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How to say "a thought" in French and rewiring the brain (neuroplasticity!)

Kristin Espinasse (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse
Where is the mind located and do our thoughts really have substance--as scientists have observed? They say our thoughts can control our pain levels and more. I believe this, having used mind over matter while receiving several shots during skin cancer removal. Now if I could only train other parts of my brain--especially the emotional parts. Note: the fur, above, is fake. I'm wearing my daughter's vest.

la pensée (pahn-say)

    : thought

 perdu dans ses pensées = lost in thought


    by Kristin Espinasse

A Beautiful Mind 

In an ancient outdoor amphitheatre, while watching Lillywood and the $@#&! bring down the house, I stood up, kissed our friends goodbye, and stormed out of the concert. 

Making my way through the maze of Arles, trying to find our car, I looked over my shoulder again and again to see Jean-Marc lagging behind me. "Why don't you catch up!" I snapped.

(Before being labelled the castrating wife, let me share this: I'm currently working on a monumental task... the outstanding effort of retraining of a brain (my own). And what you witnessed in paragraphs one and two, was yet another discouraging backslip! )

It is disheartening to lose ground on the path of self-improvement. But it gives me hope to know that a positive rewiring of the cerveau is not as impossible as it seems. By taking every thought captive, we can begin the task of replacing our negative thoughts with positive ones--and so forge a new path of positivity.

My goal is to be more flexible. To go with the flow. To be easygoing. To say "No bother. Things change! AND CHANGE IS GOOD!"

But it's a one-step forward deux en arrier process--this thought replacement business. Step one is to examine my troubled thinking: what frustrated me last night--what had me steaming out of Arles, my husband in my wake, was something I'll call "The Let Down Factor"--my body was reeling with it! 

The Let Down Factor has to do with suffering. In a nutshell it's this: you are voluntarily engaged in an uncomfortable chore, one that has a start time and an end time. For this reason, you agree to suffer the task--knowing it is pleasing (and or helpful) to someone else, though painful to you. You can struggle through the task because you can "see the light at the end of the tunnel" and, so seeing, you set your heart and your mind on the bright light--while ignoring the inconvenience. Like this you can confidently suffer the moment knowing how long that moment will last.

The Let Down Factor occurs when the light at the end of the tunnel fades to darkness. This happens when the "stop time" is renegotiated (the "moment" is stretched) by a second party, causing you to lose sight of the destination (or "Pain's End"). Here is a classic example:

Harvest Time. The Let Down Factor is a given when you agree to help a friend or family member with the grueling task of grape-picking. You begin naively enough setting your mind to the task, ignoring the sweaty droplets running down your face and the sticky scratchy weeds scraping your skin. You hold your bladder, knowing at break time you'll be back at the farmhouse with its private throne.

"We'll break at the end of this row," the winemaker says.

"Yes!" your brain responds, beginning the let down process: letting down its guard, letting the dulled senses awaken (you now feel the scratchy weeds, the annoying sweaty droplets--and that nagging need for which you'll soon find relief! You don't mind the pain because break time is coming up, as promised!)

...And then La Grosse Deception. The Big Disappointment.

"We're so close..." the winemaker says, changing his mind (and your destiny). "We may as well finish these last two rows!"

Amazed, you look up at the never-ending vine horizon, the scratchy weeds circle around your knees, and the sweat slips into your eyes, stinging them. And you can't hold it anymore! Panic sets in. Your mind paints a bleak, humiliating conclusion to this story. Whereas a moment ago you were numb to the environment, suddenly all your senses are alive and kicking--ready to get the heck out of the Godforsaken grapefield. Alas, it's not gonna happen!

Enter The Let Down Factor, or Extreme Disappointment 

Had you known the true "stop time" (end of task or effort) you would have remained in your "buffered zone", keeping your pain under the hood of your physical engine. Instead, you let down your guard and in rushed the sensory torture

So how does all this tie in to a wonderful concert in an ancient ampitheatre in Arles?

Faulty baffles, for one. The speakers pounded across the outdoor arena, up the thick stone slabs on which we were seated, and into our chest cavities!

"I don't like it when I can feel it booming in my poitrine!" my friend Emilie remarked. 

She was right. It felt as though every organ in my body was bathed in the liquid pounding vibration

I looked over to Jean-Marc, who had his hands over his ears (this somewhat reassured me. I wasn't a wuss after all--the music really was too loud!

"C'est saturé," another friend complained of the sound. "Oui," Jean-Marc agreed, getting up twice to have a word with the technical crew, but the ear- and organ-busting beat continued. Unwilling to let it spoil his evening, my husband searched for a solution. Leaving his seat near the speakers, he disappeared....

But not before our friends began talking of leaving a little earlier than planned. Such a reasonable idea of theirs, I thought, to wait for the last band, and then enjoy a few songs before leaving. The thought perked me right up, knowing we, too, could soon be leaving. My motivation was renewed with the fixed destination in my mind. (I could almost feel myself crawling under the cozy covers back home--my ears filled with soft cricket sound and not this horrible pounding!)

What a good idea! I thought, beginning to set my hopes on the near future. "Do you mind if we leave a little early too?" I asked Jean-Marc. 

Jean-Marc didn't mind, and I was thankful for the sacrifice he made. Only, come to think of it, he hadn't made it yet. In fact, where had he just skipped off to?

