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Archive for the ‘Breaking Up’ Category

As I mentioned in last Tuesday’s post I am kicking off this year’s sales and marketing efforts by offering four free chapters (one a week) of Any Color but Beige to my blog readers. Over the last year, readership and subscriptions have increased dramatically. I hope that by giving my new readers a preview of the book I can entice them to buy it, read it, and recommend it to their friends.

The book is closely linked to my career as an international color marketing expert, so I structured the book according to my life’s personal color spectrum. The four colorful sections that make up the book are Primary Colors, Color Blind, True Colors, and Exotic Colors.

Last week, I offered a chapter from the Primary Colors section, and today it’s a chapter from Color Blind. Entitled “Bleeding Hearts,” it focuses on the wake-up call that made me take stock of my life, and then trade in all of the safe neutral tones that colored my existence for a more bold and daring personal palette.

“True Colors,” next week’s free chapter, is all about rediscovering myself and adding color back into my life in ways I could never have imagined. This chapter gave me the book’s subtitle – Living Life in Color.

Finally, in the last installment you will read all about the Exotic Color that was the genesis of this book.

And so – here is “Bleeding Hearts.”   Chapter 10

photo: © istockphoto.com/avdeev007

You know it’s over when you stop talking

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I have always prided myself on the fact that, when in a relationship of any kind, I have never sacrificed a friend for a man. I have never cancelled a night out with the girls in favor of a last-minute date. I have never responded to text messages during dinner and interrupted the smooth flow of a conversation. Nor have I ever disappeared for weeks or months at a time to lavish all my time and attention on a man – I am not that kind of girl.

That kind of girl…

Or so I thought…

For several months now, instead of writing this blog, I spent those precious hours in a daily and dedicated correspondence to a long-distance (and distant) lover. A lover who, I might add, also has some literary aspirations. Aspiration is a good word, because I could literally feel his aspirations sucking the creativity and life out of my own writing and observations. As I channeled my time and creative energy over to him I had less to spend on myself. In addition, as his “editor,” I spent a great deal of time propping up his ego. This is essential in a vocation that is riddled with insecurity and angst. Just ask my editor.

So, in a sense, I abandoned both my readers and my muse for him. And having done so, I was afraid I had lost both. I was afraid that my readers, tired of waiting around for a new post, had gone off to read other writers’ blogs and that my muse had gone to whisper words into other writers’ ears.

But after a week of steadily blogging and receiving a warm “welcome back,” I have learned that this is not so. And, as I sit in my hotel room in Paris, I am reading all of your wonderful comments and feeling my muse pacing the floor, pausing every few minutes in search of a perfect word to place on the page.

After such a long absence I was also afraid I had lost my rhythm, my words, and that panicky pleasure I get when I write regularly. The same doubts plague the actor, musician, or athlete who, after a long absence, returns to the public stage and asks herself, Can I do it again? Will I be as good? What if I choke?

Writing is, like most things, a profession you have to practice – a lot – if you want to be good at it. The less I practiced, the farther away I got from writing this blog and the closer I came to shutting it down.

That was, until I had a conversation with my editor, Melva McLean, who reminded me that I was still writing every day, just a different kind of writing but writing none the less. It was to an audience of one – my lover. At the same time I was writing to him I was able to see  the tentative first steps it takes for someone else to tell a story.

I could see myself in him and how I too started with the easy stuff. It was the expository, the superficial, the description and the reportage of daily life. Not bad if you wanted to be a working journalist but dull as dirt if you want to tell a story.

I remember when I started writing Any Color but Beige how I rested on the surface of my experience and feelings. I was afraid to go any deeper to plumb the emotional depths that gave my story its joy and sadness – its life. The thought of sharing that part of me with strangers caused my heart to race. I suppose that’s why it took two years.

Over dinner one night Melva said something about great writing that haunts me. She said, “The best stories break your heart.” And she’s right.

My book was born out of heartbreak. The story broke my heart, and writing it as truthfully as possible, with all of the messy wonderful emotions that went with it, helped to heal that heart.

I tried to explain this concept to my lover. I gave him some examples of great writers who bared their souls and risked opening themselves up to ridicule and judgment in the name of great writing, who paid a price but created great works in the process. But he prefers to go through life skimming the surface.

He certainly skimmed the surface of my life. Our relationship had all of the depth of a puddle. The up side to this is that although he may have nicked my heart he certainly didn’t break it. So I must be getting better at this relationship thing. On the other hand ours was not the kind that breaks your heart. It was more like reportage. And I will leave him to write that, since he’s so good at it.

