How to Heal?

I have not written a blog post in a very long time, and I’ve hardly written any poetry. I’m not doing very well right now. I’m probably at an all time low. In the fall I hurt my knee, and it got slowly better but then sometimes a little worse, and this past month it has progressed to something that has left me in chronic pain. Sitting in a car, train or chair is uncomfortable because the pain gets worse when the knee is bent, and even sleeping is uncomfortable because my leg feels heavy from the muscles being so tight and I’m limited to one sleeping position (flat out on my back). The physiotherapist told it’s most likely something called Patellofemoral pain syndrome, which basically means the knee’s cartilage around the kneecap is inflamed because the kneecap (patella) is tracking incorrectly. There are numerous reasons it can happen and my guess for myself is that I walk a lot, but I also probably walk incorrectly in a way that puts too much pressure on the knee. And I also imagine my hips and glutes are weak, as I’ve found out doing the exercises the physio therapist assigned me. I wish I had gone to the physiotherapist sooner. It’s about 6 months to a year of recovery, maybe more, and possibly it will never get better. Am I sounding bleak? Probably. I feel a little bleak and doomed if I’m going to be honest. This is actually a fairly common thing to get, and it’s not life threatening, it just never, ever goes away (for now anyways). It’s also tricky because people have varying difficulties and symptoms, and from what I’ve read it feels like most people only get pain after running or jumping or going up stairs. But I’m getting pain just from walking slowly. Not intense pain, but enough that it scares me, and the pain has been so bad at times that I’ve been left crying and feeling completely hopeless.
Now walking is kind of my own personal therapist. When I walk I can let go of the day’s events, I can relax and feel the wind brush against my face. And the weather is finally so nice. It feels cruel that I have to rest so much when the day is so beautiful and the sun is out. I should say that I can still walk, and I have a good knee brace. But I can’t walk for long, and not as often and there’s still pain or discomfort which makes it hard to relax and maybe that’s the worst part.
I have discovered a few things about myself while in this state of chronic pain. I have discovered that I do not know how to heal myself. I do not know how to do things gently and slowly. I always have to be fast and ahead of everybody. I don’t want to accept car lifts from people because I’m too proud and want to prove that I can do this by myself. Well the truth is I can’t do this by myself. I need people if I’m going to heal. I needed a physiotherapist. I need reassuring words that it will be okay, and it’s been my boyfriend who has been the greatest help to me of all. Yes he gets impatient with my constant complaining (wouldn’t anyone?) and he gets scared to see me so unhappy, but I can see how hard he is trying to help me heal, to be patient with me, to help me through one of the darkest, toughest periods of my life. Because it’s not just about the knee pain. The knee pain has triggered all sorts of emotions and traumas I’ve kept hidden under the surface. I believe when I feel the knee pain it’s like a domino effect and now suddenly I feel all sorts of old pains I thought I’d long buried. But I guess the past always catches up with us.
I’m sorry this isn’t a very happy post, but I’m trying to be honest with myself about my feelings.

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It’s still Winter

It’s the second day of March and it’s still very much in the thick of winter here in Sweden, with no signs of spring’s arrival. I long for strawberries, lilacs and tulips, even green grass will do for now. I’m tired of living in a refrigerator and having to walk so slowly and carefully as to avoid falling on the ice that seems to be everywhere in this town.
I’ve found it hard to write too, I’m quite uninspired and feel like I’m in some sort of funk. I just don’t feel great. I miss my parents in California and of course the beautiful California weather, it’s about this time when the camellias are still blooming and the the spring bulbs will be up soon. How luxurious those things sound!
I try my best to keep positive, to keep going. I take pictures almost everyday for my Instagram, read books, cook interesting meals, go to class and go on walks to get some fresh air. The fresh air usually works wonders, but not this past week. This past week the cold, winter air hurts and all I want to do is curl up into a little ball under my warm quilt.
I hope others are faring a little better in this never ending winter weather!

February: A Poem

February is a piece of skin
that’s been itched at too long
and spans out like an ugly rash.
She longs for the unburdening of river-flow,
the gravel-stricken snow to melt,
the skies to be tinted fresh and yellow as lemons,
the whistle-chatter of songbirds,
lilacs her sweet perfume around the lake.
Her skin needs mending,
soft spring rain and sun the balm
for all those thistles under skin
to blossom into roses

Let us: A Poem

Let us shut off
the way the light dies
in an evening snowstorm,
swallowed slowly into dusk’s throat,
we’ll lie between our white sheets,
our skin soft like snowflakes,
sink into the hard bones
of hips, ribs and limbs,
so that they become soft
as lips,
your lips
on mine
as the dark folds us under it’s raven wing.

