March 10

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“But nobody wants to hear this tale

The plot is clichéd, the jokes are stale

And baby we’ve all heard it all before

Oh, I could get specific but

Nobody needs a catalog

With details of love I can’t sell anymore”

~Aimee Mann, “Invisible Ink”

My mother knew when I was bullshitting; her intensity kept me honest, at least with her. Today’s her birthday. She would’ve turned 66.

Since her passing, I take time on March 10 to run an authenticity evaluation in her honor and for my sanity. It ain’t fancy; it’s an opportunity to check in with brutal honesty. I moved to Sweden as a result of last year’s findings.

This year, I’m in the midst of my unconventional reinvention. I’ve decluttered, unplugged, and let go to a staggering degree. This really ain’t fancy, but starting from scratch never is. However, I’ve never felt more authentic, less mucked down with bullshit. And as I look in the mirror today, I see the resolve that was missing from my eyes; I’m confident my mother’s struggle to raise me right hasn’t been wasted.

I’m creating a new book, not just a new chapter. Pattie would be proud.

This Satiating Sunday (Blog Edition)

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This Satiating Sunday…

Sweden has saved my soul and my time spent in country is coming to a close for now. I’M TAKING ACTION ON WHAT I’VE LEARNED.

Tomorrow I begin Write Yourself Alive. I identified during the past three months in inspiring Sverige that I need tutelage with my writing; I’m craving mentorship and training. I miss the classroom and the breakthroughs that happen within that environment. Write Yourself Alive is a perfect way for me to launch that process while I’m in geographic transition.

My most important goal for 2016 is give more, take less; this requires financial stability. I’m in the process of a hunt for employment with multi-faceted rewards, location anywhere. Thanks, Sweden, for teaching me that I can create home internally and that a major missing in my world is providing for others generously, ways infinite.

I love again but more to the point, I care again. Like, down deep, ugly-embarrassing-cry-because-I’m-so-moved give-a-shit. I have several friends and family (is there really a difference?) to thank for this breakthrough; the warming of my heart was the most important outcome from my time in chilly Sweden. TO THOSE WHO, STARTING IN APRIL 2015, MADE THIS POSSIBLE, GRACIAS AND BESOS. Y’ALL KNOW WHO YOU ARE; I OWE YOU EVERYTHING. (And, yes, I’m crying while I write this.)

Thank you, Sweden. See you again in late summer.

February, get ready. You’re going to be filled with #agapeerosphilia.

I Love Sverige (Part Two of Many)

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Winter is alive and well in Åstorp. The neighborhood looks like a scene from a children’s mythology book, driving the point home: THIS – Sweden – is the real deal. Nothing fabricated, duplicated, or imitated.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the history of the country. Helsingborg is, and likely will be, the largest city in Sweden that I visit during this stay (I’ll devour Stockholm in August or September when I return). My experience has been in small coastal towns and on vast acres that aren’t overly developed or internationally homogeneous in appearance. I’ve rarely witnessed anything that’s conjured a feeling of familiarity or made a remark about how I’m reminded of x or y in the United States. I feel American in Sweden; it’s a sensation of being a naïve teenager.

Because me, with my flashy 1776 wearin’ history, is just so funny compared to Sweden’s 1397 swagger. That swagger has a poise and calm that I simply don’t possess.

I learned to identify this difference as lagom. (If there’s any word in Swedish you should know in addition to fika, it’s lagom.) Like much of the language, lagom has several definitions but the best sense of the word in English is “balance.” It’s with everything even that Sweden has maintained its internationally recognized culture of gender equality, the truth of which I can vouch on a day-to-day basis. There’s a way of being and communicating among women and men that’s level; it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman performing a job or raising a child. Is the task accomplished or the child well cared for? That’s what matters. Just right. Lagom.

As I’ve previously mentioned, some Swedes with whom I’ve broken down this concept have rolled their eyes in annoyance over its existence. There’s irritation that what it’s created is apathy. (The country’s neutrality on the world’s political stage seems to run through the blood of its people too thickly, they say.) Although I get the concern, and appreciate a little Viking fire rearing its head in debate, I admit without apology that it’s been a welcome break to live in a society that avoids drama whenever possible. (Nobel Peace Prize for the win.)

And it’s to this that I attribute my bold declaration from my previous post about Swedish children being better behaved than those in the United States. I’ll modify that statement slightly because since making it, I’ve in fact seen a few kiddo meltdowns while out and about (hey, kids are kids in any country) but seriously…let me give you an example.

The first weekend I was here, AnnaKarin and I were at IKEA, feasting on meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberries in the store’s cafeteria. IKEA: the place that evokes an anxiety attack from just the thought of it.

Not in Sweden.

I sat for an hour among at least a couple hundred kids who were eating lunch with their parents. NO ONE screamed or cried. NO ONE. Children conversed with their parents, parents laughed with their children. I honestly wondered what planet I moved to. And I’ve seen this time and again over my two plus months here.