Surely he'd be back, as promised, after the 2 or 3 song limit. He'd promised. But when the second song finished...and the third... my thoughts began to reel and that Let Down Factor began wreaking havoc on my mind:

You're going to arrive home at three in the morning. Have the dogs been fed? You've got to get up early. You won't be able to work with a late-to-bed hangover!

My thoughts were interrupted when my friend Isabelle reached over to kiss me. "See you later! We're leaving."  All three songs were up, the others were following through with the plan--that same plan I had set in my own heart in order to endure. But now those speakers and the late night was getting to me. The light at the end of the tunnel had been dimmed. When would we be leaving now? The unknowing made the moment hard to bear.  

Looking around, I noticed everyone else was relaxed and having a good time. Why couldn't I be the same? Maybe all that beer they were serving helped dull the audiences' senses--while waking their energy. Maybe after ten years, now was a good time for a drink?

My frustration began to grow and grow.Ce malin! That sneaky one! Jean-Marc had approached the stage where the sound was equalized. That meant we wouldn't be leaving after "two or three" songs!

And yet, after the fourth song Jean-Marc reappeared--but by then I was standing up with my bag under my arm. I kissed those friends that were staying for the end of the concert, and motioned to my husband that we were on our way out!

 "No, it wasn't the one or two extra songs that bothered me," I argued, trying to find where our car was parked.  "It's that I was set on leaving at the promised time. Not knowing where you were or when you'd return was extremely frustrating. We might have stayed all night!"

 Adding to my annoyance was my husband's gentle swaying. He'd enjoyed a few drinks over the course of the night and his relaxation was at odds with my frayed nerves.

It hit me then. I didn't have to go on suffering that way. I could change my thoughts and in changing my thinking I could be at peace.

"I feel bad you didn't get to see the whole concert," I admitted. (Stumbling through Arles, I was now following Jean-Marc, who, tipsy, could find our way 1000s times better than his sober wife, who was lost again and again.)

"Don't worry about it. It all turned out well." My husband's words were soft. 

"I'm just not a night person," I explained. "And I don't like it when plans change." Listening to myself talk, I heard the familiar self-limiting beliefs. But it wasn't too late to change... I could alter my thinking and expand my limits. I could once and for all enjoy the moment--or at least allow someone else too! 

"It was such a chance to be there tonight, in an ancient outdoor theater. I'm glad we got to hear the last band." Seated in the car now, I reached over to touch my husband's leg and continued the positive affirmations:

"Thanks for such a beautiful evening...." I whispered, and on saying it, I began to feel the gratitude that was first born in my mind. Thoughts really do manifest.  


Comments and post note: I continue to retrain my brain after a lifetime of limiting thoughts. I hope to talk more about the subject of rebuilding the brain or neuroplasticity. Let me know your thoughts, here in the comments box. Can you relate to the "Let Down Factor"?

French Vocabulary

le cerveau = brain
deux en arrière = two back
le baffle = speakers
la poitrine = chest 

Last night's concert in Arles. Thank you, Pierre Casanova, for this photo I stole from your Facebook page. And thanks for a great evening with friends, beginning at Ariane's Natural Wine bar and ending at an ancient Roman theater.

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For some unexplained- and unknown- reason your last paragraph made me cry. Now I will have to do some introspection of my own, an examination of my own mind, to ferret out the reason for these tears. Thank you, Kristin, for such a "thought-ful" essay.


Sounds like an evening in hell to me. I was in Trinidad for carnival one year and experienced the same problem with the loudspeakers causing my entire body to vibrate. By the time I escaped to the peace and quiet of Barbados, I felt ill from the effects of the constant noise. So the part about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is all well and good, but for your body's sake, don't put up with noxious environments like that. You have your hearing to think of too.


This was the first thing I read today and it's put me in a very reflective mood. Perfect for the monumental tasks awaiting me...thanks for sharing!



First of all I want to thank you for posting one of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen of you...perfect for me to use today as a guide for my painting practice of painting a new painting each day. Your photo simply says I am at peace - I have accepted my place in life and I am happy to be free of any limits regarding my image. I have been watching Youtube videos of how to paint the mouth and eyes, now I finally have the perfect photo of you, one that actually shows me a clear view into your eyes - Let me tell you I have been searching all of my photos for just this clairty (sp?) Thank God I don't have to search anymore. Once again you have supplied the answer to a problem I have from 7000 miles away. Of course I don't know the exact number of miles our distance is but as you know I like the number 7 so I have made the distance 7,000 miles.

Now if I had been at that concert I would have excused myself for my little nap after about 10 minutes. Remember when we were doing your book sale a few years ago - after I played with the musicians and talked to the crowd for a while I remember telling you I was going to the car for a little nap...I think I made that journey about five times during the festival. I remember lying in the car with my feet sticking out of the window watching the leaves on the trees overhead. I love that memory.

After all of my almost 67 years no one in my family ever questions my I have used my line at many of your lunches and dinner parties, "Darling, I must take a little rest now". As a matter of fact the last time I used this line was when our famous ANN MAH was at your house for dinner.

I would start packing a 'get-away bag' for all of the future social gatherings JM has planned for your life. Once JM understands the benefits he will reap from supporting your personal space you will begin to feel the rush of freedom which comes from embracing your right to turn left or right on this pathway of life.