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Last week I was the guest speaker at the Montreal Chroma-Zone meeting of the Color Marketing Group. My topic was how to create a personal color palette. I noted, and rightly so, that as color marketing professionals we’re so busy adding color to other peoples’ lives we sometimes forget to add color to our own. A short survey of the room proved me right.

My talk focused on the metaphorical use of color in your life or, to put it another way, how to decorate your soul. The best way to do this is to get out of your comfort zone, to shift out of your safe neutral, “beige” existence and take some chances.

Of course if you give a speech like this, you have to show your audience that you practice what you preach. And, so, I told them about three things I did this summer.

The first thing I did was to get my “glam” on. I treated myself to a photography session to experience the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Era when stars like Hayworth, Gardner, Garbo and Dietrich ruled the red carpet.

Get your glam on…

It’s amazing what good lighting and a little makeup can do for a girl. I did this for me but I am happy to share a photo with you. Notice the purple gown and the red lips.  This is one combination I would never have put together myself, but it has become one of my favorite go-to color combinations for special occasions. Now, whenever I need a little pick me up, I look at one of the pictures and then get dressed, i.e., get my glam on and go out with the girls. It works wonders.

My next colorful summer adventure was in the kitchen. I treated a friend to a lesson at a wonderful little cooking school in Old Montreal called Ateliers et Saveurs. Check out this colorful salad composé of corn, red pepper and cucumber dressed with a spicy Tabasco dressing. The only thing more colorful than the salad is my dress – a lively mixed pattern of salmon, rose, red and black swirls. Both the dish and me were hot stuff.

I rounded out my tales of my summer color by confessing to a dalliance with a much younger man which, while it was all too brief, was rendered unforgettable with a melody he composed just for me. One friend who heard the melody said that it captured me perfectly. Whenever I listen to it, I see the pastel colors of a Parisian sunset, all soft and pretty. And I wonder if that was how he saw me? And if, when he wrote it, he was thinking about last spring and Paris and our long walks by the Seine. I wonder if that melody colors his memories the way it colors mine.

Katja’s (Cat’s) Melody

And now we’re coming into one of the most colorful seasons of all – at least in my neck of the woods – fall.  For those of you lucky enough to experience a change of seasons, now would be the perfect time to kick back with a cup of coffee and contemplate the colors you can add to your own personal palette. And for those of you located in a more consistent climate, remember you don’t need a change of seasons to inspire your own personal color palette. All you need is a change of mind. It doesn’t matter whether your personal palette is bright and bold, or pastel and pretty, because color is a choice. And if you don’t like it, you can always change it.

In the meantime, own it, wear it, live it!

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As you read in the previous post, sometimes I  want to shake off those good girl shackles and be “bad,” if only for a little while. And the perfect opportunity seems to present itself once a year in the form a handsome Brazilian pilot who shows up at my door during  the Montreal Formula One Grand Prix.

It’s the 21st century version of the play/movie Same Time Next Year but without the same emotional intimacy experienced by the principal characters, George and Doris, who meet every year for 24 years, sharing the ups and downs of their lives in a brief but intense weekend. Over time, you see how they grow individually and as a “couple.”

For the past seven years the pilot and I have passed through a smattering of weekends of mostly style and no substance and very little sharing. We as a couple seem to be stuck in a moment – the moment we first met.

Shallow you think? Absolutely. On the other hand there is no danger of drowning in something more profound, in a sea of those roiling emotions that framed our first summer together as friends and lovers. Now it’s safer for us to tread water in the shallow end of the sea of love. It’s less scary for him (he can’t swim) and less frustrating for me (forever throwing a lifeline to a drowning man).

But it’s the capacity to accept our relationship limitations that keeps us friends. We have an unspoken agreement that lets us honor the past without burdening the future with expectations. That agreement keeps us in contact throughout the year and enables us to share travel schedules in the hopes that someday our paths would cross on a bit more regular basis. But they never do. When I’m in Paris he’s in Palm Springs, when I’m in Beijing he’s in Barcelona – even with all that international travel our paths only cross here, in Montreal.

