Thursday, April 26, 2012

Allez au lit! - Go to bed!

On this journey of mine, I'm learning more and more about myself. I'm realizing that my goal to learn French is also about facing my fears, my insecurities.

Another tidbit about me, I'm a MFA Fiction student in a Creative Writing program. Tonight in my Advanced Fiction class, one of my classmates wrote a lovely story which featured a long scene where a mom lovingly tucked in her daughter. There was sweet dialogue between the two that went back and forth for almost a page where the daughter resisted bedtime. My professor though, remarked wearily, "When I read this part, I kept thinking why doesn't the mom simply tell her daughter to go to bed? We need to move on with the story." It would cut out that whole page. It would move the story directly to its core which was about the family's financial struggle. He did have a point in that sometimes when we write, we amble, we ramble, we get lost in some very lovely scenes. He, as our guide and mentor, is there to help us get back on track, to the core of the story. This is very hard to do. I struggle with it all the time. Sometimes I get so lost in my story, I don't even know what my core is, the theme, the backbone that holds it all together. So his solution is very simple, "Go to bed."

We get so lost in our own thoughts, in or own worlds that sometimes we just need to give it all a rest. Just "go to bed."

This very phrase made me think of my husband. It's something he often says to me. "Va dormir!" or "Va te coucher!" - Go to sleep! "Allez au lit!" - Go to bed! In the beginning of our relationship, he'd often say this when I wanted to have long meaningful conversations with him or from his point of view, what he would consider - arguments. When I would feel frustrated or bothered by something he did or didn't do or say or didn't say. Something like him forgetting to take out the garbage when I asked him to. This very act which I would see as a vast betrayal would make me so upset. I would start wondering what it really meant that he didn't take out the garbage when I asked him to. So I would ask him questions like does him not taking out the garbage mean our relationship is doomed? What if we won't make it as a couple? What if this is a sign? What if we get attacked by monster aliens and I never get to finish this train of thought? He often accuses me of being very dramatic. (I don't know where he gets that idea from!) He'd respond with an exasperated sigh and say, "Go to bed." "Va au lit!" It sounds so beautiful in French with that graceful lilt at the end of the sentence that I could never get mad at him. Instead, I'd say, "Say it again." And he'd also say it in a gentle yet firm way. He merely wanted to stop my wandering mind from descending into a pit of despair. (Something I'm quite capable of doing.)

So as I sat there in class reminiscing and I blurted out how my professor's comment made me think of something else my husband used to say to me:

"I like you better when you are sleeping."

And the class laughed, but also viewed me with great pity. A few of the girls said, "Aw, poor thing..." And my professor said, "Now if that was a story, we'd follow that line with exposition such as "And then the wife felt very hurt and sad." But they don't know me very well. They don't know that I can be a real pain in the ass. My husband knows this and when I'm acting that way, he's quite right in preferring me when I'm curled up in bed, fast asleep. I prefer myself that way. I actually laughed when he said this to me. But I also left out the whole other reason he said that. It is now a running joke between us but it started in the very beginning of our marriage. He often watched me while I was sleeping. Even after we'd fight, I sometimes woke up to him gazing at me very tenderly. He loved me in that peaceful state. And he loves when I can maintain that peaceful state while I'm awake too. Which isn't always easy for me to do. But over the years, I've gotten so much better than I used to be.

It really did make me think about how much time we spend thinking about very silly things. When we could have been sleeping instead. And how many things do we let get in the way of a good night's rest?

So now when my mind starts whirling loose with all those madcap thoughts, when all my insecurities come pouring forth, frothing to the surface, when my hateful negative voice starts asking, "What if everyone hates me? What if I never get published? What if I never achieve any of my dreams? What if? What if? What if?..." I know what to do. I tell myself, "Go to bed." Allez au lit.

Goodnight All!

Bonne Nuit!

Dormez bien! - Sleep Well!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Step 1: Learn French

I'm ready to embark on a new venture called living. I'm ready to live! And when I say live, I don't mean just breathing, sleeping, waking, brushing my teeth, going to the office, the tedium of quotidian life but something more and beyond that, something transcendental... I'm ready to learn French and use flash cards and butcher a beautiful language until I get thrown out of French restaurants where everyone speaks English. I'm ready to unabashedly embrace my insecurities in a loving manner and tell my insecure self, "It's okay to be me." So my first step of breaking free of this prison cell (metaphorically, I'm not actually writing from jail but in my office which feels like jail) of negativity is to learn French and then only then can I turn my attention towards other aspects of my life which dissatisfy me and turn that frown upside down.

So I've created this list for myself, a beautiful, bold list of all the things I'd like to accomplish before I reach forty (which is less then three years away.)

Step 1: Learn to Speak French Fluently (or at least pretend to)
Step 2: Write a Novel that wins a Pulitzer Prize (or at least pretend to)
Step 3: Get on the New Yorker's 20 Under 40 List - (can't they change the list to 21 and squeeze me in there?) I admit this might be rather ambitious of me but not as ambitious as:
Step 4: Win the Nobel Peace Prize - just for being me
Step 5: Become Best Friends with Al Gore (because I recycle!)
Step 6: Meet Stephen Colbert
Step 7: Become a Super Organized, Tidy Person - the irritating kind of person who can find an adorable use for an empty matchbox. The kind of person Martha Stewart would be proud of.
Step 8: Learn how to Cook
Step 9: Become a Staff Writer for 30 Rock (Step 4 followed by Step 5 might help get me on the show)
Step 10: Conquer the World!

Be All that You Can Be! That's my new motto. That's America's motto.
I was so excited because my blog attracted two new views even though it's blank and I've written nothing on this. Then I realized that those two new views were me.

And yay! I have a new follower. Me!
Yay Me!

Step 1: Learn French

So this all started because I have been avoiding French since I was a little girl. When the option came up in elementary school to study French or Spanish, I chose Spanish because I thought French was too hard. All those accent marks and the rolling of the Rs were mind boggling. All through my adult life, I chose to attempt to learn and butcher every language but French. I took classes in Spanish, Korean, Italian and Japanese but never, never French. Then I met the love of my life and married him. He is French.

Then it became unavoidable since his parents hardly speak any English. I've been desperately trying to learn the language. But then I did things like regularly confuse "God bless you" with "Shut up." Every time my father-in-law would sneeze I would say, "Tais-toi!" which meant "Shut up." You're supposed to say "à tes souhaits." All this time I was telling my father to shut up every time he sneezed!!! Bless his heart, he never said a word. I, on the other hand, was mortified. And once again, I gave up and told myself to not even bother. I'll never sound like a French person. I'll never wear a beret and sunglasses and talk about how miserable my life is in the most beautiful language in the world. (Overall, I get discouraged very easily, much too easily.)

It's been excruciatingly painful for me to learn another language. I just don't know why my brain can't wrap around the new vocabulary. Though the truth is, I can't even pronounce English all that well. But I've decided that I have to face my fears and just give it another try. After all there are millions of people who speak French. It can't be that hard? Can it?

So really this blog is a motivational tool for myself. A little reminder of the train that could. I'm giving credence to that little voice in my head that says, "You can do it" (who oddly sounds like Rob Schneider from Waterboy.) Though my tongue may be handicapped in some way from forming those rolling Rs, I will give it my best try, spitting all over whoever I'm talking to. Therefore, I'm giving fair warning to all. French people, grab your ponchos. I'm coming to France.