I have now learned that taking a trip to a foreign country with an unfamiliar language (even if it is your partner’s first language), can easily be one of the top 5 most stressful things on a relationship. I think the list of top 5 stresses goes something like: 1) Someone in family with serious illness or an older ill parent moving in; 2) an affair; 3) moving to a new country and both getting a new job or one staying home isolated with children; 4) huge financial loss; 5) significant travel containing 2 or more major celebrations. I felt like I was 4 again and totally petrified. A language I did not speak nor did I understand, driving conditions new and difficult for me (the roundabouts, and road signs all of course in French), technology (GPS, cell phones, stuff like that), maps, time change, all contributed to me feeling totally disoriented and uncertain. Change isn’t always hard for me. But new and unfamiliar certainly had its challenges on this trip. Being vulnerable is not comfortable.
Clo stood up to the plate and took charge. She literally held me when I fell down. I got terribly sick for most of the trip and dear, stalwart, resourceful, loyal, and loving Clo, as always, took care of me. I feel great now that I am back home and can look back and remember the beauty and history of France, and certainly the food and wine!
I learned first-hand something really important for me to try to share. I learned the importance of sticking with your partner and not blaming or judging, but helping them to hang on in a time of distress. I believe my level of vulnerability and lack of control while in France, being sick all over again, triggered the depth of despair and fear I had felt for those years when I was so sick with my heart. Once again, I did not have a clue what to do with myself. I was too sick to think clearly. Literally, Clo had to point me in the right direction again and again.
It was a major power struggle waiting to happen. And Clo didn’t let it happen. A lesson to remember: If we won’t let “it”, whatever “it” might be at the moment, happen, it simply can’t happen. She held steady, had a good time and let me find my when, helping me when I could not do it on my own. I had a good time too, in-between bouts of the awful stuff.
We will go back again in a year or two and do it differently the second time around. We will skip Paris. The tourist lines are way too long for us for our level of tolerance. We will return to Chartes, Chinon, and Bordeaux, rent an apartment for a week or more and take day trips by train. No more roundabouts, standard shifting and streets with two or more unpronounceable names. (Unpronounceable for me at least. And as Clo did all the driving, I was supposed to help navigate which is a titch difficult when you haven’t a clue what you are looking for.) Thank heavens for Madam GPS. For sure she saved us more than once.
I did learn a bit more French and that certainly pleased Clo. We visited several beautiful cathedrals and churches, some castles, saw the sea and the ocean. We stayed 2 days at a wonderful, old French farm house with two of Clo’s friends who were absolutely wonderful hosts. Out of the depths came sunshine, just this morning. Last night I slept the best I have in months and woke up feeling loved and healed.
I suggest you try to learn from me. I had to learn the hard way so let me pass on my wondrous wisdom: love each other and trust each other to be well intentioned. Try to understand when your partner is vulnerable or in need, that what they long for is connection and love, always. That goes for you as well. We always need love and connection, our self-esteem and confidence depend on it. Love is the only thing that makes life worthwhile. Nurture yours, with your family and with your friends, but most of all with your partner. Learn to lead with joy. I am still learning and it feels good.