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.