Monthly Archives: August 2014

When People Die, Happy Tears Aside

If you start your week on Sundays, mine began with a wedding and then slid quickly towards three nationally based and internationally discussed deaths. The wedding was a beautiful celebration, as things are when loving sweaty work is put into them. The deaths were more like warnings, as things become when fear is neglectfully filed away for the unrealized courage of yet another day.

When Amy came walking up the grassy aisle, arm and arm with her beaming father, I couldn’t help but cry: nose running, I wish I didn’t have this much make-up on tears. She was radiant with a love nurtured for six years on a day when she would again mark a commitment to companionship and unity. She was making a decision, with good natured faith that demanded joy, all the ceremony-silenced tears of it.

When people die I don’t often cry. In fact, I think I might be more of a happy crier than a sad one. It could be that sadness does not surprise me as much, underwhelming in its frequency. Or it could be that death seems unceremoniously internalized. In this sense my tears are to be shared with those still breathing to illicit and bear witness to them, saved as a sort of communion.

Instead, when people die I often grow internally silent. A silence that waits for reason. A silence that is necessarily receptive to any external evidence for making sense. More often the sense is the same, terminal illnesses aside, people die because death is more naturalized than courage.

When the world morns with the noise of a shockingly remembered vitality I try to remain in a sustainable balance of acknowledgement, reflection and humble unknowing. This silence reminds me that I too am breathing with life. My daily beginnings must not be in the hastiness of reaction but in the understanding of continuation, ready for loving sweaty work underway now and necessarily to come.

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Paris: the expected and then unexpected disappointment

I hadn’t exactly been enthusiastic about this current detour in France on my way home from four years on and off in South Africa. I had reservations about the French, speaking French and spending way more Euros than I would like to mentally convert on food and shelter, albeit not my own. By the time we reached the Johannesburg airport my expectations for the next leg of the journey had hit an all time low, to the point of ungrateful brat status. If I were to justify them I might say it was the culmination of all my sadness of leaving South Africa filtered into French resentment.

Regardless, one whisky and some horrible AirFrance food later and I came to my good senses. I love traveling with Mom, she always seems to bring out a light in people, holding that people are the point of life and travel. I was suddenly aware an adventure in France with her would be no different than any other. Going to a new place in the world was an incredible opportunity for adventure and growth.

The plane landed in Charles de Gaul at 5:50am, still neither of us spoke French, but we were ready to embrace our awkward accents and see all we could taking to the city on foot. Two days later I can honestly say my previous justification for Parisian distaste might have been a combination of just that sadness, as well as a well oiled intuition. For a city that is noted as the most well visited in the world, few to no Parisians seem to recognize the benefits of customer service or even a well timed smile. Instead they are proficient in english translation fees subliminally added into bland foreigner menus and stiff upper lips that look like they haven’t spoken a loving word in years. Yesterday was Bastille day, we were on the streets and in the Louvre for 6 hours, we met four friendly foreigners and I saw one Parisian man smile.

Happiness and gratitude here seem hard to come by for a country that has a handful of street people, physically harmless petty theft and some of the most beautiful architecture and notable art works in the world. But again I have only been here for three days. What I do know is that it took me a whisky and some terrible food to engage on a bit of beneficial self-reflection so perhaps the Parisians should trade out their insider menus for our overpriced foreigner ones, have a drink and practice exercising their appreciation based smile muscles. I was never one for faking it, air appreciation that is, but I have also never experienced such levels of seemingly misplaced dreariness. Regardless, I am increasingly more excited and grateful for home.