In this three-part series, I’ll share with you a true story, my very own journey to self-care. It’s my hope that you’ll glean from it and find comfort and guidance for your own path along life’s journey.
I grew up in Germany and was raised in a strict, catholic home at a time when spanking was used as a means of teaching. Love was there, but it wasn’t spelled in capital letters.
My dad was choleric. He was short-tempered but always flashed an unexpected smile when he came in from his garden with arms loaded with veggies for mom to cook. These moments erased his meanness. He was a gifted soccer player, and this character trait was known in the world of sports.
He did not tolerate failure; it meant we weren’t giving it our all and his punishment was painful. Dad had no tolerance for weakness or disobedience. And food spelled sacredness. Not finishing what’s on your plate was thought of as a sin.
My mother was kind and held a different belief. She guided us with gentleness and perseverance, and she had a smile that made her blue eyes sparkle.
Her love filled our home with the scent of food prepared straight from dad’s delivery. Her out-of-the-world gravy lured us in like bees to flowers. It wrapped its arms around us, with the power of a hug that heals what hurt only minutes ago. The mmm sounds we made were like prayers, reciting we belong to each other. Happiness had a seat at our kitchen table.
My mom was a caretaker, always putting herself last. She held us after dad’s spanking.
I’m the third born with a little sister six years younger. My siblings happened. I was a gift. I was no match for my older sister and brother.
Evi was already in second grade. Smart, well-behaved but clumsy because of being overweight. She had fabulous grades but hated sports.
Klaus was in first grade and spanked daily for his poor performance and awkwardness. With learning issues and thick glasses, he couldn’t meet dad’s expectations. He ran as fast as he could to please him but never won.
I delivered what dad loved. As a daredevil, I was his match.
But I lacked obedience and was a lousy eater, other than mom’s gravy. He had me sit for hours in front of a plate of hated carrots. I had to eat them or get spanked. I chose spanking before throwing up, which was another reason for painful discipline.
But we had a bond, the outdoors and speed. I ran fast to win medals and climbed high to win his love.
I owe my free spirit to my dad
My parents did the impossible when they enrolled me in an all-girls convent school when I was eleven. I heard them argue, “we have to do this to get rid of her wildness and teach her proper behavior for a girl.” I knew my grandmother who lived with us was behind this. She was mean and bossy; she didn’t like me. In fact, she despised my dad for who he was and how he fostered my wild side.
I felt betrayed and vowed to never speak to my dad again. The nuns didn’t approve of sports, and a girl with a boyish look was like poison to them. No flesh allowed to the naked eyes; the body was a sin. No pants, long sleeves only, skirts hemmed below the knee. Eyes down, voices a whisper, we had to walk with dignity. I suffered and hated them every day.
This period of my life left a grey shadow on my soul and inspired big questions: Why am I here? Who am I? What motivates us? What makes us happy? How do we cope when we lose?
I sank into Hermann Hesse’s work and found answers in my favorite book Siddhartha. This quote offered me guidance on how to keep going.
We are not going in circles; we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.
Soon after graduation, my dad gained my love back. Now he stood up against the women in the house and allowed me to follow the dream he had helped manifest. I wanted to become a Sports and Gymnastic Teacher.
I loved college but teaching in schools didn’t bring the satisfaction I wanted. I taught third grade and observed a group of boys hiding in the corner, hoping to escape my eyes. They were unable to follow my curriculum. Why couldn’t they do what was so easy for the others?
I don’t know why these kids struck me in the way they did. Because of them, I left Plan A behind, to teach kids in schools to be champions, and moved on to Plan B, to be a healer. This path found me before I realized it.
I decided to study kinesiology and different healing modalities to understand those boys. It was glorious to see how I could use my skills to make a difference in the challenged children’s lives.
And Yoga entered my life
I was excited to study Yoga and signed up for a four-year teacher training course. It changed everything I knew and had learned about healing and how big my world could be. It offered different guidelines on how to live this life. Answers to my big questions appeared. I learned I did have a choice in how I wanted to feel. I wanted happiness and discovered where to find it. It was a voice in my head telling me, “look no further, look inside.”
I was in my mid-twenties and for the first time in my life, I felt powerful.
One day I woke up from a dream with butterflies in my belly, I felt something I never felt before. In the dream, I had given birth to a child. It shook my feminine powers awake, and an amazing feeling took over: I wanted to be a mother.
This wish took roots in my body. It felt like a unique raw diamond I tucked away in my pockets. It was an exceptional stone I thought I would soon transform into a shiny masterpiece.
I would find the right guy and create my family with a bundle of four healthy kids in tow.
But I had time, so I thought I’d build my business first. But the Universe had a different plan and delivered the love of my life a few weeks later. Plan C showed up in the form of a tall and handsome guy with dark brown eyes, I still fall for him today.
He was only in Germany for a visit. He had moved to the United States where he now lived, and we started an across-the-ocean love affair.
It lasted for a year of unpayable phone bills when in 1987 I sold my business to follow him. With Neil Young’s “I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold” in my head I said goodbye to Germany. I was ready to start my family with this fabulous man.
Life didn’t turn out the way we had planned, though. It shattered my carefully crafted dream into pieces. I lost three children to miscarriages and gave birth to a micro-preemie girl. Sarina was born four months too soon, weighing under two pounds.
Join me in part 2 where I’ll share with you the night all hell broke loose.
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