Thursday, March 31, 2016

Praying for Sunshine

I took this picture when it snowed again, after I thought it wouldn't be snowing anymore. I was not that impressed.

About two weeks ago, I woke up to find my living room filled with patches of unexpected sun. It terrified me. I jolted out of bed in an instant panic- it had to be 9:00 a.m., the sun was the smoking gun of my lateness, how had I slept through my alarm?! I was so convinced, I didn't even bother looking at the time until I was halfway dressed- just kidding, it was 6:45 a.m., and my alarm was set for 7:00. Pun totally intended, that was when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The sun was coming back. I was starting to see the completion date of my seemingly insurmountable pile of work. I was almost there.

Sunset from my work window- this was a twofold victory. I was leaving work at 5:30 with a rare empty backpack, AND the sun was setting at 5:30, instead of 3:30

Today, when I got on the bus to come home, it was 7:40 and it wasn't dark. The sun had just set, but everything was still illuminated in that blue light wash of where the sun had been, and night wasn't there yet. It was absolutely, categorically, Not Dark. I felt something inside of me peek out and survey Stockholm as though, until that moment, it had never really seen it. It has been dark for what has seemed like much longer than the three months I have lived here. Well, not "lived here", exactly. I moved to Sweden on January 3rd. I wouldn't say I have been "living" here, though- I've been here, as a location in space, but being and living are two very different things. I have often joked it has felt a bit like a work release program. Work, home, work, home, repeat, filling in any random blanks with frustrating setting up life errands, or sick days, or absurd visits to the ER for concussions. More on that later...

All the good things I mentioned in this post almost two months ago still stand, but basically immediately after that post all the difficult things stood up even taller, and ever more infuriating things came out of the woodwork. Between that army of work difficulty, no sun, and a collision of 3 weeks of flu and strep throat with huge work deadlines, I was at my wit's end. I was working mornings, days, evenings, and weekends. I was waking up in the night, terrified I had slept through my alarm and would miss a class, or a meeting. No, it was just 3:00 a.m. and another night of interrupted sleep. Many, many days I would be on the bus to work, in a cold, grey morning, exhausted from stress, and think back to balmy Laos days at a school where I felt capable and competent, in a town bustling with social activity. And then I would make myself stop thinking of it because it just made me feel worse to feel incompetent and overwhelmed, in a cold (literally and figuratively) town shuttered for winter. I knew what I was signing up for (not really, but I had an idea that it would be more than I bargained for, and it was), so I just put my head down, shoulder to the wheel, and got to work.

Real talk- sometimes my efforts to put my shoulder to the wheel ended up in just draping myself, exhausted, over the wheel. And maybe hoping it would roll over me and put me out of my misery. 

But, just like everyone always tells you things do, this, too, has passed. I spent the first half of this easter break (five days) getting caught up, and finally FINISHED, on this backlog of work I inherited (inheriting work is less cool than inheriting money, in case maybe you were wondering). That left 5 days of 100% guilt free slothing around, sleeping in, interneting until early hours, catching up with friends in person and on Skype, and finally finding time to update this blog with a rambling jumble like this.

In reality, it was perfect timing, because I think basically no one has a life in Stockholm in January and February. The short periods of sun, which happen right when you are stuck in work, have the paradoxical effect of making one feel that the days simultaneously never end, and also never happen. You feel caught up in this muddled, surreal world of snow and cold and wet and dark, with blurry lines of marking time and experience. Couple this with a claustrophobic experience of all encompassing work, while also trying to settle into a new country and feel connected, and it's basically a recipe for a really difficult time. Pro-tip: if you move to a Scandinavian country in the middle of winter, take over a position in the middle of the year with no training, and then inherit a lot of unknown/undone work, and then you get sick a lot, and you have difficulties with getting immigration stuff sorted... well, good luck.

I'm coming out from this fog of work right as the sun has decided to come back to Sweden. This week I have wandered streets I have never explored before; I have seen the city in the sun, and it honestly looks and feels like a totally different place. I can finally say, in all honesty, I am living in Sweden, not just being here. Everyone told me the spring would be amazing, and I feel even more grateful for it, thanks to how hard the first few months were. This happens every.single. time. I throw myself into unknown situations, and every single time I'm convinced I'm going to fail, and then I don't, and then I am so happy I did it. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now, but since I haven't, I guess that means I have to keep flinging myself into uncertainty.


We're all quick to judge
And slow to learn