The Foreigner

IMG_0839This is not a post about diabetes today. It’s a post about me. Thought you might want a break from the diabetes talk. I needed to get this out of my head, and for once, it’s not about diabetes. If you’re interested in diabetes stuff, feel free to check out some of my wittier, less morose, scribblings. 

I speak a few languages, mostly poorly, (including English). I’ve always been fascinated with how languages reflect a culture and shape the people who natively speak it. (I also love writers who can delicately craft a sentence that will stop me from reading further along in a paragraph. I revere those who wield word sledgehammers. George Orwell, Christopher Moore, William Gibson, and yes… Stephen King.)

German is one of those languages I mangle. I love the authoritativeness and granularity of it. It’s a precise language with rigid rules and irregular verbs that made my stomach churn. (No one ever swoons dreamily over German poetry or whispers sweet nothings to woo a potential romantic partner.) I struggled through classes and study sessions and late nights with dictionaries, but still managed to do well. That being said, after my last final German exam at university, I turned to a classmate and professed: “I’ll never have to use that language again! Phew!”

Eight years later, I was living in Germany.

In English, we throw around the term “friend” without giving it too much thought. “He’s a Facebook friend.” “She’s a friend of a friend.” “Best friend.” “Frenemy.” It’s not that way in German.

I had no German friends. I had die Bekannte – acquaintances in the small town that I may have run into daily at the butcher or a local party. I had die Nachbarn – neighbors with whom I had coffee and sat comfortably through long dinners, laughing. But I had kein (no) Freunde. It wasn’t because the townspeople and the neighbors didn’t like us; they did and told us so frequently. A neighbor was blunt: “You’re wonderful, but you’re not one of us.” You don’t get to be called a friend by a German until you learn a person by heart and are accepted. To them, I was simply die Ausländerin – the foreigner.

I understood and accepted that – it’s part of their culture to create these definitive silos. I had American “friends” in Germany, so it didn’t sting quite so much, but I kept that linguistic lesson in my head…and I’m learning it all over again.

We moved to a new state in July. I have die Bekannte and die Nachbarn here.

 

Kein Freunde.

I have done everything possible to make friends here: joined groups – free and paid, trolled playgrounds like a mommy stalker to talk with other moms, tried to revive an existing community playgroup, gotten involved with some diabetes events here, and truth be told?

I feel like I’m back in Germany, but with better weather.

My “friends” are not here, they are there – that other place that exists both physically and virtually far away. Even people with whom I share a history and proximity are emotionally distant due to where we are in life (having kids early versus having kids late, of differing ages and stages in life, or no children at all). I attend events, telling myself that I just need to “get out there” and… I’m out there, smiling and chatting, but sobbing silently in the car behind sunglasses on the way home because I’m no closer to my goal: just one friend.

I tell John that I’m not giving up, but it’s becoming harder and harder to “get out there”. I’m beginning to cancel attending events because I just can’t make small talk anymore. I’m fearful of saying something wrong. (And oh, lest you think I don’t say anything wrong, it happened twice in the past week. Awkward silences are my speciality.)

Perhaps it’s the holidays. Perhaps it’s the move and all the changes we’ve decided to make this year. Perhaps it’s the worries of past health choices I let fly away like carrier pigeons finally coming home to roost. Perhaps it’s the desperation I’m feeling over wanting so badly to have friends for my daughter that I’m feeling more and more like a failure because I can give her all the love I have in my heart but what she wants is to sit on the carpet and play with someone who isn’t.her.mother…

There is no translation these days for what I am, except this:

Eine Ausländerin. 

 

 

 

0 comments

  1. Patricia Schroedeer

    Wow, that was a heartbreaker! In your posts you seem so sure of yourself – I could not imagine you having any self doubt. That shows how wrong we can all be about others – and how fragile we all are underneath. I’m sorry it is so painful – particularly watching your daughter go through it. I guess all you can do is to hang in there!! And keep posting – it helps a lot of people.

  2. Sean

    You have many other Friends For Life, with full knowledge of how that Friend word is used and what it means. The mixed blessing, as you know, is that FFL can leave your other friends in a different light afterward. Big hugs.

