Living from the heart

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About a dozen years ago, I made a single New Year resolution: to live more in my heart and less in my head. It turns out this one single thing is a lifelong process, at times frustrating, always fascinating.

In school, I earned A’s in math classes and was told I should consider a career in engineering. For a long time, my hobby was architecture; I used to design wildly bizarre floorplans, and even built models of a few of them. But engineering never interested me, and eventually I chose not to pursue architecture either.

I studied graphic design in college, and that was my first exposure to the cultural division between following one’s head and following one’s heart. We saw the painters and sculptors as the spacy ones who would probably never earn a living with their art, while we were the “smart” ones who used our art to find a better-paying job. I’m pretty sure those “spacy” artists thought we had sold our souls.

After grad school, I worked in the brainiac center of Silicon Valley, and then for a short time I was a self-employed designer. You know what self-employed means, right? It means you wear all the hats, not just the one you enjoy most. So in addition to being a designer, I was also the receptionist, the VP of sales, the bookkeeper, the head of HR, the IT specialist, and the late-night cleaning crew. That’s a lot of brainpower!

One day I was working onsite with one of my client companies, sitting at a PC that had crashed yet again and getting a headache from the fluorescent lights, when I suddenly realized that what I was working on was not going to do anything to help the world be a better place. And that in turn was the seed for the New Year resolution that came a few years later.

I don’t remember the early steps I took with this resolution; I think I just made the commitment that this would be my path. About a year into it, I did start to notice some changes. Never being that intrigued by math, I found that I actually became rather unwilling to spend much time with numbers and financial issues.

I also found that my creative juices were flowing better than they had in years. I’ve had a camera in my hand since I was eight years old, but there have been a couple of periods when I wasn’t that interested in it. With this new focus on my heart, I realized that my heart is in photography, and I found a renewed and lively interest in exploring new subjects and new techniques. More recently, I’ve also realized just how much I enjoy writing, and I decided to follow that creative path as well.

Creativity is about more than making art; it’s found in day-to-day life experiences like cooking, writing a business plan, or finding a new way to organize an assembly line. It’s about designing a life.

Finally, I also found that I wanted to be more than I wanted to do.

Eventually my heart path led me to France, which is a nation that places a high value on being. A meal with friends is not only a time to share good food and wine, it is also a time for lively conversation. At lunchtime, virtually everything closes, and often people return home to enjoy lunch together as a family. (Many schools still send kids home for lunch.) Weekends are family time, and it’s common to see three generations out together enjoying a museum or a walk in the park. It’s all about being more connected to people than to machines, about living in the now because the past has already happened and we can’t know what the future holds.

One day last summer, I met a retired military man who learned of my plans for France. He asked me if I was worried about terrorist attacks, and I said I was not. “I’m picturing that I’m sitting with friends at a pretty little café in Paris, enjoying a glass of wine, some good food, and a lively conversation. Some unhappy person arrives to blow us all up. I just died happy.” He said he felt sorry for me, which I think is rather unfortunate and unimaginative of him, but it doesn’t change my mind.

I am here to live every moment, never knowing what the next one may bring. I’m here to delight in what the day offers me, be it a cup of tea with a friend, practicing my French with someone who knows no English, taking the car down a narrow, winding road to a place I don’t know, or learning to cook local cuisine. And that is what I call living in my heart.

A stenciled bit of Parisian street art shows a couple sharing a “Doux Bise” (Sweet Kiss).
“Chiffon” is a lovely white rose.
“Two People Fell in Love,” one of my typographic works made with a photo of a French tile.
A lovely Japanese quince climbs a medieval wall in ”Glimpse of Spring.”
“Tempting Macarons” in Paris.
Soft, feminine flowers in “Cotton Candy.”
A display of French Valentines in “Be Mine.”

My little cabbage

Need a new pet name for your sweetheart? Look no further; I bring you twenty choice French terms of endearment (carefully selected from a cast of thousands).

Mon petit chou:   my darling, my sweetheart (it does not mean “my little cabbage”)
Mon cœur:   my heart
Ma belle:   my beautiful
Mon doudou:   my cuddly thing
Ma chérie / mon chéri:   my darling
Mon amour:   my love
Mon cœur:   my heart
Mon ange:   my angel
Mon bébé:   my baby
Mon mec:   my boyfriend
Ma puce:   my flea
Mon rêve:   my dream
Mon canard:   my duck
Mon petit oiseau:   my little bird
Mon loup:   my wolf (said only to men or boys)
Ma minette:   my kitten (said only to women or girls)

Mon ciel étoilé:   my starry sky
Ma raison de vivre:   my reason for living
L’amour de ma vie:   love of my life
Mon rayon de soleil:   my ray of sunshine

They may look like hamburgers, but those are macarons, and every style-conscious man needs a “Macaron Shirt.”

 

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