You Can't Bring Him Home
Awe ... an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful...
From the CIA agent, retired from the field as a cover operative at the young age of 36, to my friend, Co-Founder of Lean In who spearheaded an entire global movement, to my daughter, smart, talented and brave, to my new friends who I am not sure I will see again, but will always consider them my friend, who can count on me if they need anything... Tomas and Stare, it was a pleasure. And thanks to Instagram we can share and connect daily.
Meet Stare, Oakland Native and Talented Graffiti Artist, Age 46
He is on dialysis. I share this only to highlight that we need a cure, for this and so many other diseases. Dementia and Alzheimer's, seem to be part of my daily conversation these days, rearing their ugly head. So many cures are needed, so much to do. A scientist I am not, a word smith, perhaps.
It always excites me when I become in awe of someone or something. That means I am learning something new or experiencing something I haven't before.
This early morning at 4 am, the same approximate time I have been waking up these dayscompelled me to rise. It happens quite often. Something pops into my head that I cannot shake, and must explore. So I rise.
The quote, "all those who wander are not lost." is ruminating and has been for the past few weeks.
That's me in Saint Tropez at the Hotel Byblos photo captured by either my husband Adam or daughter, Bianca. A wonderful family trip to one of my favorite places on earth.
I oftentimes say that about myself, however loosely. I may wander a bit but nothing like my daughter and "The Artist" I recently had the pleasure to meet and get to know. I pale in comparison. One of the reasons I enjoy meeting people so much is to hear their stories and learn of their bravery, many overcoming obstacles that oftentimes bring me to tears. Bianca always knows when I am on the verge. And she gives me that stare and says, "Don't start crying!"
"Okay Chloe", I reply. (Bianca has a mean streak like Chloe K., a matter of fact, direct and snappy attitude when directed towards her mum.) I hate to highlight it , but one of the reasons I went blonde for a moment is I am often told, more thenI like, that I resemble Kris K. It is funny when we are together, we have a similar way about us.
As I was discussing with my girlfriend the concept of my new book, I explained how I just love to hear the stories of everyone I meet - where they came from, what life is, or was like and where they are now.
After I said it she commented, "it wasn't you who had the normal upbringing, you actually were the one with the abnormal upbringing." From a family of four, one sibling, a younger brother, a father and mother who adore one another and are still married today, over 50 years and still going strong. I lived in the same town from age 3 until our own children graduated from my same high school. Don't get me wrong, I did leave, went to college and lived elsewhere for a time, but like a slingshot, I came back, as I always do.
So describing my upbringing as "normal" or "Traditional" I have learned through the stories of many, was actually a needle in a haystack. The Non-Traditional is now the Traditional - from single parents, gay couples, mixed race marriages, siblings living with different parents, some in foster care and some on the street. It saddens me deeply, and that is one of the reasons why I do what I can with my various charities I support and people that I meet. ( Take a read through my Blog about Tashawna - a beautiful experience.)
But this is what intrigues, and inspires me, each and every day. Whether assisting through my charity work or hearing stories of recovery and bravery of those I meet at home or when traveling.
It's as if a light bulb goes on, or is it, a light bulb goes off.... I have a insatiable desire to learn, to understand, to process and share. The mindset of one person to the next is of interest to me.
Three people came to mind this morning, and there are so many more I could write about, which will be detailed in my latest book, "Cocktails and Conversation"... working title. Shhh
I am continually in awe of our daughter, Bianca. Although her upbringing wasn't so different then mine, she is much braver and much more confident then I ever was or am, even now. Sure she is still growing and learning and gaining even more confidence and strength as she wades through her new life as a young adult recently out of college, now living it up in New York, no less.
Bianca has traveled the world and seen things my eyes have not, nor could my sensitive heart tolerate. Tears, no doubt would burst at the seams, it's just something that ignites within me and spills out. It's not something I am able to control. It was at the young age of 9 when Bianca began her journey. (While our son Chase was home that summer with our Spanish exchange student, Ruben. Neither Ruben or Chase could speak the others language, however, they were able to communicate, sitting side by side, elbow to elbow, as they played video games, the universal language.)
At that time no one knew Bianca's zest for adventure would continue from the young age of 9 and carry her throughout her life. She relished in the pleasure of experiencing new ways of life, much different then her own, enjoying every moment, no matter the accommodations.
Here's where we differ, from my own daughter, to "The Artist" and the Graffiti Artist, I recently had the pleasure of meeting.
Comment noted on her image above posted by her dear lifelong friend Marie: "Bianca Betta, you surely got your sense of adventure from your dad Adam Betta." (I may wander, but my surroundings and accommodations are always 5 star. I am simply honest, I wish I had it in me to attend Burning Man, or help out in a third world country building homes, it's just not in my DNA.)
