Tag Archives: Paris

Befriend Yourself

When planning my gap year for grown-ups, I made a conscious decision to put myself in the way of as much beauty as possible. Paris. Florence. London. Edinburgh. Museums + galleries. Epic walks along historic rivers. Plays + play. Live music. Talks by writers. The luxury of time to write and think and create.

The thing I could not have predicted is how very much I’m also putting myself in the way of new challenges. And how much I’m growing.

As I shared in our Sunday Reader a month ago, I’m an anxious sort of bear. Regardless of how together I seem from the outside, it takes a lot of effort and courage for me to travel on my own, to learn new neighbourhoods, to navigate the metro and to fly solo.
Please know that I’m not complaining. I signed up for this and it is mostly glorious… but some of it is not. Actually, that seems like a pretty good description of life. Mostly glorious. Sometimes not.

Yesterday was a bit of a day, travel-wise. I flew from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to London Heathrow (neither of which are famously wonderful transportation hubs) and everywhere there was a line, it was long and filled with really angry travellers. At CDG, the wait at Customs was epic but I knew it would be so I had left myself lots of time. The people around me, however, were furious. The woman directly behind me was in a terrible hurry and, every time we took a step forward, she bumped into me with her suitcase. A man at the front of the line yelled at an airport employee who took a traveller in a wheelchair before him. I felt overwhelmed but there was nothing I could do. As I peeled off my sweater, I realized that I was starting to panic even though I knew I had lots of time to make my flight.

The first thing I did was to breathe. {Sometimes we forget.} I inhaled deeply through my nose and held that breath for about three seconds. Then I exhaled slowly through my mouth and relaxed my neck and shoulders. I breathed deeply, in this way, for a few minutes. Then I found a spot on the floor about ten feet away from me and just rested my gaze there. Gently. I continued to breathe and emptied my mind as much as I could. Of course, random thoughts popped up, and the sounds of Charles de Gaulle intruded from time, but I just let the thoughts and noises come and then go and I went on breathing. I meditated in the best way I could in the middle of the line at Customs.

After ten minutes, I felt calm. I was able to think more kindly about this woman behind me who might be feeling panicked about missing a flight and the man who lost his cool at the front of the line. It’s not like I gave them a hug or anything that dramatic, I just changed the way I was thinking. A few minutes later, I noticed that the woman behind me had stopped bumping into me.

I shit you not. It was magic.

By befriending myself first and then extending that circle of calm, I was able to make a situation that felt tough and jagged a bit better. Softer. Adopting an attitude of love and patience created more space in that line. {I love the word “spaciousness.”} It certainly felt like magic to me.

How could you befriend yourself today to create a little magic for yourself and the people in your life?
How would it feel to speak to yourself a little more gently? The next time you feel tempted to criticize yourself (I’m so stupid! | I never learn | How could I have forgotten this? | I’m so disorganized | This is all my fault), try to breathe and say something kind to yourself.

Try something like: “I know you’re feeling really frustrated right now. You are really doing your best though, aren’t you? And you love your family so much and you always want to do your very best for them. What do you need right now? Shall we sit for a minute? Shall we have a cup of tea?”

Have a cup of tea. Breathe. Befriend yourself. You can call it self compassion or kindness or even magic, if you wish. I promise it will help.
 
 
*This post was originally published as a Sunday Reader. To receive my love letters directly in your inbox twice a month, you can subscribe here.
 

Ode to Air France

AF

On the 12 hour flight
from Paris to Tokyo
Air France serves ice cream
in the middle of the night.

A champagne apéritif,
brie with dinner
and rosemary-flavored crackers
whenever you want them.

In the middle of boarding
an attendant with a stylish chignon
brought me water
after a cross-airport run
left me wilted.
Later
she found
an extra pillow
cheerfully red
to make my flight
more comfortable.

Air France is
the closest I get
to first class
while seated
in economy.
 

Three hours in Paris

airport

Charles de Gaulle
is still a mess.

Where the hell is
Terminal 2F?
I’ve been travelling for
18 hours and I’m quite sure
they’ve hidden it to mess with
the travellers from Japan.

I follow a young mother
and her toddler,
a black haired girl
in grey leggings
and pink runners
who explores every corner
of the airport.
Run. Fall down. Repeat.
Guards and agents
laugh out loud,
pick her up
and send her off
in the right direction.

By five o’clock
we’ve found F30,
gate at the end
of the universe.
The man at the cafe
with the red and white
Illy sign yells, “Non!
Come back at five thirty.”

It’s cold.
I pull out a sweater.
A Girl Guide, always prepared.

The sun begins to rise
all pinks and purples.
A Monet morning.

There’s a Sky Priority Lounge
but everyone uses it.
Liberty, equality, fraternity.

When I return
for my cafe au lait
the woman who joins the line
after me is in a terrible
hurry. She fidgets. Stands
beside me, then ahead.
The couple in front of us
stares but I decide
not to care. The sun
has exploded golden
in the east and fills
the glass terminal
with goodness.

Forgiveness at five forty a.m.

I tip the barista,
drink my coffee standing up
and try not to think too much
about how close I am
to Paris,
City of my heart.
The Relais Bosquet
in the 7th
and the yellow roses
in the foyer.
Roast chicken.
There’s a longer list
but these are the things
I long for this morning.

I message the folks
in Geography of Now,
challenge them
to leave more
out of their poems.

More space
for the reader
to figure things out.

Like Paris this morning.
More vivid
because of its absence.

Tough for me
I have always been
more-ish.

On the plane to Geneva
Genève
I dunk a croissant
into my cup of hot chocolate.
 

Ordinary Lovely

1

2

{Rue Cler, Paris}

For me
there is nothing
lovelier
than regular people
living their lives.

This ordinary loveliness
is my favourite thing
to photograph.

Lately, I’ve noticed
more
anger
and toxic squabbling
on my Facebook feed.
Mean, disheartening comments
appear below the posts
of friends.

I help people
with their problems
for a living
so I know
the world is
sometimes
hard.

But I wonder
if we don’t
also
make it harder
by dwelling
in darkness.

I don’t know.
I don’t have the solutions.

For me,
for now,
I’m going to keep posting
ordinary loveliness
and talking to students
one
lovely
kid
at a time.
 
 

Into the Instagram Wild

22

In Paris
our days were our own.

We walked the city.

My new walking shoes
made me feel
like a superhero.

Neighbourhood
by neighbourhood,
we made the city ours.
The 6th and the Latin Quarter.
The Tuileries Garden.
A walk from Rue Cler in the 7th
all the way to Notre Dame.

We stopped often
to eat,
drink
and
take photos
and came home
with our iPhones
filled with
memories.

We released the photos,
perfect little worlds,
six
or seven
at a time,
released them
into the Instragram wild.

Apparently that’s not how it’s done
I’m told by people
half my age.
I need to be more strategic.
Release them
one at a time.
You know,
in order to get
the most
likes.

But the loveliest thing
about not being cool
is
not
being cool.

Fewer rules
and
more {Instagram} joy.