Be sure and arrange for your own private hotel room in the next village of the concert - wish I could be with you as we escape the noise to find our own adventure - a concert of leaves falling upon our hats as we wander through the peaceful passages of a new memory.

Well, I don't even know what I am talking about - but I loved your post today Honey - just know in the end you will be the spittin image of your Mother. Ha-Ha!!!

I love you Honey - thanks for touching my life today, I love being with you this way.



Sue jean

I hate noise with a passion, but it's ever present it seems. I think people are afraid of silence. I really feel for you, and also agree with JolleyG

BTW, JG we miss you on word play.

Cynthia Hinson

Have been a follower for several years and just want to say that I was particularly struck today by the strength and skill of your writing. Your description of the Letdown Factor is just perfect! Thanks for putting your struggles into such eloquent words.

Arnold Hogarth

Reads like a novel, You might try to expand it into one. Well-written, suspenseful, touching.

maryann new york

Don't confuse embracing the concept of neuroplasticity with self deception. It was a horrible night - plain and simple - and you should not feel that you have to re-make it into 'a lovely evening'. It wasn't. And your husband should not have disappeared. It's OK to call things bad when they're bad. It's not the end of the world and not a monumental transgression so just be honest about it. You didn't do anything to apologize for and I certainly hope that you drove the car home.
PS Your mom's letter was wonderful.

Kathleen from Connecticut


My husband told me about being at a concert where he could feel the beat straight through his chest, so he sat side ways to help alleviate to sensation. It did not do enough . Just think of all the eardrums which were wrecked by the loud noise. The future generations will be deaf sooner than us.
Next time just get up and move to another place...your health is more important .
I like the "keep a positive attitude and go with the flow",but if it is hurting you, you do not have to keep up. Yes,positive thoughts are better, less energy and helps with the wrinkles...I think. I guess that I have too many negative thoughts and worry too much...the wrinkles show it.
Remember Jules' comments about how she slipped are you mother's can do it also....just say that you are following in you mother's footsteps.



Kristin -- I wish I could tell you how many times in the past month or two you have so clearly and boldly articulated inner thoughts and reactions to life experiences I know only too well. A couple of times stunningly so.

Thank you for helping those of us who have similar struggles with our feelings feel not so alone. As you so beautifully expressed today, it is not the thoughts and feelings themselves that matter so much. They just are. It's how we learn to respond to them with compassion for ourselves and others that ultimately matters most.

You are wise and courageous, too. Your last paragraph brought tears to my eyes as well.

Luci Lewisohn

Recently my daughter was upset about having to attend a function. I'm hot, I'm tired, and I worked today. Rather than having a "let-down" factor, I always call it the "you can stand anything for 3 or 4 hours syndrome.

I can't remember how many times I repeated that you can stand...line to myself and to my children over the years.

That said sometimes it just doesn't work. The time for departure slips by and you are still there, starting to get anxious and upset, because the end time has come and gone.

Hooray for you, Kristin. You'd had enough and packed up ready to leave. It's difficult to feel kindly toward the person/persons who for whatever reason caused you to listen to more "chest noises" than you wanted to hear.

Everyday life changes and we must, if we're to survive and enjoy our hectic lives, change with it. You've given me much to think about with today's essay. But that, of course, is why I continue to come here and read your heartfelt words.

Merci mille fois, Madame.

Lynda House

My mantra is, "nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so".

We choose how we will react to every situation. We always have a choice. Those negative reactions that come up most often in our lives are the ones we need to stop and think, No, I am not going down that path. Firmly shut the gate and choose the positive path. We can control the instant gut reaction.

I do it all the time. I still get the negative thought rushing in but I quickly shoo it back out again. When I do feel like having a real moan, the dog is a great listener, especially when he gets a treat as a reward for listening to a really long grumble!!

Julie Farrar

You did a good job of articulating a condition many of us suffer through to different degrees. While it's good to learn to go with the flow, I believe it's also ok sometimes to just admit you've had enough and do what you need to do to make it better. It's ok to speak aloud the words that say you've reached your limits. You could say you're running to the house for the bathroom and will be back quickly or that you yourself will enjoy the concert from outside the walls of the ampitheater or whatever the situation warrants. I respect you for trying, though, not to carry the bad reaction through the night and into the next day. That's tough to do. I know because I suffer from that fault.


Thanks for the lovely post. It really resonates with my life right now. Lots to think about.....

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Kristen ----- I read your post and thought ---- I have been there! Sometimes, you just have to leave. I agree with most of the comments, esp. just knowing when things are bad - not to pretend it isn't. Or to put glossy words on it. Learn from it.

Your mom is very cool ---- I like how she handles situations. I love the idea of being prepared, then leave when you need to.

I always learn a lot when I read your column and the wonderful comments!

Merci beaucoup!


I have been trying to rewire my brain lately, too! I am finding it so much easier to lower my expectations than to get bitter later about things (as they pertain to my husband in the realm of home and parenting). The battle is to keep the expectations down. But being a bitter nag is not who I want to be or enjoy being. Anyways, this brain rewiring is fascinating stuff and I feel learning about it helps our spiritual journey greatly. Thank you so much for sharing. XO

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Kristin, you always make us think and then think again with your writings. That is what makes your words so special and valuable. Your mother just adds to them. Thank you to both of you.

