06 June 2010

My Limbo: A Very Honest Glimpse

You know, I've recently been feeling sorry for my blog. Here it is, such a big part of me, and I see how it's changed over the last six months, and I don't like those changes. (Do you ever feel like you're becoming a worse person as time goes on? Shouldn't we be making progress here?) I regret the Michelle I've lost and I doubt I will ever be that Michelle again.

But I'd like to try and personalize my blog again so there is at least a glimpse of me as I exist today. Things are so simple and yet so complicated at the moment. Let me explain.

Several months ago, major health issues brought me to asking my boss if I could work 20 hours a week instead of 40. He was really nice about it and said he'd get back to me. While I was in the hospital, he called and said that my position just wouldn't work with 20 hours a week. Nice. Then, I got a letter saying I had to leave the country by May 10th. I packed everything up and planned to go to Switzerland, while hoping my boyfriend would tell me not to go permanently because he'd miss me too much and that we'd figure something out. A few days later, I finally told my roommates. And do you know what? They were awesome and I feel bad for expecting a different reaction. David made a bunch of calls and then talked to the lady at the immigration office when I was on the phone with her. They figured out that because I do not yet have my official diploma from my Master's, I could extend my student visa. That meant opening up another account with a limited monthly withdrawal and borrowing money from three people. Done. I also learned that my work visa was denied by the employment office because I wasn't getting paid enough for my qualifications. So they punished me instead of telling the company to get with the program. Crazy. However, with a student visa, I'm only allowed to work 20 hours a week, which puts me back at square one. As soon as that diploma comes, I've got to apply for a permission to seek work certificate. And it's got to be work I'm qualified for and that pays enough for those qualifications.

What's more, in April, a relationship that had been doing so well went . . . I don't even know what to call it. I'm still very confused about what happened because he didn't want to discuss whatever had changed or didn't know himself. I guess we'll just say it went stale (on his side). All our dreams of the future wilted away into oblivion. Maybe my health issues may have been part of the problem, because he felt like he wasn't able to help, but he never could understand or realize how much he helped me just by being there for me. Alas, no matter what I did to hold us together, after several weeks, my one-sided efforts just didn't work out. I ended up being continually disappointed and lonely, so that I finally decided it is better to be friends and not broken-hearted every time that your boyfriend doesn't want to see you or visit you or write you or call you. But there's still a shimmer of hope that seems very unrealistic.

And some very good friends of mine just kind of disappeared from my life. I wrote a message and got no answer and now I'm afraid to show up at their door or talk to them for fear of being personally rejected.

I'm lonely. I'm so lonely it grips my heart and makes everything in the world happen slower and thus more painfully. There are lots of very loving friends here in Leipzig, but interestingly enough, the more people I'm with, the lonelier I feel, because I realize they all have someone to go home to, whether it be a spouse, a pet, or a family member. And if they don't, we wither together in misery. Then, the lonelier I feel, the more I want to be alone, the more I wish I had my own apartment to retreat to. If I can't force anyone to be my boyfriend, I want a dog. Or actually, I want a dog in any case because a dog doesn't get in arguments and doesn't have other places to be and is always happy to see me. Every day, I think about having a dog. I stare longingly at every single medium to large-sized dog I see. I imagine having my own Bernese Mountain Dog puppy to cuddle with and take for walks and train . . . You may say that this is my struggle and I have to get through it myself, but you will never realize how much it means to me to have someone like me despite my faults, to support me through thick and thin, to be excited to see me and ask me what I did that day, to HOLD me when I feel like the world is falling apart. And without that support, I feel broken.

And my health issues have continued, if not worsened (in some cases). The local pharmacists recognize me when I go there, and I even got a "prize" one day because I spent so much. But why do so many doctors' efforts not seem to be helping? (And don't you dare say it's because the doctors here aren't good. That's not true!)

