43, “The Horsey Bits” Outside London
What do you do for work?
I’m a French-English translator, and also do voiceover work. It’s flexible and portable, and I get to switch creative gears with every document or recording: anything from translating a Prada perfume campaign to 18th century French antique furniture (a particular “nerding-out” passion) or corporate work one day, and a recording for a European hotel chain the next.
Hmmm…good question! We’ve been “accidentally” renovating a Georgian-Victorian crockers (village pottery) that belonged to the grand estate across the road from us, so most of our non-daughter-related fun has been swallowed up by that. We end up meeting friends a lot for dinner in country pubs and towns or having them over for lazy lunches in the big garden so the kids can run around, listening to the pheasants and wood pigeons. It’s growing wild with roses and foxgloves at the moment so I need to start reframing “fun” as clipping and weeding—for someone brought up in the US urban/suburban northeast, it’s kind of a leap…! Otherwise, travel, travel, travel—we moved back to Europe mostly for that: we rang in the New Year in Vienna, spent spring term break in Split, and are trying to get to see cousins in Italy this summer. But as with a lot of Woolfers, unwinding time alone to think and feel things out is essential, especially in the city: museums, performances, gardens, eating alone—just people watching and eating (not sharing!) gorgeous things without consulting or entertaining anyone. I “ran away from home” recently to a posh hotel in London to do all of the above. Damn, that was fun!
Tons. Don’t we all have them? The next big struggle is whether it’s possible to make up for them or finally let them go. But that’s to do with my life—I think the biggest regrets are what you couldn’t do for others. One that still brings me enormous sadness: on a bus around London once, there was a beautiful little boy across from me being berated—psychologically abused, really—by his mother who was telling him basically how awful he was, how everything was always his fault. Beautiful eyes downcast towards his little shoes…That was at least 15 years ago and I’m still filled with regret—at not finding the courage to intervene, wondering whether anyone was able to help him later on…I was so young, not a mother yet, afraid of her reaction. I choked. Now I’d try to extend my sympathies as a stressed-out mother and try to help her pull back, and failing that, talk to him directly with at least a warm smile and something positive to cling to before he left, her reaction be damned. I’ll never, ever forget him.
If you had a warning label, what would it be?
“Unexpected Tears: Don’t Panic!”
What scares you?
The direction of politics on both sides of the Atlantic.
Can you describe your fantasy version of your older self?
Moving much more freely about the world, staying close with my wonderful daughter (and fingers crossed some gorgeous grandkids), staying sexy with my husband. Hopefully aging chicly. Still a tree hugger and probably still PO’d about politics and the injustices in the world—I’d like to find a way to work with endangered species. Are we going for the full-on fantasy? Then it definitely includes a beach shack with hammocks in the French Caribbean, sailing in the Netherlands, skiing the world and a place in the South of France…yep, that’ll do!
Xanax or Weed?
My 19-year-old college self is saying, “Uh, weed, obvs.” But I’m going with the occasional Xanax. Because perimenopause-induced late-night anxiety = hell. And long-haul flights!