Maxine Gorneau Oesterling

Kristin, dear Kristin, one of the advantages of growing older is developing the attitude that you must take care of yourself and if that means extricating yourself from unpleasant experiences, then so be it. Why subject yourself to physical harm with ear-blasting music? However, the real culprit here is not the sound but your husband leaving you, knowing you were uncomfortable with the blaring sound and finding himself a comfortable spot and a few drinks. Had he returned for you, that would have been a different matter. The essence of what you've written is indeed true and instructive but your constant forgiving of your husband's thoughtlessness cannot be healthy for you.

Joy Eballar

Hi Kristin, I love your post today and completely relate. My family always acts like there is something seriously 'wrong' with me because I cannot stand the loud bass when they play music. They don't believe me when I tell them it physically make my head hurt, my heart pound too fast..just very physically uncomfortable! I, like you and your mother prefer to hear the soft sounds of nature whatever it may be at that moment.
What I'm trying to say is I really appreciate your story, it made me feel like I am not alone or 'insane' as my kids think I am.
And most of all, I so admire and love your mother....the letter she just wrote here to you made me tear up. I so love the beautiful friendship and relationship you two have. You are two of the most beautiful women I know of. Thanks Kristin. <3 PS...any plans to come back to Seattle? Sure would be fun to meet you again! :)

Pam Horovitz

Kristin, as someone who has attended many many concerts over the years, I now know that it is imperative to come prepared with ear-plugs (get the small ones that you squeeze first and they expand into your ear canal) and also to NEVER sit anywhere near the speakers. The bands and the sound crews all have suffered hearing losses which is why so many of them crank the sound up until it really does make the crowd suffer.

Having offered that two-cents worth of advice, I thought you were brave to post about such a personal subject. You have articulated something that I think we all have felt, and as a vineyard owner laughed about having to pee in the middle of a row, and also about the temptation to just keep going so you could say you were done!

Merci mille fois!


From what I regard as a man's perspective: it wouldn't occur to me to endure the agony of the loud noise, etc., I'd just say to my wife, "I'm out," and leave. Deference to the desires of others should only go so far. And as you get older and more easily discomforted, it's going to be harder to adhere to a do whatever others' want code of agreeableness. When you've got to pee is not the time to try to invoke positive thoughts. If you aren't the sort of person who easily keeps track of where the car is parked (that's how I am, too), get a GPS app for your smartphone that let's you find the car. And consider driving home alone if you've made it clear that you'll wait no longer than 10 minutes before departing.

judi dunn

.... Been there done that... at Fillmore East ( now I am dating myself!) when Janis Joplin played there! The theater was filled with 'pot smoke' and the band was so loud the floor and seats vibrated! We loved it, being very young and totally into her sound... so we thought we were in heaven!!! Today, I would choke on the smoke and have to have earplugs for sure! Could be the generation thing going on here... bon weekend... Judi from Tallahassee.. PS . You have such a loving mother.


Dear Kristin -- I struggle with this all the time. I truly believe you can change your life as you change your thoughts, but changing a lifetime of negative self-talk is indeed a formidable challenge. Well worth it, though! As I work on changing my own mindset, I'll send positive thoughts your way, too!


Love how you turned your anger at Jean-Marc into something sweet and productive. It reminds me of a book I'm reading, "40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life." Our thoughts really do control our emotions and actions.

Gwyn Ganjeau

Kristin, you so aptly described those things we do because they are helpful or necessary to someone else, but uncomfortable and less than pleasant to ourselves. I once had a classic Freudian slip when i was asked to do such a thing--i cheerfully responded, "Of course! No pleasure! My problem!" ha! my problem indeed. sheesh.

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Thanks, Kristin, and Jules, for encouraging us all, through your writing, to engage in the art of critical thinking; Cynthia said it well. Yet, so did Maryann. Attitude is everything, but so is the right to have our own opinions .... and take care of ourselves first (sometimes by removing ourselves from emotional or physically taxing situations) in order to take care of, and appreciate, others. Yes, it is a lifetime journey, and some days we navigate better than others. A favorite quote of mine "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn. Here, though, I think I, too, might have thought it best to get out of the water.


Bon jour, Kristin. I so enjoyed your post, comme toujours. I too struggle with une attitude negatif! Bonne chance with your efforts to retrain your thinking. :)

Marilyn, Orlando


merci Kristi! Good to know that I am not alone in these feelings as my day is scheduled and I often find myself hanging on for the promised time. I occupy my mind and senses to distract the tenseness.

Kristin Espinasse

Gwyn, thanks for the laughter.  I was still snorting from your comment as I dialed Mom. We then shared all the thoughtful comments here. It is such a pleasure to read and receive your thoughts. Thank you all!


First, listen to your mother. Second, it isn't about the concert, but everyday life and after reading your thoughts for 6 years it just pops up now and then and that's ok. Third, some change is good otherwise we become a dinasaur and we all know what happend to them....extinct! And last it really takes so mouch more energy to become "uptight" about things that to "go with the flow". Although, I think in the grape picking I would have gone over a few rows and personally watered JM's grapes. Then come back and just give him a big smile.

