The tiny doll in pink glasses and bubbly ringlets looked up at me from her chair, with eyes as bright as the light of summer waters. Her two dainty yet hasty hands fluttered at me. I obeyed and crouched down to face-level.
“Hm?” I said. Even closer! said her hands and eyes, so I leaned the side of my head towards her ready to receive the secret. A whispered gift. She moved forward to my ear and curled her hands into a hollow by my cheek. A few seconds of silence; I heard no whisper. Then, from the stillness came the quietest, softest, smallest kiss in the world.
A cherry-blossom petal had fallen and was floating on the water.
The little humans were now scuffling through the door and dropping off bags and coats. I sat down by the semi-circle of chairs in my corner of the teaching room, trying to settle down against the heat of the low-ceilinged room, the fatigue in my brain and the grease on my face and hair.
“Yé-yéeeeeeeeeeeeee!” cheered the girl to my right tumbling towards me with arms wide open. “Je t’adore et tu es belle.” She collapsed into my arms like a weighty, warm pillow.
“Merci, ma chérie c’est très gentil.” I smiled and hugged her back, and we stayed like that for several seconds.
“Tu sens si bonne. Et je peux rester comme ça? Parce que comme ça je peux te voir tout le temps!”
Deep breath …
It is March of Semester Two. I welcome the new challenges, both tangible-external, and emotional-internal. Though today, to my fascination, I realised on the train back to Strasbourg that my current job is the perfect exercise for both types of obstacle – within and outwith my body.
Ugh, French is beautiful but still a pain. There are a few ways of looking at it. In one, I adamantly and stubbornly deny that I have or will have any proficiency in it whatsoever – the old pessimistic, perfectionist me. I am still very much mute, passive and receptive in all contexts, and barely respond beyond short sentences. This is a true parasite eating my confidence. The angry me rages, “Oh it’s March hurry up! You only have 3 and half months left.” And she mourns for the good old days and the compliments from strangers that she used to receive, right at the beginning, the end of last semester and after New Year, which made one feel less foreign. All the gold has turned to mud; it just doesn’t make sense to feel a decline rather than a flourish, she sobs.
She’s the teenager throwing the tantrum.
Or I could view it like this, from the skies and the mountains: to recognise the noise of life that I have willingly brought upon myself and be excited about what that will make of me.
For the last couple of weeks and until few days ago, my head was in a real pulp. I was busy and bumbling along to law lectures, French class, rehearsal, to take sectionals, play French card games and teach kids. All with lovely people and all looking good from the outside. But in truth I felt compartmentalised. In the sense that, yes, I have all these beautiful opportunities and manage to tip-toe through them and understand what is going on about 80% of the time. I can type 85% of what the lecturer is saying and make a violin section sound good. But that was it. Outside these contexts I was back treading on the bland, infinite motorway, startled dumb by the terrifying din and speed of the engines of ghost cars whipping against the air I was in.
This half-in-half-out isolation was frankly exhausting. O mischievous Fate, why must thou jest and play games with me?! And I exhausted myself further by force-thinking PERSPECTIVE as a glowing beacon of hope and telling myself to grow up. (It’s a surreal scene where you glide along, having no control over your life, feeling the sharp anguish of your petty human struggles and all whilst seeing the grandeur of the universe. You know fine well that you will make it but it just takes a bloody long time.)
But, of course, “Everything is going to be all right”, and my turnaround was as sudden as the intensity of my blues. Thanks to some spiritual reading, personal kindness and the simple passing of time, I do not feel these conflicts anymore. I started to recognise and appreciate the true value of my life. Now, I see myself growing in all capacities. I am learning how to speak like French politician and jurist, a French musician, a French school maîtresse and a fun big sister to adorable French kids. In my positions of responsibility and teaching, I am learning to use more imperative language, something I had never expected before arriving here: “Soyez fous!” and “Personne ne joue!” come to mind. (Very useful.)
Like new art and music, the noise of life is a beautiful cacophony that takes time to be understood and ingested. But with a little perseverance and patience, you begin to feel its enriching goodness and energy and welcome it with all your heart.
(Could not really say the same for studying law though … )
As violin teacher, I must enter the room without prejudice and free from the expectations and achievements of yesterday. For they are the past and will never define the development of the children today. They are nothing other than memories, fabrications in one’s mind. A bad day of teaching is enlightening and revolutionary. It tells me I need to change my method, my thinking and attitude. From a dead end I must create a new path for the kids.
I must adapt to each child and remain calm if they start playing with the violin pegs and sword fighting with their bows when I am trying to teach left-hand technique to another. No point in resisting it as they will tire – eventually.
And finally, thank you to people like Wittgenstein who fight the cause for silence and make me comfortable with my own. The act of listening is vital if we are to understand other people. I’m all for speaking more carefully and less impulsively.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann
darüber muss mann schweigen.
Whereof one cannot speak,
Thereof one must be silent.
Other elixirs …
A collection of things I saw and heard that arrested my heart, froze it and brought me back to life. It’s to complement the above and it does so more than I had initially expected. When I was typing all that deep stuff at one point it was like I was breathing in rhythm with time, mortality and my hugeness of what it means to exist.
Fuck. What the hell am I on about.
Go to bed.