,Ich breche zusammen’ is one of the first German phrases to confuse the hell out of me. “Break” was clear, but to add the word “together” made no sense. How can one “break together?” Of course, that was my B1 level self literally translating, which as we all know, should not be attempted. In reality the phrase can mean to “break down” or “fall apart.”
Und dieser Woche, ich brach zusammen.
And this week I broke down.
The events of the past ten days have left me feeling as if I’ve been run over by a train.
My thoughts are jumbled this morning, like when you wake up and try to piece together a disturbing dream, so I’m going to write as the pieces of this story come to me.
Some of the best stories begin at the end.
I arrived home Tuesday night to a voice message from the Lumberjack. He iterated several issues I’d been thinking about while I was blasting paint on the walls of the old apartment, and I’d been prepared to suggest we take some time apart. Even though we broke up in those voice messages, we broke apart together. It was all very amicable. I want the best for him and the best for myself.
While I am feeling sad (and fatigued from the last ten days of apartment renovation), I don’t feel desperate or empty or incomplete (and I certainly don’t feel like jumping back online to find a date). Maybe I’m numb. When it wears off I could feel differently. Overall, I feel happy about this Leipzig chapter of my life. There is still that spark of excitement about finally living the life I want and being the woman I want to be.
I’ve got plans for social interaction this weekend — a community clean-up followed by a barbecue at the new gym, where I can talk to people without being drenched in sweat; and I am hosting a family fun night, which is something that fills my heart to the point of bursting. My goal is to have food and fun and games, and sometimes costumes, with my kids and their friends and my friends and their kids once a month. It’s an open invitation, so message me for the month’s theme.
This was my fourth move, and I was ready to make a clean break from some of the things I’ve been toting around: clothes I once loved that don’t fit, irreparable shoes, children’s toys, tools I never used, the list goes on. I’ve done this removal work myself before, and it is so time consuming I decided to hire an Entrümpelung service. These guys seem to have stepped straight out of a comic book. There was the tall, chatty one with the pointy beard, who was inquisitive about Alaska. There was the small silent one, who reminded me of Smee from Peter Pan. And there was the boss: an elderly man you had to shout at so he could hear you. These dudes worked so hard with such a jovial manner, it was hard not to like them. I was surprised when the boss charged me a hundred euros less than I thought it would be.
Things seemed to be going smoothly, until we met the couple from hell.
My daughter and I worked hard to prepare/repair the old apartment, and when it was time for the Übergabe, we were confronted by demons of darkness: the new tenants. I’ve lived in Franconia 14 years. I’ve moved four times, and I’ve never felt like calling a priest to exorcise humans from an apartment before.
It began in July.
When the demonic duo first phoned about my old apartment, they thought I was the owner. They mentioned the rent was too high when they made their appointment. They cancelled the tour the next day, saying the rent was still too much. I wished them well on their search for something in their price range. A few hours later I received a message from the real landlord saying they still wanted to see the place, which I thought was a waste of my time, but whatever.
They toured the apartment, making copious notes on what was wrong. (They actually complained about the stack of moving boxes in the living room). Despite the apartment being in a less-than-showroom state (it was controlled chaos), they decided to take it. Because the landlady kept messaging me about how bad the market was etc, I assume she was pressured into lowering the rent for them.
Satan’s spawn signed the rental contract, and when it came time for my final walkthrough with the landlady, the couple materialized. A shiver ran down my spine. In my past moves, the landlord walked through with me, told me if the place passed inspection and then signed-off or asked for further repairs. Only after she had cleared me, she would walk through with the new tenants.
This time, the renters from the depths of hell inspected the apartment with us. Things the landlady okayed verbally were now major defects. The hellions demanded new floors, new cupboards, and for the balcony to be de-mossed. For the record, these were things that had not been done when I moved in — and I didn’t care. I knew it was a great apartment.
When it seemed these people were trying to exploit my ignorance of German tenancy law, I started googling lawyers. It was stupid of me to not know my rights and to assume that most people are like me — not worried about the wacky texture of the walls or a scratch in the floor you can’t see when standing upright. I don’t mind paying for damages we incurred. It just seems they were trying to get me to pay for things they wanted, rather than things that were necessary. Had they been pleasant people or even reasonable, I don’t think I would’ve had such a violent reaction to them. But their condescending attitude towards us “Ausländers” made me want to lick every door handle in the place after they left. (I didn’t, by the way…I only thought about it).
These two dark apparitions from the bowels of hell did not greet me, talk to me or even make eye contact when it was time to sign the final papers. The closest the “Man” of the family got was giving me the side-eye when I said I would hire a professional cleaning service (to shut him up). If I asked him a question directly, the landlord would repeat the question to him, and he would answer her. He treated us as if we weren’t human and said the apartment was “disgusting” (he assumed my bilingual daughter couldn’t understand him). Maybe he hates single moms? Maybe he hates Americans? Or maybe his standards are impossibly high? I don’t know, but we all signed the Übergabe. I completed the tasks on their ridiculous list and turned in my key. Any further problems can be directed to the lawyer I hire.
The moving process wasn’t entirely without redeeming value. My daughter and I had some funny moments and enjoyed dinner at my favorite restaurant in Nürnberg. We speculated on the private lives of the new tenants (both teachers, of all careers), that they must currently live in a hospital and sleep in an operating room. We lamented their students.
We spent our nights at the hotel, and for some reason we were assigned a wheelchair accessible room. The mirror was tilted (made me look skinny) and my stuff kept sliding off the sloped shelf. My mom would’ve laughed. Maybe she had arranged it with god as one of her jokes.
After all the work was done, my daughter and I went shoe shopping, which was much needed therapy. I’d been in dirty jeans for days and still had splotches of paint on my toes and elbows. Trying on shoes was a great escape. Who doesn’t feel amazing putting on stilettos or some kick-ass boots?
I’ve been keeping an eye out for new boots to replace my 15 year-old pair with the worn-out souls. In the past, I have ordered boots online that looked perfect: stylish, yet comfortable. They seemed to fit like a glove. I was excited about them. Hopeful. But instead of wearing them around the house to ease them in, I took them into the city, traipsing over cobblestone in the rain until my toes bled. Having trekked in Nepal, I should have known to start by taking short walks and slowly increase the distance. In my typical fashion, I plunged right in because the boots felt so perfect at first. This is one of the problems with online shopping. Things that seem ideal might not come out of the box ready for your itinerary.
Shit. This wasn’t about boots at all.
Back to the move.
About ten days ago, I went to the old apartment to clean dog hair from the floors and erase my history from the walls. It was physically exhausting and mentally overwhelming. I was staying in a nearly empty apartment alone, with little interaction with human beings. It was depressing. I needed backup, so I drove to Leipzig to drop off a carload of stuff and to pick up Four of Four. Not only did this child of mine work her ass off in the old apartment, but she kept me motivated when I wanted to set the place on fire and walk away.
I sat on the balcony of my beautiful home in Leipzig this morning and thought about the good things in my life, letting positivity soak into my soul along with the sunshine. I’m hoping as I get more sleep and as I interact with people and build my life here, this full mental-physical exhaustion will disspiate. I am not broken. Just weary on all levels.
I have been tempted to have a glass of wine, but I’m not caving. No matter what breakups, breakdowns, break-aparts, break-togethers occur, I do not give up on healthy challenges.
I might breche zusammen from time to time, but it is possible to rebuild stronger and wiser, and quite feasibly, wearing a new pair of boots.