In my last blog I said I would update you on my quest to get the bamboo cut. I can’t be bothered with the drama and pettiness of it anymore so I won’t go into detail. Whenever I read the news, it is terrifying the way America is on the verge of imploding in its political parallel universe and then people are being blown to smithereens in places like Aleppo. There are bigger things to fret about than out-of-control bamboo at our fence.
In the end, a gardening contractor from the village trimmed the bamboo. When I ran into him in the boulangerie, I said I was fed up he cut so little. I told him I have nothing to show for my ordeal with Cruella. He said I should chill and be happy because he ‘murdered’ most of the bamboo and I will see the results of that later, once it has died a slow death. Apparently when you cut a bamboo stalk, it never grows back. Over time it withers away into nothing. We will see.
This month I made a new French friend. One on hand, I love pushing myself to practice my social French and on the other hand, I can’t be bothered with the effort and self-consciousness it involves. After my first playdate with my new friend, I was so mentally and almost physically wiped out that I would have liked to be carried home on a stretcher.
When I’m with French-speaking friends, I worry I’m one-dimensional and hard work to be around. I can’t express myself as fluidly as I wish and I tend to choose the most hurdy gurdy way to say things. It would be easier for everyone if I adopted more of a so-what, stuff-it attitude and just bulldozed forth. Pity I’m not wired that way.
One of my English friends married a Swiss guy a few years ago. She said her in-laws are always exclaiming, ‘Really? How interesting! Wow, we didn’t know that about you!’ because they are learning things about her now that she was unable to express when she first met them all those years ago. She’s like the gift that keeps on giving. Maybe I should think of friendships with French people as a pass-the-parcel game at a child’s birthday. We need to unwrap the layers one at a time. I should appreciate the suspense and anticipation of slowly uncovering our personalities. In an English speaking friendship, communication is straightforward so there is less to peel away and discover over time. It’s easier to be ‘Tada! This is me! This is who I am!’ from the very beginning.
Feeling like Superman
Every day I look forward to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I love Stephen Colbert. He’s one of the most hilarious, intelligent comedians I’ve ever come across. Before his show one day, someone in the audience asked him how he knew his wife was The One. He’s been married for 23 years. I can’t think of many people I know who have been married for that time and whose marriages I particularly want to emulate so I enjoyed Stephen Colbert’s response to this question. I hope Al and I can speak of each other with the same enthusiasm after 23 years.
He said that before he met his wife, he was considering marrying another girl. He wasn’t sure so he took a week off and went back to Charleston where he grew up because that was the best place for him to clear his head and think. He said that was the place where he felt grounded and strong, like ‘Superman under the yellow sun’. I love that! I think everyone needs a special place where they can go to feel like Superman under the yellow sun. For me, it used to be home in Africa but now I’m most clear-headed in the mountains. That’s why we often go on day trips because, for both Al and me, it is sweet bliss to be away from it all in the majesty and beauty of mountains.
Funnily enough, every time I go to the US I also feel like Superman under the yellow sun. In the US, I feel I can conquer the world, like anything is possible. When I was there in August, I thought ‘maybe I should try to write a book’ then soon after I got home, I thought ‘maybe I shouldn’t’.
I find Americans are much more open, warm and upbeat than Europeans. It’s easy to feel like Superman in the US. This is why my friends who are entrepreneurs here in Switzerland struggle so much. It is a constant uphill battle to try anything new and different in this part of the world. Maybe it’s because Europeans are mostly stiff, private and glass-half-empty. I remember I facilitated a training course in Vienna in 2011. It was horrendous. People were so dour and negative and it brought me down so much that I had to take the following day off to recover. My boss said, ‘Come on Julie, what did you expect? They’re Germans!’
Love and a conversation
Anyway, I’m waffling. Back to my story. Stephen Colbert met his future wife at a party and they chatted for over two hours and he knew, he just knew that he would marry her one day. Oooooo, that gives me goosebumps. So romantic!
Actually, Alastair and I met in a similar way. It was after the same kind of amazing conversation that I felt it in my bones that he was The One.
One day when my girls ask me how to tell if someone is their true love, I will ask them if their relationship started with a great conversation, ‘The Conversation’ I call it. The Conversation is a long, mesmerizing and almost magical chat where you lose track of time and everyone around you fades away. You can remember the date and time and place of it. It burns itself into your memory. Maybe you can’t recall exactly what you spoke about but you remember how you connected so well and how the conversation was easy as can be because it just flowed and flowed and flowed and flowed and as it did you thought, oh my goodness, maybe this is it.
I hope Megan and Jessica experience that one day. I suppose The Conversation is the sign of that beautiful and often elusive click or connection. It’s either there or it isn’t – you can’t create it yourself, although many people desperately try. Maybe it’s just me but I think there is nothing more attractive than a connecting of minds. My theory is that true love always starts with The Conversation.
See below for the video if you’re interested: