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Tag Archive for ‘On Moving’

My lot in life: Please take this post with a big grain of salt

I am not one to bust out a Bible story to make my point. I am more likely to turn to Greek mythology, literature, movies or even unproven anecdotes to prove my position. However sometimes an Old Testament story (or myth, depending on your take on the good book) is just the ticket. The other night He-weasel was watching a Discovery or History Channel show (which ever channel it is that has tons of shows about airplanes, WW2, Hitler and sharks) and they were talking about the story of Lot and his wife and how when they were told to relocate out of the city and into the burbs Mrs. Lot was not at all happy with her lot in life. As soon as I heard the story I couldn’t help but see some personal parallels with this salty sister.
Continue reading ‘My lot in life: Please take this post with a big grain of salt’

“Home” by Corine at Hidden in France

Am I a French woman who lives in America, or am I an American woman, as my passport insists, who happened to spend the first 20 years of her life in France? Could anyone reading this help me sort it out?

If you’ve been an expatriate for long enough, you cease to define yourself by your roots. But of course none of those around you do. No matter how American I feel, to my American friends I am first and foremost ‘Française’. I come with a full package of preconceptions, specters of baguettes, berets, whiff of camembert and doubtful personal hygiene and also– just as puzzling to me– inherent elegance, sex appeal and that dab of ‘je ne sais quoi’. My own son recently wrote an essay on our family and every third word mentioned the fact that his mother is French. But to me, things are clear. Home is where I cook burgers on the barbecue. Home is where I wear flip flops to the grocery store. Home is where Barack Obama is.

In a recent blog post I admitted that the title of my blog Hidden in France might as well be Hidden from France. (Warning: digression: my blog is not a safe place to bitch and moan about the (toxic?) nature of home as my mother might read it. Although she has sworn to never lay eyes again on that heap of garbage again. Probably a good choice: To my defense she reads my posts (or refuses to read them) through an online automatic translator and the result is quite surreal. You get the idea: home is not where maman is– No, home cannot possibly be France. All France equals in my mind, is pathos. As a matter of fact, I have not returned to Paris in the five years since my father died. That’s how detached I am, that’s how grown up.

It is pumped up with American patriotism and sentiments that I find myself bravely boarding a plane for Paris this summer. Paris as a tourist will be wonderful, relaxing and so very exotic.

But just one step on the carpet of the ‘aeroport’ and I have this strange instinct: I’m immediately able to sense things Americans are probably not supposed to sense. For example I know to carefully say ‘bonjour’ and ‘excusez-moi’ before asking for directions to the baggage claim. In the U.S. I would address people with a direct question. Not here, no no, no… And how do I know when we sit in our first café for a drink that the personality and mood of the waiter is to be studied and navigated and that I better fake humility in exchange for decent service? I also know that merci means so much more than thank you here. I’m ashamed to tell you that this American girl, within a day of landing in Paris, has reverted to full-on French. I only wear my least comfortable shoes because they are stylish. I no longer slouch. I use table manners and get all uptight about the way my kid’s elbow flares up when he cuts his meat. I detail people and know they are detailing me. I don’t set a foot inside a store without saying bonjour as I know that the store is really an extension of its owner and I would be terribly rude to come in and ignore that silent rule. This is exhausting. I’m a nervous wreck. But there is some awesome stuff too: For example: I know my foods. At ‘Monoprix’ I reach for products remembering exactly what they taste and feel like. In the bakery I know to bypass the croissants for ‘chouquettes’ and to ask for my baguette ‘pas trop cuite’. Forget well done burgers, I suddenly look at a steak tartare on restaurant menus as delicacy rather than breeding ground for e-coli. And there are little tricks about the system I simply know. I call ‘SOS Médecin’, the service that will send a doctor to my door in less time it takes to have a pizza delivered (and for roughly the same amount). I let steam out by snapping at strangers because it feels great and I know the worst they will do is snap back at me: there are no full-blown Psychos here, only low- grade ones such as myself. And I know how to communicate with strangers in that convoluted way that will ensure that the gruff post office lady will send my package after hour ‘pour moi exceptionellement’. In France I know the people. I know them intrinsically. I know how they feel and how they function. I know their logic, however absurd, as it is also mine. I know their facial expressions and hand movements because they make total sense; so much conveyed with a wink, a blink, a wave of the hand. In the United States, let’s face it, people have no idea why I wink, or blink or wave my hands about. I just look spastic to them. In France I watch the people sitting at terraces of cafés, gesticulating and disagreeing with one another with gusto, and I want to pull up a chair and join in the fun. In the United States, I will always be too opinionated and argumentative for pleasant conversation. Yes, it is clear to me now. I must belong in France, France is the only place where I can be perceived as normal.

