Patience and Courage

The Greeks mention two qualities when life gets difficult: patience and courage (υπομονή & κουράγιο). If things are irritating and you are stressed and wish for a change in circumstances, your Greek friends and family will say one word to you: patience. Just this one word to console you that good things will come to those who wait. It’s almost a dumb platitude really, except instead of saying, everything will turn out alright, God has a plan, or generally promising things that might never come, they simply remind you that things will change with time.

If the situation is more drastic, if you are feeling beaten down by life, if you don’t know where a solution will come from, you will tell your friends you need to be given courage. And your friends will remind to have courage for the challenges of life. If you aren’t given courage, you will talk about having to find courage. It’s like a sort of keep your head/chin up encouragement in English.

I like the Greek though. They’ve stripped the response down to the bare minimum. There are no extra “empty” words. In life you need patience and courage, when the time comes where things don’t go smoothly you can remind each other of this fact. Of course it can come off empty and patronizing too. I am not naive. However, there is no need to find elegant phrases and there is no denying the value of these two traits.

Right now I need both to an extreme degree and I don’t know where to find them. I am exhausted. I can feel the tension in my face. My phantom pains in my heart have returned and moved to my ribs. I haven’t been able to walk properly to clear my head and get some exercise in over a month. I’ve gained weight and for the first time in my life am using food to comfort myself. I either sleep too much or too little. I can’t seem to clear my head and get started on my work. I feel like I’m driving and have been running out of gas little by little. I’ve been aware for some time of the impending situation, but still haven’t found any sort of solution. Right now my indicator says empty, but instead of being able to pull over somewhere and refuel, it’s like I’ve been asked to find another fuel source to use. I don’t know if it even exists, much less where to find out. I don’t know when the next form of relief will come. I’ve simply been asked to carry on driving without any guarantee for the future, with energy I don’t have. I am being asked to dig deeper than I have before. Even when I was 16 and lost the will to live, I didn’t dig this deep, I just ignored life, and slowly time changed things for the better.

Life comes with no guarantees. This is a great quote when things are going ok and your vacation plans fall through. This means something else when you watch the person you love fail to make headway, despite his many efforts. I can’t change the situation and it breaks my heart, because I don’t know a person more deserving of recognition for his situation and efforts. I don’t know anyone more fair and more loyal.And no matter how many ways I tell him that I am proud of him and all he’s done, until he proves it to himself with a job he is excited about, these words of mine don’t mean anything.

He had the chance for the job of his dreams and neither of us thought it would amount to anything at first, after two long months we unwisely got our hopes up and after they had sent a provisional copy of the contract to look over, they ended up not making a job offer, because apparently it would be too difficult for him to be trained for sales and the technical aspect at the same time. This is a cop-out, which might have happened because the guy sent to test his knowledge refused to warm up to him. My fiancee might not know exactly how these particular machines work, but he has a great head for technical things and he was WILLING to take on both and told that to the guy (who had been keen to hire him from the beginning and perhaps got overridden by the owner) on the phone while he was trying to let him down. It was a huge mistake for the company. No other guy can possibly be as motivated as he was to excel at that job. But that’s the thing: it might be in the end that despite all of our best efforts and supporting each other, that he ends up never being able to find a job where they treat him fairly, where he is excited to go to work everyday, where his boss and co-workers respect him.

I am not just reacting to this bit of bad news. I am reacting to 2 plus years of being without the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am reacting to how our expectations going into this situation 2 years ago have been totally annihilated, our dreams are slowly slipping away, I am reacting to the fact that there is no guarantee that this awful situation of being apart will end anytime soon.  There is no safety net here.

I don’t want to list all the things I hate, because I haven’t cried yet today and that will definitely bring the waterworks, but there are many. Basically EVERYTHING except my university classes and projects.

And I’m not afraid. At least not afraid of the future not turning out the way we envision it. After everything we’ve been through since June 2012 when we started carrying out the first steps of saying goodbye and the move, if we were going to break up, we would have already done it. That’s how tough these last few years have been. As long as we are a couple we can support each other and be happy, because, and I mean this in all seriousness, my fiancee is my joy. This is also something they say in Greek. Η χαρά μου.

