11 Months in Germany And Turning A Corner

I’m working on a memoir about this whole experience and it’s turned into an anti-Eat Pray Love. I am aware of the parody that already exists, but I’m not meaning to write a spoof of someone else’s work. That particular book is such a cultural touchstone it’s hard to imagine writing about being a middle-aged (God help me, I’m turning 40 in November!) American woman running away from home without that iconic memoir in mind. Initial thoughts are that my book – hell, my LIFE – could include more zipping around on motor bikes with handsome Italian men whilst eating gelato…or having enlightening moments in a spiritual sanctuary…or partying on beaches…but instead there’s a lot of crying on the subway and getting yelled at in supermarkets for everything from returning bottles the wrong way to forgetting to weigh my own produce. And I don’t even get yelled at in a beautiful language. Sigh.
I had to hit rock bottom before I could come up again. July 26th marked 11 months away from home and I think I’m beginning to accept reality and roll with the (emotional) punches. Looking for oblivion in all the wrong bottles, the morning after sometimes offers up moments of clarity and, dare I say, peace and grace. I am often alone in this tiny village that bores me to tears and I’ve lost all my social capital. As a friend put it, I don’t need any more “character building,” I’ve got character in spades. But even misery has its purpose.
Here’s the thing, though. Just when I feel like I’m a complete hot mess, things start to turn around. The job situation is improving for both me and my husband and that is an immense relief. I’ve even managed to meet a couple people with whom I had a real conversation in English with. It was like stumbling into an oasis in the desert. No matter how miserable I am, I know the ephemeral nature of emotions and it always gets better. I’ve been forcing myself to get out after work and explore Stuttgart, because I also realize that the more time I spend in the city, the better I feel. I am no village mouse, I’m a city…sewer rat? I am alone most of the time, but I’m also learning to accept my lack of a posse as the new normal.
I remember how very lucky I am to be on this crazy adventure. My whole life has been random detours and maybe the only reason is that I want it that way. In Portland, I was standing on the precipice and it was either buy a house and settle down or throw a match on my entire life. Maybe only fellow expats can understand what it is to love home and yet choose to walk away. I don’t understand it myself sometimes, how this longing can consume me and yet here I am, breaking my own heart. If you asked me what I miss about Portland, I would say EVERYTHING. My friends, the rivers, the feeling of freedom and belonging. I could hardly go down the street without running into people I knew. I dream of simply walking through my favorite back alleys, cherry blossoms and camellia petals blanketing the pavement, the smell of pine in the wind. The map of PDX is branded in my brain and it always will be. We know we’ll be reunited someday, though I can’t say whether that will be in five years or fifty. But I had to do this whole living in Europe thing. It was 20 years overdue and better late than never.

7 responses to “11 Months in Germany And Turning A Corner

  1. Hi Steph…miss you and Chris!
    Portland keeps ever changing…new construction and buildings going up EVERYWHERE…traffic is insane, and our homeless population has increased greatly
    Love reading your blogs…hoping things get better for you ❤ Tell Chris hello for me…I just got s new job with TriMet and am working with Ken Cody again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love to hear how you are doing via your blog, your memoir, or better yet…a Facetime or skype call. I am remiss and apologetic in my communications. I can only understand from my limited experience of relocation, but my heart goes out to you on your day-to-day challenges! I miss you.


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