So when people ask me if I'm studying, I honestly have to say no. And when they ask what I'm doing now, I have no idea what to say. They expect a description of a fabulous post-graduate position or a commiseratable entry-level job. Months have gone by and I can't seriously say that I've been doing any one thing, but every day is somehow full. Yesterday, as I was feeling disappointed in myself, I thought back to the last month and I have done a lot of good things. They just don't happen to bring me money. (Oh, how I wish they did! Why can't you always make money from the things you love to do that don't stress you out?)

So because of the lonely-among-people syndrome and the difficult-to-ask questions people love to ask, I avoid the kitchen or the stairwell when people are there. I escape from activities as soon as possible, if I can even get myself to go.

But the truth is, this break is doing me a lot of good. I'm getting things done I've wanted to do for a long time, I have time to breathe, I have time to go to the doctor and get the help I need, I have time to read some nice books, to make some lovely crafts, and to go for walks in the park. I even get extra naps during those sleepy times that I always had to fight through at work.

But this current lifestyle can't be all worry-free and therapeutic. There's this part of me that judges me the way other people probably do. I see myself as lazy and disappointing because I'm not employed and contributing to society or working toward those goals. All those things we've been taught--don't be in debt, work hard, be self-reliant . . . GUILT! Guilt that I'm doing something that makes me happy (or at least less stressed) but is not productive or self-supportive. And as I discussed with a neighbor the other day, when you have a job, you need or wish you had more time. And when you don't have a job but have time, you need or wish you had more money. The extraordinary role money plays in life also terrifies me.

But there are so many questions. Why look for a 20-hour-a-week job when I might have to immediately quit and look for a full-time job? Am I healthy enough to work again? What if I start a job now and immediately lose all the progress I've made in the last few months so I have to quit and start over? (This absolutely terrifies and paralyzes me.) If I don't get a job, how will I support myself when my money runs out? And what kind of job do I want anyway? Should I aim for the goals I used to have but that seem to have dwindled to flittery memories? And where? Should I stay in Leipzig? What is keeping me here now? Will I ever see my Leipzig friends again? Will they even notice when I'm gone? Will they miss me? But if I leave, I won't have health insurance and what will I do then? Even if I am able to get insurance elsewhere, I'd have to find all the right doctors again and possibly start new medications, etc., so wouldn't it be more wise to stay here until things are looking up? What if things never look up because what I really need is family or a man to love me? Why can't I find anyone to be my family so I can stay where I love it? What if I end up being a burden to someone? Where can I find my dream man so I can also have someone to come home to? If my last boyfriend couldn't come to terms with me, how can I come to terms with myself, and how will anyone else ever be able to do so? Isn't nine years of dating enough? Please? Why do dogs have to be so expensive?

I'm in limbo. I was going to go to Switzerland anyway for a short while just to have some peace and quiet and beautiful Swiss mountain air. But every day, every hour, every minute, my ideas change. Or I just pretend like none of this is happening. When people ask me if I can do something next week, I don't know if I'll be here. And my decision-making skills have disappeared completely. I am frozen between a million decisions, and many of them cost money. One by one, they will decide themselves, and not always with the best results. In a few months, I won't have a visa anymore. Then I won't have any money any more. Then I can't go to the doctor anymore. Etc.

My health issues and possibly some medicinal side effects make a lot of things more difficult. For example, my thoughts skip around so quickly (and they don't get much air). My body is tired while my insides are whirring, meaning I jump from activity to activity until I get tired out. I'll be in the middle of reading an email and I'll jump up to find some chocolate, then check out my skin in the mirror, then realize I need to clip my nails, then decide to make some tea and while the water's cooking I'll forget about it when I look at my to-do list and so on. At some point, I come back to my email and finish reading it. But answering it? You may have to forget it. Sometimes it seems to take so. much. effort to pour out my thoughts and current news into an email. And who likes an email where all you can report is that you made some good food and had a nice nap and read an interesting book? The major conflict is so huge that it's not even worth bringing up in an email. But when I'm at home, I can be distracted and have my bad days when I read a book all day and avoid the phone.