Betty Doolittle Tuininga

Dear Kristi, Your experience, or better yet, your reaction to the experience so could have been me.

I suffered a frontal lobe brain injury (to both lobes) 5 years ago and while things are working to rewire, there are things that I still don't do well...a rash change in plans is one and unpleasant surprises is the other...o I dearly empathize with you.

When faced with these experiences, I recognize the reaction by the tightness in my chest. I try to change my physical state by deep breathing to relax my body and often find the breathing helps to shake-out some of the thoughts or at least rearrange them and put them into better perspective.

For so long after my accident my reactions were so unsettling. I had a nerf ball that I threw across the room in frustration. I am happy to say it only sits on my desk as a reminder of days gone by.

Bill Facker

I'm happy "after ten years .." didn't turn into "Ten Years After". Your strength & talent just keep growing, Kristin. You are a fantastic gift to us all. Aloha

Bill Facker

Your photo is excellent, Kristin, and I failed to mention what I noticed earlier. Your scar is not a scar, but a purposefully placed "I" .. reserved only for those with extraordinary "Intelligence"... and its' placement also qualifies it to be a "Third Eye" .. which elevates you to even higher status! Aloha, Bill

Karla Ober

I haven't written you in a while, Kristin, but I just had to respond to this one. I adore the way you dissected the evening and your responses to it. Bravo!


Kristin dear...

I'm not so sure your "disappointment" was due only to the concert. Perhaps it's
the surgery, the husband, the marriage,
the rigors of recovery, putting yourself last or maybe just life. Hmmm...

We all have setbacks.Breathe.Return to your
center and your voice. xo


"I don't have to go on suffering this way. I can change my thoughts and in changing my thinking I can be at peace".
I wrote down those two sentences after reading your essay today. I plan to look at them every day.
Thanks for helping me on my newly inspired attempt to have a positive attitude.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

I liked your focus on the essential moment - you were going home, leaving as you had wanted before the concert ended, so the issue was over but you were still angry, and you mastered that anger, stopped it from taking over and turned your attention to the moment -- going home with your husband after a night out with friends, a good moment overall. Very impressive.

You made the agreement to leave early, and did leave early, a wise move. You stated clearly that your husband did not hold up his end of the deal, as it needed to be said.

Well told story, well done harnessing of the energy from anger into energy for a sweet moment.

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA

After reading your story, I felt I was reading about myself...hahaha I'm so happy I'm not the only one that has moments like these. hahaha Thanks so much for sharing your story!! Hugs!!

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

Thank you, dear friend, for in your sharing you offer insight into my own thoughts, and in situations such as the concert, my ensuing behavior. I can relate to this story (I seem to say this a lot!) and the “let down factor”. Next time, I hope to be aware of how I react when plans change and others aren’t on the same page as me.

I heard recently that an emotion only lasts for a very brief period. It is the story we create, the way our minds run away with the idea of being wronged, that creates our suffering. We, and our loved ones, have much to gain if we can reframe and come from a place of love and compassion.

I will also take a page from Jules’ book, for her wise suggestion would greatly add to my comfort in social settings. To embrace our needs and take care of ourselves is a positive step in a beautiful direction. Jules, I just loved the visual “a concert of leaves falling upon our hats as we wander through the peaceful passages of a new memory”. Just Lovely!

PJ Carz

Thank you for posting this and including the link to 10 years ago. Your writing gets to me in all the right places, and that includes some of the sore ones. So maybe skip another couple years before you revisit the memoir, or keep at it as you see fit. Thanks again, and best wishes from Missouri.

Marie D

Dear Kristi,

Thank you for sharing, and thank you for this comment box, so that I may share, too!

Your reflections remind me of my own visit to Arles, three years ago. My husband, two sons, and I decided to see a bull fight, as we were told that the matadors no longer kill the animals, and that the "fight" is merely for show.

We seated ourselves on the stone steps of the arena and watched the parade of dignitaries, the prancing of the horses, and the introduction of the beautifully costumed matadors.

When the first bull came out I was surprised at how young and small he was. He obviously had no idea why he was there or what was expected of him, and tried to get back in the pen. As that was impossible, he stood still, his tail swatting flies, until the matador provoked him enough. He lazily charged the red cape a few times. Eventually the matador pulled out the smaller spears and jabbed them into the bull's back. The bull started to bleed, and I started to worry.

I was horrified when the matador pulled out a much bigger sword and, with great ceremony, stabbed the sword into the bull between his shoulders. The sword exited the bull's rib cage. He fell, tried to get up, fell again, and then rested, slowly bleeding to death. Horses came and dragged his body away.

I thought I was going to be sick, and I could not stop crying. I told my husband that I understood if he and the boys wanted to stay, but I could not. We made plans to meet an hour later at the main entrance.

I spent the next hour wandering the small lanes and alleyways around the arena, taking photos of the shutters, doors, and windows of this colorful place. I tried to channel my heightened emotional state into those photographs, and later that year they were featured in a gallery here in Chicago.

There is no way that I would have been able to change my thoughts to more positive ones in that arena. I am all for the positive thinking that you've described above, but think that it applies mostly to those negative thoughts that swirl around us like flies, annoying and pesky and interfering with our productivity, but ultimately manageable. Self-doubt, procrastination, doing less than we are capable of - all of that can benefit from changing our thoughts.

