Monday, May 27, 2013

reverting to childhood helplessness

i completed a study recently wherein i talked to a whole lot of foreigners who had, for one reason or another, made denmark their home. some came for love, some for work, some to be safe from war-torn homelands. their feelings of displacement and discomfort were remarkably similar, despite a diversity of reasons for being here. i could easily go on and on about it, but this weekend i found myself thinking about one aspect that many of them cited...that of how being in a new place where you don't speak the language and don't understand the culture makes you feel about 6 years old again.

i was fortunate to have husband when i came to denmark, so my exposure to the bewildering new set of sounds that is danish and the general coldness of the culture was cushioned a bit. but i do recall that with many things...paperwork, phone calls, directions (let's just say that the streets in denmark are not laid out in a nice neat grid like they are on the prairies of my homeland) to get places...husband helped me by taking care of things i didn't understand.

and on saturday, when a heavy maglight flashlight fell on his toe and caused it serious harm which necessitated that he sit in the chair with his foot up, trying to stop the bleeding, for most of the day, i realized that i felt rendered incapacitated myself by his injury. not because i had also hurt my toe, but because it felt like i couldn't do any of the things i had planned to do (turning our front glassed-in entryway into a makeshift greenhouse), because husband wasn't there helping me. he hadn't paved the way. the heavy pots were still out back and some of them had old, dead lemon trees in them. the plants were still sitting out back, being whipped by the wind. but he had prepared a wheelbarrow of soil, compost and perfectly aged cow poo for me the day before, so that was ready. but it took me most of the day to realize that i was perfectly capable of getting on with the task myself.

and it hit me that my reliance on him when i came to denmark, for even the simplest tasks (telling the difference between the kinds of milk at the grocery store, for example), had set the tone. i have, in many ways, stayed that child i reverted to, expecting husband to fix everything for me. and i had lost the sense of frustration that it had early on. it was probably because he took on those responsibilities so kindly and patiently, that we just slipped into our roles and stayed there. he is the eternal fixer and i am the one for whom he fixes.

but, i realized that i was perfectly capable of dumping out the old lemon trees and moving those big crocks around to the front of the house in the other wheelbarrow. and so i did it. and i filled them with stones in the bottom for drainage and that soil he had prepared and i planted tomatoes, aubergine and cucumber. and i arranged it all in the glassed-in entryway, so it can be my makeshift greenhouse this year (we're moving the real one, again, again). and almost immediately it smelled moist and fragrant and green out there. and i had a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of being capable. and the plants have perked up considerably since i took these photos immediately after i was finished, so even they're happy.

maybe it's time to let go of that 6-year-old girl again and start getting something done.


Spilling Ink said...

It's so easily done. I did when I came to Australia. My marriage lasted ten years and when my husband and I split I realised that I had never, ever paid a bill in Australia! It was a bit of an eyeopener realizing that I had allowed myself to so totally depend on someone else to take care of things for me.

Unknown said...

Dependence, independence ...both are amazing constructs totally meaningless when an ant dies or a flower blooms.

We humans split atoms, drive taxis, eat unwashed grapes with confidence only to sit in a chair and wonder if we correctly fit someone else's subjective bell-shaped curve.