From the Heart:
The Takeaways

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I consider myself a fairly introspective person. I spend too much time in my head. I’m not sure my thoughts are deep. I can only say they are genuine and they are mine. That isn’t to say I’m immune to influence. I’m quick to make conversation with an intelligent stranger because I’m quite thirsty for information and knowledge. While I’ve had the pleasure (yes pleasure!) of making some great acquaintances, which have allowed me to grow in ways unimaginable, the greatest of my growth has taken place inside my head as a real manifestation of the experiences I’ve had. In winding down this time here in Paris, I wanted to take a moment and put pen to paper (literally – I’m only transcribing what was journaled) to memorialize what this has been to me and how I’ve changed as a result. And in the spirit of organization, I’ve thought about it in terms of five takeaways:

There Are Those Who Do and Those Who Don’t and Once You Become One Who Does You Can’t Ever Go Back 

In September 2014, while sitting in what we lawyers call a “war room” in Dallas, Texas, sometime before or after the first days of trial, I made the decision to move to Paris. It was haphazard, as most of my best decisions in life have been. I was desperately sad, bored, and uninspired, and the culmination of many recent experiences had left me with a broken spirit. I felt perpetually enveloped in a cloud of anxiety. Then Paris came to mind and it felt new and fresh and suddenly I was inspired again. So I quit my well-paying job and moved to Paris. I won’t lay claim to adventure, as surely there are people who are far more adventurous. But what I did was do it. I made up my mind about something totally random and I followed through. And so the other day, as I made my way through Saint Germain, across Ile Saint-Louis, and to Le Marais, my favorite Parisian neighborhood, without once having to rely on Google maps, I marveled at the beauty of this city and thought to myself, “I did it.” And now and forever I will be a doer. I’ve had many great ideas about what to do next. All have been inspired, which is the best way to have an idea. But I’m not scared anymore because I know that I’ll settle on one or two or three and I’ll follow through. I can never again go back to being a person who doesn’t. I am now a person who does.

Love is Spontaneous and Instantaneous 

I fell in love one night in June on a day that was most ordinary until it became extraordinary as it unraveled in the most unexpected but disgustingly delightful way. I remember the moment. He was sleeping on my hand and it became numb, which woke me, but then in his sleep he noticed I was conscious and in his unconsciousness, he started to stroke my hair and just like that I thought he could make my hand numb forever and I wouldn’t mind if it meant being physically close to someone who knows how to touch me in a way that makes me feel safe. Sometime in the last year of my life, love became synonymous with safety, and strangely, it’s exactly the way I think it should be. Weeks after this middle of the night hand numbing experience, I met a brilliant man who told me that love is spontaneous and instantaneous and then I stopped feeling ashamed or doubtful because I knew the moment was real. What I don’t know is what will happen. Surely, I have some control, but not all. There are always a gazillion external factors. The thing is, for me, the important part is knowing that the human heart, my human heart, is still ready, and that the experiences I’ve had have not closed it off to the possibility of random, spontaneous, deliciously exciting love. So really, the beauty of the human heart is its openness to vulnerability, even after its been broken a million different ways on a million different days and there is nothing more endearing, nothing quite as strong, as coming back for more pleasure, knowing full well the possibility of pain.

Life Really Does Begin At the End of Your Comfort Zone

I don’t care what anyone says – everything is scary when you are alone, in a foreign place, where you don’t speak the language. Even the terribly mundane things somehow become plagued with fear. The beauty lies in discovering that you have to do them no matter how uncomfortable or scared you are, and when you do, that you can. It doesn’t stop being scary. You just develop a mechanism for dealing with the fear. Every day in Paris has been a day spent hovering on the edge of my comfort zone. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve Never Been So Alone, and I’ve Never Been So Alive 

