Dear Friend

“All the unhappiness of man stems from one thing only: that he is incapable of staying quietly in his room.” - Pascal

Dear Friend -

I am going to come home. 

I don't know when and I don't know how yet but I'm going to make my way back to nature, to myself.  I want to at least inch a little closer to what I thought I was on my way to when I left this town before. 

I think part of why I felt so in love again - despite everything that was happening with my dad - was that I felt like me again.  Maybe that's all love really is: feeling as YOU as is humanly possible, no matter the distractions – for better or worse.  I read somewhere that when people say they just 'know'' that they are in love, it's because they can see their best self reflected in their partner’s eyes.  That they are really just seeing themselves the way they want to be seen (and vice versa).  That is exactly what I've felt both times I've felt 'madly in love' and felt the opposite when I was uncertain of my feelings.  In love I felt beautiful and good and that someone could actually see it and that felt amazing.  When there was doubt I felt ugly, of no consequence, certainly not worthy of any man’s love.  In love I felt appreciated and that his pedestal was my rightful home.  But once I had taken enough hits, once I’d reached my breaking point – and I did several times over in the past few years - I felt myself shrivel up into something that was worthy of no one's pedestal.  And I knew everyone else saw in me what I saw in my own reflection.  The ugly abandon of hope and faith.  Hence the anxiety attacks around other people.  Hence the hermit in the woods.  It all makes perfect sense now for some reason.  Weird.  And I couldn’t know it then but running away and hiding was just exactly what I needed to face my worst fears.  Because they never left my side.  And instead of drowning them in other peoples’ dramas, I’d essentially locked myself up with them until there was no place to run.  And there, in the dark, I was forced to face my worst enemy.  It was Me.

Maybe all the unhappiness in isolation stems from what we already know for certain: it is not life when you do not feel like your best self.  Often times in the past couple of years, I’ve woken up in the morning and I am uncertain that I care whether tomorrow comes or not.  It is not wallowing in pain or craving death so much, just nothingness, total ambivalence.  And it’s the first time I’ve ever known this feeling.  Those moments do not belong in any story.  And if they do, they ought to be shortened, condensed phrases 'the next few years where very hard on J' (and then quickly get back to the exciting parts if you actually want the reader to turn the page and not put down the book, never to pick it up again)  No one wants to read about endless hours of suffering and submission – especially not me.  No one wants to hear the story of a loser, especially not one who’s lost her own thread.

And right now, we're in an important part of our stories, both of us, but I have no doubt in my mind today that it is only a condensed amount of shit - because what heroes can emerge from anything short of a disaster?  And we've both been through disaster.  A disaster that has shaken our faith and made us feel like we've been ripped out of our own stories.  But soon, we'll forget any of the particular pains and we'll shorten that bit.  “Remember that time.  Man, they were the worst of times.”. Because we’re heroes and the only thing keeping us from happiness is the worry that how we feel now will never change, that the story won’t get better.  But it will.  If only because we’re too  in touch with life’s comedy to be tragic heroes.

I remember coming home because I was traumatized by the lady jumping out the window.  And it felt like the only thing to do and nothing in the universe made me as happy as that trip.  It was perfect.  I felt at home.  Not because of Toronto.  But just because I felt like I was living my life.  Surrounded by the characters who's endings I gave a damn about.  Me being a part off their lives felt good too.  Or maybe I'm full of shit.  Maybe my presence meant nothing to them.  But I think of you, of new beginnings and that silly writing group and it made no difference what we did or if any of it worked out, only that we were doing it.  Because the sun was shining and there was beer and music and tomorrow.  In no way was I living the success I'd hoped for but I was living.  And that was enough.

And this year in Paris, it's been horrible.  I have never been so alone and yet have never needed support as much as now.  What's stranger still is that I have experienced more instances of enlightenment and spiritual peace during these awful times than at any other happier moment in my life.  Horrible does bring about positive.  Because in being conscious of the horrors you are equally confronted with the good you've already known, maybe even the good that is still yet to come – there is balance in everything.  Otherwise we'd just kill ourselves.  It's not really hope that keeps us holding on.  It's the certainty that there is more to come even when it feels like things might not ever get better.  They always change.  And life always goes on.

