Monday, December 31, 2012
"This side of Christmas". Picture taken in Bollène.
: to confide in, to entrust
Audio File: Hear today's word spoken, along with this French quote: Download MP3 or listen to the Wav file
Il ne faut confier son secret qu'à celui qui n'a pas cherché à le deviner.
One must only share one's secret with the one who has not sought to guess it. --Diane de Beausacq
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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
I was in our cellier, hanging laundry along a network of string that zig-zags from one end of the small room to the other, when I heard my husband call out.
"Madame asked me to tell you that she finally got her tooth pulled."
Madame? Tooth? Finalement? I stood there, a wet sock in one hand, a gant de toilette in the other, trying to make sense of the "news".
Peering around the corner, I saw Jean-Marc pitch another log onto the fire.
"Our neighbor," Jean-Marc offered, sensing my confusion. "T'étais au courant?"
Was I aware? I had to stop and think, étais-je au courant? Well, I should be aware! ...but had somehow lost awareness—or, to put it plainly, I'd forgotten!
Distressed, I began to jog my memory. "La voisine... oui, sa dent.... la dent de la voisine..." I returned to the cellier allowing my mind to continue the exercise of remembering; meanwhile my hands continued the exercise of laundry.
Yes... I vaguely remembered the conversation. My neighbor had come by with a gift of farm fresh eggs. I had been touched by her offering, given her hens had been on strike for weeks.
"Elles sont têtues! They're stubborn but they've had a change of heart," my neighbor said of her moody chickens. We were seated at the dining room table, drinking tea and eating the remains of a sweet cake that previous visitors had brought by.
My neighbor said she couldn't stay long, she had to get home to chop some wood for the fire that heated her cottage. It seemed a tiring task for a retired woman, and a widow. I didn't want to pry but went ahead and asked how she was feeling. I remember coaxing the information out of my neighbor, who isn't one to complain or to talk about herself.
That is when she must have admitted to having a toothache. I remember urging her to see a dentist.
"It's something we put off," I sympathized, "I know. I have a bad tooth that needs looking at, too, but I'm afraid of what the dentist will find!"
My neighbor nodded her head, and her eyes were bright with understanding. "...et puis, on a un peu peur..." and we're just a little bit afraid," she admitted, at which point it was my turn to vigorously nod my head.
In the cellier, I shook out another wet sock and another wash cloth. How could I have forgotten her tooth? I must have been quite interested in that tooth—concerned enough to make my dear neighbor feel compelled to send the update that would put my mind at ease.
But my mind was far from eased! It was troubling to think that the information she had shared may have gone in one ear and out the other. Could I have been as careless as that? To want to comfort my neighbor... only to move on to the next deed on my list, forgetting the one that came before it?
No! I sincerely care about my neighbor! She is discreet and undramatic about aches and pains and matters of the heart. An attention-seeker she is not, precisely the kind of person who needs attention! It is the self-effacing types who go unnoticed; meantime, others—my grandmother would call them "squeaky wheels"—vie for our attention, demanding time and energy that could be offered to toothless angels.
I thought about some of the squeaky wheels, or, as Mom calls them "toxic relationships" that have derailed my focus. Whether pushy or manipulating or narcissistic—they are caustic! These are individuals who make me feel I should do this or I should do that (most often for them!). They say, in so many veiled words, "you owe me!"
It is time to reclaim needed energy and to get attention back on track and focused on toothless angels. I have chosen 7 people to pay more attention to in the coming year. Far from "squeaky wheels" you wouldn't even know it if they cried themselves to sleep last night, and sadly, they may have.
In order to be of more use to loved-ones, it may help to spend less time with online correspondence (email, Facebook, et compagnie...) in order to correspond with those very near and dear "toothless" angels. What about you, do you have any relations toxiques that you'd like to swap for angels in need?
...Or maybe you need to carve out time to get a tooth fixed? I'm going to try to pick up the phone and call my dentist now....
