Saturday, August 22, 2015

Who'd have known how much I like hanging with Germans?

Greetings All,

Hope the summer has been treating you all well.  I write this freshly showered, newly shaved, garbed in clean/dry clothes and supremely happy to have slept a night in our glorious bed.  I love camping.  I really do.  I love getting into places that you can’t see and don’t find unless you get off the beaten path, and explore.

We have a place on the west side of the state (I sound like a bazillionaire saying that, like we own the place) that has no showers, no power, is slightly difficult to get to, has no cell coverage to speak of…and we love it.  We love it because we’re past the point where we want to hear anyone doing anything of any sort after 9pm, and this place is perfect for that.

However, I am a restless soul.  Extremely restless once we start getting closer to school starting, and ripping me away from all the things that are my scaffolding to help contain my restlessness.  I say all of this to bookend the experience of going camping with me.  Craving the connection to nature that listening to the waves rhythmically crash into the Lake Michigan shoreline, while also skittering around the campsite for something to do, stripped of computer/laptop/phone/PS4/games in general.  Ahhh, it must be so wonderful to be around me in late August…

Shelley sent me a few blogs that she was reading about grief the other week, and she said something I found really insightful and helpful to me personally.  Ya see, I feel guilty writing the blog these days.  Really and truly.  I feel guilty that I’m spilling out all these words about grief and us….when we’re doing fine, in all regards.  Yes, we have sad days all the time.  But, like my stamina in running, it’s consistently getting better and better with time, and use. (Yay!)

So, feeling guilty.  Yes, each time I write, it’s with the cloak of “who am I to sit around writing about grief when so many people have it worse, have it deeper, have it fresher, have it….”.  I combat that with the idea that if people don’t want to click through to the blog, they won’t, and it’s not my job to police what people care about.  But here’s what Shel said, based on some blogs she’d been reading:

People don’t read about grief, and click through to the blog just to see how we’re doing.  They do it to read about you making it through it, so that they can reassure themselves that they could get through it too, if they found themselves in a similar situation. 

(Disclaimer:  She could have said something far more profound, or altogether different…but this is how it came out of the tumble dry cycle of my mind, and was spit back out after a week or so).

I really enjoyed that.  Really and truly.  Over and over, across the last 3 years, people have emailed me and told me how specific things I’ve said have helped them, and that matters a lot to me, because it gives purpose to writing, to continuing to pour out the contents of my head to this blog.  That maybe when a person writes to tell me that I’m “strong”, what they’re really saying is that I hope I can hold up under all the stress and pressure of a future event.

The idea that I’m in some small way giving you the building blocks of a future ability to keep yourself together in the face of immense tragedy…that’s the stuff of gold, and gives me the permission to keep writing for as long as I want…which I frequently need.

Camping…  there’s another golden story that I need to tell.  We were immensely fortunate (yet again!) to have amazing neighbors, once again with little girls.  The first day we got there, a SUV pulled in, and out jumped two little girls, who seemed to bookend Anya’s age.  Their names were Meeri and Janna, and they were Germans, 7 and 9.  They quickly disembarked, set up camp, and disappeared for the beach while we were making dinner.  We didn’t get a chance to say hello until the next morning.

But the opportunity arose to say hello, I got a chance to pull out my German language from 1991, and Meeri’s eyes lit up.  They were fast friends from that point on.  We went to the beach together, sat for hours chatting with their parents, and even went on a massive 9km hike together the next day. 

The girls loved talking/playing with each other, but I got just as much enjoyment talking to their parents as well.  We had so many good discussions, but the one most pertinent, and I think most revelatory for Americans was this:  As a German, you have to be careful not to get too many friends.

Now, to elaborate.

I had asked Carsten (Dad) what was the biggest change for him when he took the job transfer from Germany to America.  He started talking about the friendliness of Americans at first, and how Americans are so much friendlier, externally.   His wife used the example of being in DC vs. being in Berlin.  She said that if she had a map open in DC, if she was staring for more than a minute or so, looking lost, an American would most assuredly walk up to her and ask her if she needed help finding something.  She said this wasn’t just conjecture, but it had happened multiple times.  In Berlin, she stated, she would have to be laying on the ground crying before a German would walk up and ask for help.  They said that it wasn’t a matter (for them, in their opinion) of kindness or rudeness, but privacy.

But then they flipped the whole thing on its head, and this is what blew me away…friendship.  They talked about how easy it was for Americans to call a person friend, and how un-German that was.  Each of them talked about how powerful that word was for a German, in that a German takes the responsibilities of friendship extremely seriously.  Carsten talked extensively about how when you find out that your friend has a problem, you do everything in your power to help them solve that problem …often spending hours and hours of your own time talking with them, strategizing with them, discussing pro/cons of the possibilities….and how this was normal. 

Sharing everything, all your problems, with your friends, all the time…and it’s normal.


The depth and trust and kindness and self-sacrifice that he was describing….I wonder how many people that I can say that I trusted that deeply, or have trusted me that way.  I’m not sure what the answer is to that, it just got me to thinking how much richer an experience that might be where I’m not trying to maintain so many levels of friendships, but making only a handful much, much deeper.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

A few pictures of us, of late, to fill this out….

Shelley saw this quote twice within 24 hours.  I think there's some severe wisdom located within.

The little girl is disappearing, and a new one is emerging.  Like a chrysalis before our very eyes, this summer has been the place where the girl has decreased, and the mini-tiny-soontobeyoungadult is emerging.  Wow. 

I liked this for a capstone picture for several reasons:
  1. Anya climbed on top of this for the first time that I've ever seen her.
  2. She didn't even blink climbing and standing on it.  No fear, unlike all previous attempts.
  3. Her attitude and stature are exactly representative of just how many moments she spends mourning all the things she's lost, all the curves that she's been thrown, and all the crap she's had to put up with.  If I could only be like her, in that regard. 

I'm hoping the next post I do I'll be able to show you the gravestone, and give you concrete directions on how to get there...for those of you who've asked.

Have a great week, y'all.