Deep Inside, Our Stories and Our Pains are the Same

I opened my heart to a couple of classmates in German lessons, and it brought me to a very deep low followed by intense joy this past week.

They were compassionate, quiet women who have witnessed more pain and fear than I could ever know. (umm… Taliban)¬†They know I’m returning to the US when our class is over. They look at me sadly whenever it comes up.

Last week when we were doing some roleplaying and identifying each other’s skill sets in German, one of these women told me, “Katrin, you should be a tour guide.”

woman in berlin

first discovering my super power while in Germany in 2011

In that moment, I realized I am a tour guide of sorts, guiding women through their stories, their significance to our world, and their worthiness despite all the pain or uncertainty. I want to guide women to joy with the journals at Gadanke and all that I do.

There is so much joy.

“I’m self employed,” I began telling these women during our morning break on Monday. “I make journals, and they help women celebrate how beautiful they all are.”

I was very nervous, doubting whether my vocabulary could truly express what my mission is. They were nodding, asking for clarification here and there. We kept talking. My heart was wide open, sensitive and fearful… and also so at ease as I described my work. “I want women to know they matter,” I told them.

One of the women’s eyes started to water. She pressed her fingers to the corners of her eyes, as if she were trying to plug a tiny leak. Instead, tears began gushing from her eyes.

My world started to shift.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m okay.”

Classmates from around the world stopped at our table. “Is everything okay?” they asked, one after another. I rubbed her back. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered to her. “I don’t mean to bring you pain.”

“You did not bring this pain,” the other woman said. “It’s been in her heart for a long, long time.”

american woman in berlin

wondering how I could bring strength to women, questioning if I had the strength myself

It doesn’t matter where you grow up, what language you speak, how much education you have, or how much money you have. We all need to feel love. We all experience the same heartaches, whether it’s the loss of an unborn child or the unexpected death of a parent. And it hurts.

When you come from a country where women are labeled as second class, the depths of pain multiply.

And yet, as women we all share the same joys, too. We all watch children laugh, we all share a delicious meal, we see friends and celebrate holidays, we smile, and we give.

The hearts at our table were so heavy as I learned my classmate’s pain. I soaked it in, carrying her heartbreak home with me for days and days, wondering how I could soften such hardship and celebrate the joy.

And that’s where my own new growth began to spring from, slowly but surely as I walked through the streets of Germany. It’s been quiet here on the blog as I find footing, but I feel my ground now. I sense my calling to reach further than I have thus far: as a tour guide of story, of heart, and of so much joy.

“Go back to the US,” the woman said to me. “So you can keep giving women this gift.”