled with whether to publish it. I can only think that someone, somewhere needs to read it. For her… 

Going through this you are going to feel crazy.

You are going to have extreme highs and extreme lows.

You are going to take a while to sort things out and create the new you.

There is no “right” here. It’s all ok. Breathe.

My mom told me that she tells all her divorcing clients to not make any life-course-altering decisions after a divorce for at least three years because you are just too reactionary and fragile. Sometimes three years sounds itself ridiculously long — you are making new life decisions daily. Sometimes you will think it is not nearly long enough to get your shit together.

You are making countless changes because your routine is entirely shaken. It is like moving to another country overnight. Go to sleep one day in the US and wake up the next in Uganda.

You are faced with all the enormity and scary and wondrously blissful feeling of getting to make new patterns for yourself.

You will have nights of running wild, heart leaping with boundless joy followed by mornings where you are emotionally hungover cursing your  abandon, wishing you could say “never again,” pull up the covers, and not leave that safe haven of your bed until sometime in the next century.

You will feel crazy. You will look in the mirror and say “what am I doing? I must be crazy.” You will make yourself feel crazy. Others will make you feel crazy.

You will face the well intentioned but incapacitatingly hurtful “support,” “help” and — Universe help us — “advice” of those around you.

This will make you feel even more insane and wish harder for a one way ticket on the bullet train back to your own — your old life.

That place no longer exists,” the conductor will say in a matter-of-fact tone that allows no argument. The only place forward is Looneytown and you have a one-way ticket.

When you appear in psyche-ward scrubs it is futile trying to convince others that you are indeed not an emotional wreck having a mental breakdown, thank you very much, now please let me go so I can get on with my life. You are the dog who sees in color.

They paint those scrubs on you and you have no control over that. The more you attempt to explain to uncomprehending souls, the crazier you will feel.

Don’t waste your energy trying to convince those that don’t understand. They will get on board eventually or you can leave them behind — more detritus by the tracks of your life. It is ok to feel happily lighter not carrying all that baggage.

Cast your eyes up and see what lies beyond the storm.

Stay with your rainbow and splash right through the puddles. Remember that Looneytown is the waystation, your destination is somewhere in the great expanse beyond.

Do share with people that have been there or can best empathize with what you are going through. Do not stay trapped in your head and/or room. Write, yes. Also find a councilor and let yourself be with friends with whom you can give voice to your full crazy. Share it all: the highs and lows.

You will want to hide the worst parts behind a mask of “fine.”

Not the worst parts of your marriage — those you will trot out and display as evidence of why you are doing what you are doing (“I’m not crazy see!”) — but your regrets, your second-guessing, your fears, your doubts you will want to banish to the locked interior cupbords. Don’t. Those are the normal feelings. True psychopaths feel no remorse. You will. You should. Feel it all.

Share it all with a select few who you invite in who understand we are all crazy confused masses of contradictions, trying to get sorted and create our best selves. 

You will want to scrub clean your stories and mind of doubts. Don’t. Feel them. Work through them. Dive into the sticky depths of doubt until you get to the very bottom. It is only at the core that you see the blackness of what was and realize for the umpteenth time that you are making the right choice.

Use that moment of clarity to finalize something. Pack a box. Work a spreadsheet. Find another answer that makes the whole thing final.

When you made the decision to get a divorce (or the decision was made for you) you opened a new wing in your personal life museum.

The Bygone Era Room is still there, with all of its paintings and sculptures of times past. It sits adjacent to the new construction. A modern white-walled, wide open wing; with an archway separating the two. So while you are working furiously to paint and create your new life upon soul-crushingly blank canvasses, the old, familiar classics will be calling to you, tempting you to return to their familiarity. You will visit often. How could you not?

You will yo-yo up and back upon these old pictures; seeing sometimes the mess and imperfections and other times the beauty and joy of good times. You will be drawn to the memory canvases because they are formed and you do not want to face the emptiness of the new rooms.

Just as you get close enough to try and morph yourself back into a particularly alluring portrait of your former life a guard will come up and remind you that you cannot touch these paintings anymore and forcefully manhandle you back across that corridor of reality into your new room.

“This is what you wanted” he will scoff and none-too-gently plant you back before your blank slate.

You will again and again feel overwhelmed and disheartened. You will reach levels of exhaustion where you do not want to work on this new part of you. You will yearn for those old grooves that felt so stifling and hard before.

You want to go back to that fuzzy familiarly of the fully formed. You’re tired, scared, unhappy, and alone. Just when you feel your most low, your creative, emotional, mental wells dry and rainbow back beyond the clouds, the doors will bust open and your friends, family and internal critics will be storming into your studio observing, judging and critiquing your current pieces.

You stand there broken before your entire corner of the universe. You have no choice but to begin to paint.

You are compelled to take the next steps. You have no idea what the hell you are doing but you do it anyway. With the best tools you have in your inner pockets and the confidence of an infant elephant you slish-slosh yourself across the whitespaces leaving impressions and globules of meaning in your wake. Upon these broad strokes you will build your new works. They may be shallow yet they are bold and shout to the self-determined directions you are heading.

Your new wing will be filled with bright, light and full color.

I see it all there in you waiting to get out. Your expressions will leap unbound from the walls — they are the rainbow across the expanse you were chasing the whole time.

Crazy is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

That is not you anymore. You’re doing new. You see the color within — your own unique expression just waiting to escape. However impossible, imperfect, and impetuous, it is most important.

You are not crazy.

This piece is largely unedited from when I first banged it out a year or more ago. No pictures seemed to be right, my words I hope are enough. It is a reminder to me as much as a balm to one who might be in the throws of those three years. Even though it was and remains relatively amicable, getting divorced was one of the hardest things I have ever been through. Yes, I often felt very very crazy. I recently looked at some pictures from that time and see the struggle writ large on my thin, pale face. While it is not always sunshine and rainbows now, I know, more than ever before, it was the right decision to make. Hindsight is nice like that.

From me to the Universe, me and she who needs it: You are delightfully, beautifully, uncrazilly you. Breathe.

Un Po

His words come at me rapidly. I only understand half of them — if it is a lucky day. He likes me. He wants to get coffee together. I am a beautiful. He wants to give me a belt.

italianoThis is what I love about “my boots guy.” Guiseppe continues to speak itlaian to me even though I’m sure he knows that I don’t really comprehend. The thrust gets through — certainly the bevy of baci do — but much of the meaning is lost.

I confess that after 9 months living in Italy, I am still very much an english speaker.

How I failed to learn italian

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Perspective of living — abroad and otherwise

As an American and a runner I am shocked and horrified by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. As a student living abroad, I’m even more shocked and horrified by the subsequent reactions and am struggling to find perspective. And peace.

War and war-like actions are the worst mankind has to offer this world. Violence begets violence. It always has been a self replicating and escalating cycle and it, I fear, always will be.

View from the DuomoI am by no means the most erudite student of history on the planet but I grew up in a news-aware home as the daughter of two Peace Activists. Some of my earliest memories are of holding a candle outside the White House and Pentagon. I remember vividly trying to wrap my young mind around the concept of a hunger strike. I celebrated my 8th birthday around a bonfire while participating in the Great American-Soviet Peace March in the Soviet Union in 1987.

In this light — my own perspective — I look at current events.

Perspective, let us share some

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