I came here thinking I cannot be alone anymore. (See here). And I look back now and think, oh yes I can. There is time left still for loneliness. I’ve met many people, many men. I know the feeling of sitting across the table from a handsome gentleman and thinking I’m hopelessly bored and I’d rather be inside my own head, alone, than outside it conversing with you. But still, I know too what it is like to sit across the table from a handsome gentleman and think how do I make this moment last forever. It’s magical. So I’ll keep chasing that magic. And until then, I will revel in the pleasures of my own loneliness because you can feel just as alive in that too, as long as you let yourself. I’ve had days when I haven’t spoken to another human in hours, and I’ll be in a crowded place, lost in my own thoughts, maybe listening to music on my iPod, then I look up and smile at something beautiful, or am struck by a lyric in a song, or by a beautiful little girl stopping to marvel at my duck umbrella hanging out of my handbag, or at the full moon, or at nothing at all except a feeling inside me that I am really fucking alive and it feels really fucking good.

Today Is Wild and It’s Magic and It’s Yours 

I am a creature of comfort and habit. I desperately miss Tuesday and Thursday spin at Equinox, Monday and Wednesday pilates at Pilates Platinum, Friday mani/pedi’s followed by Urth Cafe, froyo, and Ativan, and my Saturday morning ritual. I can’t say I’m not excited to return to that life. But the real growth happens when you leave the comforts of your home, and seek adventures in this wild, wild world. Then one day you find yourself in another universe that could not be farther from your own – from your home – and there is nothing like it. You may have no idea where you are or how the hell you are going to get home, but then you look up and realize it’s the same sun, the same moon, the same world, and the only thing that is truly different is the way you feel. And until you leave, you will never know. Unitl you leave, you will never know.

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From the Closet:
Same Same But Different

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One Teaspoon shorts, Isabel Marant booties and belt, Zara top, Maison Michel hat, Rebecca Minkoff bag

So here we are again in my signatures. And this is my favorite bridge in Paris. I keep coming back to both.

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From the Closet:
California Girl

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One Teaspoon shorts, IRO tank, Zara blazer and heels, Gucci bag, Prada sunnies

I suspected this would happen, so it’s not a surprise, but every time I wear my signature denim cutoffs here in Paris, I get looks – more confused than judging, but looks nonetheless. I did spend a good minute contemplating whether to bring my cutoffs with me to Paris, and the reason I ultimately packed them was because I think it’s important to be who you are, wherever you are. I’m a California girl. Back when I was a child, I remember knocking the shit out of my softball coach because I’d get up to bat and just sit there smiling at the pitcher, so cool, calm, and collected like I had not a care in the world. At this point in my life, I have many cares in the world, but that laid back California cool still shines through – now, mostly with my wardrobe. So basically, I’m living in my One Teaspoons and welcoming the stares. And as much as I love Paris (I really, really, really love Paris), California will always be first in my heart.

