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Fernweh

The Longing Quest

By Judey Kalchik Published 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 4 min read
https://pixabay.com/users/analogicus-8164369/

I woke, surprised and stunned to find myself in bed, in my adult body, and assaulted by the impertinent and shrill call of my wake-up alarm.

Since that's the way I'd started most mornings for the past several years it shouldn't have been much of a surprise; but there I was and so it was. I'd been submerged for several hours, you see, in my past. I'd been seeking once again the past that never existed. I'd been lost in Fernweh.

Fernweh is a German word that is translated as 'far-sickness' and 'an ache for distant places'. It's a longing for someplace you've never been, an ache to feel something you've never felt, to touch, taste, experience something that never was.

I had spent yet another sleeping night-journey questing for the love and security that has forever hovered just outside of my line of sight and hand's-reach.

The problem was that I'd done the sleeping-soul-searching once again while my husband slept beside me.

I'd read of love, true love, dreamy creamy rhapsodic love. I knew Shakespeare, Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, Rapunzel. I'd seen LOVE on the screen many times: The Sound of Music, Sleeping Beauty, Dirty Dancing, The Way We Were, Blue Lagoon.

I knew the way it was supposed to be: every person would be loved for who they really were, be it poor, misunderstood, confused, unsure of themselves, naive. The person you loved would unqualifying-ly love you back. Forever and Ever.

I spent my childhood trying to earn that kind of love. I tried to be the good girl, invented bulimia to deal with the stress, cleaned and did my chores, watched the littles, defended any peep about the ways our family functioned. I told myself I had that love all around me.

Even though my childhood belied that view, I knew it was there. Someday, somehow, I knew that I would find a forever love. One that I could trust with my heart, my dreams. My future.

The family-love dream grew harder and harder to sustain. So I got married at 19, to the boy from church, the one that called me Goldy-blue and swore Love to me. Had his children. Bought the house. Worked to put him through school after he lost his job. Believed in him.

Because I knew that I had found REAL: I opened my heart, my secrets, my future, my dreams to him. Held back nothing. Full trust. Because that, I knew, was Love.

Until

Until, a few days before Christmas, on our anniversary, as our children slept, I handed him the present I'd hidden away and he handed it back. He said that he couldn't take it. Because, you see, he did not love me anymore. And- he didn't want to talk about it. Then he went to sleep.

On the outside, as that marriage dissolved over eight agonizing and alienating years, I kept moving, kept, performing, kept working to be loved. I just KNEW if I could fit the profile- whatever that might have been- of the wife he wanted, then it would be OK. It would be that Love I'd given all of myself to join. It would be my real story; I would have chosen the correct Prince.

Like many fairy stories; this one I was in had sinister moments; the phone would ring and the person that called would breathe into the line before they hung up. A love song mix tape was under the dining table one morning, but disappeared never to be seen again. A heart pin was in the laundry with his work clothes, but I was 'imagining things'.

My spirit was cracked, my security shattered, my composure crumbling. I was not a good mother, then. I demanded my daughters join me in my quest for perfection. That if we were just perfect enough, successful enough, polite enough, invisible enough: everything would be normal. I could join them again, back in the family of Love that used to be four, and where at least one, then two, then three seemed to wish I would stop knocking at the door to be let in again.

I was imagining this, of course. I was imagining there were two people in this love story. At night, when my mind needed more time to tell the story- I roamed through my dreams seeking that Love Story where I was.... cherished. Where my trust was safe. Where I could sink down and rest from this horrid charade. Where who I was would be enough.

I didn't know that I had fernweh. That my longing had a name and my soul had a direction. That longing, ache, determination to achieve something I had not, not truly/not really, ever had was what kept me going.

Fernweh kept me going when one of those daughters moved out. It kept me going when I tried my best to overdose on a small heap of pills one night. It kept me going when my redhot rage banked and cooled as I waited for things to turn right round again. When I agreed that he could file to dissolve 24 years with a slip of paper and pretend that promises were really just another fairy story people repeat until they lose all meaning.

When, roaming three small rooms and actually on my own for the first time in my life: I felt fernweh again. And when the opportunity came for me to step forward in faith, to trust that I could make hard decisions, to surround my own self with the things that bring me joy, I started to feel peace in the journey.

It took a bit longer for the night terrors, crying, and fear to subside. In fact, I'm still dealing with those little creeps. But, I am dealing with them. And I'm recognizing, like Dorothy, that the home, the Love, for which I've been longing has been with me all the time.

Faith. Hope. Love.... And the greatest of these is Love.

~

Comments happily received.

Self-helpMemoirEssay

About the Creator

Judey Kalchik

It's my time to find and use my voice.

Poetry, short stories, memories, and a lot of things I think and wish I'd known a long time ago.

You can also find me on Medium

And please follow me on Threads, too!

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Comments (7)

  • Ashley Shiflett5 months ago

    Oh wow. ❤️ This is a perfect challenge entry. You really did a wonderful job!

  • Babs Iverson5 months ago

    Fabulously expressed!!! You definitely own it!!!💕♥️♥️

  • I hope this isn't autobiographical 🥺 Sending you lots of love and hugs ❤️

  • JBaz5 months ago

    Judey, This is a punch right in the gut. I started reading thinking it was about a fantasy love with dreams of travel and then, bam. What heartfelt sad piece, you wrote this with such a beautiful flow that wraps the reader up.

  • I'm the one in our family who loves rom-coms. But at the end I often find myself wondering, "What happens tomorrow, & the day after that, & the day after that...?" We tend to think of love as a feeling or emotional response. It's not, at least not if it is to endure. It's a choice & it's hard work. I'm always intrigued by the end of "When Harry Met Sally" as the two of them are doing the interview about how they met & got married. Meg Ryan plays it as this time of bliss in which she is still awash in the wonder & beauty of it all. Billy Crystal sits there looking like a deer caught in the headlights. His character has always been the cynic, but he's come to understand as he says, "When you finally figure out who you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." Their last scene may very well have been the best he's ever played a character. He knows this is going to be hard & he's terrified. But he also knows that she's who he wants most to be with you & that it will kill him if he ever does anything to ruin things between the two of them. I'm sorry that you had to experience Sondheim's "Into the Woods" version of the fairytale. But I'm glad to know that you learned & grew from the experience such that this second time around has been much better. For him, it's very likely he still doesn't have a clue. Is he still with her?

  • Shirley Belk5 months ago

    Thank you for the courage to share. This was a brave, victorious tribute to the real you!

  • You taught me a new word Judey, and perfect for the challenge entry

Judey Kalchik Written by Judey Kalchik

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