At last, I’ve mustered up the strength to write and pour these feelings into words– wiping my tears away and letting the searing ache in my heart pulsate through my skin until it wears off. These next few weeks are incredibly heavy in memory for me and my spirit. The 15th of June marks the 4 year anniversary of the death of my dearest friend, Phillip.
He was more than just a friend, he was a human being incredibly in touch and elegantly aware of himself in the strange world we live in. He could make anyone feel special, and if it wasn’t for the experience I shared with him, I would have found myself close to death several times. He inspired me to live the way I knew to be true to my heart–to never doubt, for a second, that what I felt was something to be ashamed of or scared to pursue. He made me recognize that I wasn’t in fact just human–that I was an other-worldly being like himself, having a human experience. His light continues to touch me in every moment I feel weak to live or afraid to show the honest extremes bound inside my spirit.
To this day, I still feel very strange in this skin and body I’m in. I am only aware that I feel strange whispers and pulls in my spirit that spark so much curiosity and intensity in my human life. I feel the cycle of life and death and its wheels spinning in me like seasons. New versions of me unravel and each time, I see with new eyes and feel with a stronger heart, how lovely it is to have that innocence and child-like curiosity to play and be intrigued by all the things that make up this world we live in.
I am extremely fascinated and fortunate to have this human vessel I have. I sometimes feel detached from my body and wonder just how far my mind’s imagination can push it to express the complexities of my thoughts. Thanks to Love, even though it may hurt me so often, I find solace knowing that it can get us through the worst of times and find its way back to us again–sometimes in the form of new shapes like hobbies, interests, new friends, new lovers, a new appreciation for yourself, etc.
Even if these next few weeks trigger an anxiety and heartbreak in my soul from the absence of my dearest friend, I know that each night my eyes close, I unravel and become undone and speak in the verses that only we understand as being-to-being, as creatures from another planet, safe in our real flesh and fragility with the company of our kindred spirits.
He once suggested I go to France, never explaining why or what to see, only that I needed to go someday and that I’d understand why once I got there. The day after Phillip’s funeral, I sat next to him (now just a 3-foot tall plastic bag full of human ashes) and placed my hand to vow that I’d go to France and discover it for myself the way he had.
So here I am now, writing about this four years later, and finally taking the leap to travel to France this July for about a month. While I plan to see Paris and Versailles, I only intend to stay there for a few days. I’ll be spending a week, journeying through the countryside in a car and stopping in villages and cities that pull my curiosities, and then staying another week in the south at the beautiful Château Gudanes.
When I learned about the restoration work being done at the Château Gudanes, I knew that this was exactly the place I needed to be at to experience the slow movement of love that my dear friend, Phillip, always displayed. Luckily, the Château Gudanes was offering summer restore and stay experiences, so I chose the Cooking in the Cuisine experience, simply because I love food and why not learn how to cook 18th century recipes while staying to help restore an 18th century castle?! There was no hesitance in my heart that this would be an experience of a lifetime that would shape my soul in a way I’d like. So naturally it was an immediate YES for me to do this experience.
Love, I never enjoyed traveling fast or seeing as many cities and places in such a short amount of time. What I truly enjoy–and what I wish people could do more of–is traveling slowly. I love going off the beaten path and discovering local eateries, striking up short conversations with the locals, and moving at the pace I want to move at, when I want. I buy one way tickets and only know where I plan to go 3 to 4 days before I journey on to the next destination.
As with all matters of the heart, life is better enjoyed when lived slowly, savoring the present, celebrating the surprises that unfold, and trusting in the pace of where your beating heart takes you.
If you travel alone, like I do most of the time, I do recommend reading as much as you can about the country, notable destinations, history, culture, foods, learning the language, etc., but do try to be flexible. In a country like France, where everything moves slow, expect to be patient and just savor the moment. Laugh (or giggle in my case)! Savor the sparks of curiosity or the pull of desire to go wherever your heart wants to take you. Of course, you should be mindful and not naïve towards certain things that may affect your overall enjoyment while traveling abroad (i.e. financial budget, high-risk areas, making sure you have enough money for emergencies). But when it comes down to it, enjoy it all. Enjoy exploring the surprises that unfold in our wandering journey.
I used to care so much about having an itinerary prepared, but now, I can only offer a word of advice on how to plan for a trip like this:
Instead, come with an open heart and prepare to be moved, slowly, in ways that will challenge, inspire, and excite you.
I am excited to live (while working) in France and travel outside of the usual tourist destinations. I get sad when I think about how many people travel only to see the popular destinations, and forget about the 75% of the country and the people and its micro-cultures that make up the whole. But I can’t be to sad for too long. I remind myself daily, that for some reason unknown to me, I am still alive, and because of that, I better start believing my unique soul and its gifts are meant for something worthwhile in this world, even if I have to go at it alone.
I got to thinking–this human vessel I’ve been given has a lot more life left to experience and express–that why should I stop to go and build a life on a path that isn’t right for me? I never liked the path society places on us because it builds resentment and fear towards the beauty of exploring the alternative. I’d go on, but I’ll save my ramblings for another post.
While this trip is mostly for me, I also go for love (no, not to find someone to be with) and the many forms it takes in the subtleties of life: in slow cooking, in laughter heard in the early hours of dawn, in the smell of the wind catching lavender fields, in the blades of grass between your toes, and in the reflection of your spirit in this human vessel, full with tenderness and forgiveness to accept love on your journey.
I want to believe that even after the immense heartbreak and trauma I’ve been through these last few years, that I will find love again and it will be so incredibly beautiful to discover and explore. I believe that there is a love out there for me again–one that is tender, loyal, and honest–without the bindings of skin, without identity, without all the distractions, stigmas, and expectations from society, and finally, without fear to be with love.
It is an exhausting feeling to be human, and yet, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world. The healing, the hurting, the immense pain and confusion, the rebuilding, and the restoration is all worth it for you, Love. Because without you, Love, I would not know how to turn the darkest and brightest corners of my heart and its feelings into these words that take shape when summoned by your call.
And so, Love, take me with you again. Take me on this road to restoration because there’s nothing else more beautiful than to feel the complexities and immense chaos of your presence underneath my skin, and to bring to life through the language of my senses, your ability to inspire my other-worldly soul to be as authentic and ruthless in my pursuit of living as courageously and honestly to who I have always been and will be.