But those bigger negative thoughts - emotional distress, pain, safety, trust... those require action. It is not on you to turn your husband's actions, which negatively impacted you, into something that is OK. It was not OK. You were jumping out of your skin in discomfort, waiting to escape the noise, ready for the comfort of home, and he was nowhere to be found. He is human - we all do things like this from time to time. Had I been your husband, I would not have been surprised to return to your seats and find out that you had left and would meet him at a certain place. He took care of his desires, you were entitled to act on yours.

That, I believe, would have been the truest way to do something positive with a very negative situation.

Mara in Wisconsin

In a parallel situation, several friends of mine have commented of Facebook recently about how extroverts do not understand introverts and expect them to just fake it. While there are times and places when it is important to do so (where leaving would hurt feeling and possibly cause a personal rift), a concert is not one of these. You made an effort, fine. Enough. JM was not as bothered,but neither was it a major sacrifice for him to leave a little early. It's what we call compromise, and it is part of how civilized society works.

Pat Cargill

I am with Maxine and Maryann from New York on this one. Your true pain, the one from the heart, came from having been abandoned by J-M, who did not do what he said he would do, leaving you stranded in a very uncomfortable situation. Voicing your feelings to him was important. He should know he has been, however unwittingly, selfish. Never cover for another's mistakes. It makes for co-dependent relationships, and we all know where that is headed.

With respect to changing your typical thought patterns/resulting actions, it seems you did make that choice to basically "let it go" and not carry a grudge on into the evening or next day. ( But that didn't make it turn into a wonderful evening.) Having done that, J-M and you are in a position to discuss it, look towards ways of reconciling situations, and putting into place thoughtful plans of action in the future. One of which is to flippin DO what you say you are going to do, no exceptions. Unfortunately a key part of this is the alcohol. Sober, he may certainly have acted differently.

The final factor is: He is your, and you are his, b e l o v e d. This much we know is true. This underpinning will provide great energy for future happiness. We love you both dearly. Toujours.


Speakers too loud at a concert are dreadful, distracting and disasterous so I cna't blame you for getting upset. It's no fun to have music ruined by painful eardrums. I've been in the theater in Arles but not for a concert --it is so beautiful there.

Karen from Phoenix

Our thoughts are really what make us crazy. That is the monkey mind. If we can relax with the way things are, our thoughts will follow.


Leslie in Portland, Oregon

For what it's worth, I agree completely with Maria D's comments above. I also appreciate Pat Cargilll's bringing up the importance of discussing this with your husband, toward each understanding how the other felt and "putting into place thoughtful plans of action" for the future. How to think and act in a positive, constructive way while respecting your authentic self is a very complex, ambiguous challenge, one rarely, if ever, amenable to a black-and-white answer. I, for one, will struggle to meet it every day for the rest of my life. Best wishes, Kristi.

Marianne Rankin

Normally I read what folks write before making comments of my own. Sorry if the following is a duplication, but it's almost midnight, so this time I'll write before reading.

I struggle not to complain, especially without a good reason, or to be negative. It seems to come so naturally. What I've tried to do is to come up with something positive to offset negative thoughts. One can complain, say, about rain, but rain waters plants, cools the heat, etc. If we look we can usually find redeeming features in many things. I've found that trying to be at least a little "pro" things and not 100% "anti" takes effort, but puts one in a better frame of mind. I guess one could call that retraining one's brain.

MJH DesignArts

Yes, we can change our thought patterns and bring light to the darkness--not easy, but completely possible and do-able. I'm very much still in process.

Leslie NYC

It takes courage not to apologize automatically when that will appease the situation, when we know we haven't done anything wrong.


Kristin, I was on a first date with a new beau about 25 years ago. We went to a club where the music was sooooo loud, it was really hurting my ears and as you mentioned, I felt the pounding through my whole body. I didn't want to look like a nerd, but I finally couldn't handle it and asked to leave. We did. I think we were there less than an hour. But . . . my ears have NEVER stopped ringing. The first few nights were the worst, the ringing was so loud I couldn't sleep. But, I have never, ever experienced complete silence since nor do I ever expect to again at this point. How I miss silence and I just wish I had asked to leave earlier before my hearing was compromised like this for the rest of my life.

Chris Allin

Today's post brings to mind the value in understanding personality preferences....known as Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Although a complicated theory which requires certification in order to administer and explain the process, the basic information can be easily understood. There are terrific book resources to reference MBTI, but there are also some Internet sites that are informative.

Understanding our individual type preferences and those of others can offer tremendous insight into our cognitive processes and how we function in the world. The MBTI. org website is probably the most "official" site but Google will bring up others that give fairly thorough explanations.

MBTI can take a person on an amazing journey in self-discovery if one is open to such a concept. I have worked with MBTI for 20 years, many of which have been illuminated by those light bulb moments students experienced. Understanding our comfort zones and learning to function outside those comfort zones can lead to great personal growth.

Once again, Kristin, you have touched the hearts and minds of your readers in a significant way. Thank you...

Heather in Arles

I do understand more your response of "kind of" now!

