17 May 2008


I have lately been expressing my feelings out loud with a higher frequency. The verb for expressing in French is "exprimer", which always reminds me of the Spanish exprimir which means "to squeeze". As Canucka has blogged about, there are certain words in our L2s (L2 is language research slang for "second language") that just stick with us and we like to use. Most of them are swear words, I guess, because they don't carry as a strong feeling or meaning than to native speakers. However, I was talking to Gabrielle about how English has become my main language for expressing positive feelings. I *feel* in English, and that is not to say that I don't feel when I used words expressions like mi cielo or preciosa, I DO mean them. However, I have re-coded my life experiences into English.

Just last week I finished a five month individual counselling process with the Counselling and Development Centre(CDC) at YorkU. It is not my first time in my life in which I have sought help, nor the first time that I have attended the CDC to get help. In the half dozen or so opportunities I have been seeing a mental health professional this is one of the best experiences I have had. To begin with, I was driven completely by my own motivation to change and to explore my behaviour patterns, thought processes, and emotional responses to life. This sounds so dry and contrived, but really, that is all it is to experience life: how we act, how we think and how we feel. And I was (and still am) on a period of my life in which I needed to tame my wild introspection and finally make it work to my advantage.

Even though it was more a "here and now" kind of process, where every week I was able to reflect on the events of previous days, there was always the presence of the past. A reframing of my life and of the image I have had of myself throughout my life was at the centre of the growth I experienced in the past five or so months. My counsellor was not only the perfect squash court to bounce back ideas, but a very impartial voice of advice at the right time. The counselling stopped at this point because she was only doing an internship at the CDC. I've been asked if I would've continued going to counselling and yes, I would have. However this is a good point to transition into being my own voice of reason and will keep the hour a week to myself. I have decided to start going to play squash once a week, alone, to give me the appropriate time and space to review my week and continue the path I am taking.

All of this to say that I believe that among many many things, this process not only reinforced the recoding of my life into English, but also helped me integrate and accept all the different parts that form me, like a stained glass window or a 3D puzzle. My different identities can come out every now and then and I can let them be. I have been given the chance now to explore even further a new part of my cultural experience. As I start to get to know Gabrielle I get to see myself through her eyes. Moreover, being French her first language, it has given me a chance to understand and share this ESL experience, and also to push myself into using a third language (every now and then at least) to squeeze meaning out of this life. Just a couple of weeks ago, as I was trying to describe a Guatemalan enchilada to her, due to my lack of vocabulary in French, I wasn't able to come up with the word "betterave", but more interestingly both the words "beet" and "remolacha" (what betterave means in English and Español) were completely blocked. I was aware that I knew them and I had the image of such vegetable but I couldn't even do the "switch coding" and interject English into my very primitive French conversation. Oh, the mind and its games.

Note on frequency of postings/comments
As you may have noticed there was almost a month in between my previous post and this one. I confess I have been doing some living lately and thus have neglected elToronteco. I still read the postings on my favourite blogs and every now and then I drop a line as a comment. I also appreciate the comments on any posting I have written and I get a laugh at seeing the google searches that result in unexpected visits. I make no promises of future postings, but I am not riding towards the sunset just yet. After all, besides squash, blogging will become part of my self reflection exercise on a more consistent way now that counselling has ended. So, stayed tuned.


CancunCanuck said...

How lovely to see you posting again. I am glad your break was for something as positive as "living", nothing better really. I'm thrilled you had such a positive CDC experience, I remember from "back in MY day", the CDC was a very helpful place.

And of course I totally sympathize with the "recoding" of language. Yes, most of my communication interpersonally is still in English, but there are some things that are automatically in Spanish now. For some time, I was using "te quiero" more than "I love you", until recent events made me question exactly what "te quiero" means and when it should be used. It started to feel "flippant" and meaningless so I returned to the English "I love you" as I know exactly what it means and how it makes me feel. Hearing "te quiero" being tossed around by casual friends (and other relationships) caused it to lose its significance. I am trying to retrain Hubby to use "te amo" instead, it just doesn't make me feel loved to hear him say "te quiero" when he says it to everyone else in his life.

Anywho, I was digressing there, but shoot me, it's 7 am on Sunday.

As you know I am seeing a mental health professional myself right now and am grateful to have found someone here in Mexico who is bilingual as the recoding hasn't gone far enough for me to fully express my feelings (and behaviours and thoughts) in Spanish. Kudos to you for being able to do so, I think you are much more integrated than I. Sure, I can visit a doctor or buy tortillas and even a car, but talking about inner demons is really the domain of Mama Tongue for me. Rock on el Toronteco and don't give up the blogging yet, you would be missed!

Hop Hunahpu said...

Hey, if you have time for some more self-reflection I've got a mission for you!
Drop me a line if you have a minute.


CarmenDeBizet said...

Hi Manolo. Language is, for me at least, an expression of who I am. I mostly use English even when I curse...'cause that's how I grew up. I have lived in the U.S. for more than half my life so how on Earth am I going to sound "Guatemalan?" Personally, when I get dubious remarks about my "lack" of knowledge of certain things/ideas/places etc. I just laugh it off. If people persist, I ready my sword. I resent when I'm put on the spot and called out for not knowing how to say something in Spanish or in Guatemala, in Chapin terms. Fuck man. I can handle Spanish pretty well and judging by some of the writings that I have come across from the younger people...there is a lot to be desired from their grammar or lack thereof...so as one would say in Spanish, El comal le dijo a la olla. You have already read about this, but I tend to translate what people are saying in Spanish to English and I do a formidable job of following along in a conversation (modesty aside). That being said, I find it funny and ironic at the same time that relatives/acquaintances,/people in general sprinkle words in English here and there in their conversations in Guatemala, but at the same time argue that they are language "purists."

Okay, I'm putting my sword away.

Also, I don't come by Blogspot anymore...it's kind of hard to keep two blogs at the same time...one had to suffer. Thanks for dropping by at Xanga.