The only problem is: French people don’t feel too normal to me anymore. Here I said it. French people feel grotesque! They are ambulatory clichés. The girl in the flowing dress on the bicycle with the baguette in a basket. The woman shopping at the market with the ‘tailleur’ and the strand of pearls. The man with moustache like this is still 1930. The waiter who woke up on the wrong side of the bed and to whom I must apologize for being there. This is all so weird. Am I really like these people? I suddenly see myself as a living-breathing caricature of Frenchness.

Days later I am back in L.A. the very city I glibly put down in so many blog posts, and I take a big breath of relief. Why do I feel so incredibly light suddenly? My eyes literally caress my small possessions, my paintings, my comfy bed, even that horrid couch that should be burned. Outside the house, I want to kiss people for the directness with which they communicate. I love the absence of mind games. I love the low level of drama, the lack of judgment, the sense that people are basically benevolent. I love the fact that waiters keep their moods to themselves. I love the smog and I love wearing flip-flops. It’s so good to be home.

And immediately, I begin missing France again.
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Corine does not have a last name. Not yet. Not until she feels that her writing is fit to attach a last name to. She writes all day in the hope of her novels being published one day. In the meantime she grudgingly attends to the well being of her family and pets. You can read more on the blog Hidden in France, which is about color, Bohemia, de
sign, writing, neurosis, and of course all things French. Because she was traveling she has not read what the illustrious other bloggers have written here about Home but has already purchased the bottle of Bourgogne with which she plans to drown her insecurity after reading them.

Okay but seriously

Born and raised in Paris

Studied at the Sorbonne

Worked in advertising

Married an American and moved to California

Two boys age 10 and 17, One husband, one cat, one dog, two birds, 8 goldfish

Three novels, two screenplays, countless articles, very little money but living the dream.

Marrakesh Home by Sarah

I am a girl from the suburbs. Grew up in a single family home on a quarter acre lot tended by a Father who didn’t want anyone to walk on the grass. As a grown woman, I still live in the suburbs, in a townhouse of my own, a bit more urban than sub. I like to pretend my house is like a riad because it has an open floor with a two-story overlook. I like to pretend this because Morocco is home to me, even though I don’t live there.

I met Morocco through my husband. I traveled there over a half-dozen times over the years, with or without him. Each time I found something to love about Moroccan design. To me, Moroccan design is a mosaic that leaves nothing out of place. It is a place where you live with art and no art is created for Art’s sake alone. Moroccan design is a celebration of life, order, and love.

The first family dinner I had in Morocco was held in the salon – a large rectangle room lined by sofas. Family gathered around the round coffee table, ate food from a common plate, and, once satiated, crashed on the sofas putting pillows between heads and feet to keep an aura of privacy to their sleeping quarters. I was mesmerized by the many functions one room with one set of furniture could serve.

My husband grew up with out a bedroom. There were rooms with beds, sure, but no one room belonged to one person. In my suburban house, we were each obsessed with “our room” and the guarded privacy we felt it contained. Morocco was an alternative way of seeing not only home, but Self.
I took a soul-searching trip to Morocco last summer. Three months alone there with my girl. Unfortunately, not long after that trip, my husband and I decided to separate, amicably, but painfully of course. And I asked myself if Morocco could still be mine without him. I think of the artisans I’ve met there, the rooms I’ve slept in there, and my own tiny riad of American suburban living. And, I realize, no matter where I go or who I am with, Morocco is home to me.”
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Sarah’s new blog is Love Hate Flow and I LOVE it!!!

Here is Sarah in her own words describing the inspiration for her new blog: “A three-month trip I took to Morocco last summer with my three year old girl. Navigating Morocco -both socially and physically – is tough, particularly for a couple of chicks. Street names are outdated or nonexistent, so even if you can find an up-to-date map (unlikely) it is useless. And my communication skills were very limited, as was my social context there. We were perpetually lost. Each of us having tantrums. I thought I would break her. She reverted back to pull-ups after being successfully potty-trained in the States.

