Perhaps Jacques Derrida was right when he implied that language creates reality. Moving to France has given me a new relationship to language. I have always known intellectually how difficult it is for people to live in a place where they do not know, or are not fluent in the majority's spoken language. I now have an affective understanding of that fact.
It should go without saying that the American prejudice against other languages is part of its systemic racism, but I feel the need to emphasize that fact.
Shit is hard, so to say.
All of these events are difficult to express in language, because no language (English, French, or otherwise) can adequately capture the beauty of Montparnasse, the Loire valley, or the taste of four Euro Cotes du Rhone. It can't express the chaos of lugging five 70-plus LB bags through the train to Nantes, or the difficulty of navigating the French bureaucracy to get our Pass Sanitaire.
Of course, I'm a writer, so I suppose it’s my job to do just that.
It’s surreal to be blessed this much; to be able to do what I've always dreamed of doing. To be doing something so ridiculously cliché, but real. How does one rise to that occasion? How does one retain a sense of humility while also embracing an opportunity rarely afforded to anyone? I guess you have to start with gratitude. I'm grateful for the opportunity given to me by my wife; being able to focus exclusively on my vocation while being in beauty; surrounded by it, always. It's a call to action.
Part of my speech at our wedding was; "you're beautiful, you're easy to love, and your scholarship. is important."
(Scholarship, meaning scholarly work, not a financial award.)
To me, that seemed easy enough to believe and to say. One of my wife’s colleagues shared what I said online.Academic Twitter thought that this sentiment from a husband was something significant, even rare.
I couldn't understand how this idea was anything other than obvious. When I thanked my wife for bringing me with her on her research year, she said that not many spouses would do this.
Again, I don't get it. How could I pass up the chance to travel the world and focus on my writing? It's a dream come true, right?
According to one Twitter troll, quitting my job to support my wife’s career is a “Total Beta Move”, hence the title of my blog.
Because, this is a dream come true, right?
It is a dream realized, but it’s also a reversal of gender roles. As of now, my wife is the "bread-winner". I know the impulse towards a patriarchal mindset is something I'm still unlearning, because there is a part of me that feels like I'm not doing my job as a husband by not having a nine to five. It feels selfish, but that's because I've been conditioned that way. When men fall into that impulse, it's self-defeating... I've come to believe that. Yet, I also believe that taking on some sense of responsibility for something other than oneself is essential in the attainment of meaning.
I think this is especially true for men, but we have to be careful not to let that idea become oppressive.
Perhaps there can be a positive masculinity within the balance of these ideas?
I can't be definitive, because my ideas are always expanding.I've had more room for those ideas to expand because of this new relationship with language. Existing in this dual space, between languages is giving me a new relationship with myself, and the world around me. I'm forced to be more present, because I no longer have a running internal narrative. So, if our sense of reality is our sense of self, then Monsieur Derrida was right; language does create reality.
Yet, there's potential within this idea that ain't so post -modern. As I slowly learn my “etres” and “avoirs”, I'm moving towards a new sense of self; a new reality.
I really felt this when we went to Mass at the Notre Dames de Nantes (in Nantes, not Paris). The Cathedral was breathtakingly beautiful. I know the rituals of Mass, but I definitely don't know French... yet. For a while, I tried to translate the liturgy in my head, but I was so focused on understanding that I neglected feeling. Finally, I just let go, allowing the language to flow over me, like listening to an orchestra. Then, when I was a in that space of duality, I was able to experience the sublime. It was more centering than the best mindfulness meditation.
At the end of the day, who knows what creates reality? All you can do is to try to create the best life you can. As a new husband, I'm striving for that equitable reality in marriage. Beyond that, I'm doing my best to rise to that calling to live the best life I can, with a sense of gratitude and humility.
-Britton Buttrill; Nantes, France.