This morning I had a long talk about life with my 91 year old neighbor Denise. She asked me what I was writing in my notebook. I had written, “I’ve got to remove my expectations. It makes people feel bad,” but I wasn’t sure how to say that in French, so I said, “Je veut me changer.” I want to change myself.

She was intrigued and said, “Let’s take a walk in the park, and after I show you my favorite places, we’ll sit and you can explain what you mean.” Of course, she said that in French, but I’m not going to try writing it all out here now. There would be far too many spelling mistakes, and it would only be more confusing.

After showing me the Sequoia at the edge of the park, and pointing out each of the particular trees and flowers that were most beautiful to her, we chose a bench in the sun and got down to the work of a philosophical conversation. It took quite a long time, as many of the words she used had to be explained and then examined in context, and neither of us had brought a dictionary, but I will give you a summary of the main points:

1) everyone has something good and bad.
2) Me too~ I have something good and bad;
3) Appreciate the good in people and ignore the rest if possible;

At this point I told her that in my life I had always been searching for the perfect person.

“Ca n’existe pas!” she said firmly, and we both laughed.
This brings me to her next point:

4) Perfection can be found in ART, but in life we have to learn to accept things as they are.

Then she wrote down the word, ‘Resignation,’ and I threw up my hands and exclaimed, “NO! I don’t believe that’s the way!”

Maybe in French the word has a different meaning, but in English to resign oneself to something has quite a negative connotation, and it’s not the way I want to live my life. I explained to her the difference between resignation and ‘serenity and acceptance.’ She said she would think about that, and then took my pen and wrote ‘espoir’ – ‘desespoir’ and that somewhere in the middle is reality. Which led us to the next point:

5) In between hope and despair is serenity and acceptance;

Then she wrote ‘exigeante’ and under it, ‘concession.’ I thought I understood. Then she wrote the word ‘decu’~ (I don’t have a French keyboard so I can’t put the little tail on the c)~ and ‘deception amoureux.’ Was it self-pity? discouragement? I didn’t know until I got home and my husband explained that it means ‘disappointed.’ Ahhh! of course~’disappointed in love.’ The next point:

6) We need to make concessions, and temper our demands of others, or we will always be disappointed.

Do you like these kinds of conversations, I asked. “Oh, j’adore!” she said, and added that it’s not easy to find people to have them with. At that point she smiled and told me that I looked like I was getting tired. I laughed and answered, “Oui! Je suis remplis.” Jean told me later that I should have said, “J’en avais assez,” but she understood 

I took out my camera, and got a selfie of the two of us, and then some pictures of the beautiful park and especially the grand sequoia as we strolled home. She commented that I see the beauty and good in trees, but I need to learn to see it in people, too.

“Tu as raison,” je lui ai dit. (You’re right! I said.) We walked back home arm in arm, and she tried to say something else to me, but I could not understand. “Come inside, and I’ll get the dictionary.”

The idioms she was using were, ‘Faire la part de feu,’ to cut one’s losses, and ‘Faire la part des choses’~ to put things in perspective, our final point:

7) When we make a mistake, or lose something we wanted to keep, we have to cut our losses, and put things in perspective. Yes, I sighed. I’m learning….

We were both pretty exhausted. For one, the conversation had taken place basically in French, and two, we both have a limit to how much we can handle of that sort of thing! Round two next week  A bientot!

The Sequoia

The Sequoia

The pond...

The pond…

Her favorite
Her favorite trees in the park.

2 thoughts on “LA PART DE FEU

  1. You are doing very well to have such a conversation in French. I recently was thinking about brushing up on my French as we often have Fr. Canadian customers at work. I know it will take a lot of effort though, and I’m not sure if i have the energy or time to focus in that direction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s