I took a picture of her crying on a particularly dark day. It hurt me to take it. But looking back at the photos, moments later she was clean and content. I realized feelings scare adults more than they do kids. I wanted to step in and control the situation for her, but I had to let her feel her way through. She did. She’s OK. Today, I am trying to look at myself in the same way. Without judging my feelings, observe them. Consider what they are telling me. Think of them like colors. This is not an action (actions are where judgments can be placed) but an intention. It hurts a little to look at feelings. But, they are real. They are natural. They are as much a part of us as the things we do with them.”

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I also wanted to let you know that the “Home is where the guest blogger post is” series has inspired a few posts by some wonderful and talented bloggers who are taking home the series to their blog. I wanted to link to these wonderful bloggers so you can see their off-site posts. Remember, same rules apply at their homes as applies at the open houses at mine: wipe your shoes on the doormat, dont eat their potpourri and don’t put your feet on the coffee table. Oh, and, be sure to tell them I sent you.

La Femme Couture’s Coming Home
Jung at Heart’s Home
KT’s Savvy Blog’s Home
L’air du temp’s Darling have a heart

Home is where the guest blogger post is

“There is no place like home” or so they say. They also say that “Home is where the heart is”. And, while many believe that “home is a man’s castle” for me the idea of home has been feeling more like a prison. I, as you may remember, was looking for a home and then decided to quit looking because every time I looked I broke out in metaphorical hives. Even as Igor, my savvy psychoanalyst, told me having a home of my own would be good for me and how much I needed my own space—the idea left me needing more therapy. But, I really tried to find a home; I did. I got a realtor and everything but I would have mild to severe anxiety attacks every time the realtor called. It seems that I have major commitment issues in regards to home and that is why we are still in our 750 square foot condo on a month to month rental basis that requires no lease or commitment. I want to know that any moment I could fly the coop and move—-even though I am not looking and broke up with my realtor using the much loved, “It’s not you; It’s me” line.

For all of us, whether if we were raised by wolves, perfect parents or neglectful narcissists, our first home was our mother. For nine months or so we had a womb with no view and I imagine that first home has an impact on our sense of house and home. As I was born 12 pounds and something ounces I spent the bulk of my time in Chez Mama kicking and screaming. There just wasn’t enough room for me as demonstrated by the formidable black and blue marks I left on my first home(One might compare my small and uncomfortable apartment that we are living in now, that I am desperate to get out and kicking and screaming about, to this first home). My childhood homes were places of formality, chaos, anxiety, alcoholism and a complete lack of personal space or boundaries. Ever since then each home I have left an impact on me and on who I am home—-and even my resistance to home.

During my house hunting days the author of Halfway to France who is in the midst of a move of her own, told me about about Louise DeSalvo’s fantastic book “On Moving”. This brilliant book made me aware of how loaded with meaning houses and moving are psychologically. A new house it is not just a new house it is promise of a new self. Each time I would walk into an open house, thanks to DeSalvo, I would quickly become aware of the me that I imagined I would be in each house.

In the Tudor house on Rose street I would be a modern day Jane Austen who needle-pointed by the fireplace, sipped Earl Grey tea and waited for Mr. Darcy-Weasel to come home. In the ultra modern house in the Glendale Hills I would be as laconic and terse in my prose and persona as someone in a Raymond Carver story. And, the ranch house in the middle of horse country I was sure I would live a Ralph Lauren like lifestyle that involved horses, vintage cowboy boots, turquoise belt buckles and prairie skirts In each house I did not find myself but some other self that I imagined I could be. In each house and identity I did not feel at home. No house, not even the 5000 square foot house we accidentally walked through, was large enough to hold the many aspects of my self—and would hence require me to rent a storage space to hold the parts of me that the house didn’t have room for.

As Igor and I seem to be getting no closer to getting me through my home issue and I still start to sweat each time I see He-weasel house hunting on Realtor.com, I thought I would turn to other writers who have managed to find or make a home for themselves to see how they managed it. I wanted to know their secrets so I asked them the following questions:

Where is home for you?
What is the difference between home and house for you?
Are you at home now?
Have you always felt at home?
What makes a place a home for you?
How has where you lived impacted you? Have the homes you lived in changed you in any way?
Do you think you can go home again?
How did you find your home?
What is your ideal home?
What do you wish you had noticed about your home before you moved in?
How many homes have you had?
What is the style of home that you feel most at home in( even if you have never had such a home)?

