Tongue tied

I’m just back from the railway station with a couple more tickets I bought. Why is this so hard?

Maybe my standards are too high. I happily approached the ticket desk when it became free, despite the fact that the girl at the one with a Union Flag saying English is spoken was much cuter than the guy in front of me. In general I like to speak French and I think I might have formed the idea that its a failure when I speak to someone in French and they, for whatever reason, reply in English. Or worse still, when they reply in French and I can’t understand what they said, and then ask them to say it again slowly and then they switch to English. Anyway, Loïc didn’t speak any English so I was lucky.

Or perhaps not.

When it was time to pay for my two train journeys, the price seemed suspiciously low. I asked to, to confirm, that I had bought two return journeys. Yes, he nodded, and started reading out the details, slightly faster than I could process. So I asked him what happened to the journey in July which had been the first one I had asked for. He opened his draw and started searching through a wad of receipts to see if I had bought a ticket. I apologised for the confusion and started from scratch to enumerate the journeys I wanted to buy. At which moment another lady came back from her lunch break and he called her over to speak to me in English. By this time, rather than disappointed by my failure to communicate in French, I was fee glad for the chance to speak without being misunderstood. But still I could feel a bit tight muscle in my chest about where my hart is as I swallowed my shame and explained, in English, that somehow when I had tried to correct he date of one of my tickets, Loïc had thought I wanted to cancel that journey.

“God damn it, why can’t I understand these people yet? And I’m feeling like a failure, after a year, when I can’t even buy fucking train tickets without a translator. And the shame of that failure makes e want to run away: buy on-line, not travel at all, leave the country, quit my job, eradicate the failed experience of living in France and learning French. This was not my idea, this is not what I wanted. This is not the successful and clever man as whom I wish to see myself.”

And rather than treating this as a great and useful learning experience, I am treating it as evidence of my inferiority because, of course, my non-French speaking colleagues are doing much better than me, and other comparisons effective at, if not intended to, make me miserable.

In fact I expect that I compare myself with the others precisely to make myself feel bad; I do specifically as an effective means of beating myself up; punishing myself for not meeting my own standard. For not speaking French as well as I want to because I am interpreting that as meaning that I am not as clever as my image of myself. The reason my ego hates my reality so badly as to be prepared to attack it with harmful comparisons, is because the ego thinks I’m pretty damn smart and can’t bear to see me letting down its image of me.

And I so want to embrace the poor kid struggling to be understood, I want to find the me who is doing his best, and cuddle him and say “You’re doing great already, kid, just keep at it”. But I’m finding it hard to locate him because my ego is in the way, in control, making me want to avoid experiences in which I might fail to live up to it’s image of me, rather than enjoy them for what they are.

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