I don’t think it coincidental at all that Michael Buble’s song “Home” hit the top of the charts the year the pilot and I met. It defined us then and it defines us now.  It’s the stay/go paradox we both share.  And I know that when he turns up at my door with a box of dark chocolate covered strawberries and good Grand Cru like he did last weekend he finally feels at home and so do I…if only for a little while.

photo: © istockphoto.com/Yuri_Acurs

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Solo travel is wonderful in so many ways. It forces me out of my comfort zone. And it gives me an opportunity to see, do or try new things. It’s as freeing as it is terrifying.

The downside to solo travel is the occasional bout of loneliness tinged with a hint of melancholy, especially when returning to some of those places that are haunted ghosts of lovers past. This is sometimes unavoidable when many of these places coincide with business – and the catch-as-catch-can of trysts in transit.

Room service on the 18th floor of the Hyatt in Chicago with the sun breaking over Navy Pier – coffee, croissants and intense conversation – now gives way to a mocha latte grande gulped down in the back of a taxi careering down Michigan Avenue. Champagne toasts to a bejeweled Paris at midnight are, these days, all too easily satisfied with a handful of almonds and a diet soda. And the magic of Athenian nights are transformed into mundane evenings of emails as usual.

No matter how many years pass, nostalgia creeps up on me just when I think I’ve made peace with my past. I was the kind of kid who liked to pick at scabs, so it doesn’t surprise me when I overindulge myself in a little bit of romantic reverie. Try as I might, it seems I can run but I can’t hide. Sometimes I don’t want to run or hide – such is the perverse nature of bittersweet memories.

This time, it all started innocently enough with a recent stop in the duty free. I love the smell of duty free. Have you ever noticed how they all smell the same the world over? They should bottle that scent. To me it represents freedom and a world of adventure just beyond the next boarding gate. You never know what to expect.

And so it was at the duty free that I came face to face with Ewen McGregor on a poster promoting the Davidoff fragrance – Adventure. It brought back the scent of a certain Swede – the Swede of the Chicago breakfast. And you know what they say about scent and memory…

Blue Paris

The second close encounter with sentimentality came in Paris when I decided to trade in my soda for a little bottle of white wine from the mini-bar. It was ’round midnight, when I turned on some Paris easy listening and was greeted by the sexy and sultry voice of Luther singing “If Only for One Night” just for me. I had pulled open the curtains to look at the impressive array of buildings dotting the skyline of La Defense. As I stared at my reflection in the giant window I knew I wanted just one more night with a certain jazz musician across town who was probably seducing someone else with the dulcet tones from his trumpet…playing just for her as he once did for me.

With spring showers and lightning strikes on the horizon, I’m reminded of a certain summer night in Athens. It was here that I learned lightning can indeed strike twice – especially if you test the gods. As lightning danced on the hills surrounding the Acropolis, I had challenged Aphrodite and paid for my insouciance. Okay I said, “This is your town, show me what you got.”

Ha! The words were barely out of my mouth when she did just that. I can imagine the laugh she shared with Ares as they looked down on me struggling with my feelings for not one but two men who appeared almost magically out of nowhere in the garden of a local restaurant called Balthazar.

Girlfriends would later ask half seriously: why not both? While the thought briefly crossed my mind I knew it was impossible, each one beautifully rendered like temple statues – today everywhere I look in Greece I see them – Castor and Pollux, each one so different than the other. One would feed my body and the other would feed my mind. To choose one over the other would be to drive a wedge between friendships old and new.

And so, like the proverbial starving donkey that had to choose between two bales of hay, each one appearing more appetizing than the other, I went hungry. Once flesh and blood, they have now turned to stone.

Stray memories and Greek gods aside, when it comes to love, I think Shakespeare’s Puck said it best in A Midsummer’s Night Dream: “Lord what fools these mortals be.” I guess when it comes to love I am and will forever be a fool for love.

photo: © istockphoto.com/matthewleesdixon

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Many years ago, I stumbled headlong into an intense affair with a handsome but unavailable Swede. I clearly recall walking down Michigan Avenue arguing both sides of the debate with myself, the yes / no of it all. I still hadn’t made up my mind when later that day I bumped into a male friend, who, sensing my dilemma, offered the following advice, “It’s the things you don’t do that you end up regretting.”

Looking back over the years and weighing up the have done with the have not done, I can honestly say that I feel a greater sense of regret for those things left undone, i.e. not meeting the handsome and mysterious Frenchman in Paris. A little voice in the back of my head questioned that decision the minute he stepped off that train. And he wasn’t the first Frenchmen that I sometimes wonder about.

