Tag Archives: Germany

Capturing the Beast: No More Living with Regrets

Selfie during an early-morning run in the old landscape.

Selfie during an early-morning run in the old landscape.

My landlady, like the very good German she is, knew exactly what to do when tears began streaming down my cheeks: she toughened up–distracted me by taking me outside to help throw junk into the dumpster.

“Hear that?” she said, as a bottle crashed and broke along the inside, “There is still space, right there.”

So, we aimed our bottles for that space, heaving them over the heavy door, and listening to them crash into a hundred pieces. I don’t know why, but breaking something is usually therapeutic–especially if you don’t have to clean it up afterwards.

I told her in my broken German that she was the best landlord and this was the most beautiful house in the country. She hugged me–a first in eight years–patted me on the shoulders (which were hunched down to her 5 foot-frame) and she gave me the best compliment: Du bist eine gute Frau.

I think she had known for a while that something wasn’t quite right in my life. That normally a woman and her children are not the ones to move an entire household. Normally they have a husband working alongside. His absence and the relatively short timeframe to vacate, were probably signals to her of something beneath the surface.

Germans are nothing if not perceptive.

She was extremely pleased to hear that I was going to try to find a job–but she was over the moon to hear about German school for my kids. She’d always been concerned about their ‘alternative’ education (illegal for Germans), so I think this gave her some comfort.

We were not ideal tenants.

For three years I was so ill, I could hardly get out of bed some mornings, let alone clean my house to German standards. It was a huge house, a blessing with those four energetic kids running around, but something I wasn’t equipped to take care of. By the time I got better and found my energy again, the house was overwhelming.

Walking through the empty place, seeing the pockmarked walls, scuffed floors and being chased by rabid dust bunnies, I had many regrets. I saw ghosts of joyous times, but I also saw opportunities wasted.

I do regret not ‘toughening up’ and plunging into the community.

And that’s the thing about opportunities–they might fall into your path, but you still have to take hold of them. If you don’t, you’ll walk past, and they will vaporize.

I now have the chance to do things right. I have a second chance–more opportunities for a rich, full life. And I’m not talking money. Money is great for paying bills, but you don’t need much of it to be truly rich.

I want a life that is rich with friendships, laughter, joy, peace and adventure. I want a life that engages my mind and creativity. I want an active life, not busy with crap I don’t want to do—but active, alive.

I want these things for my kids.

I see the opportunity in front of me. But she is a big beast. There are many reasons to tiptoe past. To let her sleep. To allow myself to wander into a haze of obscurity.

But I’m not that kind of person anymore. I’ll poke the bitch with a stick. Wake her up, face her enormous breadth and tame her. Make her mine.

Opportunity is intimidating, but it is worth the struggle to take it. To face the challenge. To not back down.

To be honest, I’m frightened at the prospect. But the alternative is to continue on blindly, not taking chances, to feel less than alive.

That’s not an option.

This is one opportunity I’m going to take.

God help me.

No more living with regrets.


Hard Things: Crossfit for a Healthy Perspective

view2

The softest thing about Crossfit is the floor–and even that feels hard when your body slams into it.

Most people take a cursory glance at Crossfit and think, “Oh! That’s too hard!” It’s the same with marathons. I repeatedly hear, “I could NEVER do that!”

But really, with the right training, anyone can run a marathon; and anyone can Crossfit.

It just requires doing things that are hard:

  • Giving your best effort
  • Not making excuses for a poor effort
  • Dedication to training
  • Showing up consistently
  • Having the humility to start small
  • Having the guts to dream big

Crossfit has made me stronger mentally. I don’t give up quite as easily as I used to, and when I see a challenge, I go for it.

That’s what strength is, after all. It’s envisioning a positive outcome, rather than letting problems suck you under like quicksand. 

Some of my challenges (like registering for the Jungfrau Marathon in the Swiss Alps) are self-imposed, but others are beyond my control. I am facing challenges that in my pre-Crossfit days would have seemed impossible:

  • Getting a job after 20 years of working from home & raising kids
  • Sending my kids to traditional school
  • Sending my kids to traditional school in a different language
  • Becoming fluent in German
  • Figuring out how to stay here, and the subsequent roadblocks, paperwork, assholes, and other things I won’t understand
  • Keeping a healthy perspective, so I have something to give the people who need me
  • Keeping my core strong when I get tired

I can’t say this enough: Crossfit is not about the body, it is about the mind. I KNOW that if I set the bells down, I’m not picking them up again (very easily). So I don’t set them down. Even when they feel heavy.