Bianca went on to travel Africa, South East Asia, Japan, New Zealand, Fiji, Ecuador, Australia. She does, of course, enjoy an elegant 5 Star hotel or resort, fine linens and room service as she has become accustomed, but my girl is just as happy in a mosquito covered hammock in the jungle on the Amazon outside of Quito, Ecuador. Her experiences never cease to amaze me. Awe. She always leaves me 'in awe.'
Every year from 9 years old, on up, Bianca traveled and experienced other communities, countries, cultures and ways of life. I know we share a similar interest in meeting new people although we may have a different perspective. When she was living in that small village on the Amazon, so far from civilization as we know it, I asked her, Bianca, "aren't the people sad?" "Doesn't it make you sad to see how they live?" The conditions did not look good from what I could see in her photographs. She replied, as both kids always do, with an emphasis on MOM... "Mom, they are happy, they don't know any better." "It's their home."
She was 13 years old when my young daughter shared those wise words.
I refer back to her matter-off-fact statement quite often. More then you might think.
Which takes me to 'The Artist'. I met 'The Artist' in LA. It was so outside the box it bares explanation. I Direct Messaged (DM) 'The Artist' on Instagram. Having learned about Direct Messaging by accident, as I oftentimes do. Not unlike the title of an article that was written about me appropriately named, "Accidentally With Purpose."
I was in LA to attend an Oscar Viewing Party in Bel Air. I opted not to set up a table and gift my books to the celebrities but suggested I would be more valuable and it would be more enjoyable for me to help and find volunteers. I prefer the art of orchestration... movement and coordination, and connecting and bringing people together, to sitting, confined to a table talking about myself and my books. I preferred to ask questions of others and learn their stories not hear mine.
As my new friend and I sat sipping Champagne at the Beverly Hills Hotel I asked, "how can I help?" She rolled off a list. Since the event was also for her charity, Andy Transplant Foundation, an organization who seeks to make it viable for anyone in need of an organ to obtain one. Her brother died when the hospital did not have enough room to accommodate the two surgeries due to lack of beds in the ICU. They had the organ, but not the beds. It's quite difficult to imagine. With that, the word, awareness came to mind and I suggested, "How about I see if I can get 'The Artist' to attend, I can see from Instagram that he is in Venice, and has over 56,000 followers, a great way to broaden your story." I immediately Direct Messaged 'The Artist', what did we have to lose? To my surprise, he promptly replied. Not only did he agree to attend but would donate a sculpture to the auction since it was for charity.
Tomas, 'The Artist' born in France, raised in Luxembourg has a story that directs me back to the quote, "Not all those who wander are lost." Tomas quite literally wanders the world meeting new people, while showcasing, connecting and creating his art. When asked, as I always do, "where do you live?" "Where are you from." Tomas replied, "I have no home, I travel." Which completely made the statement, "Not all those who wander are lost" irrelevant and almost laughable when I attribute that quote to myself. As mentioned, I am like a sling shot, I go out hard and come back fast, just as hard. Just like a rubber band. Rarely have I traveled alone, maybe twice in my entire life, and never far. I have found brief moments of braveness, but then I return or retract. The two times I traveled alone, I was not really on my own, as I was in the safety of a 5 Star Hotel with multiple staff to take care of my every need or whim, just a phone call away. I always travel with a family member or friend who is typically a babysitter watching over me. But Tomas told us that he has no home. -in the traditional sense. His mail is sent to his grandmother's house in Luxembourg. Of course, my 'mom' instincts where misfiring and I was stunned. He went on to tell me about his family life, but that is for another time, after I gain permission to share. What was so interesting and so different than myself or my life, is that he seems to be at home, wherever he goes. Very similar to Bianca - Bianca Home New York... she is comfortable no matter where she travels, near or far.) Be that Los Angeles or New York, Cape Town South Africa or Miami. Like Bianca, Tomas is free, unconstrained and most definitely un-contained. From our differences in culture, upbringing and age I would have thought we would have nothing in common nor would he be comfortable or interested in attending the Oscar party in Bel Air. He was young, and free, yet not wild, and much, much wiser beyond his years.
Below is the Sculpture Tomas donated to Susan's charity, the Andy Transplant Foundation, in the living room of the Bel Air home where the Oscar Viewing Gala was held. Pictured below the Universal Humanity Sculpture is Tomas, photographed around the world... Rome, Tokyo and Luxembourg.
Like Bianca, the two from completely different backgrounds yet both the innate ability to find themselves comfortable in any situation, like chameleons. Bianca doesn't feel sorry or sad for people who may have less, or have a burning desire to help them like her mom, me. From Bianca's perspective, they are happy. That is what they know, and they are proud. She engages and walks side by side with them no matter who they are or where they came from. I don't know if it was my safe, secure and "normal" upbringing or that I am a mom and want to care for, and save everyone, whether a boyfriend whose famous father was abusive beyond imagination, or our butler at the One and Only Hayman Island, or Tomas, 'The Artist' who wanders and explores the world without the safety net of a home base or what I call, a traditional support system.
