The decision has been made. The tickets have been booked. My parents, my 4-yr. old son, and I will travel to Germany this summer to stay with my German relatives for a little over two weeks.
My dad (who lived in Germany until he was in his 20s) still has family there. This visit is mostly about a birthday celebration for his sister, my Aunt Erika, who will turn 80 while we are there. My dad, who is 73, also wants to go back to his hometown of Detmold "one last time." We'll stay with my aunt's son, Martin, my only first cousin. He's 50-something, married, and has 3 boys, one of whom, Christian, is my godson.
I haven't been to Germany in 4 long years. For me, that's quite the lengthy span of time. Since my husband and I are both German teachers, we've studied there and taken students there umpteen million times. For a while, we were going to Germany or Austria at least once a year. Then, it dropped down to once every 2 years. The last time I was there, was when my son was six months old back in 2005.
Most people would be jumping for joy about the thought of spending some summer fun days in Europe. And I am definitely pumped to go. Besides the fact that I find Germany to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, my language skills really need the refresher. Plus, I love my aunt dearly. When I spent a year studying in Germany back in college, she was my mom for that year. Whenever I needed anything, I called her. I visited her often and we became extremely close. I also really enjoy being with my cousin and his family.
I've officially hit the panic button, though. And there's a definite sense of dread in the back of my mind.
You see, my aunt is a very attractive, classy lady and always has been. Still is, even at almost 80. She has a small but beautifully decorated home nestled in the hills in the outskirts of the little town of Detmold. On nice days, you can sit out on her terrace surrounded by her carefully tended roses (her name, by the way, is Erika Rose and she's very into roses and flowers in general, as most Germans are) look out onto the hills and hear cowbells ring as herds come down from their hilltop pastures at the end of the day. It's a lovely, very peaceful setting.
BUT...as far back as I can remember of my visits to Germany (they started when I was 16), my aunt and my cousin's wife have this very annoying habit of commenting on various aspects of my physical appearance each and every time I am there. My hair, my skin, and my weight seem to be the usual topics of choice. I hear both their praises and criticisms, both of which, to be perfectly honest, annoy me equally as much.
I really find no need to comment on a specific part of a person's physical appearance. Perhaps the occasional - "Did you get a hair cut? It looks great!" - but that's it. I suppose it's because my own physical appearance has its flaws, so why would I wish to comment on anyone else's? I know I'm self-conscious about my own and I certainly wouldn't want to make anyone else feel the same misery I have felt at times by pointing out theirs.
My aunt and cousin's wife have always thought that I was too thin or too heavy, my skin looked great or it just outright didn't (I suffer from adult acne), and I either have a cute hairstyle or it "looks like it needs something."
So, here is the present state of my physical appearance (and it's not all that great): I'm 5'7 and about 140 lbs. That may not sound that heavy to you but it's the heaviest I've ever been in my life, and I'm not thrilled with it, let me tell you. The weight is also mostly unsightly fat around the gut, and the rest of me is just plain flabby and out of shape. My skin is a nightmare lately. I'm 38 and still have acne. It's awful. I've seen a dermatologist for it in the past and just went back the other day, because it's gotten so bad again. It makes me feel like I look dirty to people even though I wash my face religiously twice a day and know it's all about hormones, but other people frequently give me that "why don't you try washing your face" look. My hair is the only thing I've been satisfied with as of late. It's a little too long but otherwise no major complaints.
So, as far as my weight and my skin go, I can already hear the comments from my relatives overseas. And, even though I know I shouldn't allow my self esteem to succumb to their criticisms, I've decided to do something about it.
I've started to walk to try to drop a few pounds. My goal is 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. Heaven knows, my body needs it. It also desperately needs strength training, so tomorrow is my day to start some weight training. I've been meaning to get into some healthier physical habits for years now, and perhaps this trip to Germany will be the motivation I need to do it. I've also had it with my skin. I've vowed to investigate the reasons for my acne and to try to do something about it. Dermatologists are just not cutting it. I'm thinking I need to do something that will help me from the inside out, and I'm not talking antibiotics, which can often exacerbate the problem in the long run. Some initial online reading seems to indicate that probiotics and diet changes can help.
Wish me luck on sticking with some new exercise habits and changes in my lifestyle to promote better health! I'll keep you posted (no pun intended - ha ha) with how things progress.