  3. kelly2k

    My wonderful friend –
    1. I love you & I wish we were neighbors so we could hang in real life all the time
    2. Don’t you dare give up.
    Girly, I know it’s hard to be in a new place and make a new life and new friends. Change is so hard and when you add holidays to the mix it can be downright painful.
    But continue to put your wonderful self out there – something/someone will stick!
    Until that happens no that your DOC friends love you & are so incredibly grateful to have you in our lives!
    Also, your totes amazaballs. #fact

  4. Kim

    This could not have been a comfortable or easy thing to write – and then to publish. I’m glad you did. (And I hope it gets easier. It has to – you seem lovely.) 🙂

  5. momof2t1s

    Oh how I wish you lived near me. I would so love to have you as a dear friend down the road. Your daughter is still young and friendships will come for you both the pre-school hallways and kindergarden corridors will be a smorgasbord of friends to be made. School hallways as a child were not so fun for me as I was always the odd one in hand-me-down boys corduroys and hair that tangled moments after brushing, not to mention silver caps on my front teeth. But now as a mom I love school hallways and my dearest friends both here and in Texas were forged between hand print trees and what I did last summer notes plastered to school hallway walls.
    Im the mom who had kids fairly young, my first at only 25 years old. Im nearly always the youngest in my group of friends. The friends I had over earlier this week – none were less than 8 years older than I and nearly all had kids younger than mine. I cherish those friends above all. They have experience I benefit from even though I’ve been a mom longer. They don’t turn a cherry red when talking about sex. They are not so self absorbed in style and appearance, instead they are well read, have had careers, mortgages, and they understand sagging boobs and cellulite (not that you have either).
    I am certain this was a difficult post to write and I’m glad you did.
    Having moved myself only 16 months ago I can tell you that I was in your boat for a good deal of time. Moving between states is difficult. Not just the logistics of buying/selling a home, packing and unpacking, setting up cable and the like – the community left behind will always be missed. The sense of loneliness can be overwhelming, especially if you are at home with a little one, thus not connecting with other adults in a work place. Many days I spent sobbing in my shower, longing for my friends and even the barista that new my order when I walked in. But it will get better. It always gets better. You are an extremely fun, energetic, intelligent woman with so much to offer to all. The friends will come – maybe you will be a little older than some but in my experience you will be one of the most cherished because you are authentic.
    I cant recall if your dd attends a mothers day out type environment or not but if not maybe consider just a two-day half-day type place. Most often found in churches. I taught at many. Usually they aren’t all preachy – just a fun safe environment for little ones to get time with other little ones. Most students I taught over the years were not church members and many weren’t church goers at all. They were just moms who needed some down time, or worked a little on the side, or just moms that wanted to meet other moms. Those moms they can benefit from you – your friendship will make them better moms.
    Sorry I rambled a lot. Maybe having just lived through the same made me want to share more.
    I adore you. I do wish I was closer, instead Chad is moving us again and I will be at the farthest I could possibly be from you in the US without moving to Alaska (and don’t think for a moment he didn’t consider a job in Alaska cus the f*er did).
    Hugs dear one.

  6. Scott E

    What can I say.. I’ve been waiting until I had the time to reply, and now two weeks have passed. This post rings so familiar to me. I know the feeling of moving to a new place, one with a very close-knit (and closed-knit) community, and there’s no way to force yourself in. I know what it’s like to choose to live in a neighborhood where people are on the street and everyone seems friendly, only to find out that those people are wearing earbuds to drown out everything – and everyone – around them. How it feels to know the neighbors by the palm of their hand, because the interactions are little more than a wave through the car window.

    I’ve never been good at pushing myself into a group — my wife is the social-chair of the household. These days, friendships tend to arise from interactions with the kids — though daycare, kindergarten soccer, mites hockey… that sort of thing that forces you to interact with other parents. I’m not sure how old The Kid is or if she’s in those social situations yet, but it will come I’m sure.

    I’m the kind of person who would rather have one or two close friends than lots and lots of casual acquaintances. I suspect you’re the same way. I hope you find that(those) close friend(s), because you really deserve it. Just be yourself — and talk about whatever comes to mind. A deep thinker like yourself won’t find a compatible friend by limiting discussions to small talk. Hopefully I can meet you in person one day, and though I won’t live next door, we can find something (beyond the obvious) to kindle a friendship.

    (End of meandering, unfocused rant)

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