My husband always responds, after I tell him about someone I have met, (he can always tell when I speak in this endearing tone that washes over me and has heard many times before) ... "You can't bring him (or her) home." But it is just something inside of me that ignites within, and a desire that I need to care for this person, show them love and kindness, and what I think is normal, which I have learned, is not. And really, they don't need my help at all. As Bianca tries her best to impress upon me, they are fine.
We all wander in our own way, some don't go quite so far and others have the ability and confidence to spread their wings to the ends of the earth. I admire those like Bianca and Tomas, I know I will never be that person, but hearing their stories and learning of their journey is truly a gift.
I can't finish my Blog without sharing a quick story of Stare. Stare is a graffiti artist in Oakland. I discovered his stunning work as I was returning to my car from my appointment at The SHINE Center with Dr. Liz. As I always am compelled to do, I snapped a photo of this brilliant image and immediately uploaded it to Instagram and tagged #SonOfDaCity, the signature I noticed at the bottom of the painting. Not long after, I had a comment on my Post that said, "Thank you, that is mine." Interested in the art and the man, I went on to meet him. I Direct Messaged "the Graffiti Artist" and met up with him a few weeks later.
I am trying to expand my reach, to connect with others to whom I am in awe or just want to get to know. Perhaps I noticed them on Instagram or connected with via work or a variety of other situations I find myself in. The world is so big, yet so small.
I am certainly in awe of my daughter who now resides in New York after graduating CU Boulder, having lived in Australia, traveled New Zealand solo, and into South East Asia with her friend; I am awe inspired by Tomas who lives his life freely and openly, wise beyond his 29 years who can fit in comfortably to any situation with ease sharing his story and his art; and I enjoyed meeting and hearing Stare's story while watching him paint. I love how connections are made, the serendipity and chance meetings of life. I learned of Tomas only after I posted and used the #hashtag #graffitiart which lead me to artist, Andrew Salgado, who had an @ sign to Tomas Iser. Watch out Andrew, here I come.
I don't know if it's just me, but I love to, Live In Wonder, meeting and connecting with people along the way.
So much to see, so much to do and so many people to meet.
Off to, or back to LA I should say, but only for the weekend, only as far as my sling shot will allow, before I am propelled back to the safety and comfort of my own home.
And I do know, I cannot bring those I meet home with me. They are well and okay, they are even better then okay, they have survived and endured and many go on and have gone on to do great things. To them, my happiness or way of life may feel restricted or constricted. I have learned and continue to learn, we each have a path, a journey we are on, and that's what makes us interesting and unique and what intrigues me most.
What I understand more clearly now, is that there really is no normal or Traditional family, or way to live.
And so it is! Ho! As my first Feng Shui Guru always said. And So It Is, Ho!
Revelation: As I was making coffee, 3 hours since I began writing this Blog, while slathering butter and jam on my toast, it occurred to me, "my son had grown up just like me." No that wasn't it, but that line in the song is wonderful. Cats in the Cradle. You know it.
Okay, back to my revelation. I love the quote taken from my daughters friend, "I live vicariously through myself." It is so pertinent. I highly entertain myself, alone, humming and singing and talking to, yours truly. What occurred to me, is that although I do not travel like my daughter or Tomas, or put myself in uncomfortable surroundings, I mean, a 4 Star Hotel is well, I won't say, but it's not my ideal situation. I have been known to tear up when checking into a hotel less then what was expected... But the one thing my dad always say, if you don't like it change it. Be a job or a hotel, unfortunately I have impressed that on our kids. But the good news is, they get embarrassed if I upgrade, or make a fuss, and they are perfectly happy either way. (I am not.) My kids are awesome! Brag Brag Brag as my friend and travel companion Aunt Janette likes to chant. When her and I and my mother and sister-in-law went to Cuba, it was by yacht, a small luxury yacht, but it was still not perfect, although the Greek sailors were!
And again, back to my revelation. I may not travel for long periods of time, or to remote locations or go it alone ( never ! ) but I do travel through the minds of others, and enjoy every moment of their stories.
I feel their experiences deeply in my soul.
I am .. and I do ... wander, to a degree, but am not lost, either.
PS. Oh, did I mention, my family is not normal. We are hand waving Sicilians who interrupt one another and do not listen. Oh, I am working on it, the listening part, but not the hands. Italians, well Southern Italians are just passionate people. XOXO! Love us or leave us. You probably have Italian friends of your own, or as seen in the movies, we are passionate people, well meaning people, and quite possibly, care to a fault.