So, we had a BBQ this afternoon with some Swedish friends and their kids.
To start off with, when sentences were short, I held my own. I understood most of what was being said and it felt great.
But, as the afternoon wore on and anecdotes became more embellished, I could feel the familiar tingle which I now recognise to be my brain actually frying.
Brushing my teeth just now, I came up with a great analogy:
Imagine being a rock-climber: At the beginning of your climb, your muscles are strong, you glide your way up the rock-face with little effort, taking care to watch where your feet are. You are smiling to yourself, pleased at your progress.
About half way up, your legs start to ache and you miss a few foot-holes. But, your spirit is still strong and you are determined to do it.
Then, right at the top, you lose concentration and slip, falling down into a deep abyss, to a certain death.
That’s me and Swedish.
The more tired your brain becomes, the harder it is to digest what is being said and to do it quickly. Thought processes slow so much that they nearly stop and you find that you are working so hard to translate one, often insignificant word, that when it finally clicks, you are two sentences behind.
Then panic sets in. And the more you panic, the more you strain to listen for a word (any word) that you recognise and before you know it, your broken body is banging its way down Mount Everest.
I often wonder if my friends actually see my eyes glaze over. Is there a point where they think “Ah, yep. She’s a goner”?
Because for me, I can’t imagine how they would fail to notice. They must see the lolling head; the fixed, pupil-dilated stare.
The most excrutiating thing for me is that I begin to pretend. Pretend that I understand. I listen to the cues of the other people around me and nod my head in agreement when there is a break in the conversation, or a slightly different intonation of the voice. My biggest fear is that my body language is not mirroring their conversation. That I might be raising my eye-brows in exaggerated disbelief when they are talking about some great achievement they have made. Or that I might be nodding and smiling while they are talking about the death of a beloved animal.
That absolutely mortifies me.
But you know what, I am sat here laughing at myself. Because, in reality, it is hilarious.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
And as the rock-climber fell to what should have been his undoubted death, his fall was saved by the cushioning canopy of a tree. And so he lived to climb another day.