I read a book by Paul Auster while I was here in the Alps called The Invention of Solitude.  As usual, when you need a friend the most and you find yourself all alone, all it takes is to open a book to see that the person you needed to talk to, more than anything, was in your living room, right beside you the whole time.  But you were too vain, too blinded by your hardships to notice.  Books are the one constant in life that always reminded us that I am not really alone.  People you cannot always count on but books are infinitely loyal friends.  It is like having a friend with you, since essentially, they are meant to show us that everything we are feeling, someone has felt before us, perhaps not the exact scenarios we are living but he has the same emotions, the same questions.  And while they're telling us their stories (if you are reading the right ones), we slowly begin to identify with humanity again.  Because when we are suffering, we must be able to know how that suffering compares to others'.  Everybody needs confirmation that they aren't a hypochondriac.  And everybody also needs to hear that the hero's pain did not last forever. 
Things changed.  Always have.  Always will.  Not necessarily for the better.  But they changed.  And why couldn't we remember that?  Take comfort in it.  Why NOW did everything feel so much heavier?  And he described it perfectly.  Missing magic.  And the structure of the story.  The thread.  The solitude.

We feel we are living when our life feels in line with our surroundings and circumstances.  That’s when we feel truly infinite.  Not when we feel normal, average, when we are just getting through, even just learning who we are - we feel depressed then, or maybe incomplete would be a better word.  Void.  You do, that is, if you READ.  If you are someone who values a good story, then you must look at your own life in a similar manner, judging it the way you might judge a book.  Do I like the main character?  What are his best and worst traits?  Was he right or wrong when he... what other literary characters does he bear similarities to?  It’s not a choice to suffer but a reflex.  Either you are the kind of person who cares about their thread, their life, their story, its analysis, or else you have simpler wants: dinner and endless hours of stupid television or meaningless movies.  Passive and ignorant.

In a novel, it would be perfectly normal to witness a metaphor that puts the main character so in touch with his own story, or else so deeply connected to what the narrator has designed that what happens to him is impossibly beautiful.  In literature, nature: the rest of the world, their hopes and desires and actions, the weather – they are all there as devices to prove the hero’s story is rightly his, and more, that it is a good story.  That is what makes literary imagery so wonderful.  Orchestrated magic being revealed carefully by the author, slowly, only tidbits at a time, just so, making sure the reader feels as though he is the only one truly able to follow the whole thread.  Life can feel like that too.  But not if you’re too busy or too crowded to see it.    In my experience, only solitude has permitted me to follow my own thread.  It is only in solitude that I see how magical and beautiful my life is.  While I am busy living the human dramas, I forget that I am not the narrator.  I can only see as far as a two dimensional character.  That is, unless I see the signs.  Unless something puts me in touch with the greater story at play: its subtle meanings, archetypes, metaphors, symbols, devices.  Alas, only omniscience can tell us if our traits are flawed, if our actions are correct, if .  Only the narrator can tell us if we're living a tragedy or a comedy.  Only the narrator is privy to that information, until the story's over that is.  And it's already been widely confirmed that the narrator remains shroud in mystery and therefore no means to communicate directly.  We cannot see the Wizard.  We have only the signs to link us.  Metaphoric Moments.  Take them or leave them.  As far as I am concerned, however, without them we are only secondary characters.  I don't know about you but I'm not interested in being a device in someone else's story.

Friend, our stories have been full of metaphors in the past - in the good parts anyhow - and yet this year, I'm not really cool with any of these tragic ones becoming part of the larger picture: hardships, death, winter, desolation, impossible goals, cancer, secrets, old lovers, broken friendships - they're all heavy - and I want more than just heavy, I want relief.  But there's no light at the end of the tunnel.  Where is it?  Where is the light?  How do you go forward into the darkness?  How do you accept yourself as a tragic character and go on?

