I felt so directionless that first year of living in France, I didn’t know who I was any more. Without language I wasn’t able to communicate well, without working I didn’t feel valued. I questionned and analysed everything.
‘Oh!’ I was greeted with one morning outside of the school ‘You’re wearing red lipstick.’
I didn’t know whether it was a question, a statement or simply an observation. That was the start and the end of the conversation, the school gates opened the children ran in and I scurried off. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. All I could think was I’ve made another mistake, I’m drawing unnecessary attention to myself and this was the final in a long line of blunders that I was frustrated with myself for making (for example be mindful of your pronunciation of ergothérapeute, the french for occupational therapist, if you pronounce ‘peute’ like ‘poot’ instead of ‘putt’, like in golf, essentially you’ll be talking about an ergo prostitute). Whilst in retrospect my gaffs were amusing, at the time I in absolutely no way wanted to bring any further attention to myself. I wanted to fit in and belong.
The lipstick went in the bin.
When I envisioned my life here I’d thought this could be a time to introduce wearing red lipstick, a new ritual, an opportunity to reinvent myself, a fresh start in a new country.
I wanted everything so quickly, to arrive, speak french fluently and fit in immediately. It took a lot longer, sitting with the frustrations of things taught me to slow down. Turning towards the difficulties within my meditation practices rather than pushing them away. Things fell into place without me needing to do much more. I took care of my family, I studied, I meditated, I took tea and I waited.
I’ve made no New Years resolutions, I’m simply wearing the red lipstick as a nod to how far I’ve come. Dior, 999 if you need the specifics, the exact one I chucked away.
That comment came at a time that I was vulnerable and at times like these we are more likely to experience and express extreme reactions. I look back with kindness to myself, I responded in the best way I could have at that time. If I received the same comment now I’m sure I’d respond differently. But just in case I’ve rehearsed what I’d say if I received the same remark again:
Josephine Dolan-Dufourd lives in the south of France with her young family, she writes about life in France, Occupational Therapy, Mindfulness, Self-Compassion and Tea. If you would be interested in exploring with Josephine any of the themes she discussed in this piece you can find details about her work here.