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April 28, 2023

Très chère Héléna

I would like to jump into the void with you, hand in hand. I am deeply moved by your letter and I will answer you by addressing my reply not only to you, but to all women who have an enormous amount of experience and many desires. We all have our moments of overwhelming worries and oppressive uncertainty and solitude. Ten times a day I doubt myself. We grow older, and life takes twisted pleasure in throwing thorns along our path. Like a fashionable sock, hope shrinks in the wash. Our appetites get smaller with each passing day and sometimes we just don’t know which way to turn. Even our old prayers seem to grow dull and weak.

People used to tell me that wisdom comes with age, but when will that be? Do tell! Women who are advanced in years yet lucid, competent and insightful are all in the same boat. We work hard to be happy, and at the same time, our imagination dreams of seeing or revisiting Paris, Florence, the glass blowers in Murano and the Northern capitals.

I totally understand you, dear Héléna, and I’m glad you trusted me enough to share your tale with me. Ask yourself the hard question again that each one of us should ask ourselves: “If I had 12 months to live, what would I do with my time?” Didn’t your doctor give your spirits a jolt in 2006 with a similar question? You went on an adventure. You had your hopes and dreams set on so many things, but you didn’t take action and then an ultimatum sent you to a different continent. You were happy and content there.

It has already been 10 years since you came back from Europe and, from what you wrote in your letter, you are starting to fidget again. Your daughter is in good hands, soon to be married and yet, I hear you grumbling between the lines. Gloom has settled in, dear friend, and you don’t seem to know how to tackle it.

We all fall idle at one point or another. It happens to the best of us. I have often lived through times of despair/hope that remind me of traffic lights, staying on the same colour for just a little too long. Green/red, start/stop, and I would even add action/inaction or inaction/action. We must all be patient. This too shall pass.

I hope that, before I take off for my final destination, I will learn the rhythm of “stop and go.” Until then, I fight indolence by changing scenery, taking day trips here and there or short getaways on occasion and by planning a few new projects, just for the fun of it.

Dear Héléna, you may need to make a bit of effort, but you certainly don’t have to cross the ocean to regain your vitality. America is so big and beautiful! It’s just a question of leaving your shell and allowing yourself to indulge in life, have a good time, learn new things and meet new and interesting people. I insist! If you want to eat good tomatoes, you’re going to have to do what is needed to get your hands on delicious tomatoes. Step out of your comfort zone, pamper new tomato plants, water them plenty and wait for your harvest to be fit for a queen before you sit down to eat.

That’s the way it is for everything. I spent two days reading and rereading your letter before I sat down to write a reply. Friendship grows when there is will and transparency.

Héléna, spring is spreading its wings and so must you. Try new things like going to a café to write, take in a movie more often or start scouring flea markets. Sit on your porch and plan your summer. You want to focus on finding pleasure in your daily life.

Don’t fear, we all have the capacity to create a happy new life for ourselves. I was reading a magazine article the other night and the writer was saying that “nobody deserves second best.” She continued with 10 tips to develop our personal potential.


I will list them here for all our benefit:
1– Get to know yourself.
2– Discover your interests.
3– Set clear goals.
4– Make time in your agenda.
5– Be disciplined.
6– Be resilient in the face of adversity.
7– Set your limits.
8– Celebrate your victories.
9– Rest.
10– Find inspiration.

Come on, my dear! Revisit your strengths and weaknesses and don’t stop at making lists. Choose clear, realistic and attainable goals. If you must, thumb your nose at the banality of everyday life and adjust your aim higher. Be tenacious. Don’t we have to knit tightly in order to stay warm in winter?

Celebrate each small victory! Send yourself a congratulations card, pop the champagne bottle, treat yourself to something nice or an item on your wish list. Reward yourself for your efforts.

Imagine, dear Héléna, a very long ladder, extended all the way to the moon; a ladder on which you can only climb up. Life is a long and generous ladder that gives us plenty of time to get to the moon and back, to win the jackpot, to finally get all that your heart desires, including love, if that’s what’s in the stars for you.

Warm hugs,