Everyday Observances

            There’s a magic you forget, when you live in a touristy town.  I live two blocks from the Eiffel Tower, and a 10 minute walk to the Seine River.  Some people save money for their whole lives awaiting to simply visit this town, and take their obligatory photos.  And in the midst of everyday life: days that are too hot you just want to stay indoors, or days you have too many errands to do, or days you just are feeling down, you forget the majesty that lies outdoors.  I try to remind myself that.  It’s still less than eight months that I have lived here, and I am aware my time is limited. 

            I go to the Champ de Mars daily now, which is my closest dog park.  I notice the tourists, as they dress in their finest and pose for outlandish photos in front of the La Tour Eiffel.  Some try to look sexy with flowing dresses and high slits, cheesy with making peace signs, some jump in the air, or have accessories such as a bicycle held high in their arms.  And I watch their glee, as the moment is captured. 

            But what is interesting I find in the park, is the routine.  The same people who walk in the park at the allotted golden hour before the sun exudes too much heat.  There is the lady with a tan hat who walks laps with a cane getting her steps in, a yoga teacher who takes her studio outside for visiting tourists, a retired couple who work out daily, the staff members that keep the park clean, the homeless person who takes in a nap, and all of the dogs and their owners.  I don’t know any of these people, and have talked to few of them.  But they have become familiar, and in a town of strangers, the familiarity has become something I’ve learned to find most beautiful about this city.  And the irony is that this exists in every city, if you are patient, walk the same paths, and observe closely enough.  You can witness beauty unfolding all around you. 

“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. “Marilyn vos Savant

It’s Like

Yesterday, I lost my English Bulldog companion of 15 years.  And it’s been more difficult than I expected.  As I was reading this book on the Dark Night of the Soul by Thomas Moore, it said you should try to describe your intense emotions in metaphors versus literally.   And this is what I have come up with so far…
                                It’s like…
It’s like the dizziness you feel from spinning in circles.
It’s like finding your first gray hair.
It’s like living in a country where you don’t understand the language.
It’s like a first break up.
It’s like breaking a bone, which you feel will never heal.
It’s like learning to use crutches.
It’s like visiting your childhood home.
It’s like a late January day in England, where the sunsets are at 3 :30 pm.
It’s like letting the world see you without makeup.
It’s like struggling to get onto another flight after yours was cancelled.
It’s like getting lost and not having cell service or a GPS.
It’s like driving on an empty tank, wondering if you will make it to the next gas station.
It’s like endless vomiting after a night out drinking.
It’s like a 100 degree day without air conditioning.
It’s like a yeast infection.
It’s like losing your appetite because you lost your sense of taste.
It’s like 24 hours of no sleep. 
It’s like standing on a crowded train at rush hour for a long commute. 
It’s like knowing you will never hear your favorite song again.
Metaphors can’t convey the pain, loneliness, and distance I feel from myself losing him.
 
-

Farewell to my Puzo


Today I had to say goodbye to one of my closest companions for the past 15 years.  This has been one of the hardest moments, and I knew he waited for me until I came back from my trip.  I had minimal sleep last night, crying as I looked at him, as he looked at me, his head rested on my hand, and we both knew our remaining time is limited.  I played my Puzo playlist day and night, which consisted of his favorite classical, jazz, and kirtan songs (his favorite song is by Paz – Om Ganapataye, which I played in the vet office as he died).  

I’ve had so many memories with this being who came into my life when I was 28, and has now left when I was 43.  We had 15 years and 1 month together.   Over the years, he’s travelled to more places than some humans.  He was a gift from my mother from Amish country in Ohio to NYC (with sidetrips to Connecticut, Vermont, Philly), and two moves to California, Hawaii, and we lived in three residences in the United Kingdom (he even visited Scotland), and finally Paris France.  I know he has now transitioned to a place where he will have further adventures and watch over me from above. 


