Seelenerwandte

“To love is easy and therefore common – but to understand – how rare it is!”
-L.M. Montgomery, Emily of New Moon

The Germans call it seelenerwandte, the Italians, anima gemella, and the Americans kindred spirits. 

She gave me a warm hug, then looked me in the eyes and told me that although we were only just meeting in person, she felt as though we had known each other for a very long time. The next week would prove that yes indeed, she and I were kindred spirits. Woman who although very different in cultural upbringing, held inside of us the feeling we had known each other a very long time – a commonality of the heart which cannot be described. 

Kindred spirits mirror one another, and without ego. 

It’s nice when you meet a friend like that. And also very rare. I have a number of friends, yet only one or two I feel a kindred spirt. It isn’t something that grows either. It’s something that simply exists from the moment you meet a person. No matter your differences.

Sometimes the kindred spirt is a dear friend like Sonngard, and occasionally the seelenerwandte is much more. 

———

Knowing I have a great love of architecture, she guided me through MedienHafen in Dusseldorf. We spoke of artists, writers, architecture. Of course we appreciated the same things, however different our views of them were. 

Ahead of us, holding hands, were our children. They themselves finding an anima gemella in one another.

“I feel so much pain for them,” she whispered to me. 

“Me too.”

They had met the last year while her daughter was studying abroad. She and her husband had both done so and wanted the same for their children. My son had dated many girls, and had even claimed to love one or two of them, but when he brought the German home, even though I liked her immediately, I wondered how they’d get along. She was different than the others he’d brought home. They interacted differently too. She challenged him, and he her. Challenged in a good, healthy, loving way. 

She spent many evenings with us and I had a chance to get to know her well. Many times she would talk of her mother and how alike we were. We had already made plans to holiday at the beach in Italy before he leaves for university, so when an invitation came from her parents to make a stop in Germany we accepted.

Being very practical and thinking only with their heads, they agreed they would not try to have a long distance relationship and that they would go their separate ways after the visit. 

“This is uncommon you know – how they get along and balance one another. So sad they live far away and are so young yet. They think only with the head now, but the heart doesn’t work that way. We know this.” 

I thought for a moment before responding. 

“It’s like that, isn’t it Sonngard?  They feel as though they have no time. They’re too young and impatient to understand the years in front of them. Although, maybe the pain is the same when you are old…but for a different reason. When you’re young you don’t understand that there is still time left in this life, and when you are older, you are so keen on just how little time there is left. The pain is the same.” 

As a parent you wish for your children to never feel pain. But they will. You wish to take all the pain from them. But we can’t. 

When we hugged goodby at the airport both of us knew it wasn’t really goodbye. We were old enough to understand how rare a connection like ours was and so vowed to keep it. We’ll visit, talk, etc.

We stepped aside and let our confused children embrace and say goodbye.

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Why Can’t We Be Friends, Part I

“No, no, no, I never said that… Yes, that’s right, they can’t be friends. Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can… This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted… That doesn’t work either, because what happens then is, the person you’re involved with can’t understand why you need to be friends with the person you’re just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it? And when you say “No, no, no it’s not true, nothing is missing from the relationship,” the person you’re involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you’re just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let’s face it. Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can’t be friends.”
-Harry Burns, When Harry Met Sally

Yesterday I had coffee with a girlfriend.  I haven’t seen her in a while as she’s been busy in a new relationship as have I.  During our catchings up, she voiced her frustration about her boyfriends ex-girlfriend’s continued contact with him.  Apparently, they dated a year, it didn’t work out, so they remain “friends.” I listened on as she explained their relationship and could tell this “friendship” really bothered her and I know why.  The truth is – Men and women can’t be friends – and I told her so.  I understand that some of you may read this and say, “What?  That’s totally wrong, yes we can.  One of my best friends is a man/woman!”  Though are they truly our friends?  Would we call them if we were upset….keeping in mind that it wouldn’t be a call for an ego boost or attention….but a call for comfort outside of our own ego.  I happen to be of the mindset that it simply isn’t possible.  I’m with Harry on this one.

I didn’t always think this way.  For years I would say that I got along better with men then women so had more of them as friends.  But who was I kidding?  There was not a single one of them that I could have truly called my friend.  Either I had a secret crush on them or they on me.  When my emotional world came a tumbling down, it wasn’t a man I called.  It was my girlfriends that rallied around me like some great elephant tribe and dusted me off.  I wouldn’t call a man to do that.  It’s not to say that these illusive relationships don’t exist, in fact I know of a few – but the men are gay and the women straight.  I myself happen to have a close friend who is a man – and he is as gay as the day is long.   How many heterosexual man/woman friendships do you really know of – where there has never been some underlying sexual desire or heart string attachment crush?

Then there is the ol’, “We used to date, but now we are just friends” scenario, which likely consists of one half of the couple not being happy while the other is smitten, a break up occurs and out of guilt, one offers a friendship and out of desperation, one accepts…..hoping for another opportunity to rekindle the romance at a future date.  I understand the argument that if it were mutual and both parties wanted an end to the relationship but not the “friendship” that sprouted during the romance, there can very well be a true friendship.  However, where is it written that if I sleep with you and feel love for you that I have to continue to be your friend after the break-up?  I researched this very question and found it nowhere in the books…. My ex-boyfriend is literally “friends” with all the women he has had relationships with (except yours truly) – and there are many.  They are sort of put in this category after the break-up of “Will call in case of emergency ego boost or loneliness.”  When I politely declined his invitation for a “friendship” after our break-up he was genuinely surprised.  I mean, who says no to a friendship?

One of my personal favorites is the inner-office “friendships” of the opposite sexes.  Interestingly enough, my other “ex,” that would be husband, is now in a relationship with an inner-office, much younger, “friend” who happened to end up in his bed at a conference in Vegas.  Within my own company I am privy to some interesting “friendships” of my co-workers.  Years ago, my father gave me some simple advise, “Don’t shit where you eat.”  I have most certainly always taken this to heart.  As it turns out, it was some of the only advise I actually followed…much to his dismay….

By the end of our coffee, my girlfriend admitted that she herself has never truly been friends with a man and that is why this “friendship” her boyfriend has with his ex really bothers her.  I don’t blame her either.  I feel fortunate that in my own new romantic relationship I haven’t had to deal with this as I have in the past.  Before we were finished she had decided to talk to him and to express her apprehension to continue dating a man who needed to maintain a friendship with a woman who didn’t want to break up with him in the first place…..such a fuzzy line it all is…. “Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can’t be friends.”