I was reflecting back on my youth as an expat child living in France and my mind drifted to Dalida, one of the many celebrities that adorned my walls. Her hauntingly deep voice always seemed to have a trace of tragedy in it. Now that I am an adult and I read back on her life, I find that she did in fact have a tremendous amount of tragedy in her life, including her own suicide. Back when I was around 8 or 9, I was completely oblivious to Dalida’s personal life and the darkness she existed in as I danced around the vast expanse of our crimson oriental carpet bordered with gold and midnight blue to her lilting cadences. I remember these sessions like they were yesterday; I would dance round this rug using the border like a beam which I was obligated to stay on – leaning off the border was not an option. This rug provided the demarcation of our living room and dining room and den, which was an L shaped living space in our first floor apartment in Mary-Le-Roi. We had three of these rugs – under the dining room table, under the living room furniture and one more in our den area where we watched TV and where I twirled around to the voices of Tom Jones, Joe Dassin, Engelbert Humperdink and Dalida.
Such innocence existed in those twirls and movements of joy. Much later in life, when the internet became part of our daily lives, I found myself curious about the singers that lived in the background of my life. So I looked them up. I was saddened by the heart attack that took the life of Joe Dassin- so young. I had met him once when my family had picnicked at Bois de Boulogne for a special event – Joe Dassin was a celebrity guest and Dad brought us up to meet him and others. I actually shook his hand and found my heart pounding and face flushed as only a nine year old puppy love induced girl’s can be in those moments. In hindsight, it’s pretty incredible that I was so young and following all these stars the way that I was. Dalida experienced a full decade or more of the death of friends and lovers. It’s no wonder she went down that path herself. In a way, that insurmountable wave of sadness, loss of joy and purpose landed on my shoulders. It arrived about fifteen years ago and decided to stay midway through a second marriage marred with strife and emotional upheaval. But the difference is that within the layers of sadness, disappointment and disconnection from the world, there also exists determination and something that I call the bounce factor. No matter what seems to come my way, I bounce. People have commented in wonder, saying things to me like: “it’s amazing you didn’t lose it, or no one would know about your past based on how you live.” It’s my ability somehow to push on. To live in the moment only and not look to hard at what is ahead. To not place my life side by side with others, at least not scrutinizing it too much against what they have, what I don’t have. What most people enjoy as part of normal, and what my life looks like in comparisson- well, let’s just say that in a way I gave up on normal. Although a bit cliché, I turn my mind off sometimes in order to put one foot in front of the other and I find ways to enjoy moments in my daily life; like working up amazing custom itineraries for people traveling through Europe, knitting up a pair of delicate lace socks, reading an interesting book, taking Sofie for a walk or just moving my hands through her silky fur, watching one of my favorite TV shows or a Netflix movie, having breakfast with a friend on a Saturday morning or spending time with my parents who are in their golden years and give me my purpose right now. With that list and there is more I can add to it, it’s OK that I lived through two failed marriages by the age of 37 and that my first husband was physically abusive, my last husband’s first name is now Erika and that his male parts have been sexually reassigned, that I am approaching the marker birthday that is truly midlife without children, that I was raped at age 25, that I lost my brother in a car accident on Mother’s Day 1979 and that this event had been prompted by my refusal that night to any longer engage in his almost nightly attempts to explore my body under the breath of schnapps.
Life for some is harder than for others. We all have our burdens, mine are so much less than others. But to be clear, survival really has been my modus operandi for years. Surviving each day, and as I have accepted in some ways- waiting to die. I am solitary for the most part; I get together with an occasional friend- most of whom have kind husbands, lovely children, a house of their own and belong to a club called society. I have not felt part of that society most of my life. But I do manage. And I don’t have a bound up vessel of anger living inside of me. I don’t plan any actions against anyone else for I don’t blame anyone else. Somehow, I was designed to tolerate disappointment, to press on in the face of adversity, loneliness and shame. Part of it is my relationship to God… not a crutch, but a relationship. The only one that feels real. His book provides me with a compass, and Jesus offers me hope. It is simple and in the simplicity – it reassures me.
Even in my solitude I find joy in my moments. Pick up a good book, enjoy some Earl Grey tea and lay the palm of my hand on the softness of Sofie’s coat. Just that moment is good and pure and has enough flourishes of joy to take me through to the next moment. And for now, in this moment, it is good enough. Tomorrow will take care of itself.