 It was through walking him and his sister Bella, that I began to talk to strangers in these unfamiliar cities or to explore parks in places I would never have frequented.  He opened my heart in ways I didn’t know it was possible.  We named him Puzo, as Anthony’s favorite author was Mario Puzo (author of the Godfather), but puso in Tagalog (the Filipino language) means heart.  He definitely lived into the name of Gangsta Mafia and Fullness of Heart.  I love you Puzo, and I’ve appreciated every joyful, crazy, hilarious, difficult, touching moment with you over the years.  We will miss you and I know you will be watching over us and protecting us in this next phase.




There’s no rushing in parks

            Earlier in the week, I had a pending zoom call at 12:00 on a Saturday.  It was after 10:00 am, and I thought I could squeeze in a good ninety minutes at the park.  We generally had the luxury of two hours, so ninety minutes felt tight.  Yet, I was determined to do this.  I would rush to the park, find our spot and blanket in the sun, restore, then zip back for the call.  But how we plan things does not always equate with what arises. This is particularly the case when you have a 15 year old British bulldog in a stroller and a 13 year old pug/chiauaua mix who walks at a different speed.

            As we began our walk to the park, the sidewalks were crowded, as it was the weekend.  We passed a cheerful homeless guy, who I see daily and always wants to greet my chug.  But so many people were around, and I couldn’t seem to back track to return to him for his daily pet.  I mouthed “later.”  Shortly after, an elderly female who also was a dog owner stopped to talk to us at the light in French.  I tried to answer in French, “il est vient, il est quinze ans.”  He is old, he is 15 years old.” She spoke in English.  I wanted to try to cross the sidewalk while it was green, but Puzo began to stand up in his stroller.  I pushed him back down.  The lady then proceeded to carry her dog up to Puzo height and practically in his stroller to smell him.  I was not going to make the light, it seemed like a comedic scene from a sitcom.  I was in a rush, and the world was not letting me go at that fast pace.  I then stepped in a puddle on the street from the street cleaning. 

            We eventually made it to the park, found our spot in the sun and sat.  As I looked at the Eiffel Tower, I realized I was living the life I had planned for one year earlier.  I was in France, all this work to get to here and I have arrived.  My dog park was the Champ de Mars, but was I really present?  Was I living here truly?  Time passed, as numerous dogs and their owners came over to sniff my dogs.  

            As we walked home, I seemed to time it perfectly.  I didn’t factor in these triplet five-year old French girls who wanted to pet my dogs.  One girl tried to take the leash out of my hand, asking in French to walk my dog?  I didn’t know how to respond, until her mother came over and told her no.  The girl removed her hands from Bella’s leash.  They individually wanted to pet both Puzo and Bella.  I realized all of my interactions today were friendly and kind, but my sense of being in a rush could ruin this experience.  

            This was such a metaphor for my life here in Paris.  I came here to write my book, but I have yet to be signed by publishers.  My agent is encouraging me to pause until I am signed.  I must be patient with this process of a book being developed.  Originally, I wanted to be in Paris for one year, in and out with a book completed.  But this year is not looking like that. It’s delayed. I’m learning to slow down, and luxuriate in pleasures.  Learn to appreciate my time here guilt free. Somehow this is tough for me to do. To unlearn. 

            But if I am honest with myself, another reason I came here was to ease the transition with my dogs.  They are older and Puzo would not make it back to fly to America.  Our move from the UK to France, was smoother via car rather than plane.  I’m able to spend more time with them, without the confines of a commute or regular job.  Our pied-a-terre has turned into an elderly dog nursing home, and I have transitioned from being a psychologist to one who is a caregiver for my dogs.  The frequent accidents that occur in the home, the slow strolls, and the somatization of physical issues when I travel are all a reminder for me to live in patience.  I have to remind myself that my life right now is a living breathing loving kindness patience meditation.  This is where we are at, and what is required of me at the moment is unconditional love and care. 

            Perhaps this is what I am meant to learn here in Paris.  To slow down, practice patience, and pleasure.  I am to learn what it truly means to be present in my day to day life, not just as a mental construct.  Let go of what is next, because the reality is I do not know what that entails.    