Children play an equal role to adults in the Swedish societal dynamic. The only titles that are formally used for adults by children are “mama,” “papa,” “grandma,” and “grandpa.” Aunts, uncles, teachers, neighbors, etc. are all addressed by first name from the moment a child can speak. Everyone here is an individual and is treated with the same respect. I mentioned to AnnaKarin and her friend this week that I’m surprised when a parent shares with me that she was just disciplining her child; from body language and tone of voice alone, it sounds as if they’re just discussing that evening’s dinner menu.

Here’s the deal: I don’t have babies and have barely a clue as to what it takes to raise one, let alone many. But I’m struck by what peace, priority, and respect do for relationships, within the home and in society. It’s impressive. It’s made an impact on me.

Lagom + David Bowie rock ‘n roll attitude = perfect pairing for my 40s

 

Up next on I Love Sverige…

What I’m now eating thanks to Sweden. Awesome.

Thanksgiving

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Here I am, sitting at the desk that I’d only seen in pictures a few months prior. My daily chores are completed. I’ve enjoyed my breakfast, morning fika, and lunch. My space is clear of all distractions that could break my concentration.

I listen to the rain as it washes away Saturday’s snowfall. Here I am, in Sweden, just as I said I would be.

Why am I here exactly?

To be honest, moments of panic have resulted from this question. Brief episodes of anxiety when tunnel vision has set in, black fuzzies have danced around my periphery, and I’ve chugged a glass of water to steady myself from the dizziness.

Embracing freedom isn’t easy, at least not for me. I’ve heard countless times from friends and family “I’d give anything to not be on a schedule, accountable to others, meeting demands left and right. The quiet must be amazing.”

Amazing. It’s one way of describing it. Amazing is translating into not having an escape from the incessant chatter in my head and a feast of issues served before me from which to fill my plate. I may be in Sweden, in the quiet, but I’m still celebrating Thanksgiving this year, eating from a cornucopia of past that’s not quite letting go in a deafening present. It’s like holiday dinner with your gregarious family that you avoid the rest of the year.

It’s why I’m here, in Sweden, just as I said I would be. The amazing quiet isn’t allowing me to escape with distractions and excuses and the numbness that comes from drinking too much wine. Sweden’s saving my soul. Sweden’s making me sober.

Growth and comfort never co-exist, remember? Happy Thanksgiving, Bek. You’re getting exactly what you asked for with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Sweden: First Impressions, Thoughts, Emotions

Jet lag is a gift. The quiet of the early morning is a playground for my active mind and twirling spirit.

My excitement for my first full day in Astorp, Sweden will quickly overpower my initial everything so I better list before the sun comes up.

1. Lush. It is raining and cool and green. Astorp feels part rural, part suburban. I fully expect to see a chicken cross the road from where I sit in the kitchen, but then my course corrects when a Volvo wagon drives by.

2. Impeccable design everywhere. Clean, organized, practical, yet very cozy. Even the food packaging is obsessive compulsive. Anna’s home is beautiful and comfortable; I love it.

3. I never want to question the purpose of my life again. I promise myself that I will always ask for help when I need light brought to darkness.

4. I have a tremendous appreciation for each person with whom I have discussed this journey – not a single person has been discouraging. Not one. Thank you so much.

5. I am an explorer, a communicator, a seeker. Curiosity is renewed.

6. My faith has never been stronger. My desire to give thanks has never been stronger.

Starting to get sleepy. Perfect.

Accumulation

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There’s nothing quite like moving to force the prioritization of four decades of memories and century-old family heirlooms in to the protective embrace of Home Depot boxes. Honestly, I love it. Donating, gifting, and discarding tantalize every iota of my O.C.D.; the less crap, always the better.

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“You can’t take it with you” runs through my head as sweat drips down my face; the hotbox that is my garage is great for a detox and distilling things to bare essentials.

Do I really need to keep the pointe shoes I’ve had since grammar school? Yes, they’re a trophy.

Is this blank Modern Family notebook from Comic-Con ever going to be used? Eh, recycle.

Will I wear these strappy sandals in Sweden between the months of November and February? LMFAO.

I’m a compartmentalizer; I want to leave San Diego neat and tidy so that brain space and emotional warehousing are bright and clear of cobwebs. I’m getting there but it’s going to keep on keepin’ on until I pull out of the driveway.

So for now, back to shoveling through my accumulation.

Lucky Six

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Hi Mom,

Make yourself a cup of tea (or martini) and take a seat. Light up a Lark if you like. I have some exciting news for you.

I GOT IT. IT TOOK SIX YEARS (ACTUALLY, 40) BUT I GOT IT.

Q.E.D.: YOU SUCCEEDED.

I promised you on this day in 2009 that I’d take the ball and run with it; you could release and find relief. There’s not been one day that’s passed when I haven’t thought about my commitment to you and, at times, it’s the only thing that’s kept me going.

You taught me not to quit by your example. Lord knows I’ve wanted to – I’ve fucked up royally along the way – but I now use a compass that’s authentic, mindful, focused, creative, calibrated. It’s navigated me down a path that’s eradicated toxicity to make room for power.

Real power. The confidence to say yes and no. The desire to love and be loved. The knowledge of my worth. The appreciation for the living. The pure joy of connecting to something bigger.

Thank you, Mom. My me, now, is a result of you, then and now.

I love you. I miss you. I’ve got this.

Bek