As usual, I am deeply moved by your writing. I save your posts for when I can actually "read" them and so am just seeing this today. Remi called me in to lunch just as I had finished and I admit I had a hard time concentrating on what he was saying while we ate! I think it is your vulnerability that moves me so much. And there is much bravery in that and now I see that there is much bravery behind your bravery. I offer belatedly my heart felt congratulations on your ten year anniversary.

As for "the let down" theory--holy cow! You explained something to me that could really be of help. Truly! I can't tell you how much it drives me crazy when Remi will casually add "Oh, let's just do this one last thing" on top of a long day. It happens all the time and I get so worked up! The next time, I will know why. :)

There is a book that I need to reread: "Destructive emotions: a scientific dialogue with the Dalai Lama" by Daniel Goleman. Do you know of it? It might be helpful. I also have been gaining so much by listening to Krista Tippett's "On being" podcasts and the writings of Pema Chodron--especially her idea to "drop the storyline" which is similar to what one of your other readers mentioned above.

Have a wonderful weekend and I hope that your next visit to my town will be a more pleasant one!

Diane Young

Somehow I would have thought that living where you do, the hazards of a rock concert in Arles would be well known and you and J-M could have developed a game plan before that night. At any rate, I think Jules has the right idea about dealing with stress. Politely excuse yourself and take a hike. Life is too short to endure that much pain. Let others stay if they choose, but get an agreement in advance that it's o.k. to leave when your limit has been reached.
Compromise is a wonderful thing and keeps us from a lot of unpleasantness in life.

Allison B.

I am glad to know there are others out there whom I admire (Kristin!) who, like me, don't get pleasure out of over-loud music and would prefer a quite night at home! I will use your thought-manipulating techniquest next time I am "stuck" at a social event and not thoroughly enjoying the moment, and realize how lucky I am to have such leisure time and the means to have a choice whether to go out or stay home. I can at least be grateful for that! Gratitude seems to be the key to changing those thoughts and perspectives.

Jan Greene

I see you have received so many solid comments about changing your thinking. Perhaps it would be better titled, 'speaking up for yourself'. Trust that you were right in your feelings and the way the music sounded! It was up to JM to be a bit more sensitive and leave when you have had enough. You have extended yourself beyond so many difficult and long lasting jobs. I am working along with you to find a nice but firm way to say 'enough is enough'! Bless you for all your wonderful writing and sharing!

carol clark

This is for Jean-Marc: You are the one who should have apologized to Kristen-and told her you were sorry for spoiling her evening. What kind of a cad leaves his wife sitting with a group of friends--knowing the loud music bothers her, she isn't drinking, and she wants go get home at a decent hour--and you go off to snort a few drinks, without saying where you are going or when you will be back--and then comding back late when you said you would leave before it was over. You are the one who should think about changing your ways! (Kristen; Don't be such a Pollyanna and change every negative into a positive. Assert yourself--in a nice way, of course,
since the male ego is so fragile.)

Carol, Los Angeles (married 57 years)



Somehow I started to become irriatated (sp? - gosh, I haven't used that word in a long time) after I read Carol's comment above regarding my SON JEAN-MARC'S behavior at the concert.

Sometimes I fall for Kristi's storyline in a negative way - she has been telling stories for over 40 years to me so I am qualified to openly judge her creativity in an honest and motherly way.

Kristi's musings of her take on life are just that - musings. Kristi is on her own path and thank God she is addressing some of the area's in her life that she allows to bring her pain.

But - I just CAN NOT allow this JEAN-MARC BASHING TO CONTINUE. This exercise in self improvement that Kristi brings out every once in a while is strictly about her - not about Jean-Marc. I have had to straighten Kristi out many times about bringing me or Jean-Marc into the mix of her mash-a-nations (sp???) regarding her 'state-of-mind' ---just try to remember the crap Kristi dishes out to me when I want to say hello to a stranger working in their garden. This in Kristi's mind is uncomfortable for her to endure - my God, what if they want to come back over to our house and hang over our fence....and on and on it goes.

Kristi carries alot of power on this unproductive trip she has been on in the past - and I am delighted that she is working through to find the sunshine on the otherside - but along the way there are going to be casualities, and Jean-Marc and I must stick that's why I am ranting this morning.

I could write a story about JM and his experience regarding "The Concert' - but fortunately JM doesn't have an evil adgenda when he tries to bring Kristi out into the world of the living instead of letting her rot away in her overactive story-tellers mind.

Well - I guess I'll be on everybodys 'Shit List' after this -

Viva la Jean-Marc!!!!




I Am late in commenting .. ah well! Science has now shown through the fabulous use of new technology that our thoughts set off chemical pathways with in our body. ie If we think a negative thought (similar to a negative thought that has gone before), then our body reacts in the same way..probably a stressed response. We change that thought, we flip the negative to the positive , more often than not, then our brain is capable of creating a new pathway , and a healthy response.. This is a brief and very limited version of how it happens ... but it does happen.. so change the negative to the positive , as much as you can, and you will be healthier for it! x


To me it sounded a bit harsh when Jules wrote that Kristin, if left to her own devices, would "rot away in her overactive story-tellers mind". Ouch! Have you heard of the book 'Quiet' by Susan Cain? It makes the argument that quiet and reflective people have so much to offer the world, and that we (I'm quiet too, the concert sounds like an ordeal to me) are often undervalued and made to feel somehow lacking by a world that values outgoing extroverts. I think it would be well worth having a look at this book, Kristin, it might help you to not feel that you must change your very lovely quiet and reflective nature to become more like your outgoing, social butterfly Mom. Then maybe pass it along to your mom and husband, to help them understand the needs and strengths of quiet-loving, reflective people and maybe ask themselves whether they really should push you to get out there and be more social. And Jules, Kristin asked people to offer their thoughts.


