Air France Made Me Cry

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Reader Notice: Any lament about being stuck in Paris is, by definition, ridiculous. I know that.This is about being stuck away from people you love.



Air France made me cry. Not sob, not bawl my eyes out, but real tears, real “I can’t cope” tears. Since I long ago learned that “I can’t cope” tears have no traction in my world – maybe in others, but not in mine, never have – the tears stopped at the point where I said aloud, “Well, that’s really going to help, Patricia.”

Insomnia is no respecter of borders and sleeping only between 5:00 am and 9:00 am probably had something to do with my fragility, as did a desire to get home and hug my grandchildren, to dedicate my life to them as the most viable thing I’ve got going.

Yes, this is a somewhat hollow lament – I am in Paris, after all! – but loneliness is not ever hollow. I have a psychiatrist friend who was in the teams that “treated” Vietnamese boat people decades ago. She said they wanted to talk about the same things everyone else wants to talk about. Not the war, not loss of home, but the intricacies of love and caring and insecurities. Why should I be immune?

So when the email notice came from Air France canceling my flight 24 hours before scheduled takeoff, I was already flirting with self-pity. It was complex and went on and on about booking options and financial transactions, and it was in French without an English “click” button.

Now, I had known for two weeks that the Air France pilots were on a “soft” strike with some flights cancelled, which is why I kept checking to see that my flight was still on schedule. It was, up to that moment. I had packed.

Action time! Call the telephone number, get a real operator, tell her or him everything, get a new booking, and arrange a straight financial exchange. The first two tries didn’t get through at all and the third time I got the “Thank you for your patience, we will be with you shortly” recording – for 30 minutes, which is when I hung up at $1 per minute.

But had I been sitting around, helpless and waiting? No! I had been online in the race with phantom leagues of people who were also rebooking as fast as they could.

Stick with Air France rather than try in foreign languages to manage the finances. The strike is scheduled to be over in two days. Five seats left on the Wednesday flight, work fast, get that information in, choose a seat, click to confirm. Now!

. . . oh, oh . . . an air message. There is a technical difficulty and my reservation cannot be confirmed. Of course, there’s a technical difficulty! There are 500 plus people from my plane alone who are rebooking. No way those five seats will be left next time I try.

This is when being alone, being sleep deprived, and wanting your grandchildren to run to you with their arms open come together in a special way that creates a stinging sensation in your tear ducts.

It’s not about reservations and flights. It’s about being connected to others. It’s about being in the human family. It’s about being loved and giving love, being embraced and embracing, celebrating each other, and having someone bring you coffee while you’re trying to get home.

I made my own coffee and went back to try online again. My speakerphone was still saying “Thank you for your patience, we will be with you shortly.” But this time when I pulled up my reservation to change it, it said I was confirmed on a flight in two days. My earlier attempt had gone through.

I shut off my cell phone, dressed in black like Johnny Cash, told myself I was one tough cookie, and I went out to lunch – a poached egg over thin-sliced gently steamed peppers and corn for the first course and wild mushroom risotto for the second course.

I can cope for two more days.



Fighting with Perfection in Paris

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(Hang in there, this blog all comes together eventually. Plus there are photos of lovers, redheads, and dogs at the end. See example to left.)


Fighting with Perfection in Paris

Perfection does a hatchet job on Good. She’s a diva that tolerates no supporting cast, and She has been riding roughshod over my ability to write a blog since I arrived in Paris 12 days ago.

In addition to not writing blogs, I have not been to two of my neighborhood restaurants, Laduree and Mariage Freres. They are my usual haunts and I believed they were essential to my settling into the City of Lights.

I have been taking long walks and hundreds of photographs with a focus on lovers, redheads, dogs, children, art, and the homeless that I post on Facebook every day, but no writing.

What is going on?

Let me tell you as best I understand.

For one thing the Israeli killing of 2100 Gazans and then claiming more land in the West Bank ad nauseum not only depressed me but has shown me definitively that there are people who are not only far more expert on the subject than I am but who write much better. (Un-huh, I know Israelis were targeted by Gazans firing missiles and that 50 some Israelis were killed – all except six in the military – but this blog is not about politics and I’m not in the mood to equate 50 some Israelis to 2100 Gazans and call it a draw.)

For another, I have been taken over by an internal son et lumiere show in which a cacophony of characters bide with each other for the spotlight. Inside me is a mélange of languid sexy women wearing silk lavender, clowns in cone hats with red pom-poms on top, the child I was on the farm in Iowa, an overly-sensitive female who is subject to Stendhal Syndrome, and a hawk-eyed hunter-photographer who preys on and captures the innards of innocent people.

Over it all sits the Perfectionist Judge (she’s a female, dammit!) who says that if I write something it has to have a deep and meaningful impact in addition to good grammar. Otherwise, it isn’t worth bothering with and clutters the landscape.

