Tag Archives: communication

Small World on a Fence Post


When I was a child I was afraid of ghosts. as I grew up I realized people are more scary. – Sushan R Sharma

I realized last weekend that I am and always have been what the Germans call “a-zi” (pronounced ah-zee), which means “anti-social” but implies much more than that, more not nice things. I was at a class with a friend and she was surprised how fast I was out of the seminar room. She even thought I was going to leave her behind (I drove us both). She suggested the people in the class were probably thinking I don’t like them. That rang a bell because just a couple of weeks ago, someone else told me that friends of his who had attended a concert for my students thought that I didn’t like them. I hadn’t exchanged a word with them but they were very sure I hated them.

All this brought up to me how I have behaved all of my life. I would have told people that I was shy. In fact, I think I did sometimes but I stopped after a while. Nobody seemed to believe me. I have realized that deep inside I am scared to death of people. Funny enough I only realized last year at a different course that I fundamentally don’t trust people. Maybe that is why I am afraid. This fear is very deep seated and has caused me to do things that other people find funny or weird or awful or – “a-zi”. I don’t see people to greet them when they greet me; I turn away from people at parties, I walk away from companions (a friend screamed at me and told me he would never attend a concert with me again because I left him in the dust when exiting the hall). The thing is I don’t “get” it at the moment. Later maybe, when I think about it, or somebody complains to me about how I have behaved but not while I am behaving that way. I just feel impelled to do what I am doing. The truth is I am lost in thought, obsessed with my own inner world. Do I have a slight case of Asperger’s?

It’s a funny thing that I chose such a “public” profession when one of the things I hate most in the world is to meet new people. Oh, the number of times I should have been chatting and making small talk at parties and events to forward my career and all I was doing was measuring how long I would need to stay and when and how soon I could leave, measuring my escape plan and thinking of how to avoid saying goodbye.

At any rate, I believe that I have burned a lot of bridges in my life unintentionally by this kind of behavior. Over time, I have worked hard to learn to speak to people at parties and events, to at least be aware where my companions are when in company and I succeed most of the time. But when I am tired the only thing I can think of is “get me out of here”. Thank goodness my husband makes a joke out of it. At least most of the time.

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The last rose in my garden

The Last Rose of Summer

A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world. – Leo Buscaglia

Recently I attended my 40th High School class reunion – yes, it amazed me, too. 40 years. Where does the time… well, you know. I had actually never attended a reunion before. I was in town for my 20th, I think I had even signed up but I chickened out while I was ironing my outfit. Somehow it felt like I couldn’t compete with the success I imagined everyone else already had achieved. I wasn’t in a relationship. I was struggling to get work as a singer but was actually making my money working as a secretary. Somehow the pressure felt to great and I didn’t go. Spent the evening with my mother watching TV. She wasn’t unhappy.

Now, 20 years later, all of that success stuff didn’t seem so important anymore. I just wanted to see some people, to reconnect. A Facebook page for the graduating class made me feel more connected to everyone there than I have felt in years and as my pragmatic brother said, “If you want to see any of these people alive, you better come now.” That was part of it. Mortality is making itself known. The list of people I have had to say goodbye to – or even couldn’t say goodbye to – is getting longer. So I signed up and I went.

I was nervous, probably just as nervous as 20 years ago but I am older and wiser now and I still showed up. It was great to see people, some of whom I haven’t seen in those 40 years. There were even teachers there who were teaching when we were in school. It was great to see them again, too. I spent a lot of time with one of my best friends from high school who I haven’t seen for 30 years. Somehow it was like we had only separated a couple of months ago.

But the most fun was the presentation with photos that some of my classmates spent time to put together, bringing up memories of times gone by, buildings that no longer stand, people who are no longer here. It made a sense of community, a sense of belonging to us all, I believe. Something we share, something that those before us and behind us didn’t experience in the exact same way as we did. Maybe because we were all about the same age with similar dreams and ideas about how the world was going to be. That was an exciting time to be young. The violence of the late 60s was over, the feeling of freedom and power of the 70s was in full swing. A different world and even if we didn’t all know each other back then, we all were there, together and we remember.

It was a special moment. Glad I was there to share it with you all.

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Our Wedding Picture

Fourth Wedding Anniversary

Drum prüfe, wer sich ewig bindet, Ob sich das Herz zum Herzen findet! Der Wahn ist kurz, die Reu ist lang / Therefore consider, those who would marry, whether a heart finds a heart. Illusion is short, remorse is long – Schiller

On December 27, 2009, Wolfgang Michel and I got married in a small ceremony in the my mother’s church in Austin, Minnesota. We had actually been living together for 13 years at that point but like the quote says…
I had always dreamed what my wedding would be like and had very specific ideas what I would like to have but I didn’t get what I wanted. Trying to make the arrangements from 4500 miles away and the fact that my mother was already sick didn’t help matters. And I seem generally to have a problem communicating what I want to people. My husband complains about it all the time. But somehow the series of minor disasters makes it a story worth telling.