“If when you look at me, you only see a white face and cloudy eyes, a burden or a hassle…you’ve missed out on the best part of me…Love me until the very end, for I am a gift. With each wag of my tail, I say thank you.”– Bacardi Reynolds

Puzo’s New Lease on Life

            Recently Puzo had a near death experience.  Or at least so I thought.  Puzo is my English Bulldog who was extremely sick days before his 15th birthday.  I had gone away to Majorca for 6 days, and he developed diarrehea when I left.  When I returned, his illness would not stop.  He would not eat, and everything was coming out of him.  Pure incontinence.  I was preparing for the worst with each day.  Would I have to put him to sleep the next week?  With each area I cleaned up, I reminded myself this was a meditation.  All my love for him.  I distracted myself by binging on the Netflix’s reality show Love is Blind, just to not have to think of the horror awaiting me.  

Luckily I was able to secure medication for him prior to his vet appointment, and we celebrated his birthday in pure doggie style, with rotisserie chicken.  The day after his birthday, we even made it to the Champ de Mars with his stroller, as his incontinence stopped.  The vet confirmed his prognosis.  Nothing was wrong with him, he’s just old.  I made the realization, that when I go on holiday, his anxiety exacerbates and he somaticizes his stress.  The other two times earlier in the year, something similar happened and he acted out.  We picked up anxiety meds for my next vacation.

             Since his illness has worked through his system, he seems to have a new lease on life.  He’s been given another chance, not even a second chance.  At this point, it’s easily his fourth or fifth chance on life.  He seems to be appreciating life more.  I know I am anthropomorphisizing him a bit, yet I can’t help and notice shifts in his behavior.  He is waking up earlier in the morning, as soon as the sun rises.  He is wanting to take in more of the day.  He soaks in all of the rays when we go to the Eiffel Tower, and sit on blanket in the grass. I swear this Parisian monument and park inspires him.  People wait their whole lives to visit here, and this is the park we go to several times a week.  Puzo tries to get out of his stroller as we near the park or when we leave, his excitement on his wrinkled face shows.  He wants to prove he can walk further than I let him.  Even on our tiny promenades in our tiny passage, he is walking more with ease and down the hallway.  I am witnessing his exploratory nature increase, he is showing me he is not ready to give up.  He loves his wanderlust life too much.  A dog who my mom purchased for me when I was in my 20s from Amish country to Ohio.  He’s jetsetted with me to New York City, California, Hawaii, back to California, the United Kingdom and now Paris.  He has a new perspective on life, and so do I .  

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring—it was peace.” – Milan Kundera

Small Home Treasures

         “Tiny houses empower you to more specifically choose how you want to live.”-Ethan Waldman

         Anyone close to me could tell you, I am not much of a detail-oriented person.  I see the big picture, but not all the little pieces.  Yet with living in a small home, there is not much space to roam.  One cannot help but see the nuances that arise. 

         I can notice when new dust settles into a certain area, and for some reason I take more pride in ridding that dust.  Even though I have no current visitors to my 290 square foot apartment, it’s important that it stays as clean as possible.  There is not much space for excess food, toiletries, or clothes.  All that is within these four walls must have a purpose.  I do not buy more than I need, because there is nowhere to store this.  This must be a combination of tiny home living and not living in America, where I can feel compelled to buy all shiny objects that are within my sight.  

         I’m learning the difference of want and need.

I also have been home more to recognize how the atmosphere of the room shifts throughout a twenty-four hour period.  When I first moved here, it was dark until 800 am, but now the sun seems to rise closer to 700.  My two dogs and I notice how the minutes of daylight have extended.  Puzo and Bella shift their bodies with the sunlight, almost as if their torsos are hands of a sundial.  I have made makeshift dog beds for them to pivot towards the rays, tanning as tourists do on a summer holiday.

Could I use more space? Oui.

Do I need more space to make me more happy? Not necessarily.  

There is a sense of contentedness here.  I have time.  I have all that I need.  I take pride in what I do own.  And I can simply be, as I also shift my body towards the sun with my dogs.