When Carol (Happiness Specialist / Retreat Assistant / Friend Extraordinaire) and I facilitate Retreats, we are usually fully lined up on our vision. We have our Essences in mind, and we know what we want to create, we know the experience we want to offer our guests as a container for what is ready to come up for them.
When one of us questions the direction of a detail, the other is able to remind her of the congruent way to go. It’s pretty darn seamless, it’s highly effective, and most of all, it is deeply joyful.
Over the last years of creating Retreats together in various beautiful places in the world, we have honed our “working together” skills and we both feel rather solid in our ability to face just about anything that may come up. Since our first Retreat in Mexico in 2013, our guests have blessed us with many opportunities to use our whole panoply of tools - the same ones that I teach - and these tools have never failed us. From broken feet to split knees, death in families back home to draining the village out of water (oh gawd), lost passports, misplaced medicine, bug bites, and plain old authenticity birthing pains, we have danced with it all together, united and with ease. It’s a lot of work, and it’s work we both love.
And then, there are The Little Corners.
Watching a movie a couple of months ago, I had to re-play a scene where one of the characters turns to other, whom he thought he knew very well, and with a stunned look on his face, tells him: “Wow. You have little corners!” For some reason, this delighted the heck out of me. The Little Corners. The little tiny nooks, crannies and crevices where there is stuff we have not seen yet. In ourselves and in others. The places that are still new, still fresh, not yet exposed to us - and as such, quite surprising. In other words: you think you know all about someone and then Bam! here come some words / thoughts / reactions straight out of a Little Corner that you had no idea existed. It can be scary, and it can also be exhilarating.
Of course, when the Little Corners show up around things like French Pastries, it can be a whole lot more fun than when they introduce themselves to us around ... bigger things.
Three weeks ago, in Provence. It’s Sunday and Carol is on her way to do her morning Boulangerie run. Someone is usually happy to join her, and they consistently come home with a heavenly assortment of freshly baked flaky croissants, perfect baguettes, buttery brioches, pains au chocolat and more. Minutes later, we all gather around the beautiful old wooden table, delighting in dunking our yummies in hot café au lait, while planning our day.
That morning, as she was leaving, Carol let me know that since the next day was Monday - and stores are usually closed on Monday - she would pick up twice as many pastries so that we would have enough for the next morning.
I remember exactly the moment she said that. She had her back turned to me, purse in hand, and walking towards her car with purpose, in the early Provencal morning sun.
She was moving away from me, and my brain was trying to catch up to her.
Something was dreadfully wrong.
It took me a while to sort out the words to express how wrong that something was, and in the end, I don’t think I did a really good job of it.
She would pick up twice as many pastries so that we would have enough for the next morning.
Meaning that tomorrow, we would eat pastries and bread that were baked today. OLD pastries and bread. Dead pastries and bread.
All my cells and ancestry were doing some sort of French pirouettes and all I could come up with was to say: “No, no. Don’t. There will be another bakery open tomorrow, for sure.”
And off she went.
Minutes later, she was back, letting me know that she had picked up plenty of pastries and bread, not to worry, and that we would have enough for the next day. She and a friend had gone to the bakery, and with American efficiency, they had made a decision.
Something inside of me woke up. A Little Corner I didn’t know was there. A Little Corner that said: “Hell no, we are not eating day old pastries and baguettes. Hell no, we are not going to be American-efficient about croissants.”
I felt outraged, with some weird fringe of sadness.
I was also fully aware that she, along with our 8 guests may very well be seeing me as being silly controlling.
I expressed my discontent. I did not express how deep it felt, and for that morning, it was a good joke. There were talks of blind-controlled tasting the next day, and indeed the next morning, on top of our plate of day-old pastries, was a funny sign that said: Pastry Tray of Shame.
That afternoon, this was written on the class board as I walked in:
Could they tell the difference? I don’t know. I could, but really it didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had a Little Corner I had not known about, a Little Corner Carol didn’t know about. A Little Corner that said that it was hugely important to me to share with our group the best of my country. And that day-old croissants were a very sad thing, indeed.
On that day, a Little Corner had made me feel a bit lonely.
Until the next morning, when our cook Nina, enquired about the Tray of Shame sign, and I was able to tell her the story. Nina is French, and as soon as I said “they bought pastries for the next day,” all my hurt melted away. Hand flew to cover her mouth, eyes as big as baby brioches, eyebrows raised, HER outrage instantly healed mine. It felt so darn good to be understood.
So there you go. Little Corners.
We never know when they will pop up and tell us a bit more about ourselves, or about someone else. They may bring, along with them, all kinds of discomfort and surprises, and sometimes, tsunami-like waves. Some Little Corners hold cuter stories than others, too. Some may affect only us, and some may shatter a whole family. I believe that all bring us closer to Authenticity, and Authenticity, especially when coupled with Vulnerability, is the straight line to Intimacy. Intimacy with ourselves, and Intimacy with others. I love knowing how passionate I am about French pastries, and I love that Carol now knows this about me, also.
Here’s to Little Corners and to the gems - or bombs - they may hold.
Here’s to where they may take us.
And here’s to fully knowing ourselves and the ones we love.
Here’s to today.
PS: day old croissants make awesome Pastry Pudding. Especially with a bit of Rum and Nutella thrown in. I sure enjoyed whipping up a couple batches between classes ... kinda like making lemonade out of lemons, but so much better :)
PPS: we have just 5 spots left for our April Happiness Retreat in Provence. And I promise you not ONE crumb of day old pastry!
A little ten-second video lesson :)