Also, I’m in an apartment I once co-owned with a husband we don’t need to mention except that I don’t want you to think I could ever have bought an apartment in Paris on my own. The apartment is exactly as I left it except the floor-to-ceiling silk curtains are shredding on the window side and there is a humidor on the desk and new sheets on the bed – oh, and an updated master bathroom. This is a special kind of déjà vu made possible by the new owner.

Thus, a sonne et lumiere and cast of characters goes with me through the streets, into the cafes, across Luxembourg Gardens, and into the Louvre to view 17th and 18th century French paintings. It is a pleasant but timeless experience that is not very solid, wobbly even. Writing a blog requires concrete sentences in real time.

However a deep and impactful truth (at least for me) has finally taken form. I believe that having our moorings loosened and our time sense scrambled – and losing people, gaining people, and experiencing our self as multiple people is imperative to becoming more aware of the miracle that we are here at all. We cannot know more until we give up old beliefs that we know what is what. We need to be tumbled.

Often this happens by trauma. Breakage and loss undo our world, and in undoing our world they make us look again, experience again, change. We are forced to be flexible.

We are forced to be flexible in what we thought was existence – large and small – and who we are in it. It is easiest to do this if we accept the unmooring and the cast of interior personalities and float.

The Perfection Judge says, “This is not adequate. It’s too airy-fairy. You need to say something helpful when our world is in such crisis.”

You see, the Perfection Judge tolerates that I post photographs of redheads and lovers on Facebook, but she wants my blogs to have more depth, which means the only way I can write is to stand up to Her and say, “Half-ass and mediocre are just fine, thank you, anyway.”

Even so, I will now make an attempt at depth, or perhaps just at loosening your moorings: There are as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on planet earth. Odds are beyond all reckoning that we are not the only thinking creatures in infinity.

We don’t know much of anything but we experience that we exist. That is a place to start.

Two days ago I bought a work of art titled “Paradise Lost.” (See photo. Xavier Somers, Flemish, is the artist.)

In the beginning were Adam and Eve and they discovered the pleasurable things that men and women can do together. Behold, Eve laid an egg in the nest of temporal life and free Paradise lost 010 (2)will. Alongside it in the nest is the devoured apple of self-knowledge. The beginning was the awareness that we existed. It might not be much, but it is a start.

Everything my knowledge and experience tell me is that bliss is the natural state and it is humans who f**k it up. We all know the second part of that sentence. I believe the first part is true also. We “fell” out of grace into self-knowledge. It was the only way to know we are here. Now the task is to climb back up and join self-awareness with bliss. (. . . which raises all sort of questions such as which came first the bird or the egg.)

In “Paradise Lost” the golden male has a large key that inserts in the keyhole of the golden female. It joins them into one creature, a larger egg with legs. I’m just letting you know that without further comment.

And this Adam and Eve devoured the apple. Of course! If we’re going for self-awareness, we need to get as much as possible.

And the nest is made of barbed wire. And so it is. Look around.

And because our self-awareness is still so miniscule, such a grain of sand in infinity, we harm each other and call it justified and self-protection and rational.

And I look around this apartment where loss has occurred and where beauty and blessing pour in the windows, and I cart my mélange of characters around with me and tell the Perfection Judge, “Bugger off.”

I say, “Bugger off. You, Perfection, are the scourge, thinking you know what is right or good. You, who wants life in perfect grammar and manners and brilliance. Look around, Perfection, next to the lovers are the homeless. Look, Perfection, look well, and tell me that you have a right to judge. We rejected you when we began to become aware and to care for all that fails your false standards. Bugger off.”

Photos of Parisians below, being their essential selves, even when dogs:

kiss 20 kiss11 dog19 dog18 dog15 cafe1 red head8 red hair3 homeless8 homeless3 cafe2




#whyistayed and #whyileft


I stayed because it was my second marriage and 40 years ago you did not leave a second marriage. Plus, the hitting did not begin until six months into the marriage and after great trauma around a custody suit.

Plus, I loved him. Plus, I thought I was strong enough to heal him, though what dangerous mix of reserve strength and delusion that came from I cannot now imagine. Plus, he was the most handsome man I had ever seen, and I am aware how shallow that sounds.

Plus, as perhaps the majority of women who have been married to abusers could tell you, every time the violence stops – during the peace lulls – you want desperately to believe the last hit or kick was the last one ever. You want to believe when he promises to see a therapist or is on his knees begging that it will be the end.

Plus, after the custody suit I had no funds. Plus, I let him isolate me in a state far from friends, initially without even a telephone. Plus, I was humiliated.

Plus, it takes time to realize the unthinkable is happening to you and that it is not going to stop.

Plus, we met through a spiritual commune and the ways in which the loving tenets of that commune confused my ability to make tough decisions in the “real” world are not easily explained – but people thought he was a gentle man, a modern yogi with great spiritual understanding. They did not believe me when I broke my silence two years later.

Plus, he never broke any bones, and bruising was rare. After the first hit with a closed fist – I still have the scar inside my lip – he slapped or hit with an open hand, kicked, threw, threw things at, and more.

Plus, he never showed violence in front of my daughter, knowing instinctively that to do so would have instantly shattered any hold he had on me. Abusers know what they can get away with.

