From A Starbucks In Orange County As I Plan My Week

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I write to give authenticity, kindness, and fairness a fighting chance in my snarky, opinionated, judgmental world.

I keep starring and asking questions because I want to understand as opposed to make cavalier assumptions that don’t promote progress.

I’ve let go of those who show no interest in me and/or don’t have the guts to have a conversation. I don’t travel one-way streets.

I continue to see the value of not overwatering reality in alcohol, food, whatever. The buoyancy that comes from that is temporary and messy.

Get to the ocean as much as possible.

I Love Sverige (Reporting From Sin City And Sun Diego)

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The United States of America. The heat of southern California, the blinding lights of Las Vegas, that particular hustle and bustle found from sea to shining sea…

I’m on the other side of stoic Sweden’s salvation. I’m absorbing what just happened.

I know three months anywhere isn’t a lifetime; I’m clear that immersing myself in another country doesn’t make me special. However, the impact from my experience is HUGE.

I’m proud of myself. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I could say that.

That feeling ignites intellectual curiosity. It creates a craving to fill every moment with progress, expansion, love, good. It’s food for the soul.

Since returning home, I haven’t known what I’ve been up to until I’ve been in the midst of it; I’ve been playing full out in the present, acknowledging my senses and appreciating the gifts I’ve been given. But the dust is settling and I’ve launched an exploration of what’s next, armed with some vital intelligence accumulated since November. My confidence in my ability to build my future is unshakeable; I’m kicking ass.

Sverige resoled my combat boots. And that’s just the beginning of the story…

(And yes, there’ll be a post about Swedish food soon.)

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.

#RadicalSelfLoveLetter

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This month I’ve participated in Gala Darling’s #RadicalSelfLoveJanuary Instagram Challenge (link to my Instagram account on the right side of the blog). It’s been a fun experience and has expanded my social media scope, both of which were my desired outcomes.

The prompt for today (January 28) is #RadicalSelfLoveLetter. The timing of this couldn’t be better because, currently, I’m not my biggest fan and that’s a very good thing. The letter I’ve composed is tough, and reads similar to what put me on the path to Sweden for soul saving.

It reads:

“Dear Bek:

You’re parasailing over rock bottom – be careful. You’ve hit the floor a few times in the past, as the result of circumstances that were far worse, but this time, there’s no one else at whom to point the finger but you.

This reality hurts like hell but you’ve forced your own hand. Time to make some critical changes so that everything else you’ve gained doesn’t go to shit. You deserve better, as do your loved ones.

Don’t stop ‘til you’re done.”

Friends, I’m having breakthroughs, and you’re coming along for the ride in real time. Anyone else in the sweet spot?

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.

Back To Basics

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I’ve written, revised, and scraped this post three times today. I kept writing the same tired shit I’ve shared already. This wasn’t the point of moving (nearly) half way around the world.

In the midst of frustration, a dear friend’s wise words rang like a bell in my brain: “The universe rewards the bold.” Bold, eh? I’ll show you bold. I’m going on a hunt through quaint and quiet Åstorp to unearth the offbeat and unconventional. Take THAT, universe.

Tattoo parlor and funky café found. Week Two in Sweden is about establishing self.

I’ve always questioned my life’s grand purpose; my curiosity has consumed a considerable amount of my time. My desire for knowledge has led me down some unsavory paths but has also yielded results joyful beyond measure. This intensity in my spirit is something for which I’ve stopped apologizing; it’s as much me as the gap in my top front teeth.

It’s why I’m here, in Sweden. It’s time to learn a different way to communicate with myself in order to achieve something greater. But before I’m able to answer why I’m here, I must figure out HERE, geographically and culturally. Language is key; my lessons with Oscar – learning colors, numbers, greetings, and nouns – are my building blocks to progress. They’re my decoder ring for the big picture.

Change is happening, one color at a time; I can feel it. I think I might be able to sleep tonight.