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From the Heart:
34

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I remember having a conversation with my mother on her 60th birthday. I asked her if she felt old and she told me that she didn’t at all. Which got me thinking about age. And how every year we celebrate a birthday and we have to tell people we are one year older and with that, it seems, especially as women, we are meant to feel like we have lost some of our value. But really, the most astonishing thing is, no matter what society makes us feel, we are still the same people, only better versions of ourselves. True, we can see the physical manifestations of age. I have baby lines under my eyes that I didn’t have 5 years ago. I can’t quite recover from late night partying the same way I used to – now I’m a little puffy in the face in the mornings. I have to watch my diet more now because I put on weight quicker. And I have to be more vigilant when engaging in strenuous activities because it takes longer to recover from injuries. But these are small things. The big changes happen inside, and you can’t see them, only feel them. I look back at the last 4 years, the ones I’ve spent alone building a life for myself, and I am proud of the woman I have become. Sure I’ve had setbacks – I’ve behaved plenty bad and I’ve punished myself for those times too. But for the most part, I’ve become a person who is brave, adventurous, confident, caring, generous, and strong. I remember back in my mid-20’s when I was working out with a trainer and overly consumed with my body image, I started seeing a nutritionist. She was a woman in her early-40’s, beautiful and confident. After just one meeting she told me that if she could give me one piece of advice, it would be to find my voice. She said that while it was obvious I had a good head on my shoulders, she could tell that I held so much of my true self back. I was shy and reserved in a way that was borne more of fear than nature. She said I would never be truly happy until I learned to embrace my true self and use my voice to show people who I really was. I didn’t know what she meant then. In fact, it didn’t become fully realized until some time after my 30th birthday when I was at dinner in Washington D.C. with my sister and a group of her friends who were strangers to me. I found myself carrying the conversation at the table – making people laugh with my sarcastic sense of humor. And then I had a moment when it became clear I wasn’t the same person I had been in the past, the one who would have sat shyly and only spoken when directly addressed. Slowly, I started seeing the new me more and more often – at work, when making new friends, in social settings. And I realized how right my nutritionist had been – that finding my voice was the best thing to happen to me. The other brilliant thing that comes with age, which I always tell my younger friends who are terrified of entering their 30’s, is that at some point, you just stop worrying about what other people think of you, and you stop apologizing for who you are. It’s something like self-love and it’s beautiful. And once you get there, you start forming more meaningful relationships where people love the real you, not the version of yourself you choose to show them.  I never shy away from telling people my age. I think aging is a splendid adventure. I’m doing things now that I would never have been able to do even 5 years ago, and not because I have the means, but because I have the strength. The changes that happen inside only make life more enjoyable. So with that, I’m welcoming 34 on Friday. I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me! And I’m excited to share it with friends and family who know and love the authentic Gabrielle, the woman who was re-born sometime after she discovered how to use her voice.

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From the Heart:
Just Like That

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“I remember riding in a taxi one afternoon between very tall buildings under a mauve and rosy sky; I began to bawl because I had everything I wanted and knew I would never be so happy again.” Tonight I’m stuck on this F. Scott Fitzgerald quote. Because sometime after I was settled in, and started becoming used to the quiet and peace of being alone all the time, I stopped thinking so much about what I left behind, and instead, starting thinking about not much of anything at all. I started living. And then one day, in the last few weeks, I realized I was blissfully happy. To be sure, my life is as unsettled as it has ever been. I don’t have a job. I have no idea what I’m going to do for income when I get back. I spend like I’m still generously compensated as an attorney. But the brilliant thing is, I don’t care. I really don’t care. I’m happy. That weight that laid heavy on my shoulders for almost a decade is gone. Everything is light. I don’t have any important decisions to make. Only what I’m going to do when I wake up each morning, and not even that really, because most of the time, the day just unfolds naturally. It’s like I’m now living in what used to be the spaces in between. Yesterday, I sat on the metro and watched a father blow raspberries on his little girl. Listening to her giggle brought me all kinds of simple delight. In my last life, that moment would have been a space in between – stolen by the distraction of where I was headed and the stress of getting there on time. Every day, I walk the streets of Paris, stopping to look up and admire the beautiful architecture, the flowers hanging from the balconies, the perfectly trimmed trees. Another former space in between. When I first arrived, I stood in line for over an hour at Le Marche des Enfants Rouge for a sandwich I had read about on some website (Chez Alain – well worth the wait)! When it was finally my turn, I was greeted by the most pleasant French man who snuck me a couple of beignets for dessert because he was so delighted to make the acquaintance of a Californian – it reminded him of his newborn granddaughter in San Francisco who he has yet to meet. Even if the sandwich wasn’t delicious, I would not have regretted the wait for the lovely exchange we had. Space in between. Life is happening everywhere. Happiness is happening everywhere. And you sort of miss it when you’re stuck too much in your head worrying about a deadline that really matters nothing at all in the grand scheme of the universe. What really matters is that you only get one of these. And 365 days go by awfully fast. Decades go by awfully fast, too. Strange, how time flies by, but happiness sometimes takes time to arrive. Well loves, I’ve arrived. And it is nothing short of a privilege and a pleasure to be here.

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