Fear

We were doing our warm up at bjj and I realized that it was hard for me to focus fully on what I was doing. I managed to pay full attention to my body and myself for a very short periods of time, but then always got distracted by something.

And then I figured out that I was afraid. Not afraid of anything in particular at that moment. I was overall afraid all my life. I am living with fear that something will happen to me. It is hard for me to have my back straight because I am afraid. I almost jump every time there is a loud noise next to me, I am easily frightened. All my life I had this fear and all my conscious life I tried to deal with it, I tried to win over it. Combat by always paying attention to what is going on around me, so I am prepared and can strike back; combat by making myself work harder, train harder, lead a tougher life, face uneasy situations. All this to make myself believe that I will never be afraid. And as life shows I am still there… living with fear.

I look back at my childhood and I know I felt undefended. Literally. I had to fight for myself on the streets with other kids, really fight. Before I was twelve at least twice I was attacked by men, and I got to hit back and escape both times. But it does not mean I was not afraid. May be it roots even deeper, to when I was a little baby in Russia and my mom would worry about my survival when I was severely ill at 2 months old. There are lots of episodes through out my life that are linked by fear.

I like living by myself with my kids. I do not need a man next to me. But I desire to meet a man who would be strong, caring and protective. It has been so long since somebody took care of me. I do not mean took care in a big scheme of things, but somebody who would know when I am tired and bring me a tea and a blanket. Just some human touch of caring. Somebody who would be strong and would always stand up for me and also stand up to me.

When new people meet me the usual comment I get after a few minutes is “you are such a strong woman in all ways”. And yes, I made myself be strong to be able to live standing tall, to love myself, to raise my children, to protect others, to have fun in life. I made myself be strong because I had so much fear within me. And I still have it. And it is painful to face it. I have never told myself that I had fear.

Now I know I have a lot of fear in me. And I also know that I am ok to deal with it.

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Kisses and Baklava

***

It was dark on the street. We looked for an open coffee place and ended up on a small side street where a cafe was still open. The place was empty inside.

-Let’s sit outside. Are you cold?

-No. I am fine.

We ordered coffee and sat outside. He held my hand and we talked about something. It was Wednesday night in the city. He kissed me at the moment when the waiter brought our coffee. The waiter was a young boy and he looked me directly in the eyes and I knew he recognized me. And I felt uncomfortable. We both remembered that I have been here the week before with somebody else.

***

The conversation went as smooth as it could have gone. We talked non-stop about a motivational philosophical book on traits and attitudes. One of those best-sellers you find in each book store now. He was fun to talk to and we talked about sports, food, education and business.  The wine bar was getting busy at 6pm. It was a polished and chic place in the downtown. Beautifully dressed people, oak tables, dark comfortable sofas. And the wine was extremely good too. I made a joke and we laughed. And then he said he loved my sense of humor. And I told him another joke. And we both were well dressed and he looked like he belonged to this chic place. We talked about helicopters and airplanes. And then he kissed me. And I looked at the watch on his hand and it was half past six. And I knew that moment that I’d rather be sparring with the guys at the MMA club than sitting here. And I said to myself that it is sad that I preferred sparring rather than kissing. I yawned and suddenly felt extremely bored.

***

I was walking in downtown Palo Alto looking for a place to eat. I did not feel like going to any nice place. I longed for something simple and unpretentious. A place where simple people go and where nobody would know me. I ended up at the gyros place and I ordered some food and got out my kindle and started reading. I read while I ate too. When I was finishing my food the owner placed a glass of tea and a plate with baklava next to me. I looked at the man.

-Let me invite you for tea and baklava. I want you to have some tea, it is cold outside.

I thanked him.

-If you finish your tea and baklava I will bring you more. It is all on the house, – and he bowed his head to me.

I thanked him again and smiled softly.

I drunk my tea and ate the baklava. I normally do not like sweets but I did not feel like refusing something that was offered from the heart. I looked around and it was a simple place. There were a few arabic looking men eating at the corner table. There was an asian family with a small child on the table next to mine. People were talking. People were nice.

***

We were sitting on the beach alongside HWY 1. We found this sunny place where nobody else went, because you had to get barefoot and wet your feet to get there. From where we sat I thought that it looked like Italian seashore. One of those small calas. And the wind was very soft and the ocean sounded mildly so close to us. And I fully believed I was in Italy. I leaned on my elbow and looked at the sun. And then I looked at him as he was standing against the sun. He wore an orange t-shirt and I told him that my son’s favorite color was orange. And he said that so was his.

We opened a bottle of wine and poured it into the glasses. We got some fresh baguette out of the paper bag, had a bite and drunk the wine. Everything was very calm. We drunk and talked and tanned under the afternoon sun. And then I heard some music and it sounded familiar. He was playing it on his phone.

-It is your favorite song, right? – he asked

-Is it?

-Come on, this is from Woody Allen movies.

And then I remembered that the day before when we sat on the steps of a restaurant drinking wine I told him that I loved Woody Allen movies and music. The day before the sun was also very bright in the evening and we both had to wear sun glasses because the sun was blinding us.