Another book recommendation

The Introvert Advantage.....How to Thrive in an Extrovert World
by Marti Olsen Laney

Worth a look by both Introverts and Extraverts~

Rose Chandler Johnson

Kristin, You are such a beautiful person and crystal clear...there's no doubt in my mind that you are getting better and better, more beautiful inside and out as you grow a fine wine. Don't be so hard on yourself. We love you just the way you are...ever believing in what's beautiful and best in yourself and others.

Marie D

"I could write a story about JM and his experience regarding "The Concert' - but fortunately JM doesn't have an evil adgenda when he tries to bring Kristi out into the world of the living instead of letting her rot away in her overactive story-tellers mind."

Wow. Jules, you are Kristin's mother? And this is how you write about her - letting her rot away in her overactive, evil agenda, story-teller's mind? You are actually more interested in defending JM instead of acknowledging that he could have handled this situation better?

Sure, we don't really know the truth of what goes on in any marriage, and no one is ever fully without fault, or fully at fault - but you've completely thrown your DAUGHTER under the bus here, setting her up as some sort of delusional, out-of-touch, exaggerating, mental case.

My opinion of Kristin has not change, but my opinion of you certainly has. Kristin, I'm sorry that you're mother has decided to share this with the world.


Hi. I'm a little baffled. I just started reading your blog. Your posting is heartfelt and very personal. I assume that your husband knows what you post and understands what you write and why you write it. So what's up with the person claiming to be your mother?

Kristin Espinasse

Kristi here... Tip-toeing in to wave a white flag. Thank you all for reading my stories and special thanks to my family for allowing me to write about them. My Mom is my biggest fan and she enjoys responding to the stories, here in the comments. Her colorful, heartfelt remarks often add another dimension to the anecdotes--and this time was certainly no exception! I feel badly reading some of these comments, knowing my familys deep love and support has been questionned.  In writing these stories my intent is to share what I trust are universal truths in these complex relationships we share. Without the love and support of my husband and my Mom, I would not be able to do what I love doing. Thank you for reading these essays and for your support. P.S. Mom, you will be proud of me: instead of rotting in front of the computer screen, I accepted Jean-Marcs invitation for a swim in the sea. Refreshed now, my mind is clear to continue with the next story. Just as youve always encouraged me to do: take breaks, a change of scenery... And your stories will come to life.


It seems to me that Kristen is "out going" and "social".. What about all those dinner parties?!


Sorry I irritated you, Jules! From reading Kristen's blog for several years I get the feeling that Jean-Mark is a super person, that you are, too, and that you all love each other and get along...and that you all feel pretty confident about speaking your mind to each other, which is a good thing.
But when I read Kristen's account of the evening, I was on her side all the way. I would have been livid, and would have let my feeling be known the minute we left. Then the air would be cleared and nothing swept under the rug.

(Jules-- I like people who speak their mind--I didn;t take all that "rotting in front of a computer" too seriously.)

Patience  in L.A,9 ( sunny and in the 70's on the coast)

Wow, talk about opening a can of worms. First let me say that my admiration for both Kristi and her writing and her Mom are right up there at the very top of the list. And I think I would include JM's persona in there too. The story of the night's frustration was a treat. Especially for all of us who like to avoid those kinds of events. But to respond with such anger is beyond me. It was one event in a life time of stories and the fun of sharing La Vie Espinasse is unbeatable. Come-on, you fellow fans, accept the oops-es with the yeah's. Kristi is a growing and inspiring writer. God Bless her and thanks. The swim story proves it. The book when it comes out will be a winner.
How is Jackie's American experience going. Want to hear more!!!

PJ Carz

Please keep it up, Kristi, Jean-Marc, and Jules. It is disturbing that some readers express such strong opinions on who is right, wrong, crazy, whatever. I enjoy your writing because you do get into the "universal truths in these complex relationships we share" (your words). Exactly! Life isn't smooth, it's the sharing of the hills and valleys we experience which make us human.

Jules Greer

Dear Marie D.

Each day following your above comment I have come back to try to understand what you were saying about me. I have come to the conclusion that you are that little girl at the end of the circle when secrets have been passed around in a game by the campfire. You have placed my comment about 'evil adgenda' in the wrong part of the story. Grow up! ...and play this game of life with some intelligence and integrity.



Raisa Mayor Berriz

I was doing a Google search for someone else, and it let me back to you Kristi. (The person commented on this post, small world). Somehow I had missed this post! I am laughing to myself, because I see myself in both you and Jules!~ Jules I am a full supporter of your nap methodology! And Kristin, I too worry about conversations and the implications they may husband is the opposite! Love. love , love this post. I have been reading your writings for , what almost 13 years now? Absolutely loved this!


Your story is so great for making one change their thoughts, and improving their life. I know exactly how you felt and I feel that way many times. Now I have a way out, thanks to you.

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