The nine hours of sleep that used to be enough for me are not enough. I need more, always more. And I feel like every day I could make some progress as soon as I can catch up on sleep. But that doesn't seem to be possible. At least I have the most interesting and realistic dreams. But they leave me having weird deja vu feelings during the day--I often puzzle over if something really happened or if I just dreamed it.

All this leaves me, like I said, in limbo. I realize many of you probably want me to dish out some ideas on how you can help. Sorry, no can do (unless you are one of my leaders and receive some very personal, very verified revelation on who I should marry and can introduce me to him, ha ha, a little). I'm clueless about how to help me be happy and loved and at the same time be productive and have enough money.

Well. I have no idea how to conclude, so I'll leave it at that.

A congratulations to all you hardcore friends who made it through this whole post.

And a summary for all those who didn't:

  • Because my health is bad and because of visa issues, I can't really work at the moment.
  • I feel guilty that I'm not contributing to society and I worry about money, but this "free" time does me good . . . until I think about being guilty and needing money again, which brings up so many questions and worries that I am absolutely paralyzed.
  • I wish I had some very personal support.
Ideas? Well-wishes? Complaints? Probably not. I've probably lost you all in the last several months. For that I'm sorry. But at least it's nice to get it all out.


  1. I'm not good about giving you feedback, but I still follow your blog and benefit from all the fantastic links and things you post.

    To be honest, it sounds like you're doing very well in the face of a lot of trials. The hardest part about job searching, IMO, is staying optimistic. You're judging yourself too harshly—I don't think anyone thinks you're lazy. Hang in there.

  2. Come live with me in New York for the summer . . or for however long you need :). Oh, and read my long emails, which will shorty be coming once I get my computer back from the repair place I sent it to. I was watching Firefly, this t.v. show, on netflix. And I loved this line, that "if you can't walk crawl. If you can't crawl, find someone to carry you". We'll all help carry you until you find that someone. Love you!

  3. Hey Michelle,

    Hang in there! It all works out in the end - just not how we want it too. And for what it's worth - most people are in some sort of limbo, too. None of this really makes you feel better about your own position but know you aren't alone. Best of luck, Erin (I was in Leipzig summer 08 working with Fingerle)

  4. Your family loves you, misses you and wants you to be happy! You could come back home...I know a few people who would like that.

  5. The only things I can think of to say are thanks for posting and I'm glad you are my sister because I love you.

  6. I know that you don't really want advice, but I do want you to know that I read it all! I'm so sorry things are so hard for you right now, I hope they eventually get better!

  7. You are brave for posting such an honest look at your life. I truly hope you find what makes you content and happy soon. Feeling in limbo is hard on anyone. I can't imagine feeling that so far away from family. You're a strong woman!

  8. Michelle, thank you for being so honest. I know what it feels like to be so lonely so far from home, to feel as though things are falling apart, to see no end in sight! And adding medical and relationship complications on top of that can only make things more difficult than I can imagine.

    Keep doing the things you love. Those are your key to survival and eventual happiness. Don't worry about being productive. You are great for just being who you are. And, if it makes you feel any better, I've only had one boyfriend, and that was five years ago. So, I totally relate to doing life without someone who is just on your team, just there when you need him. And, I don't have a whole lot of faith that I'll ever find that guy, but I am moving forward. I have to. That's all there is to do.

  9. Michelle, I just found your blog and really enjoy it. I feel compelled to comment on this post because I have been through a lot of the same things you have described. Anxiety is the worst feeling ever! You should continue to do what makes you happy and not care about what other people think or feel guilty about it. Life is so hard we shouldn’t feel badly about taking time to find happiness. I hope everything works out for you.

    -Kim from the FHL

  10. This is one of my favorite posts of yours. Though not a happy joyful one, it helps me understand better the struggle you faced, and still facing. I believe you have the strength to overcome them. I know lots of people who care about you, and your family loves you. You have come a long way since the post, and I know everything will get better from this point on. I am so proud of you for enduring through those difficult times. You are simply amazing.