On Minimalism–Part 1

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If it weren’t for my husband and kids,  I would own nothing.

Well, not quite nothing. But almost.

My dream decor isn’t quite what is pictured above, but it comes close. For the record, it is my husband A who is the TV addict, not me. I would gladly give it away if I could. Otherwise, the room is perfect–crisp white walls, windows framed by white curtains, a few plants, a few candles, a brightly colored rug. What is not pictured is seating ( a sofa and some floor pillows) a bookcase (with fewer than 100 books and some art supplies for the kids), and a small side table for the laptop. Otherwise–nothing. I need nothing.

Minimalism lends itself well to both living abroad and living with anxiety. It eliminates all the extras, leaving you  to focus only on what is most important.  For someone living abroad, this is imperative when moving to a new continent when on a budget. And when you have anxiety, it contributes to a sense of calm..or at least it does for me. No worrying about where possessions are or adding to a collection.

But lately I have been thinking about the dark side of minimalism, the OCD side, where people feel compelled to count items and control their spending to the point where they agonize over how many pairs of shoes to own.  There is something very, very comforting in being able to control at least a small part of this uncertain life…

So the jury is out right now on how much minimalism is healthy. For now, though, it brings me a sense of security to know I can leave the country with just a few bags and feel as though I have left nothing behind.

 

A Letter to Germany

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Dear Germany,

I’ve been writing this letter in my head for a long time.

I want to love your culture–really I do. But if you keep telling me 1) how to yawn, 2) what to name my child, 3) how to ride my bike, 4) how to speak my native language, 5) how to play mini-golf, I am going to tell the world how y’all suck.

True story–your people have tried to school me not only on the points listed above, but on many more besides.

I’ve had it. I’m close to breaking up with you. And it’s hard, because we’ve been together since I was 14 years old. That moment I walked into Ms. A’s classroom–the fantastic posters of half-timbered wonders, the amazing hope as we watched the fall of the Wall on TV, not to mention the strange parallels you shared with my native English–I was spellbound.

Then I had the great fortune of meeting not one, but two soul mates while within your borders. Granted, one couldn’t claim German citizenship (yet), but still, he was close enough.

Overtime, though, the sheen faded and I began to resent the way you regulated me to the “American” category.  And then I began to resent your take on the American category.

But you don’t seem to realize why your take on America is so wrong.

See, the US  isn’t *just* Starbucks, GMOs, spying, drones, terror, prisons, income inequality and obesity. Truth is, there is a thriving civil rights movement (ACLU, for example), many social movements (Head Start, WIC, etc), a Green movement (Jill Stein, CFAs) and a constant debate there about the quality of life. I know because I’ve worked in these movements and/ or participated in these activities.

And actually, ain’t all roses and sunshine here, the eastern side of the Atlantic.  I can think of at least four issues (bullying, rape, attacks on women’s rights, attacks on worker’s rights) that are  prevalent in Germany. Germany has a raging bullying problem in schools (WITH violence, including a huge school shooting years ago), a problem with under-reported child abuse, and a real lack a lack of women in higher positions (you are a “Rabenmutter” if you don’t stay at home). Look at any report from Verdi to hear about problems with work–most result from “limited” (befristet) contracts that end so they can get someone cheaper. That is how my husband lost a job.

Then there is the anti-immigration sentiment here (no Gypsies, please!), the anti-abortion movement (not after 12 weeks!! And only after “counseling”) and gay rights (marriage is still not recognized, it is a civil union)–shall I go on? You do realize these are *Republican* issues, don’t you?

Oh Germany…what should I do?  When I look at the Elbe, so close to where I am living now, I don’t see “green” and “wonderfully beautiful panoramas”, as the Hamburg press likes to put it. Instead, I see mighty ships sailing out and into the world, without me. They obscure the views and pollute the water and leave the country. Like I should? Oh Germany…

Love,

Persephone

Who am I?

I’m been wandering through the US, Germany and Iran for almost 20 years, trying to find the “right” place.

I’m in a strange marriage that I can’t quite leave…yet.

I love my teaching career but hate all the craziness that goes with it. I can’t help wondering if there is something I am missing.

I love my two children above all, yet feel oddly trapped at times. I don’t want to wish them big, but sometimes can’t help myself.

When all the above becomes too much, I lapse into anxiety and depression. I am fighting this with every weapon I can muster.

I’m looking for empowerment so I can break free of the prison I have largely imposed on myself.

I love the symbolism in the Persephone story–trapped in the underworld, she emerges 6 months a year. Demeter, her mother, then ushers in Spring. I am looking for my Eternal Spring–this is where I explore that possibility.