21 Strange Days Are These

My new spirit guide’s presence has a cumulative effect. He keeps beaming love to me. His steady message is love, love, love. Unconditional love is the only way to go. Can I love Otis unconditionally?

In psychology, there is something called radical acceptance: accepting things as they are. In my case, I could accept Otis the way he is without wanting him to change. He is in love with the other woman, I want to stay with him – that’s that. Can I do that? Is this actually possible? I don’t know but I do know the alternative: to hate him, to be mad at him, to be unhappy. This, to me, is unacceptable.

In my delirious delirium, Otis announces that Los Angeles depresses him in the winter and that he will go traveling.
Ah! Perhaps being away from my daily responsibilities is a golden opportunity to test out the theory of ‘radical acceptance’ and ‘unconditional love’. What if I surrender myself to one task and one task only: follow him no matter what and never getting mad. If I’m mad, I’m wrong! Never mind if what I’m mad about is right or wrong, being mad is wrong.

I say, “Can I come with you?”

He says, “I go where I want to go and you can’t tell me what to do.”

I want to wring his neck but instead I say calmly, “Yes, sounds good to me. I will follow you.” I will follow him is my new slogan!

Otis goes on a hunt through the worldwide web. In no time, he finds the cheapest tickets to Paris. Oh, boy! Paris, the mythical capital of lover’s heaven. Good sign!

One catch, Otis’s cheap tickets to Paris leave from Miami – 3,000 miles from Los Angeles. No wonder it’s so cheap! Oh, this stupid young man, doesn’t he know “good” deals are often not as good as they seem! Oh, I’m mad?! I’m wrong!
I say, “Okay, let’s take the train. We can work on the train.”

We take the train from Union Station in Los Angeles to New Orleans. I keep my internal eyes peeled on my body. At the slightest sign of an emotional response towards my man, I put myself on high alert.

I begin to notice things about myself that I’ve never noticed before: right around sun down, I get tired and mad at him for no apparent reason. When I’m in a bad mood, I make sarcastic jokes about his body. When I’m sleepy, I wish he’d just shut up. Sometimes, I’m upset about something else but I lash out at him just because he is handy and nearby. Sometimes my mind is down right negative. Sometimes I do something nice for him and he doesn’t notice. I slowly get mad inside and then pick at him.

Small dislikes, unkind observations and causal negativities are actually all small little hates. That’s not love! Despite all my good intentions to be fully 100% in love, I causally unload small hate on my lover all day long.
I start to really watch my nagging self. I begin to speak to myself, “Oh, there I go again. Oh, there goes another one…” Oh boy! For the first time, I notice how much I complain. I go on and on, all day long, endlessly. Poor fellow!

After a while, I can catch the thought before it comes out of my mouth. Instead of speaking out loud, I keep it to myself.

“Fuuuuckkkkkakakaaaa!” I literally cover my own mouth before the swear word comes out. It must be funny to see a woman wrestling her own mouth.

At first, it doesn’t feel very good. The Black Witch flips out, “But! But! But I am right and he is wrong! I have to speak up or he’s going to take advantage of me!” I say, “Well, you’re right, but let’s just wait and see. We’re just following him.” Things between us get better by the day: less friction, less fights, less bad times and more loving.

My favorite editing teacher at UCLA, Ed Brokaw, used to tell us, “Cut out the bad parts and the movie will be less bad.” I must say, this sagely advice for editing a movie also works for life.

Thus the train ride across America’s heartland becomes a joyride.

We step off the train. We’re in The Big Easy.

Otis and I decide to write a book together. I will tell a story and he will write it down. Working together – what a good way to spend our days!

We sit down in the most beautiful coffee shop located within a great community. The charming place is buzzing with life and brimming with the wonderful aroma of gluten-free donuts and soy lattes. Otis is in a great mood and I’m feeling very pleasant.

We settle into our seats with our hot drinks and hot goodies. He opens his computer and I begin telling him the story of my journey to Colorado last winter. I stayed in a little town call Ouray and journeyed to Crestone. The place that most impressed me was Crestone so I begin my story there.

He says, “Why Crestone? You should start with Ouray.”

I say, “Ouray was impressive, but Crestone really moved me so…”

He says, “Begin at the beginning. You went to Ouray first.”

I say, “No!” The thought of beginning where I don’t want to feels like sandpaper on my raw skin. Bloody hell! No! You little prick! Telling me what to write?! I give him the evil eye. In my imagination, the Black Witch slaps the table, gets up and leaves him sitting there alone and dumbfounded. But then I distinctly feel the observer say, “Uh-oh!”

I remember: I’m letting him lead these next six months. Isn’t the essence of this collaboration that two diametrically opposing forces merge together? Does that mean that I should start the story in Ouray? Let me give this a try…

I put on a fake smile and pretend to be pleasant. I say, “Why yes, let’s start with Ouray.” I can feel the Black Witch itching to yell; my throat actually hurts. I cough to clear my throat and begin, “Tippi and I were in the car going to Ouray…”
He interrupts and says, “No, you should not begin with the car drive. The story begins with your hike in the snow…”

“This situation is not going away,” the Prostitute says. I do not react with anger, but how does not being angry solve a real issue between us? This conflict has plagued us from day one: we are two people who want to work together but are diametrically opposing forces. We can’t work together! I feel like crying.