With wishes for a peaceful and healthy new year, take care,
P.S. how do you know if a relationship is toxic? How do you feel in the presence of this kind of relationship? What do we really owe another? When you give, do you expect something in return? What are your resolutions for the new year? What and what will you focus on? What will you give up? Who really needs your help? Will you help someone you are mad at? Can you forgive? Does someone need to forgive you? Thanks for sharing!
le cellier = cellar
finalement = finally
t'étais au courant? = were you aware?
un gant de toilette = wash cloth
la voisine (le voisin) = neighbor
et compagnie = and the rest
Smokey's parents: that's Sam, left, and Mama Braise on the right.
Smokey has his papa's "not one for the limelight" personality, never mind he's our star!
Smokey. Why wear a hat... when you can wear a cool patch! Read the story "Newbie Knitter" from the archives.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
The toxic relations that I now try to avoid are those that somehow make their problems your problems. They're the ones that tell you their problem then seem to say " the ball's in your court, how to you solve it?" My daughter had a friend in college who was excellent at transferring her problems to my daughter. I kept telling my daughter that it's not her problem, but she'd think that it was. (I love to give an example but after seven extra people in the house for the last 12 days my brain's a bit worn out!)
Happy New Year, everyone!!
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Thanks for the story and Happy New Year! I think we all get a gut feeling when something is not right and I just try to avoid those people. I try to have a happy, positive outlook and I think I draw those kind of people to me. I have met up with negative people but not that many. Sometimes if someone is really negative, I think there is something going on in their life that they are struggling with. I think we just need to be understanding of everyone. We never know what someone else is going through. I don't make resolutions for the New Year but I did see a really neat idea that I saw on Slice of Life FB page. It's called a Kindness Jar-A way of tracking the good things that happened over the year. "This January, why not start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen. Then, on New Year's Eve, empty it and see what awesome stuff happened that year."
Posted by: Eileen - Charlottesville, VA | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Toxic relationships poison your spirit; you cannot be yourself in the presence of these (usually unhappy) people. Most of the time you can avoid these people -- unless they are family members. Then, I pray for them while I keep a healthy distance. On a more positive note, today I will write to each of the dozen new friends I met this year. How blessed I am!
Gail in New Hampshire
Posted by: Gail in New Hampshire | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I can't think of any toxic people, maybe there are but why would I want to take on their problems. I have friends with problems but they do not try to inflict them on me.
Let's stay positive for the New Year...hope for Peace in places of unrest, healing for those who have suffered and good will to all people.
We had a foot of snow yesterday, lost power for 3 hours but now it is white all around us. We will celebrate New Years with friends chez nous.
HAPPY NEW YEARS TO ALL!
Posted by: Kathleen from Connecticut | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 02:39 PM
You shouldn't beat yourself up with the perceived mis-step about your "toothless angel". I'm sure she didn't want to call attention to herself from the beginning. It was only when you shared her fears that she probably felt the need to update you.
The toxic one in my life is a relative so it's hard to get away from it. My approach simply has to be adjusted. This person never celebrates others - would be jealous if you did something she wanted to do, etc.. She only hugs her own kids, never the rest. Is only concerned with herself.
Why does it bother me so much? Maybe because she is so very opposite of me. How do I adjust my thinking so that I can bear what I see in front of me when she is there? I visualize that her arms and her just aren't capable of opening up wide. A physical ailment, of sorts. That's the only way I can deal with it - And yet at times I feel that my arms open up too wide and should, instead, reach more for those who are right in front of me.
Our challenges make us grow. Breath through it and look for the lesson.
Posted by: Karen Whitcome (in Towson, Md) | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Happy New Year, Kristin.
I hope it's a bright and fulfilling 2013.
Sending kisses and hugs to you all. And, thanks for bringing us so much joy.