Challenges don’t feel good, and at times, they can be so big, it’s like standing on the edge of a canyon, only it’s black inside, and you can’t see the next step.

Then someone hands you a headlamp and guides you to the path. You still have to do the work, and you’ll probably fall down a lot along the way. But at least you’re headed in the right direction. You didn’t give up and plummet into the chasm.

There is life to be lived and experienced: and Crossfit gives you the strength to face anything. Maybe you won’t be able to lift your own refrigerator (at first) but you will be able to do things that are hard, like putting a stop to an unhealthy relationship; like making a foreign country your home; like moving into a smaller house and painting the basement ‘Papaya.’

Whatever problem is stretching out in front of you, it CAN be overcome.

You just have to do things that are hard.

The soft things will come later:

Sitting by the campfire.

Watching the stars.

Sharing a bottle of wine with friends.

Laughing at the hike from the ridge.

Contentedly, quietly enjoying the view as the sun rises.


Bikini Bodies

zumba

I’ve been to both Hawaii and Florida, and I know that neither of them resemble the interior design mashup known as Kristall Palm Beach, a spa/water complex outside Nürnberg, Germany.

It is a wonderful place–it just has multiple personalities.

  • Kristall: because of the rocks & natural hot water springs in this part of Germany
  • Palm Beach: American, if you ask me
  • Poloynesia is represented by the hula girls on pedestals and the giant Gauguin paintings surrounding the wave pool
  • The Turkish bath area, with its colorful mosaics and hot tubs
  • The Space Alien waterside area, where the children are happily stowed upon arrival
  • The Egyptian sauna complex, into which I once stumbled for a pedicure and was never the same again

On a trip to Kristall Palm Beach a couple months ago, my tankini was literally billowing around me in the salt tub; and I could have used a pair of suspenders exiting the sprudel pool.

I had put the entire incident out of my mind until recently when, on a whim, we decided to go back to Palm Beach. The only other modest suit I had was even larger than my old one, and would never withstand the rigorous jets of the salt tub.

But there was one more suit. My beloved tankini had come with a matching, more revealing counterpart–the bikini. But because it was on discount, the only size left had been a small. I remember trying it on soon after I got it and tucking it away into a drawer, thinking I could never possibly wear it in public, even though here in Germany, grandmas wear bikinis.

Before I started Crossfit, I would see the old people in their speedos and bikinis getting out of the pool after water aerobics and avert my eyes, but now I am fascinated.

I watch how people move and walk; how they carry themselves; if their shoulders are back; I look for muscle tone and core strength and how their legs work and how they use their upper bodies. For the most part, despite the physical exercise, the majority of these people have not aged well.

I DO give them credit for getting out and exercising, it’s just that I would like to prevent certain things, like the typical hunched back, that I frequently see.

Sure, there may be ailments or diseases you can’t predict; but sometimes the state of a body is due to a steady diet of schnitzel and pommes–and no amount of Aqua Zumba can correct that.

I have two amazingly healthy grandmas, and they BOTH tell me things like ‘eat your veggies,’ and ‘stand up straight.’ My Auntie tells me stories about my grandma wearing hot pants and standing on her head; and exercising in the era of the young Jack LaLanne.

It’s not about how you look in a bikini, because it is possible to be ‘skinny fat,’ but it’s about working what you have, so you can show your great-grandkids how to do cartwheels.

I want to be the eccentric grandma who is standing on her head when the kids walk into the room. I want to take them hiking in the alps or cross-country skiing or go running with them or swimming in a cold alpine lake and not get too tired to play. I want that energy now. I want to sprint and push press and run ultras–who cares how I actually ‘look’ in my bikini?

Yes, I wore the bikini. While it felt strange at first, I quickly lost my self-consciousness about it. In fact, I was LESS self-conscious wearing it than I had been with the billowy tankini.

Not only did it stay put in the Turkish baths, but for the very first time, I felt secure enough to face the Space Aliens with the kids.

After a fun day of waterslides and wave pools and body-watching, I went home and did the unthinkable: I ordered another bikini–size small.

I will be wearing it for a long time to come.