On Love: Elke Rindfleisch

In the spirit of the next SPIN at KGB Bar this Friday, February 20th on love & dating, I invited dear friend Elke Rindfleisch to share her story here.  Here it is:

Our relationship was past due for a break-up. Instead we succumbed to co-dependency and moved to a new city, in my home country Germany, to start fresh and to have a child. Everything inside me rebelled against this, begging me to make a different decision. Guts twisted, I hated it from the moment I got there. I gave up my community of friends and artists who inspired me and everything I had once felt excited about. Pretending “all was fine and getting better just by itself” seemed the easiest strategy for survival. This means I also worked to make myself invisible and motionless while outwardly pretending to move, into a grown-up life. I lasted for two long years, supported by ever more Martinis, before I decided to leave and go back to New York City, my haven. A prospect of change. Relief. Motion. A month after that decision, pregnancy. So I stayed put. Again. No change.

My pregnancy was blissful. Happily, healthily, non-drinkingly expecting and in a state of anticipation. It wasn’t so much the baby but that everything would change miraculously and be blissful and satisfying again. Just like that. That delusion lasted until the last few days before I delivered and then disappeared completely. My life was officially over while a new one had begun. Our son was wonderful, that much was clear. But I was a C-section mess, stripped of my physical powers. And apparently those were what had been holding me together emotionally. I wanted out more than ever. I wanted to go back to NYC. But was deeply stuck with no Thomas the train in sight yet to pull me out of the mud.]

Fast forward three months through stressful first steps into parenthood, we went on a trip to NYC. At the airport I was informed that I would lose my green card the next time passing through because I had neglected to obtain a certain travel document. In fact, as the immigration officer earnestly announced, I was very lucky he didn’t snatch it from me right now right there. I felt nauseous from a mix of helplessness, relief, and anger. I knew that I had really stopped paying attention to anything that mattered to me.

A couple days later, lying awake one early morning searching my still twisted guts for yet another escape from what was becoming an increasingly uncomfortable delusionary reality to live in, I looked over to father and son. They were sleeping next to each other in the exact same pose, arms crossed behind their heads. Adorable, blissful—my family. I used my husband’s iPhone to take a picture and accidentally stumbled over an open email. Instant change. Rollercoaster guts. He was having an affair and the “woman” was pregnant.

My first reaction before all hell broke loose was relief. I felt myself breathing and expanding for the first time in a long time. I held on to that split second knowing it was going to save me, and serve us. I had made a choice. I called a therapist, who we went to see together a few times, and then individually. We agreed, despite those days being filled with bitterness and blame, that this would be a better investment of our savings than a lawyer, and much better for our son. Brilliant choice. It would take another two years of ego swallowing, and diligent untangling of our respective internal messes, for the both of us to take responsibility and work together to find solutions. A crazy year of back and forth between Berlin and New York followed. Really we still liked each other, bizarrely, then again not, but the way it had been was never going to work again. Ever. And the fact remained that I still didn’t like my life there, even less now.

It took me that year to decide to do the unthinkable, graciously supported by my now ex-husband: move back to New York City with our son, and to leave behind his father, my family, and free day care. Hard choice. And best choice of my life. I knew I needed to be in a happier place to be a better mother to my son. But he also misses his dad. His dad comes to visit often and our son spends summers with his dad and his sister in Berlin. Once, early on in our separation, he even spent about six months with him, without me. Again, not easy. But a necessary choice at the time. I needed to be alone. And I needed a rebound relationship, and to stop drinking. I did both. And on from there, emotional and physical powers in balanced support of each other and now I’m quite comfortable with what is right in front of me.