I write this, adding my story to the emerging litany, for two reasons.1) People who haven’t been there need a lot of information to make it real. 2) Women and men who have been there, or ARE there, need to know again and again that they are not at fault, they can get free, and they can reclaim – or make for the first time – a beautiful life for themselves.

I read that women in abusive relationships make an average of six attempts to leave before they get out. I only remember five attempts. I’m sure there were more, but I have no desire to recall everything.

Once I drove an hour and a half from the valley in Tennessee and stopped for groceries. In the parking lot I saw a large snake, alive and wiggling. A man, a stranger who recognized me though I hadn’t a clue who he was, said “That snake must have followed us from Celina.” I felt then that I could not escape – oh, the mind does tricks – and I got in the van and drove back to Celina and the valley thinking I was stuck forever, that we were two children on a raft of grief instead of that he was the grief and it was okay to leave him.

A second time he was driving and hit me in the passenger seat. I almost jumped out of the van along the Potomac River under the overhang of the Kennedy Center but then I didn’t or he grabbed me, I don’t remember which, but I know the door was open. Somehow an hour later I got the keys, jumped in the van, locked him out and drove to my first husband’s law offices. Humiliation or no humiliation, I made a break for it.

But my first husband was inept and said “Maybe you should give it another chance,” and my second husband arrived – ran? taxi? – and the receptionist sent him back and he fell on his knees again and pleaded his case. (My first husband had the grace at least to step outside.) Without money or a place to stay, and only a modicum of pride left, I went with him and we drove out of town. After hours of silence in the dark, he told me had no intention of keeping his promise to see a psychiatrist.

People don’t want to know, they don’t want to hear. Abuse is emotionally inconvenient. Four decades ago people particularly didn’t know what to do with it. (This is my way of saying that I don’t blame my first husband. He was just desperate to move the scene out of his firm’s law offices. By the time he might have been able to process everything, I was gone.)

At that time there were also no hotlines for battered spouses. I still remember an operator’s voice as I begged for a number to call, without actually calling the police. She felt helpless.

Now, I do blame. NFL officials shouldn’t have had to see the video inside the elevator before they acted appropriately. Period. No excuses. No. Excuses.


I read that it averages two months of preparation from the time you decide definitely to leave and when you get out. I knew in a moment of revelation in my garden in April, but I didn’t get wholly out until the following January. I went public a few months before then. One friend called every day to make sure I answered the phone. Most of the others didn’t believe me.

It is a godawful business.

The final ending wasn’t pretty. I had gotten him to leave the valley, but, insanely, I tried one more time to make it work. I flew to Marin, California where he was with friends. I thought maybe he wouldn’t be crazy if we weren’t isolated.

Within 30 minutes of arriving I became desperately ill and was confined to bed for two days. When I got up, he began non-stop verbal abuse.

Somehow he was willing to drive me to the San Francisco airport where he threw my clothes out of my suitcase at me and screamed I was a whore. That is one impressive way to shock people at the check-in line. I called someone who let me book a ticket on their credit card and I flew out on the red eye.

Months later I was in a bookstore and picked up a book on physical and emotional abuse. It had a checklist of characteristics. Every single one of them pertained to my situation. There was no “special case situation” for yogis and mini-gurus. There was no separate category for educated people who had good intentions and meditated. I was just a run-of-the-mill abuse case. There was nothing special about it at all. Not a thing.

A couple times I realized he was capable of killing me and making it look like an accident. Cold ice goes through your veins at those moments, but it may not the moment to leave.

Instead you become feral, you sniff the air for change, you register each vibration, you don’t show strong emotions either happy or sad, you never criticize, you exude being calm, you do not turn your back, you watch if he’s keeping the car keys in his pocket because that’s a signal that pressure is building inside him, you manage to get an extra set made and hide them outside near the car, you always reassure – you reassure the person who harms you that you love them. Yes, that’s what you do. You pretend, and you better make it lifelike to both of you.

And you grieve because you did love him, because he was gentle once, because you know he was beaten as a child and told he deserved it and he believed that, because he has a beautiful face that belies what is damaged inside, because in some way you believe he still loves you and needs you, because he is a tragedy.


April half my lifetime ago, propping up baby romaine lettuce knocked down by a rainstorm, I heard a voice: “You who know so well the value of lettuce, of how much more value are you?”

It wasn’t often that God spoke to me, but I recognized the voice.

I stood and said, “If I leave, he will kill himself.”

The voice: “Not your first concern.”

In an instant I realized I was created out of the Divine Source and that my first obligation was to care for me. I had a responsibility to the force that created me.

In that instant I knew I would leave, that I would build my strength silently, get straight enough inside to leave.

That is what a miracle looks like.

I will never judge a woman, or man, who has not yet found the power to leave an abuser, but I would warn them in advance if I could, I would help them if they asked, I would rejoice in their courage when they did.

You are weaker than you realize. Do not allow abuse.

You are stronger than you realize. Do what you need to live your one life with joy and happiness.