Posted by: Karen Whitcome (in Towson, Md) | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Toxic relationships simultaneously infuriate and sadden me. Sometimes I can't believe the things coming out of my "loved one's" mouth and then I am so sad that I allow myself to be treated this way. Toxic friends are way easier to dump - family members and spouses are a whole other story! There are no easy answers - people choose to stay in toxic relationships for a number of reasons, many of which are/seem important. What do we really owe one another? Respect. At least that is what I keep telling myself.
Posted by: Kristin - Exton, PA | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 03:22 PM
When doing and being what I love most, energy supply meets demand. Toxicity depletes energy. Healthy focuses for me are interests, not relationships: garden, art, writing, reading. Occasionally comparing ailments is a form of entertainment, fact-finding, which can be fun and helpful.
Posted by: julie camp | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 03:34 PM
"In order to be of more use to loved-ones, it may help to spend less time with online correspondence (email, Facebook, et compagnie...)" Yes, dear Kristi, but we all must keep reading this blog and learning our French! Love to you and your family, your neighbors and all readers here, Mary
Posted by: Mary Holden | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 03:54 PM
As a pastor, I live in the last house on the dead-end street called "Solve my problem." A long time ago I decided to spend the greater amount of time with those who were seriously looking for answers and not just wanting to "infect" others with their toxicity. So, I devote myself to the unassuming. They usually take counsel and suggestions with grace and purposefulness, willing to lean on the divine hand offered by God. As for the others, I lend a listening ear (as time allows) and then give them one thing to "do" to help solve their problem. I then tell them not to come back until they've done that one thing. You'd be surprised at how many never come back for a second session. It points out to me that they're really not interested at moving forward but are content to wallow in their self-pity. I find it comforting to know that Jesus allowed people to walk away from Him instead of running after them begging them to be healed.
Posted by: Tom from Detroit | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 03:57 PM
To be a true friend, there is no judgment but support and understanding. Toxic relationships are self-seeking and unproductive. I steer from negative people and relationships as soon as this is apparent.
I have said many times "Keep the good people in your life. Throw away the rest because they serve no useful purpose." This might seem a little harsh and certainly is not always possible (particularly with family and co-workers), but as a general principle I have in this way found a number of very good people. These are the ones who enrich my life.
Posted by: Tom B, Jersey City NJ | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Darling Kristin, as usual, your insight is so beautifully and gently presented, giving your readers tears and smiles. By coincidence, I had just written an email to a friend, promising that 2013 would be the year when we spent more time together...and then your lovely blog confirmed our growing concern that we must care more for each other. As for those "toxic" ones around us? They need love too, but the best way is to only give them attention when you see improvement in their behavior. The needy ones around us? You are doing just fine! Keep up the wonderful words in this bright new year, and from my heart, thank you for all your years of helping me see deeper into the human heart and soul.
Posted by: Susan from Oakton | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Kristin, Jean-Marc and family
Posted by: Ronni Ebbers | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Bonne Année to your wonderful family. As always, you've given us all something important to think about. As for the idea of "toxic" relationships I wouldn't say my relationship problems go that far. However, it has taken me years to realize that I'm working harder at the life of certain family and friends than they are themselves. I've vowed that I will not work harder to turn their lives around than they are. It pains me to see them spinning wheels or making the same mistakes over, but by not trying to solve their problems I find I can approach them with a little more peace and joy, looking for the good instead of focusing on the bad.
I love your resolution to focus on certain people this year. Hope you don't mind if I borrow that one.
My other resolution is to finally memorize the phone numbers of my most important people who I've relegated to speed dial. I'm embarrassed to admit I never learned my sister's phone number since she moved, or my good friend's cell number. Or even MY OWN phone number on the landline in my apartment in France.