I looked at the waves. Beautiful moment. Abstractly beautiful. Like taken from the Hemingway’s novels when his characters lived in the Southern France and drunk sparkling wine by the sea.

The music was still playing and then he said something and then I felt his lips on mine. The sun was bright and then he kissed me again.

Once next to my car we said good-bye and he kissed me one last time. I saw him walking to his car. I pulled from the parking lot in silence. Once on the road I felt tears rolling down my face. I did not try to stop crying. I let it be. Twenty minutes later driving north my whole body was still shaking. I was crying. Profoundly. Desperately. The pain of just being with people. Being kissed and not being in love.

And silence. And beauty without happiness…

My tears dried. I saw the dark blue sky in my rearview mirror. I was leaving Santa Cruz behind. The whisper of the tires set peace inside of my car. The ocean was calm. I still had a beautiful 2-hour drive ahead of me.

 

The last day of the year

Mont-LouisI was waiting at the cafe in Mont-Louis for my family to pick me up. It was the last day of the year. December 31st of 2013. It was cold in Mont-Louis. Earlier that day we went to see the church and the small town around us; Three streets inside of the fortress walls. There was only one cafe, one restaurant, one small grocery store, a pharmacy and two newspaper and souvenir boutiques. That was it. The kids dug the snow on the small plaza in front of the church. It was getting dark. Finally they were taken inside of the hotel to get changed and ready for the New Year’s Eve. I walked through the town a little bit longer and ended up at the only cafe that was open. The place was almost full with locals. Plus two or three couples that came down from skiing. Still in their skiing pants. Their faces fresh and red from the sun and the cold air.

I asked for a coffee and took the newspaper. It was the local newspaper and it covered the news of the towns around Mont-Louis. Then I dropped the newspaper and vaguely listened to the people around me. Everybody talking in French. I like to sit and listen to people in the cafes. People talking about the mountains, about the snow, about the TV shows. People discussing the skiing season, the weather and the lottery tickets.

I walked to the grocery store and got some cheese and wine. And talked to the store owner. I asked him if he was open the next day. He said he never takes holidays. He is open all year round from morning till night. He has the only grocery store in the town. He was nice. Then it was dark and there were no stars on the sky and I walked to the hotel, because it was windy and cold and there was nothing else to do in Mont-Louis on the last day of the year.

Next day we spent the morning skiing at Station de la Quillane, I think it is a part of La Llagonne. The morning was sunny and bright. The perfect skiing weather. The kids tried alpine skiing for the first time in their lives. They lasted for about three hours, then it was lunch time and we drove to the town. Everybody went to the hotel to change. I was already in a dress and decided to stay in town. After making the reservation at Le Dagobert I just wandered around. It was windy. The grocery store was open and I saluted to the owner. I talked to the newspaper stand lady and then ended up at the same cafe as the day before. There were five local men at the cafe. Too early for the skiing crowd. I ordered my coffee and took the newspaper. It was the yesterday’s newspaper. It felt awkward to open and read it, as if everything I read happened far away in the past. There were four pages dedicated to the stories about kids’ Christmas choirs. It covered the maternelle section of the French public schools, the kids ages 3 to 5. There were bright pictures of the kids singing and stories about each school, choir, songs and festivities. I read all the stories. I was touched by the dedication and enthusiasm of the music teachers. It made me think about the music teachers of my own kids.

Then I sat there lost. With the stories of the kids’ singing rounding in my head. Everything that touched me seemed to belong to the past. Like the newspaper from the last year. “The future must be so different,” I said to myself.

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On the Road to Spain

“Lorena, Lorena,” the voice was intense and quiet.
“How do you know that my name is Lorena?” she asked.
“I know you. I saw you many times.”
“It is raining,” she observed.
“Do you know that when it rains in Spain it snows here?” he asked.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“And when it rains here it snows in Spain,” he said.
“It never snows in Spain,” she stated in a steady voice.
“Yes. Sometimes it snows in Spain,” the boy insisted quietly.
“It never snows in Spain on Christmas,” she said.
“Spain is the only place where it does not snow on Christmas,” he agreed.
“It does not snow in California on Christmas. California is in America. I used to live in California.”
“My dad goes to America a lot,” said the boy.
“May be he can come to my house in California next time he goes there,” she offered.
“He never stops in America. He just flies the plane there and comes back. He never goes to anybody’s house in America. He flies over the country, that’s all,” the boy observed.
“My dad works in Norway. He also flies there. Then he lives there,” her voice sounded even. She was merely stating a fact. Then she added, “What’s your name?”
“Pablo.”
The whispering stopped and there was silence. The bus was going at a steady speed through the hills of the Pyrenees. It passed green pastures, vineyards, villages with its churches and fields. Fields that were now bright green with patches of red poppy flowers sprinkled along the road.
“Pablo, Pablo,” she whispered.
“What?” he turned to her.
“I was looking for you,” she said.
“I saw horses.”
“I know,” she felt silent and then added, “My dad told me once that if my mom works a lot we will be able to buy a farm in America and five horses. All I want in life is to live on a farm and ride a horse.”
“My dad just bought a new car,” Pablo said in the same low and intense voice.
“We do not have a car here. We get one when we need it. We are going to move to another country soon.”
The bus crossed the Spanish border. Both of them felt silent looking at the road.