I've been trying to find a way because this whole time it's felt like things might really not get better.  And then it occurred to me: I don't go forward into the darkness.  I refuse.  I remain patient.  I do what I have to do to get through and then, when the storm has passed, I stand up and I do it better and I end up thanking myself for all that I learned through the horrors.  Heroes are boring anyway if they haven’t suffered and survived.

And that's when nature comes back into play.  It's here and it’s messy.  Dark.  We've been in a never ending storm.  But lucky for us, weather is about as unstable as life.  Nothing lasts forever, that's true and it’s a little sad.  But then, if it DID, this feeling might last forever too.  But it can't.  There will be rain and there will be sun.  And chances are, once a year, we'll be drowning in snow and it'll be fucking cold and everything'll be shit and that someone we know'll probably die of cancer but we're older now  and we finally understand that impermanence, shaking things up, starting over, losing and getting back up, endings, beginnings, firsts and lasts -  it is actually a great part of the story.  It's the only way to make a happy ending, actually.  If things don't suck, if they don't REALLY REALLY suck for you at some point, then you're never really equipped to see the beautiful moments that take you out of it, that fill you with will and desire and good.  You need those crises to remind you of the story you were writing.  And maybe even all the rest too, to give your story the fine balance pathetic fallacy it needs to be half decent. This, after all, is precisely what gives the character depth.  Thank God.  Thank FUCKING GOD.

 Yesterday afternoon, I stood at the top of a mountain and I saw exactly the same image that used to be on the wall of my living room when I was a kid.  It was a painting my dad brought home from Europe - I think it might have actually been what would eventually become just a small square of a much larger wallpaper design.  I imagined, dreamt about that painting all the time: who each of the people were, what they did, who they loved, the secrets they kept which houses were theirs, what job they did in the village.  You could never really make out the faces of the people and I loved that because it was a permanent mystery and the story was ever changing.  Just blurry colours in a beautiful backdrop.  Even the setting wasn't clear if you stood too close but when you took a step back, it looked like the most perfect place in the world.  It looked exactly like the villages down below from here.  The sun is lighting up the two villages below amidst the green and the rock face, and it is simply perfect and the same.  It's hard to explain in words.  It’s not just that it is beautiful (and it is, which is refreshing because not much has seemed beautiful to me of late) but it’s also that it has flooded me memories - good ones - different states of mind when I remembered my story being different.  Back when I had the will to write the kind of story, with my life and with my pen that even I would want to read.   I remembered thinking that I could face anything back then.  I had no fear.  Because you can be fearless when you're not alone.  And finishing that book on The Invention of Solitude this week, it also reminded me why I came here in the first place (to write) and how I am suddenly armed with a shitload of things to write about and the total freedom from distractions to be able to do it.  And I didn't feel sad or lonely for the first time in I cannot tell you how long.  This morning, I set my alarm for 7 am and I was writing with fervour.  And the story, now matter how self indulgent it felt, had enough metaphors to make me feel like it might be one worth writing. 
So keep your eyes open for a thread.  There's bound to be one.  Even in the solitude.  Maybe only in the solitude are you able to find it.  And maybe the writing itself will be shit and it will only ever mean anything to me but at least I have that feeling back.  At least my eyes are open again.  And I like who I see in the mirror.  She’s beautiful and good.  I think I am in love.  I wish you the same dear Friend.  And I hope to see you very soon but even if I do not, we will be okay.

Venez les beaux jours.  Faites de moi ce qu’il faut.  Je suis forte et maintenant je le sais.  Je suis une héroine à la recherche d’un happy end pour ma jolie histoire.  Venez les beaux jours, venez avec vos sophismes pathétiques et Je te suivrai partout où tu iras.

So take those long, painful, horrible years of shit and condense them now.  “They were terrible years.  The worst of times.". For me it will be shorter still:  Bad men.  Bad decisions.  Bad luck.   But the times, they are a changin.  And if Bob says so.....

So get to your room!

It’s time to turn the page. 

Love Julie


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