JUNE 6, 2008. “Shedding My Skin” …

SHED MY SKIN

I am not alone. I live with the memories, regret is my home. This is my true freedom. Express all the feelings of what I’ve become. I watch the rising sun. I hope I find some peace today. It seems I’ve gone away. It seems I’ve lost myself, it seems I’ve really lost my way. It seems I’ve lost myself, it seems I’ve shed my skin. Are you ready for me to purge my love? Are you ready for me? A bitter sinking feeling. Awake to the fact there’s no going back to this world in which I was living. I’m searching for something but found less than nothing. {Alter Bridge}

Everyone was packing for the journey home the following morning, but I was still on pins and needles. Since my bags were already packed I decided to take a walk down to the water in an attempt to clear my head one last time before heading home. On the way down the boulevard in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer I met up with our tour guide, Adoram, who was heading back to our hotel after having apparently been out with our bus driver, Pierre.

Adoram was an Israeli man whom everyone on tour quickly fell in love with. He was a lovely man who seemed genuinely concerned with the human condition. It was clear to all of us that he fervently loved not only the country but more so his job in sharing it. When he spoke about the things we were seeing, he wasn’t working from a script he’d memorized. His musings clearly came from a place of deep adoration and love of France. He had even managed to capture the attention of the teenage boys that had been the reason for our trip. This was a feat of tremendous magnitude, because as you can imagine, your average teenage boy wants as much to do with the history of some strange country than waking up at 7:00 a.m. in the middle of their summer vacations in the first place. We had spoken often while on the tour, and on several occasions had commented that I seemed even “farther away” than the trip itself. “How are you?” He had asked me that same question many times, but I would just change the subject. I didn’t want to become too heavy and truly wanted to stay immersed in the experience.

This night again Adoram had caught me going down hill enroute to the water’s edge around 9 o’clock while he and Pierre were heading back up. He wanted to know where I was going and wasn’t at all comfortable with my decision to walk to the waterfront alone. So he turned to Pierre, uttered something in French, then turned to follow me back down the hill. “Well Cat, I’m not thrilled with you out here alone in the dark like this, so you can go and sit by the water as long as you like but I’m afraid I’ll be joining you.” After much reluctance on my part and much coaxing on his and after having repeatedly insisted that my evening stroll was for sightseeing purposes only, we finally began talking for what seemed like days about life in general and then about the things that had me “staring so far out the window” of the bus each day. He was such a good listener, never once interrupting my sentences or thoughts, and in fact was quite easy to talk to. “What’s really bothering you, Cat”, is what he insisted on knowing. So I talked, then cried, drank Sambuca, then cried, then talked, then cried, then breathed, then finished.

When I was done telling him all of the things that “were bothering me”, he fixed his gaze to the shoreline in contemplation of just the right words to say. He looked like a deer that had been truly caught in someone’s headlights and he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it all. “Okay”, I said, “this is the part where you pat me on the back and tell me how beautiful my life is now though!”  Still, no response. He was contemplating. “And”, I continued, “this is where most would probably tell me that everything is going to be okay and that everything happens for a reason!”  But then he turned to me and spoke the words I never knew I’d needed to hear:

No Catherine, none of this is okay and none of this may ever be okay. You have had some HUGELY rotten shit happen to you and I can hardly believe that you are still here to talk about it!

Adoram Schneidleder, my beautiful Israeli tour guide, the first to help me shed my skin on the coast of France in the wee hours of the dawn. I’d begun to find my voice. As we walked back up to the hotel that morning I felt lighter than I had in what felt like a century. It was a sensation I couldn’t quite relate to but yet somehow it felt so good. He hugged me before I headed up to my room, I thanked him profusely and told him that I felt as though I was about to have a truly restful sleep for what was left of the morning, and as anticipated, I did! I laid my head down on the pillow and closed my eyes for the first time in years and drifted peacefully to sleep! No drugs, no alcohol, NO ANESTHESIA. Nothing to medicate my slumber. I fell asleep on my own and awoke from that peaceful sleep, tired yes, but refreshed and alive.

The hotel lobby was frantic that morning with clamoring of suitcases and travelers ready to get back home. Adoram was busy answering questions, directing traffic and saying his goodbyes. It felt a little uneasy with him at that point, as I wasn’t exactly sure how he may have received and digested our conversation just hours earlier and was a bit uneasy to approach him. It had only been a couple of hours since he had brazenly walked through the gauntlet of my mind and he had to have thought I was insane. When we got to the airport though and immediately after he hugged me goodbye, he handed me an envelope with this note inside:

Dear Cat: Since on tour there are not many moments for communication, and tomorrow we probably won’t get the chance, I decided to write you a note. Your story – that you shared with me last night – is huge. I did not at any point feel that you were being either inconsiderate, selfish or just “needy” by sharing it with me. And, if having “unloaded” some weight with me has helped you see things clearer, then I actually feel honored to have been able to help. No fears whatsoever. And I hope you will sleep as well tonight as you did last night and that you will continue this way forever. I understand that it was important to unload – and probably being in a foreign country and doing with a stranger who would listen was the best way. I’m happy to have been that person for you. You have gone through some real heavy shit. Don’t ever forget it! And, don’t lose to consciousness of your inner strength. You have it – it’s there! Don’t forget to take care of yourself – of your needs and desires – while you give everything you have to your family. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of them. I am sure they love and need you. I know Christian does. I can see it in his eyes and in the way that he looks at you. Take care of yourself girl! You’re a wonderful woman and you’ve got lots to give others and to yourself! It was a pleasure meeting you!  Adoram