Midsummer night in La Ciotat. Families at their pop-up picnic tables, people swimming into the night, and the historic shipyard in the background, beneath a mauve sky. I'm going to bottle up this peaceful scene and shake it out in bits--in the kitchen, in the bedroom--wherever there's conflict....
Two words today: gérer and débrouiller
: to manage and to sort things out
Audio File: Click here to listen to the following sentence
Il faut arrêter d'éssayer de gérer les gens et plûtot les laisser se débrouiller.
One must stop trying to manage people and, rather, let them sort things out.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
Andale! Andale! Ariba ariba! Along with the morning dew, a vapor of Spanish commands are rising from the studio below our bedroom. It's 6 a.m. From our open windows I recognize my Mom's voice and determine she is trying to get our golden retriever, Smokey (wanting attention after guarding by the foot of Mom's bed all night), to se casser (or, in kinder words, skedaddle!).
I jump up and hurry over to the stairs...when something stops me in my tracks: The realization that I cannot, I must not, continue to micromanage every family member (this being a message from ALL my family members--except our sweet golden...). No matter how tempting it is to assist, to sort out, to unravel their sticky situations, I have got to let my family--all three generations living under this roof--solve their own problems!
VAMOOSE! (Oooh, Mom is now desperate for slobbery Smokey to exit her room, pronto! I can just picture our 9-year-old golden, his head resting on the side of Mom's bed, drool coming out of his mouth. A near-death experience as a puppy means Smokey's tongue hangs permanently from the side of his mouth, causing him to drool excessively. Mais la bave n'a jamais fait du mal à personne! (A little spit never hurt anyone!)
Nope, not gonna help this time. Je ne me mèle plus! Je vais m'occuper de mes propres oignons! I'm going to mind my own business. Mom can handle a slobbery dog, my daughter can deal with her US passport renewal, my husband, brushing his teeth in the bathroom, will eventually discover his pillow is missing from his side of the bed. I need not call to him, "ton oreiller, tu l'as laissé en bas, devant la télé! You left your pillow downstairs, in front of the T.V." He'll figure it out himself tôt ou tard. What difference does it make whether I save my family a bit of time in the finding out and solving of things?
Besides, every time I step in to their situations, my intentions are seen as either nagging or bossy or--and here's the latest--"verging on bullying!")
Who me? A bully? That's almost as bad as the time my husband called me a pitbull! I admit, that one was hard to swallow! But, over the past 6 months, I've come to see (acknowledge? accept?) this tendency to badger my family until they understand my point. But perhaps there is another way?....
The way of letting go and letting others do as they will....
Leaving the stairwell this morning, I got right back into bed. As the floor fan whirled beside me (week two of the heatwave), I could feel a smile forming across my face as I listened to birdsong outside my window...punctuated by the screeching of a magpie and a new, cantankerous melody:
"Andele! Andele! Arriba! Ariba! VAMOOOSE!!!"
Haha! If it were me I'd tell Mom to try French or English (the languages my dog responds most to...). But that's the old me. The new me says nothing--and laughs more! Oui! La nouvelle moi elle dit rien. Elle rit souvent! And she takes the lessons, even those that are hard to swallow, in stride.
We may or may not be as others say we are (butterflies or pit bulls--or, more likely, somewhere in between). But in considering it all, in stopping to reflect on our own behavior, surely we grow.
SELECTED FRENCH VOCABULARY
gérer = to manage
se débrouiller = to sort something out for oneself
se casser = to get out of here
faire du mal = to hurt
la bave = spit, drool
se mêler = to meddle in, interfere in
s'occuper = to take care of
un oreiller = a pillow
tôt ou tard = sooner or later
le poulailler = henhouse, chicken coop
I leave you with a peaceful scene from our garden. Notice the top of the wooden stake. That's "Rusty", a turtledove that lives here. He loves our new chickens, follows them around, wanders into their pouilailler, and helps himself to dinner. "Help yourself"--a lesson we can all take to heart.
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi