Distance, Serenity, and Silence

FrogDiva Jr. ©MTHerzog

You must be wondering what the photograph of the young woman has to do with the title. Well, grab a cup of coffee and I will tell you a story…

It all began last December when my daughter decided to take a semester off from her studies in Florence and come live with me to heal. Our journey as housemates has not been easy, and we both recognised the fact that the three years of living apart has changed us both tremendously. Neither of us are used to anyone encroaching on our space and upsetting the balance anymore. We are the best of friends and understand each others creative side all too well, better than anyone else in the world I think, but our sense of order are like comparing panna cotta to an exploding volcano. We lasted only a month as roommates, and then I re-arranged the conservatory to give her a space of her own, and for me to reclaim mine.

Berlin is a tough nut to crack when it comes to finding flat-sharing schemes for a short term. and even worse, trying to find a therapist who will take on a new patient for less than 12 months. In short, the search for both has been unsuccessful and we have resorted to finding alternative methods of healing the troubled soul.

Step 1: art therapy. I didn’t push, but finally after almost five months of artistic hibernation, my daughter reconnected with the canvas and her paints. It is a huge step forward, and this experience will reflect in all her upcoming work, providing a new depth in her images.

Step 2: gardening. I took a chance with introducing her to the joys to planting and watching plants grow. Little did I know how deeply it would affect her, until I realised that gardening is essentially another art form, which is why she identified with it so well. So I turned over all the gardening to her for the time being. and it has been very fruitful. There are fewer questions and no more hesitations.

Step three: lists of chores and errands. I rise at 4:30 every morning, and in an effort to package time management in an efficient and yet enjoyable way, I leave notes on the kitchen counter often with associated items that have to be put together or processed. At some point I decided to take a page out of all the cooking shows we watched together and leave a bowl of ingredients for her to figure out. Some were weird combinations that she had to get creative with, and others were old favourites that she loves when I make it.

Step four: meditation. This is the most elaborate stage thus far, which we launched yesterday by way of her traveling to a distant monastery in Bavaria for a week of silent Vipassana meditation. The discipline required by this form of meditation is something I myself struggled with years ago, but the lessons learned remained within me for the rest of my life. It is ironic that after living in India and Thailand all these years, she had to come to Germany to find her way to Vipassana. Sometimes our life paths are stranger than we expect.

Whoever said parenting gets easier when the children grow up and leave home is full of baloney. If anything, it gets more complicated because the structures that used to define our roles (school, sports, clubs, etc) are all gone and we are forced to re-define our identities in our children lives. It is not our place to decide anymore, but to simply be there when they triumph or fall. Letting go and stopping myself from stepping in to solve the problem myself is one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn, and struggle with every blessed day.

Yes, I completely underestimated the situation, took on far more than I could chew, and have been pushed over and beyond my own limits, surrendering precious space, privacy, and peace of mind. But I have this week to catch my breath again, and do some healing of my own.

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