Posted by: Julie Farrar | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 05:22 PM
The more toxic the relationship ... the harder I scrutinize myself. Kristin, thank you so much (Mahalo Nui Loa) for another year of French Word A Day. Your hard work, tenacity, self discipline, and talent have been very beneficial to my life. I am most appreciative. Salut to your continued success, Kristin. Fellow FWAD readers .. I feel a wonderful kinship with each of you .. enjoying the incredible comments which flow accross these pages .. a wonderful family, born from one Woman's efforts. Wishing each of you Health, Happiness, & Prosperity in 2013! With Warm Aloha, Bill Facker
Posted by: Bill Facker | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Your site is so inspirational. Instead of a New Years Resolution, we can find some people who don't get enough love and attention and try to encourage them in the coming year. This is such a lovely idea.
I hope that this is not out of place, but I will be leaving for France in two days and will be attending a school in Montpellier, as the Nice school was closed. Do you have any suggestions for me since I have never visited France before?
Posted by: Dianne Vergos | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Thanks for your story today. These are great questions to ponder as we start another year. The older I get the more valuable my time. For that reason, I've learned to listen to my inner voice which always warns me to keep my distance from those who will steal my time and my energies. It's taken me years of spending myself on narcissists to see that this is one of my lessons to learn.
For this new year, I vow to simplify and slow down. To me, that means to stop and listen before diving into toxic situations. When I'm in a rush I'm more likely to involve myself in time and emotion-wasting events and people. So thanks for the reminder! It's a good one!
Wishing you and your family all the best in 2013!
Posted by: Cate Salenger | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Happy New Year, Kristen, and thank you for your insightful and thought-provoking postings. Always enjoyable to read.
Posted by: Lynne | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Oops,I just noticed that I spelled your name wrong. Sorry. My niece spells her name with an "en".
Posted by: Lynne | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 06:23 PM
For me, conversations are like playing 'catch'. Often, what I intend is not what my partner heard and vis versa. I firmly believe that each of us interprets others through the filter of our past experiences and so I try to hear every conversation with the thought that each of us is doing the best we can in the moment. It helps to keep me centered and hopefully non judgmental.
Having said all that, I still think that there are some interactions that, for one reason or another, just leave me drained or upset. Rather than think of the relationship or the person as 'toxic', I prefer to set healthy boundaries. I'm happy to talk or be with someone so long as those boundaries are respected. When they're not, I gently remind the person, or gracefully leave the conversation if they can't stop 'invading' my energy.
I love your grandmother's definition of squeaky wheels. My Grams used that expression as well. And I thank you for the reminder to pay closer attention to the relationships in my life that are working, even when - perhaps especially when - they are silent.
A very Happy New Year to you and yours, Kristin. Here's wishing you All Good Things!
Posted by: L. M. Davies | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Kristi, you continue to amaze me. Your post today touched me deeply. You help me become a better person through your honest self-examinatin. God bless you and yours. Bonne année 2013!
Posted by: Suzanne de Chicago | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Toxic people infiltrate our defenses because we allow them to, whether it is out of our wish to do good or not to hurt anyones feelings. We can however be strong and true friends whilst being honest and not allowing the toxicity to come into conversation and focusing on the positive that each and every day brings us. At work and home I choose to think positive and happy thoughts and be grateful for what I have and not for that which I don't. Safe New Year 2013 to all. xxx
Posted by: suzana rose borlovan | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Dear Kristi and Jean-Marc: Have a wonderful New Year!
Kristi - interesting topic today, with lots of food for thought. Thank you!
Posted by: Debbi Estes | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Wishing your whole family a wonderfully-blessed new year, Miss Kristi! Love your dedication to humble friends. :) God's blessings to you!
Posted by: Tami in TX | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Have a wonderful NEW YEAR!
Your topic today does make us all think. I don't do resolutions but try each year to be aware, more patient and more loving to all.
xoxo to you and your family.
Posted by: Karen from Phoenix | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 08:08 PM
A very nice and thoughtful post with a beautiful photo and a few French words to remember/learn. Well done!
Posted by: Marilynn Gottlieb | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Our dear Kristi,
Another wonderful post,and as we leave the old year for the new, you've (once again!) given us complete food for thought.
