1375738_10202285312394163_1880687216_n“I’m sorry,” I say, countless times each day, “My Spanish is very bad.”

“I’m a terrible dancer,” I’ll announce. “The worst. Terrible, but confident. A deadly combination.”

The words flow effortlessly.

“I’m not a very good cook.”

“I’m kind of a bad driver.”

“Sometimes I can’t even dress myself.”

I like to throw these zingers about because if there’s anything people hate, it’s a bragger. And, if you want to get all Good Will Hunting about it, there’s the part of me that self-attacks to control the situation. Strike first.

“Nancy,” my husband says, “You know this doesn’t translate very well. People really do think you can’t cook. And they really do think you can’t drive.”

“And that I kill plants,” I add.

“Because you tell them that.”

I think to my burnt tortillas and goopy lasagne, my languishing aloe plant, and my passenger-side mirror dangling from the side of  my car. “Well, it’s kinda true.”

He sighs, “Well, you kinda make it true.”

He’s right, of course. It’s much easier to be the clown then to take a risk. To say, “I write little things just for me,” instead of “I really want to be a professional writer,” or “I speak a little Spanish,” instead of “I strive to be bilingual.”

I’ve tasted failure before. Countless articles and stories submitted, and rejected. Snubs large and small. I understand that the anticipation of loss is usually worse than the real thing.

So, what’s this have to do with living in Spain? Translating oneself. When one has to think about how to say, “I’m a bad mother,” or “My shoes are ugly,” you realize the weight of the words a bit more. You feel them, like small, bumpy stones in your hands.

Part of our decision to move here was to translate our lives into something more beautiful. Trading sleet and a grande Starbucks for sunshine and a cafelito. More walks on the beach, and less time in the car. We yearned to nurture our family, our table, our future.

And perhaps some of this nurturing involves a bit of balance. Occasionally saying, “I’ve really learned a lot this year,” or “My hair looks really pretty today.”

I planted a yucca plant today. I set it into the soil, patting down the dirt and sand. I watered it, and placed it near the light. I did a good job. It’s beautiful. And under my care, it will flourish.

3 thoughts on “Translation

  1. I am the clown, almost always. Self-deprecating humor is kind of my thing. It’s totally a defense mechanism that I let very few people see past.

    Balance is hard to find. I’m happy that you are striving toward it. And that you planted that yucca plant. It will thrive and be beautiful. I believe it firmly.

  2. I think, for me, it’s habit. I still say “I can’t bake” because for the longest time, I COULDN’T bake. Cookies came out oddly – which happens when you double the butter but forget to double everything else. Bread was so heavy the chickens couldn’t peck it. Muffins were burned on the outside and raw in the middle – how does that even happen?

    Over time, my breads got lighter, my muffins baked properly, and my cookies, well, I just stopped making cookies.

    Still, I revert.

    And I wonder how much of it is societal. Don’t brag. Don’t toot your own horn. Be humble. It’s all drilled in our heads until when we hear someone say, “I’m an awesome baker” or “I’m beautiful” our heads rear back, our eyebrows raise, and we think, “Wow. That’s…just…wow.”

  3. Just being in Spain is such a risk in and of itself, and I can see how it would be easier to play the clown, so to speak. It’s not prideful to recognize your strengths and acknowledge your dreams. I say this to myself as I say it to you.

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