And, happily they answered my questions. Throughout the month of August these writers will be sharing their homes with us. We will be getting eight home tours of writers’ homes in places such as Provence, France; India; London; New York City; and places in between. They not only answered my questions but they also shared pictures, drawings and insights I never imagined. Please make them feel at home here on my blog and let them know how much you like the peak into their homes. When touring others homes I find that it is a good idea to wipe your shoes on the doormat, don’t eat their potpourri and not to put your feet on the coffee table—but as none of you were born in a barn or raised in a cave I am sure I don’t need to remind you of that. Oh, and no need to bring a house warming gift. Me casa es su casa or, actually, me bloga es su bloga.

Please come back tomorrow to see Vicki Archer’s home( which I would happily move into). Vicki is an Australian who lives between London and Provence and she is the author of the gorgeous book, dp/0670018775">“My French Life” which tells the story in pictures and prose of her seventeenth-century property in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. You can visit Vicki’s on-line home here.

A house made of Kleenex

First I need to tell you that when I say I am mad, irritated or otherwise perturbed with Igor, my psychoanalyst, it is often code for me telling you that he has brought unconscious material up to consciousness that I would have been very happy to have locked away in the back in the part of my mind that I can’t reach without his assistance. With that said, last week I was mad, irritated and annoyed with Igor.

The session started out well, I think, and after we got through some stuff of not much consequence he asked me if we had been looking at any houses. My first impulse was to tell him to do something which some might consider a highly pleasurable act that involves another and may or may not involve cigarettes afterwards. I resisted my impulse and instead told him about how we had seen house one and two and why neither of them were right and how I had really not liked our realtor and how we needed to find another one and how hard it is. Then, in an ode to Sybil, my personality changed and I turned into a whiny teenager. “But, I don’t want to look for a house. I don’t want to live here. Have I mentioned to you how much I hate L.A.?” He laughed. I assure you that if you heard the way I said it you would have laughed both at and with me. I wouldn’t blame you and I don’t blame him.

I then shared with him my plan. My plan de jour, as you may know, is to find 365 things to like about L.A. and that once I get to a tipping point of liking things about L.A. it is my belief that we will get kicked out of here. So, I am trying to speed up the process and find a lot of things to like as quick as I can. My scheme was too much for him to grasp. He began his response with “Let me get this straight” and then he spoke as slowly and clearly as he can with his Omar Sharif accent “You are saying that if you like it here you will be kicked out?”

“Yep, and I think it will work.” I, for a delusional moment, thought I had convinced him of the merits of my magical thinking.

“It won’t work because you are not really liking things here.”

“No,” I interrupted, “I really do like the Getty.”

“The Getty is not enough,” he said unironically, “What you are trying to do is rush through the life and death cycle that exists in everything. You are looking for things to like, not to be in life and or to live it but, rather, so your grief will end and you can get to a place where you will never know loss again.”

“Uh-huh” I grunted at him like an adolescent with her arms crossed just moments away from rolling my eyes and hitting him with a wounding ‘whatever’.

“We liked Chicago. Maybe I liked it too much. I said everyday how much I liked it. I said it out loud. Maybe if I hadn’t done that we wouldn’t have been kicked out.”

“No, you didn’t make it happen. It just happened that your belief system and your outer circumstances happened to meet up,” Igor explained.

I ignored his answer, “It was like I was punished for liking it. I was punished for being happy somewhere. “

“By whom?”he asked.

“By a deity that I don’t believe in”, I offered weakly.

Igor said nothing. I didn’t give him time.”It’s not fair” I said continuing my adolescent whine that turned ‘fair’ into a four syllable word. “You don’t get kicked out.” I accused him, not expecting he would defend himself “You want to be here and you are here and you aren’t being kicked out. You get to be where you want.”