We planned the wedding at Christmas time to combine the visit with my mother’s favorite time of year, so I imagined lots of velvet and green and red. My sister-in-law – now ex – who was going to be my bridesmaid went out and bought a dress and planned what my brother should wear as the best man without asking me anything about what I wanted. It was announced to me by my mother. I didn’t feel like I could ask her to buy something else because of the cost and so I caved and we all wore black because that is what she had planned. Even though I wear a lot of black, it seemed to me to be more like a funeral than a wedding.

I found a picture of exactly the bouquet I wanted in the internet and sent it to my mother to give to the florist. When the flowers were delivered to the church, it was nothing like what I had asked for. The florist had apparently insisted on making it with full stems so that it could be used as an arrangement in a vase after the wedding. That I could hardly hold this log of flower stems and that I was getting on a plane the next day and couldn’t possibly take the “bouquet” that way on the plane was something nobody seemed to think about.

The man my mother chose to conduct the ceremony she chose because she had a crush on him. He was a nice man, a “free” minister not associated with any church but he also seemed to have problems understanding me. He kept saying, “It’s your wedding, you can have things how you want” and then refused to listen to either me or Wolfgang about how we envisioned the ceremony. It went so far that in the courthouse getting the license, we were so involved in trying to convince him not to do some silly things that I didn’t notice that my name was spelled incorrectly on the license – one “n” instead of two. When I tried later to change it back, they said it was now official and to change it I would have to pay $600 for an official name change.

At the rehearsal, even though my mother was ill, the minister kept insisting that she walk down the 50 foot aisle alone. Against my protests she also insisted on doing it in the rehearsal. At the wedding itself, she admitted it was too much for her and did as I had suggested, standing at the last pew and joining me when I got there. A lot of aggravation for nothing.

A good friend was supposed to sing at the wedding and several people, friends of mine, had talked about coming. Unfortunately, that was a Minnesota Christmas with a terrible snow storm. Planes were delayed, driving was terrible, nearly everybody had to cancelled. One of my mother’s best friends had already said she wouldn’t come which made my mother very upset and then the next door neighbor, who was very close to my mother, announced casually to Wolfgang while they were both shoveling snow that he wasn’t going to come either. I called him and begged and cried till he gave in and agreed to come. I knew it would mean a lot to her that he was there and the way things were going, we weren’t sure if maybe he would be the only guest.

In the end, it was a small ceremony, just my mother, my younger brother and his family, a couple relatives and a few of my mother’s friends. The organist played the songs that were supposed to have been sung on an out-of-tune piano, my sister-in-law strode down the aisle so fast I could hardly keep up. The minister jumbled the vows – cracking us up when Wolfgang repeated him saying, “in sickness and in hell.” He also almost forgot to let us read the vows we had written and pretty much made a mess of the thing. In the end, we survived and it was legal.

The only thing that was even remotely like what I had in mind was the dinner after the ceremony at a nice place in town. That had also been a big discussion. My mother had originally wanted fried chicken from the local supermarket served on paper plates in her living room. With the help of my sister-in-law, I got her to make a reservation at a nice place. Unfortunately the caterers had no clue really of what I had in mind and had certainly never heard of green beans almondine and so they served canned green beans with whole almonds with the skins still on. It all looked kind of like a church supper from my youth without the jello salad. The cake was good though. I had insisted on real butter frosting and this time I got what I asked for.

The few people that were there made the thing worthwhile, allowing my mother – who had pretty much given up hope that I would ever marry – to celebrate the day and be the “mother of the bride”. A year later when they found the tumors in her brain she said, “Maybe it would have been better if I had died with the heart attack in July (2009).” And I reminded her that then she wouldn’t have been at my wedding, which was already in the planning when she got sick. She kind of silently agreed that in that case it was ok.

Six months later we had a big party in our yard in Germany, nearly 100 guest, a small orchestra that my husband conducted including a piece he composed, I sang, we danced, an entertainer gave a show, and there were 6 grills cooking not to mention all the potato salad and drinks. In a way that was really my “wedding”. But I still feel like something is missing because there is a bad feeling about that first experience that I will never be able to change. I even argued with my mother about my disappointment just months before she died. Something I am not proud of and very sorry about but I just couldn’t let it go. Lesson to be learned – don’t compromise, go for what you want. Although I really believe in the power of second chances or third or even fourth chances with some things, even if you get a second chance, it isn’t quite the same.

For our anniversary, here are our vows:

The possibility I create for me and my life
is to be an opening for a fulfilled relationship
in which I create a space for
love, inspiration, personal power and freedom.
I am a stand for loving you how you are
and for being there so you can live your life in full self expression.
It is my commitment to inspire you
to bring every possibility you want to create into existence,
and to inspire you that you can have and be everything
you want to have and want to be.
This is our love.

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