Today, I was really uncomfortable. I sat in my office watching the clock. It grew closer to noon. For months, I have thought about going to a French language group in Charlotte, NC at the International and Cultural Center. But my strong introvert personality would arise, and I would find a reason not to go.
These were not made-up reasons, but reasons nonetheless.
Today, I did not have a reason to not go. Of course, I needed to do my taxes. I needed to prepare my online classes. But yesterday, I got SO MUCH DONE! And there was plenty of time to do my taxes and online classes tomorrow.
Tick-tock-tick. The time grew closer to noon. I had brought two French books with me in case I had the courage to go. I didn't know the format - was it a small group? a large group? Would I need something French to read or not? I had no idea what the class would be like. But I packed up my bag to go.
On the short drive, I knew I could easily do something else. I needed to go to the post office. Blah blah. Still I pulled into the school's parking lot. There was no place to park. AHA! I knew I wasn't meant to go. Then, oh! There was a spot.
I went into the building. I heard French speakers before I entered, and as I peered around the corner there was a roomful of people sitting in a circle. A lot of people! A man near the door quickly said "Hello!" and I quickly informed him I really couldn't speak French, but I wanted to.
He immediately set out to help me feel comfortable - telling me how the time would go and letting me know that on his first visit three years ago he didn't speak French either.
Recently, I was in Charleston, WV and had a lesson with my former French teacher. When I told him about the free group in Charlotte, he insisted I go for three months. "You'll learn more there than you will ever learn in lessons," he encouraged.
So when I sat down, and Henry told me he had been coming for three years and he was seeming to speak French pretty well > well it clicked right? I still felt uncomfortable.
I was second to speak, didn't say anything in French :( and passed. The other 18 people (minus a native Spanish speaker who seemed as lost as me), were apparently VERY fluent. They went around the room seemingly waxing poetic all in French. Various others would laugh or ahhhh! While I would know a word here and there, overall I was pretty confused.
And, as I sat there truly immersed... or shall I say "deep sea diving deeply immersed"... I slowly became more comfortable. No one was shunning me out of the room or staring at me in contempt. I saw a sign on the wall:
"Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language."
- H. Jackson Browne, Jr.
I changed it in my head.
"Never make fun of someone who speaks broken French. It means they want to speak it better."
- Amy J. Williams
Before I went to France for an artist's residency in 2016, I took French lessons. It was more to not feel the shock of another language than it was to really learn French because I had a hard time absorbing it. But still, I would go to my private tutor sessions each week until I left.
When I got to France, at the train station that would take me from Paris to the south of France, I saw a man and woman kissing. So romantic and happy. When I headed to get on the train, I saw them part and the woman got on the train alone.
I was sitting near her. After the train started to move for awhile, I became more aware of how I felt uncomfortable. I knew I had to make a transfer and I was confused where. I decided to show her my ticket. When she realized I could not adequately communicate with her, we began speaking to each other without speaking. She let me know she would let me know when to disembark on time.
It was at least an hour before we got to the stop and she alerted me. I felt her presence, aware that if I knew French we would be talking up a storm. Then as the train stopped, she grabbed her bag and motioned for me to follow. I had way more luggage, and it was difficult to maneuver but I did.
I followed her off the train, down the station platform, under the tracks, through a tunnel, up the stairs, on to another platform and onto a different train. She got on the train, dropped her bag, motioned for me to sit... then she got off the train to smoke.
All this with no words spoken.
Right before the train started to leave, she climbed the train's stairs and we sat next to each other. Increasingly aware I could not exchange chit chat with her, I felt more comfortable and even close to her. I had been encouraged by friends that if I had a need in France, it would be provided for. I was sitting in the evidence of grace and mercy.
When I finally arrived at the last stop, I thanked her with my energy and a hug and a humble "Merci!" and exited the train.
I was in the small village of Tonnerre, where it quickly became evident that I had been forgotten because no driver was there.
I opened a card my dear friend Megan had sent with me on the trip. As I felt uncomfortable (again) in that moment, and even tearfully alone, I read her words. "This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you." ~ Hafiz
Uncomfortable on behalf of our soul's desires is truly where we are meant to be. I hope you will be inspired to be more uncomfortable too! There is a power in being uncomfortable! Claim it! Au revoir!!