Archiv | Januar, 2014

The ring

19 Jan

MEDION Digital Camera

So, while I was home for christmas, my mother told me I was single because I went to live in Portugal for a year. Upon my irritated and my father’s very angry reaction to that abstruse statement, she elaborated: „Well, you always just do what you want.“

Having been single for the last ten years, I was obviously hurt by this exchange. I was aware I was not the most experienced when it came to relationships, but I had never really believed it was due to my personality and/or concrete actions. Granted, people who only do what they want would not be a great partner. But I had always believed – and observed – that this behaviour would result in them having a bad and in the end a failed relationship, not in them being disqualified from having one in the first place. And, more importantly: I do not feel like I always do what I want. In fact, that time in Portugal was the only phase of my life I can recall during which I felt I did exactly what I wanted.

OK, yes: I am a strong person, and I am a strong-willed person. And yes, I am independent and enjoy being alone. But I am also a good friend and good at communicating. I am not a patient person, but I am also kind and generous. I may be harsh and quick-tempered when pushed, but I am also funny and cuddly. I don’t just like to enjoy things for myself but also to pamper others. In fact, I am a much more likeable and flexible person than my mother is. So I tried not to let her get to me. What did she know? Still, alone in my childhood bedroom – my sister and brother both with their respective partners – I suddenly had difficulties breathing. The room still smelled like when I had slept there as a teenager. How was it possible that so little had changed? How did I still think about boys (men) and their absence in my life, lying in this narrow bed, listening to my parents watch TV downstairs? And who would have expected me to be so unsuccessful, to all intents and purposes, more than ten years after graduating? No career, no money, no partner – not even an unplanned child that was a shock at first but a blessing in hindsight. I certainly had not seen this coming, or I would have been more humble. I cringed remembering all the times I had seen couples on the subway or in the supermarket and had thought: „I am prettier/smarter/younger than that person, why do they get to be in a couple and I do not?“ So there I was – terrified and suddenly regretting every major life decision I have ever made. Maybe my mom was right – I was a selfish, uncompromising person destined to die childless and alone.

In the morning I felt a little better, especially with an upcoming trip to my favourite remote farm in Italy giving some welcome perspective. But the loneliness I had felt that night, sleeping in what felt like the abandoned film set of my adolescent life, was harder to shake off than I thought – a fact that was made painfully clear to me when I found the ring. A smooth shining golden band, just like a wedding ring, whose thickness and lack of incription, however, assured me it was not actually a lost symbol of someone else’s love. My mom had found it somewhere, and after she left the house I put it on. I immediately liked the way it looked on my right finger. I also liked the way it felt. Heavy. Soothing. Like one thing forever crossed out on the endless to-do list that is adult life. Then my dad came and picked me up to go to the supermarket. I considered taking the ring off but then decided I was beyond embarassment, at least in front of him. And so I wore the shiny ring proudly and walked through aisles of pasta and cereal, milk and wine with my head held high. I was not dressed well, my hair was not washed, and I stumbled around among the many last minute grocery shoppers in my usual clumsy manner. But I did not break a sweat, I did not try to hide – I felt completely self-assured: So you think I am weird/loud/overweight? What the hell do I care? I don’t need you, someone has already picked me. Someone has picked me for life. Seriously, what could be more reassuring than that?

The ring made my family uncomfortable, but then they have always been uncomfortable – more or kess – with me living in my own fantasy world most of the time. Still asking my sister to push me on the playground swings. Still pretending my bike is a horse. The ring stayed. It came off, finally, before I left town to go back to Berlin. My sister had firmly shaken my hand and the massive ring had cut into my finger, leaving a major bruise. It hurt like hell and I was happy to be rid of it. We had just made a bet, born out of my desperation and her determination to get the pathetic ring off my finger. The wager: 500 euro say I will meet a man who is right for me before I turn 35. I bet against myself, which self-help book authors usually do not advise. But well… that will be money handed over with a smile.

I returned ringless to Berlin, but only for one night. I was eager to leave the merciless city again and go to Italy. There, in the absolute solitude of the Umbrian mountains, the bitter aftertaste of my mother’s inconsiderate words was finally washed away by wine, wind and the smell of dogs. And then something amazing happened: I let go, I was completely myself and I did not try – and stuff started to move. I met wonderful people, found myself in surprising situations and experienced amazing, unexpected, improbable magical moments.

Come to think of it, many amazing, suprirising, unusual things have happened to be over the last years – ever since I let go for the first time and stopped doing what I thought I should be doing. And they found me again on the top of that mountain – which made me realise: I am this accessible a person and thus this open to amazing things happening to me because I am alone. Because I face every situation alone. Because in the major moments of my life I have been by myself. Like traveling. It is different to travel as a pair, whether as friends or lovers. The conversation, the attention, is automatically turned more inwards. Awkward encounters don’t have to be endured and strange situations are seldomly sought out. Yet, these are exactly the things you sometimes have to invest to be rewarded with an awesome unexpected experience. In Italy, I calmed down, finally, looking at unimaginable night skies and reminiscing about all the amazing things I would not have experienced if I were a different person. Like the young homeless guy I met on the bus one night. I relucantly entered into a conversation with him, first only listenung but then also confiding. When we got off the bus at the final stop, I went into one direction and he into the other, but suddenly he stopped, turned around and screamed at the top of his lungs: „I don’t want you to die!“ And I, ignoring the judging bystanders, screamed back: „I don’t want you to die, either!“

Or the Italian under my window. This incredibly beautiful warrior of a man had hit on me on the street one night and then recongnised me one year later (after Portugal) when we both bought bread at 3 am. Nothing happened between us (then), but he walked me home and then for almost half a year appeared under my window, from time to time, in the evening. Just standing there, waiting for me to notice, or sometimes just for my lights to go out. Or the Danish guy,I met during Lisbon Mexx festival. I had decided not to go because I was too broke for the tickets, even though there was this one band I really wanted to see, Oh Land. Then one evening, in an empty depressing hostel, I took pity on the only other guest, a young guy who seemed lost and in search of a conversation. I talked to him and offered him some wine. Turns out: This man was the drummer of Oh Land and I ended up with a spot on the guest list. It was truly incredible.

So, in the end, I am almost glad my mother said what she said. And I am definetely glad I found the ring. It made me realise that I have come to a point where I want that – not necessarily marriage, but a relationship. A family. It also made me realise I like my adventurous open self and the life it allows me to lead. And so I decided, even in the face of all the fear and potential for endless regret, I will not change, and neiher will I settle. I will remain open, I will remain adventurous, I will remain restless. Amazing things have happened to me not despite those things because exactly because of them. And I have to believe that amazing romantic things will happen to me also because of the way I am. That I will meet someone who likes me exactly because I am that way. And if not, I have to believe that that is OK.