Geborgenheit

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At the beginning of this month, I moved in with my boyfriend.

A few years ago, if you had asked me how I felt about moving in with a partner, I would have adamantly told you that it was out of the question. However, this past version of myself has quickly been foiled by a boyfriend whom I trust, see a future with, and cannot get enough of. (Also, he’s cute.) [Disclaimer: This is not, by any means, an endorsement for moving in with simply anyone. We made this decision after much discussion, mutual consent, and establishing what both of us want in the future.]

The funny thing about moving in together is that you quickly become a master of your own inventory, reducing your belongings to lists and numbers. For example, I learned that I had 2 large suitcases full of winter clothes, 15 pairs of shoes, and (for some reason) 6 bottles of contact lens solution. The next challenge was learning to consolidate. Between us, my boyfriend and I had 5 flashlights, 4 screwdrivers, and 3 sets of towels. (We ended up either throwing out or giving away what we didn’t need.) Despite the cumbersome task of moving, we knew we’d be reducing the commute between both our places to zero miles and would, in the long run, be saving on rent.

Then, after we settled in, something started to happen. It slowly became obvious that the most valuable things were those that could never be catalogued, archived, or quantified. Like, the butterflies I get when he refers to things as “ours.” The relief I feel knowing that I’ll always have someone to rescue me from disproportionately large bugs. How giddy I get when I see our both our names on the mailbox. Sharing breakfast together with the radio on. Learning to make decisions together–big and small. Picking up on each others’ habits (like how I never fully finish sodas and how he tends to bite his nails). Falling asleep on the couch during X-Files marathons. And just how plain happy we are being near one another.

I realize now: the things that quantify a home don’t necessarily qualify one. The latter is up to us. Furthermore, akin to building a home is fostering a successful partnership, a process that is ongoing and–if you’re lucky–well worth it. For now, I’m fortunate to have found an equally invested partner in crime for this venture.

There’s a German word, Geborgenheit, for which there is no English counterpart. It’s used to describe “the sum of security, warmth, protection, trust, and love.” I’m inclined to say that it’s also the sum of what the first month living with my counterpart has felt like. To many, many more ahead.

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the formers

art by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

Every relationship that I’ve had has left some sort of mark in me. For my own purposes, I imagine little human-shaped parts of my heart that my Formers forever inhabit.

I can’t explain what compelled me to do so, but I started reading through old e-mails that I’ve exchanged with boyfriends past. What’s that, you ask? Why do I keep things like that? The answer is simple: I’m sentimental.

(I’m also too lazy to go through and delete everything on rampage like a hormonal school girl.)

I call them Formers because to brand them “exes” seems too banal. As if “X-ing” them off a list is all it takes to move on. Relationships may be fleeting, but memories are not such ephemeral things.

For example, I remember little things about my Formers. Idiosyncrasies that are unique to that individual. I remember how one used to pretend that he could blow at stoplights to change the light from red to green. Another used to drag his feet when he walked.  I once dated a guy who was diabetic, and he used to tell me I was bad for his health because I was so sweet. Every once in a while, a synapse will fire while I’m doing something mundane, like opening a box of cereal. I’ll recall a Former’s favorite brand of cereal or a time that I had breakfast with them. These memories always make me smile.

My favorite part of a relationship is the beginning. You can’t stop talking to each other, absorbing each other, thinking about each other. Every minute you have together is a gift from the divine. Each ambrosial kiss sends you floating in mid-air and every word exchanged is a star from which you hopelessly hang. Inevitably, beginnings end, and these sensations evaporate into a gaseous form of memory to be sensed again only when the emotional temperature is right.

Trust me — I’m fully aware of my tendency to live in the past sometimes. There’s no pragmatism in reminiscing. Then again, there’s no harm in it either, as long as you’ve got your feet rooted in the very real present.

I bear no shame in remembering, smiling, and even aching for these otherwise impermanent moments. Only when we genuinely miss something do we truly grasp how beautiful it was to have had it in the first place.