I spent many years as a young adult meeting guys who thought I was the love of their lives and thinking the same about other guys who had no interest in me. But I always LIKED my own company, even preferred it to all but my closest friends most of the time. So I was more surprised than anyone how much joy he brought into my life: he brings out my positive side, the ability to laugh at myself sooner than I used to, to forgive myself for not being perfect, to give myself a night off and still be my biggest supporter when I chase after my goals. My life is definitively WORSE every day that we are not together. Don’t get me wrong, we fight and I am sure that after 5 years we will get on each other’s nerves like every married couple, but I am a better person with him, than without him. And the fact of the matter is if this forced separation turns out not to be worth it, I will regret it forever. If I die young, the only regret I would have, are these ridiculous painful, never-ending two plus years. We’ve no had a longer long-distant relationship, than a normal one.

The only reason I am not getting into my bed, pulling the covers over my head and bawling my eyes out to sappy movies, is because he doesn’t deserve a girlfriend who gives up.

Really not to be pessimistic, but the thing is I can’t guarantee anything, I can’t help him and I also can’t keep pursuing my goals and coming along while he stays in the same place. And if nothing changes I can’t fly out home and we can’t get married in February. If things stay the same, we might have to call off the church wedding indefinitely. Is that so bad? No, but it also means not being able to make any plans to SEE my family after so many years. It means enduring more of the unknown and being deprived of the company of those I miss. I am suffering more, in the sense that I am going through all of this out here alone and he gets to see his family and friends on a regular basis. And he KNOWS that with his head, but he has never felt that in his heart.

It was only supposed to be one year and then he was supposed to come, find any old job, move somehow closer than 4 hours away, and help take off the financial burden from my shoulders. And the last bit he has tried to do, even though we are both essentially living off our savings for anything beyond our basic needs. The financial stress was supposed to be temporary, but instead it has become a permanent fixture in my life. Every Euro that I spend on myself is money that I do not have for my future life, my retirement, paying off my student loans, our wedding, visiting my family and friends, starting our own family. It’s safe to say that I am not buying myself new things until my old things break down, but not being allowed to spend anything EVER after 2 years makes me want to tear my hair out. I’ve been wanting to move out from this stupid dorm room since the first day I moved in, but I simply can’t afford anywhere in this expensive city, much less a flat of my own.

Last week I lost it. Completely lost it. I tore apart my room. Threw out empty cardboard boxes, old clothes that I’d been keeping cause I can’t afford new ones, showed him my boxes and boxes of pans and dishes that have been taking up space, untouched for two years, waiting for the day I could move them into the place he found. I recited the prices of all the THINGS sitting in my room, crowding me out making me miserable, by constantly reminding me of the future that no one could guarantee me. I eventually figured that I have invested thousands of dollars in my dreams of a happy future together in Europe. We have been spending our present, waiting for the future, for a future that might never come. Then I listed all the things that I could have spent that money on that would have helped me enjoy the last two years more: seeing family, or friends, being able to afford going out more often with friends here, a better apartment etc etc. I moved things, I tore things up, I carried out load after load until this stupid tiny little room felt bigger.

I was naive. It serves me right. Cleaning out my room is literally the only thing I can do about my situation.

If I had known it would take so long, we could have gotten the legal marriage taken care of so that I could apply for some financial help, as a permanent resident of Europe. I would have planned things differently so that there could be some solutions.

Right now there are no solutions, except that he finds work and comes out here and somehow I convince myself not to stop working and get my papers and research done so that I eventually have a master’s degree. Then maybe if he still hasn’t found a job I will have to move back to Nbg to be with my husband and I will have spent the last 2 years unnecessarily suffering in my day to day life for a future that in the end didn’t show up. That is the ONLY thing I am afraid of and that my dear friends is that thing, which none of you can guarantee won’t happen.

I’m not sharing this to make anyone worried. I am sharing this because maybe there are others out there frustrated with the unfairness of life and sick of platitudes and I’m sharing this because there is no way to talk to any of you personally without breaking down in tears and I want to somehow communicate, how upset I am, without having to simultaneously keep it together.

Patience. Courage. I am trying.

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