The Summer that David and I met was one of the happiest of my life. I lived on Rue Quincampoix, a charming street, smack in the middle of Paris with my good friend, Mimi. I had managed to extend my visa so that I could enjoy Summer in Paris with its blue skies and long days. I joined an international staff at Hard Rock Cafe with its rock and roll atmosphere that somehow combined speed with a laid back atmosphere. I was 23 and had the luxury of youth on my side and the promise of life ahead of me. And, after nearly a year of dealing with older guys hitting on me, cocky guys trying to sleep with me on the first day, and awkward guys trying to nibble on my ear at the movies, I had finally met a normal guy who took me to a macrobiotic restaurant along the Seine and asked me about me and didn’t play games. We worked together, and, after a month, we lived together, and we even spontaneously took a trip to Amsterdam together. I stopped worrying about the future, started living in the present and fully enjoyed that last Summer in Paris. I didn’t realize then what a luxury it was to have happiness come so easily, so effortlessly.
David followed me to California when my visa expired and I had to leave Paris. We found him a job, I taught him to drive, he got his driver’s license and, while he reveled in having a car and Southern California’s driving culture, I missed living in a city where everything was accessible by metro or by foot. For David, Southern California reminded him of Spain and he enjoyed the climate and the landscape. For me, I had grown up in California and was bored of living in a place where the climate never changed and seasons didn’t exist. David liked getting lost in huge stores like Best Buy and Circuit City where he was surrounded by every kind of gadget that you could desire. Meanwhile, I was turned off by the materialistic lifestyle. I had gotten a refreshing taste of something different during my year in Paris and didn’t want to get stuck in Southern California. So, at my urging, I uprooted us and suggested that we try out New York.
For me, New York was exciting. I loved taking the subway or walking the streets and constantly feeling alive as I was smashed in and surrounded by people. I loved the fact that everyday was different with new experiences and new encounters. I loved the thousands of small businesses, each with its own character. I loved the feeling of potential and possibility and passion as people came from everywhere to pursue their dreams. I felt energized by New York’s constant movement and action. I felt alive! I felt happy! But while I reveled in all of this, David was subjected to the stress of cooking for the elite, working 12 to 14 hour days, and spending all of the most important holidays in his employers’ homes. While I had lots of friends and the time to hang out with them, he didn’t even have time for himself. He longed to do something on his own and dreamed of starting his own business. He was tired of working long hours for others. While I was happy, he was miserable. And by year three, it was wearing on him… and us. And I knew that something had to change. And that’s when it did. The Universe stepped in and we both got laid off from our jobs.
We came to Spain, deciding that it was finally time to pursue David’s entrepreneurial dreams. In Altea, we found a microclimate where seasons still exist. We found a community where people walk everywhere and wave to each other in the streets and interact. We found beautiful surroundings. But, most importantly, we found AlteArte. AlteArte has made us a part of the Altea community faster than anything could. It has given both of us purpose and friends. And, finally, we found a place that could make both of us happy.
And, for the first six months, David and I worked side by side seven days a week, giving AlteArte our all. We were united by a single mission and even though we had our arguments, we were in it together. Then, as Summer turned into Fall and we started closing one day a week and the slow season arrived, I also slowed down and began to seek a life outside of AlteArte. I wanted to see my friends outside of AlteArte’s four walls, I wanted to enjoy everything that I hadn’t had time to enjoy in the Summer. I wanted to focus on my writing and find some balance so that I didn’t burn out. And, at first, I expected David to want the same things. I had envisioned that we would enjoy our days off together, that we would go hiking in the mountains, explore the little villages around us together, maybe even take a brief trip to Portugal together.
But our days off more often turned out to be David heading off to AlteArte to work on something only to be inevitably discovered by his friends who would see the scooter outside and know that he was inside. There, he would spend his entire day. Meanwhile, I put to rest my desire of doing things together and instead focused on doing things on my own or with friends. I enjoyed the nice walk out to the lighthouse in Albir; I went hiking, picking wild asparagus and lemons along the way; I went running on the promenade; I enjoyed a barbecue on the beach; I played volleyball and had a picnic in Calpe. And I let go of the expectation that the things that would make me happy would make David happy. While I needed to get away from AlteArte to bring renewed energy to AlteArte, David had so many ideas that he wasn’t happy unless he was spending significant amounts of time in AlteArte. And how could I fault that? Wasn’t his commitment a good thing? His work ethic was actually one of things that first attracted me to him. I would be selfish to pull him away from that and ask him to spend more time with me, especially since, technically, we spent most of the day everyday working together.
And so the Winter passed in this way. The problem is that David’s commitment to AlteArte became so great that, as crazy as it sounds, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was even greater than his commitment to me, especially when, on several occasions, he spent the entire night at AlteArte and didn’t even bother to let me know that he wasn’t coming home. I started feeling as though there was another woman except that I knew that the new object of his affection was AlteArte. And when I started having to practically force him to spend time with me, I started realizing that, as good as his devotion might be for the business, it wasn’t good for the relationship. Because I wasn’t happy.
Happiness is a fragile thing. For those who have the luxury of seeking happiness, it’s a constantly moving platform. The trick is to find the right balance, the right recipe, the right combination. Personal happiness is one thing. Even trickier is finding happiness as a couple. Since we met nearly 10 years ago, David and I have been searching for a place where we could both be happy, where we could both feel fulfilled. Even when we were contemplating between moving to Paris or Altea, we based our decision based on where we felt we could be happiest.
My slowly building unhappiness overflowed this week when, despite my sincerest efforts to keep it at bay and to understand that spending time at – and on – AlteArte was what made David happy, he stopped and noticed that something was wrong. And he talked to me. And, instead of being on the defense, he listened to me. And without me even having to say anything, he understood that he had gone overboard, that it was too much. And the next day, he suggested that we go out for lunch, and we ate outdoors where we could see the water and we talked. And later, at AlteArte, he was more attentive and affectionate. Last night, after we closed, I left him at AlteArte because I knew that he wanted to work on some things. But he promised that he wouldn’t stay the whole night and, when I woke up, he was at home and I noticed that he had sent a text in the middle of the night saying that he would be home soon. And it made all the difference. It’s not that I need him to spend every waking minute with me, it’s not that I need him to do everything with me. I just need to know that he’s thinking of me and that our relationship is still important.
Happiness came so effortlessly for David and me that Summer in Paris. Since then, it has required a global search and lots of communication and understanding on both of our parts. But, as long as we’re both committed to working for it, happiness can be achieved and maintained and shared by both – and is all the sweeter for it.