Inspiration (words from God!?) hits us at the oddest opportunities(hanging up the wash?!)You have lovely neighbors;indeed, they are fortunate to have you as theirs.
And I have to remember Proverb 25:11,"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." What a good lesson to remember. The world is so full of uncharitable souls. I'm sure Jesus would want us to strive to follow his example in giving the benefit of the doubt.
Happy New Year and may 2013 be filled with blessings.
Love, Natalia XO
Posted by: Natalia | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Happy New Year to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your lives with us. Frances, Napa, California
Posted by: Frances Anamosa | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Bonne année, les Espinasse! Kristi, your straight-from-the-heart story today really touched home. You write about the feelings I'm having too, thousands of miles away. I get sooo busy I forget about the needs of the people who weave in and out of my life. Thank you for the pique of conscience. I'm going to try harder to slow down (!) and connect with the people in my life. After all, they are what is important, not the social media or the mindless running around or getting sucked into the computer (aka The Devil Machine--chez nous). Thank you for French Word-A-Day and what you do. You are so good at it. Love from Georgia (USA).
Posted by: Diane Heinecke | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 09:07 PM
That window decoration could be so telling. Please don't let me get started on toxic relationships, we'll be here all day. After 60 years of being the loving daughter, to find out their lifelong ailments are a figment of their imagination, is mind blowing. Then you realize they were actually sicker than you thought just in a totally different dimension.
Wishing you & your loved ones the happiest of New Years. Hugs
Posted by: Betty | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Bonnee Annee to you, Kristin, your family & all your readers. I hope 2013 is everything positive, peaceful & purposeful.
Posted by: Susan Carter (Westminster, CA) | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 11:02 PM
And I hope you see that neighbor again soon, to make sure the one tooth extraction was easy to heal and did not lead to other problems.
Posted by: Sarah LaBelle near Chicago | Monday, December 31, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Happy New Year! To you and your lovely family, Kristen. I live in a senior community where, it seems everyone I know has something wrong with them. I get confused as to who has what but love them all.
Posted by: Shirley | Tuesday, January 01, 2013 at 12:12 AM
Happy New Year Kristin and family,
Since my husband Richard died at this time of year ,I struggle...but I have learned to be much kinder to both people I know and love,and strangers.Sometimes toxic people are just lonely and fearful,and just want a kind word.
With technology,sometimes it's hard to remember a smile and "how are you" to strangers
Your neighbor must really like you to share this.
Posted by: Mary Keates | Tuesday, January 01, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Happy New Year to all of the Espinasse family and my thanks for a year of wonderful episodes which were enjoyed more than I can express in words. If I were a neighbor, maybe a pecan pie (my speciality) would help, but words are all that I have and I am not a writer. However, I shall remember the "toothless angel" and hope that she did not lose her very last tooth! My best wishes, Cynthia
Posted by: Cynthia Lewis | Tuesday, January 01, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Je voudrais simplement souhaiter une "Bonne et Heureuse Année à toute ta famille Espinasse!" De même à ta chère maman Jules.
Posted by: Millie | Tuesday, January 01, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Cooee, bonne et heureuse année from Down Under where it's hot and humid (34Celsius).
forgotton = forgotten
tétue = têtue
Posted by: JacqBrisbane | Wednesday, January 02, 2013 at 12:32 AM
Can you make a dish of something soft for the neighbor? Chicken soup, of course, is classic. Here in Wisconsin, I'd make mac cheese, with good quality cheddar. For kids: Jello made with hot applesauce for the first cup of liquid, 7-up for the second. Any flavor Jello will do. What you take is not important. The caring behind it is what counts.
Posted by: Mara in Wisconsin | Wednesday, January 02, 2013 at 04:25 AM
Thanks, Kristin. I liked your blog and all of your viewers' comments. It was helpful. I try to help people to the point of burn out.
Posted by: Yvette Soubirous, Antioch, CA | Wednesday, January 02, 2013 at 10:56 AM