Corbières Roads in Spring

Everything comes with its price. Sometimes we do not realize it, but the price is still there. We were driving along the Corbières roads in the Southern France and my husband told me that the things between us were really not working out. And I thought of the Spanish Civil war and how the guerilla fought on the other side of the Pyrenees. My only notion of it is from For Whom The Bell Tolls, and in the book it was winter and it snowed in the mountains when they fought. The same mountains we were driving through, just on its other side. How must it feel to lie in those yellow flowery fields not knowing what will happen to you? There is a high price for everything beautiful there is.

Then comes the part about understanding. It occurred to me that we push ourselves to understand people when we stop loving them. When we love somebody we do not have to consciously remind ourselves that we need to understand that person. It comes naturally. It is the part of love that we actually enjoy. It lets us live a new life through the eyes of the other. When the feelings are not there we push ourselves to understand him (or her). We can succeed at it, but the barrier already exists. We make ourselves walk through it to get the other’s point of view.

The last one is beauty. So far, with all the traveling we have done, I have not seen anything ugly or anti-esthetic in the nature. The green fields, the trees, the windy ocean coast, the white snow of the nordic countries, the yellow desert, the flowers, all of them are amazingly beautiful. I look around. The strength, the light, the life are visible through each of its parts. And there is silence.

I love the roads in the Southern France. Even if the price is high for each glimpse of beauty, it is totally worth it. I could walk through those fields and mountains for many many hours.

Driving towards Limoux
Roads around Couiza
Driving on D14
Driving on D14 France
Mistletoe
Chateau de Peyrepertuse
The village of Duilhac Sous Peyrepertuse
peyrepertuse chateau
peyrepertuse chateau
On the road around Cucugnan
The vineyards around peyrepertuse chateau

Over The Mountains Into The Other Land

Mistletoe

There are some places where it grows naturally. You drive and look up and see it. Mistletoe. You just have to stop and look at the sky. And it becomes about the light breeze that plays with your hair, about the winter air, about the small white flowers sprinkled at random around you. About the green grass under your feet, about the earth that has already became warm from the noon sun. It is about the smile. About your face smiling when you fully believe the story that is coming.

It is about how much you can become a part of this sky. How through the moments of pain you are able to fly higher. Pain heals. If you just let it heal and forget about it, you do not get closer to the magic of the stars. You cannot hear their tales. You had felt the pain in vain. You lost the opportunity to look up and to smile. When something hurts, think about the silence of the elders. Their faces are sunburned, their skin still holds the bitterness of their morning black coffee. And in the midst of the dark night, right before the dawn, the gaunt fingers of their rugged hands are knitting tightly the stories about the immense nobleness of the people of this land. If you follow their eyes they will show you the path. Barely moving their lips they will tell you that in the middle of the torment you have to raise above the clouds. Only flying high over the mountains you can see what is happening in the other land. Then you will understand.

If you listen long enough to the wind you will know where the mistletoe grows naturally. And may be it will tell you another story. This time a better one.  About the virtue and generosity of the people around you.

Barcelona, March 8th 2013

Love Me For Who You Are

Castle in Arques

Many times I hear people say, “Love me for who I am”.

Driving along the Languedoc austere roads in the silence of the hills made me think of the rightness of those words. Does it mean that if you do something unexpected, something that goes against your nature, I should stop loving you? No, I should not. I love you for who I am. Not for who you are.

I thought about it. I do not believe that we love people for who they are. We love them for who we are. It is our ability to love, to pardon, to be sensitive, to be compassionate that matters. To certain point it really does not count that much how the other person is. I will love you as much as my own belief in nobleness of human nature goes. I will love you to the extent that I am able to believe in love. In the midst of loneliness I find love within me. And this makes me profoundly happy; The notion that no matter what happens there is something stronger inside of me fighting for the light. And I will love you for who I am.

What we love in others is our own ability to love. We love our own strength, our nobleness our understanding and compassion. We are attracted by the riddle of how much others will love us for who *they* are. Their love is about them, our love is about us. And there is nothing wrong with it. It is actually amazing. It gives us the power.

Independently of how great, awesome or successful we may be, let’s be honest, we do care when other people love us. Yes, we may not care what others think or talk about us. I personally do not care what people around me say, I am sure my life in their words sounds more extravagant than it really is. A smile goes here. But I do care when people love me. At least when certain people that are important to me love me. We all care. You care too. It is the most natural human feeling.

Thus, when it comes to love, do not love me for who I am. Love me for who you are. And I will do so too.

Arques CastleBoth pictures in this post are of Le château d’Arques (Southern France). The château itself has little to do with what is written here. It was the silence of the hills that surrounded it and the cold February air that influenced my thoughts while driving slowly along the Languedoc roads.

Barcelona, February 18th 2013