I do have a good laugh when I choose to write on a subject about which I know so very little.
When I was still at school, we had to read a novel by George Duhamel entitled Le Notaire du Havre which, as now expected with so much of modern literature, had nothing – and everything – to do with a lawyer, be he from Havre or not. I’d love to see you try to find Havre in the family atlas in 1980. One more reason why I am so dependent upon my spectacles now.
There were a few words in that novel which struck me, and have struck me ever since. When my life gets a bit too crazy even for my liking, I recall them:
” Toute vie est une conquête constante de l’ordre, une bataille, un travail incessant pour trouver un équilibre difficile »
In English (a nice, literal translation from me, for a change), “All life is a constant conquest of order, a battle, an incessant labour to find a difficult balance.”
You may be wondering why a picture of my home-made Christmas wreath has suddenly appeared in this blog. The answer is balance. The making of the wreath is not normally a time-consuming affair, but this particular one was an achievement. It took a whole eight days from the time I cut the grapevine to hanging it up on 21 December 2013.
During that time I attended four different social functions, attended to a number of other duties, and completed five different translation assignments. In between all of that I managed to retrieve from storage the baubles on the wreath, which necessitated tidying that tiny space after I had got what I wanted. And then there was the delightful tramping through the fields to find the rosemary and a small enough orange, and other bits of greenery. I loved threading the string through the centre of the orange.
I could do a lot more of that, coming to thing of it. You know, like just for fun; every now and then, simply get up from my desk, run outside and pick an orange, and then dash back inside and thread an orange, and then say, “Oh, look, there’s another one done!”, and be awfully pleased with myself.
The point is that getting ready and going to the social engagements causes me stress. Once I get to the event, I am okay. It is getting there that I find problematic. The translation assignments were all a tight squeeze, made slightly more stressful than normal chiefly because I had a cold, and really did have to put extra effort into thinking clearly. My brain was not changing gears as smoothly as it usually does.
During an English editing assignment (an adaptation from the French text, which I had to consult from time to time), I didn’t dare read my Portuguese news magazine during those little moments in the little room, for fear of interference of that language on my editing work. Similarly, dealing with a Portuguese client via e-mail in the middle of a German-English translation had me staring blankly in a kind of dazed incomprehension at the German text for a good five minutes as I backtracked and got back on track.
The balance came when I finally assembled the wreath, as a pleasant break between the completion of a German-English translation, and the start of a Portuguese-English one. The balance of doing a simple, yet pleasant task in the middle of a hectic schedule. The balance is achieved by forgetting everything in one’s head, and concentrating on the basic task at hand.
I am not a fiddly, decorating, making things pretty type of gal. I came to terms with that plain fact years ago. I know, in advance therefore, that the result will be naive, imperfect, but entirely honest. I knew, too, that it was time to pay homage to the season; to do something to express the fact that I care, and to do it in an unhurried way as if it were the only thing that mattered. I should add that by the time I was finished, I was happy; for a moment, I had found that difficult balance . And Christmas in my home, as simple as it was, had started.
(All good Christmas wishes to those who receive them gladly!)