So what about the other side of the coin? When it comes to relationships, is it possible to still do something and regret it? If so, to what degree? Someone once asked me how many of the relationships that I talk about in my book do I regret? The answer is none. I had high hopes that those magical moments would last. And when they didn’t I felt sad, angry and disappointed.

And, so, I think my friend is only partly right. I believe the regret you feel in not having done something is in direct proportion to the desire we feel for the person, object, or activity.   As for regretting the things that I’ve done, with the healing benefit of time, I realize that in spite of the hurt and pain, given the opportunity I would still make the same choices.

Singer/songwriter Adele’s song “Someone like You” expresses it this way:

Regrets and mistakes they’re memories made

Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

Adele is right of course, memories are better bittersweet than bland, just like dark chocolate or the skin of a plum. And I am better for having tasted them.

No Regrets

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Little did I know when I wrote my previous post, Bird in the Hand that my week in Johannesburg would be a real life variation on the same theme: birds. How strange is that? What was Mother Nature trying to tell me?

First there was my early morning wake-up call at 6:00 a.m. Somewhere in my jet lag induced unconsciousness I could hear honking. I’ve heard of cell phones that chirp but never hotel phones that honk. Now fully awake, I realized the noise was not coming from inside but rather outside on my window ledge.

A pair of bickering black-billed geese, husband and wife, no doubt, had pitched up on my window ledge high above Sandton City on the 14th Floor of the Sandton Sun Hotel. It was my own personal (wake-up) call of the wild.

Bird with a View

How in the world did they get there? And just what were they arguing about at this hour? And why had they picked my window ledge? I got up and went to the window and looked down the ledge to where they sat bickering.

I watched her walk off in a huff. (I guess some things are universal.) He followed her down the ledge honking as if he was trying to convince her of something. By now they had arrived in front of me. It certainly looked like I was in the middle of some domestic squabble. Geese may mate for life but they’re not necessarily faithful so maybe there was another goose – or gander – involved.

I pulled back the curtains slowly trying not to frighten them so I could get a better view of the unhappy couple. Sensing the presence of an intruder, they turned their ire on me. I was about as welcome as the paparazzi at a Hollywood marriage meltdown.

Determined to keep their argument private, he puffed up his chest and spread his wings in an attempt to intimidate me. And then united as a couple they began to peck at the window. I was impressed, and then I realized they weren’t attacking me. They were attacking their own reflections in the window. Having spent their anger on something other than each other, they waddled off to other end of the ledge and I heard nothing further from them. They were back to being lovebirds.

The next day I packed my bags and headed for the comforts of home – my friend Julie’s home in a city suburb – the same Julie whose thought-provoking comment was the genesis for my book, Any Color but Beige. (See Chapter 25) The same Julie who generously whisked me away to the Veld for some much needed downtime last year. The same Julie who hosted a Girls’ Night In to celebrate the launch of the book in South Africa. (More on that later).

I was content to sit in her garden and soak up the summer sun while I watched the brightly yellow-colored birds called weavers build their nests. That day there was one weaver who had just put the finishing touches on his new nest when a curious female alighted on a nearby branch.

(The females are a dull brown but that doesn’t bother the males. Oh to be as free as that female weaver and have the male of the species chase you in spite of your dull plumage. I mean really, ladies, try getting away with a mousy color on the top of your head or half an inch of regrowth showing at the roots.)

At last someone with whom he can share his love nest. The little male weaver wanted to strut his colorful stuff and so he hopped onto the branch next to her and started to make small talk. Like a good female, she studiously ignored him.

When another male tried to muscle in on his girl, our brave little weaver ran him off. When I second male moved in, our little guy ran him off too. How’s that for defending your home and your castle? I heard him chirp. When he returned to put the moves on the female, she failed to return his romantic overtures. He flew up to the nest to invite her in to see his etchings but no dice’ she wasn’t budging.

He looked dejected. The tree was full of nests and so maybe she was waiting for a better offer. Finally, tired of waiting, for what I’m not quite sure, she flew off. I felt sorry for the male but Julie told me that it just may have been a blessing in disguise. Had the lady accepted his offer and flew up to the nest she might have found it lacking and tore it apart bit by bit. He would have to start over and try again until it pleased her. How like life.

And so the little yellow weaver went back to decorating his pad and waiting for the next pretty bird to come along. It’s like his mother once told him, “There are plenty of fish in the sea and plenty of birds in the sky.” How like love.

So what was Mother Nature telling me this week? Life, like love, is for the birds.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/amrishwad

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