Igor laughed, “That’s not true. I am kicked out all the time. Just this morning the roads were blocked and I couldn’t get to my office. I get kicked out all the time. The difference between you and me is that I don’t believe that there is someplace that exists that will be free of that and you do.” Again I was wanting to recommend that he do something that the birds and bees and even educated fleas do. I also wanted to explain to him that his being late for work was not the same thing as having your husband’s work bring you back to the one place you never wanted to return to.

“You believe,” he said, “that if you like something it will be taken from you and that is the real issue, not the house buying in L.A. You will have this issue wherever you go and now you are here so lets deal with it here.”

My petulance continued, only I sounded even younger and more whiny, “I don’t want to. I don’t want to buy a house. If we have a house I will be trapped.”

“You think a house is like this.” Igor grabbed a tissue and put it over his hand. He pulled the tissue tight around his hand until he couldn’t move it. I could feel myself constrict and my breath tighten as I looked at my two-ply makeshift metaphor of a home.

He continued, “This is like your mother. If you connect with her you have no space and you feel stuck and you can’t move and you can’t breath. Mother equals home, hence home equals trapped.”

He was right.

I tried to hide any hint of affect on my face that I agreed with him so I could stick with my story. “Can’t it be that I just hate L.A.? People do hate places. It is done. Can’t it just be about that?”

I was in a total snit and I was mad and I was feeling stuck….really stuck. I was filled with an “I’ll show you”attitude that I hadn’t had felt so strongly since the dark days when I was dating Danny, donning Dittos, eating Dorritos and discovering that if I waited until my mother passed out I could sneak out my bedroom window. I wanted to leave Igor’s office and go straight to the airport and buy a ticket and go somewhere and call him at our appointment time next week and tell him that I am not there and that I don’t have to be and that I left and that I got out and that I would never-ever-ever come back again ever, only I didn’t.

It is a week later and I am still here and we have another realtor and we looked at another house that we don’t want and we found another house that we might have liked if it hadn’t been sold out from under us. The funny thing is that I don’t want to tell Igor any of this. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that we looked. What I want to do is tell him that I don’t want him to ask me about houses anymore. Even if I managed it and even if he agreed, the damn Kleenex would be there sitting between us and silently reminding me.

The many faces of move

Saturday night it seems I talked in my sleep. I said only one word.

He-weasel asked me, when I woke, “where would you like me to move?”.

“Huh?” I asked dreamily.

“You said, “move”.”

“Move? When did I say move?”

“When you were sleeping.”

“Did I say it like I was angry?”

“No.”

“Did I say it like an order?”

“Uh-uh.”

“How did I say it?”

“You just said “move”….Were you dreaming?”

“No. At least I don’t think so.” I scoured my memory for some dream or nightmare or story to pin the word to. For reasons unclear, I wanted ‘move’ to belong to something or someone and not to be a verbal orphan.

The word ‘move’ started quietly enough when He-weasel initially said it. Move. I had said ‘move’ as I slept. No other word. Just move. But then this simple words power amplified and began to grow and move and gain steam and power until it was running and circling and surrounding. It was like a room full of children who had eaten too much birthday cake and candy and drank too much punch. Move would not be told to sit quietly in a chair with its hands on its lap. It was ‘move’ as a verb, meaning to set or keep in motion and that is what this word was doing.

Even though I was awake ‘move’ impacted me like an alarm clock only not the high pitch whiny insistent kind but rather like a Chinese gong being hit over and over, building and building until nothing but the noise could be noticed. The kind of gong they hit in a Kundalini class I used to go to where I overheard a new class member’s overreaction “It’s like the gong is raping my ears.” “Move: provoke, incite, raise, stirr (up), whip (up),set off, trigger, inflame, and rouse” with no option of a snooze button.

And as the little word became a BIG word that would not be ignored it filled me with a dread and ‘move’ moved into another meaning. Move became more of an internal movement as I saw it happen I began to
fidget, jiggle, squirm, twitch, wiggle, and writhe. Even as it seemed I was sitting still I was moved by move.

But then the meaning moved into a noun and it took form and shape and it was a thing and not a suggestion, instruction or an imperative and while a noun cannot move without a verb it can just sit there unmoving, unyielding and demanding to be seen. When move became a noun is when I felt the most miserable. “Move (noun): a change of residence or location.”

It seems my subconscious is more aware of the calendar than I am. Tomorrow is the first of June and that means in 30 days are lease is up and we can move.

About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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