I splurged on a medium mocha latte from the cafe downstairs. I always find solace there when everything around me seems to stop making sense, and right now any comfort I can get seems priceless.
The obvious thing to talk about is what cafes mean to me, and how the sense of community I feel in them is entirely framed by cafe culture in Paris. Maybe I could talk about how I found my own independence in France for the first time in my life nine years ago, stumbling along Rue Oberkampf with a classmate with whom I did not have much in common but laughed with me after getting locked in a restaurant by accident after a night of eating and drinking. We were inseparable afterwards. I could mention the strangers I've met and the friends I made in a city so astoundingly beautiful it is almost impossible to describe it without mentioning every flavor, scent, texture, and noise you can find while your eyes do their best to absorb an endlessly unfurling cinematic landscape. I could elaborate on how these people seem to hold these same ephemeral qualities in their gestures and words, always offering support from thousands of miles away whenever I've needed it. I could detail my brief return and stay there this past July and the significant appreciation I felt for my own life walking around the city with friends or alone for hours. These are things to extrapolate upon for another time.
Right now I feel several types of heartbreak. Sorrow for the people of France, for the people of Beirut, for people all over the world who are affected daily by violence and hatred and ignorance. Anguish over falling in love and needing to restrain myself, out of respect and a sense of responsibility. The persistent ache over the fractured state of my own family while the holiday season offers its traditional cuing of reflections over wounds still healing.
Despite all of the heaviness, I'm proud of myself for having enough determination and perseverance in 2006 to study abroad in Paris. I lived and worked in another country when it was completely improbable at the time, and somehow learned to survive and thrive thousands of miles away from familiarity, during a deep depression, and with the most minimal of financial resources.
I'm proud of myself for recently taking a chance, being honest, coming out to, and spending time with someone who became an important presence in my life, despite my initial fears of heartbreak. Knowing someone strongly supportive of my personal creative endeavors and of my queer existence is life affirming.
I'm proud of the love I have for my family, and though we may not be perfect, we still try, which is remarkable. Having siblings who are also doing their best to make sense of the world, though we may not understand each other all of the time, makes me eternally grateful. Growing up with them helped shape a strong foundation for surviving and never giving up, and I hope I tell them this often enough for them to know it.
Maybe the best thing to do right now is focus on healing, on seeking out beauty when there seems to be none, on mending in whatever capacity I can, and on taking healthy comfort when I need it. Maybe someday I can find better words for everything, but right now, this paper cup holding a floating heart carved into foam seems like the greatest act of kindness I can do for myself.
Peace & love,