That’s when the miracle happens!

Otis says, “You look like you wanna cry?” I guess I’m not as good at disguising the Black Witch as I thought. My man continues, “Okay, obviously you hate me telling you how to write your story. Why don’t we split up: you write in the morning when you’re full of energy and I’ll look at your writing in the afternoon when I get up. Then we can have dinner and visit the sights.”

Brilliant! This arrangement works quite well. In one instant, my “issues” with his sleeping schedule are solved. From that day on, we never really work on the same thing at the same time but on the whole, we collaborate as a team. This book in your hands is a testimony to it.

They say that if you “take care of the small things that you can take care of, the big things will disappear.” They are so right!

After New Orleans, we travel to Florida and stay with Otis’s cousin, Randy, and his wife. They own a beautiful house surrounded by a large property.

Otis really digs my new motto, so he wants to make a video of us lip-syncing the classic song I Will Follow Him.

I want to lip-sync the song while Otis dances. Otis thinks I can’t remember lyrics, which is true, and so my lips won’t correctly sync. That is not acceptable to him, so he wants to sing while I dance. I think it hardly matters if my lips are correct; I can perform better as a singer and he performs better as a dancer. It’s wrong to have a singer dance and a dancer sing just so the lips can sync properly. While writing can be done in separate places at separate times, singing the same song in a video can’t be done that way. For four days, we can’t come to an agreement. It’s a stalemate. No video.

On the property is a large lake. A patch of grass separates a big lake from a smaller lake. Then comes a dirt road and a small pond. Randy and his wife have a pair of Chinese white swans, a male and female. Every morning, I find the swans swimming in the large lake. By the early afternoon, I find them in the smaller lake and in the late afternoon, they’re in the little pond. By sunset, they head back home to the big lake. The next day the entire process repeats again.

Everyday I watch the two swans in their daily migration from lake, to lake, to pond and back again. The girl always follows the boy harmoniously. They seem to know when it’s time to make a move. This is interesting. The girl swan knows how to let her man lead and she knows how to follow. It’s super easy. One has to give up control and just be. It’s that simple.

I give up and tell Otis that we’ll do it his way. We decide to shoot the video the next day, which will be our last day on Randy’s property.

That morning I am up bright and early while Otis sleeps. I watch the pair of swans swimming in the picture perfect lake. The girl makes a move towards the smaller lake, she waddles on the grass without the boy. The boy sees that she is making a move. He comes running over, runs ahead of her and leads. I follow the pair closely. In the afternoon, the girl swan, again, waddles over to the pond first and again the boy swan runs ahead of her and leads her to pond.

Oh, how interesting! It only appears that he leads when it is  actually her calling the shots. Wow! My mind is blown.

We shoot the video that afternoon by the pond with the pair of swans in the background. We get a good take. The swans don’t like us invading their peace. The boy swan tries to chase us away. The lady swan comes out of the pond and waddles away. He is so busy squawking away at us that he doesn’t see her leave. Suddenly, he realizes that she is gone. He quickly runs after her. When we finish shooting and walk back to the house, the pair is swimming peacefully. Need I say that he appears to be leading her?

The Black Witch says that Otis and I have artistic differences and that the video would be better if we did things my way. This would lead to a disagreement, which would lead to a stalemate. A stalemate means no video. I think a bad video is infinitely better than no video. I can shoot the video in Otis’s way and then later, somehow, make it my way by editing. Leadership is a quality deeper than can be observed. “I will follow him” can mean a lot of things.

The next morning, as we take our leave, I go over to say goodbye to the swans, “Thank you. I will really mull on what you two have taught me.”

Otis is not only very good at finding cheap train and air travel, Otis is also very good at finding good accommodation at a low price. We arrive in Paris and head straight to the good, cheap hotel that Otis found us. We arrive in a district called Bagnolet populated mostly by working class immigrants. This is not the romantic Paris of the movies. Shit! We are so tired that we simply enter. We fall into bed, snuggle tightly and fall asleep. While I can feel that the Black Witch inside me howling, “We’re in Paris, the big fucking capital of love, and we end up in some dinky small cheap motel just like the one across from us in LA.”

The next day is Valentine’s Day. By now, it’s obvious that Valentine’s Day means trouble. That day we take the metro from Bagnolet to the romantic Paris of my dreams. We soak in the sights and sounds, do some great writing together, have a wonderful dinner and come back for the best part of the day: snuggling and sleeping in the nude together.

In this sparsely decorated room, I distinctly feel the presence of my lover in my arms and sink fully into him, feeling his every breath and enjoying his odor. I’m acutely aware of two thoughts: I’m totally in love and this setting is totally unlike fantasy romances.

But most importantly, it’s Valentine’s Day in Paris and we didn’t fight even once.


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