Thoughts on Trying to Fit into a Small Town, a Nässjö Update

Yesterday I had a chat with my Swedish teacher about her life here in Nässjö. She’s actually a native of Stockholm who moved here maybe 15 or 20 years ago. I asked her about her life here, did she like it? And she answered, “I’ve learned to like it here.” It struck me so much because I think in our society we’re often taught that if we don’t like something (or someone) or feel an attachment to it or them right away, then there’s something wrong. But she moved here to be with her partner, so for one gain she had one loss. And I believe so often that’s what life is about, it’s about how the choices we make lead us to good things and happiness, but not total happiness because there’s drawbacks to almost every situation, therefore we must learn to deal with them, and hopefully even like them. I haven’t immediately liked everything in my life. When I first tried soccer I hated it (too much sweating and running) but then after I kept at it, I learned to like it, even really like it. So learning to like Nässjö didn’t sound so sad when I thought about it longer. She also told me that it is her belief that it is about equally as hard for a Swedish person who is not from the area as an immigrant such as myself, to try and fit into the community. She said it took her like 10 years to kind of feel like she fit in. 10 years! 10 whole years! The number astonished me, but again, when I actually reflected on it, it made sense. I really believe that everything good in life takes time. And what would our journeys be if they just happened overnight? Surely those aren’t journeys so much as they are events.
I think the story of Nässjö is the same story as small towns across the globe. It’s always harder to fit in because the people who have lived here, have lived here for forever. They have their routines and friends and community already in place, and I think to jeopardize that is very scary for people. I mean I get it, it’s hard to trust things that are new. I think even if we moved to a small town in Canada, it would be the same, hard to break into the community because I was “never one of them to begin with”. In some ways, I believe I have to earn my place within these communities, I have to work to get that feeling of security these people have. Already within a few months I’ve made some friends (though mostly with other immigrants), and I can see how far I’ve come but can also see how much time it took to get to this place. I really had to be patient, and not just patient with circumstances that I can’t affect, but patient with myself. I had to allow myself time to change and become comfortable with that change.
So I’ll have to remember my teacher’s words every time I get discouraged at how slow and sometimes emotionally painful it can be when you’ve moved to a small town from elsewhere, Canadian or not.

Sunshine in Lidköping

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Yesterday I recounted our trip to Skara, and today I will recount the first part of the trip (yes, I did not do this chronologically) to Lidköping. When we arrived it was sunny, but a little coolish. Coolish in the way that when the sun first rises there a brisker type of chill to the air. Fresh. We ate sandwiches that we had brought before we started exploring and it was rather peaceful to just sit on a bench and bathe in the sun. In Sweden you take advantage of the every last square inch of sunshine, because you know what shines now will not shine for long.
Lidköping struck me as another place that was kind of in the middle of nowhere, though I’m sure its position on the lake proved strategic. But it took one train and two buses to get to this city, so it felt a little out of the way. My first impression was not favorable. The city appeared to be quite industrial looking and the downtown had a few pretty buildings, but for the most part the architecture seemed kind of boxy and boring to my eyes. However, there was a farmer’s market and it was nice to see so much of the town gathered there for produce. We bought some misshapen apples, and at a farm shop my boyfriend found locally made ginger apple juice, which is his favorite flavor combination. Part ways through the afternoon I became quite hungry so we stopped at a café and my boyfriend had a slice of cake, while I had a bowl of granola which the server looked at me strangely for ordering, but I’m the kind of person who could eat breakfast for supper all the time and I don’t how many times I’ve said to my boyfriend “oh let’s just eat porridge tonight,” (my boyfriend is not this type of person, however, breakfast is breakfast, lunch is lunch, and dinner is dinner, and trying to mix and match would be an abomination in his eyes).
By the late afternoon, I had begun to have a greater appreciation for Lidköping. We found streets of beautiful, painted wooden houses, trendy-hipster businesses in a formerly industrial part of the city and an oddly high number of second hand shops. Then we sat on the stone steps above the river and just lounged like happy cats in the abundant sunshine. How nice it all was! Remembering this makes me kind of peaceful in my body and even a bit warmer. Eventually we ate supper at a little Italian restaurant and afterwards headed back to our Air B and B by taking a new, longer route along the lake’s edge. The path was wooded and the darkness began to descend on us.
It was such a nice time and I’m so thankful for that little weekend getaway in September.

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I loved this art! It was on the side of a building and so wonderfully weird! IMG_3668IMG_3669IMG_3670

The Charms of Skara

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In late September last year me and my boyfriend went on a little trip to Lidköping and Skara. More random Swedish towns for us to discover! Because we lived in Uppsala prior to this past September, we’d mostly explored places north of Uppsala or along the more eastern part of Sweden, but since moving to Nässjö we’ve had more access to the western part of Sweden, which as one girl enthusiastically told me, “was the best part of Sweden!”(of course I’m sure she was a little biased since she was from that area). I was so excited for this trip, even if it was just for a weekend. I love to see news things, and I’d heard that people from Västra Götaland were friendlier than other parts of Sweden. Was it true? I wanted to know. Was it the best of Sweden?

One of the first things I noticed about this area as we took our numerous trains and buses to get there, was that there was a lot more rolling, fertile looking farmland than in our area. It was rather pleasant and pretty actually. Nässjö is mostly coniferous forests or swampy areas, and the farms that do exist have been extensively “cleaned up” of their huge number of rocks to be made more fertile. Skaraborg, as this county is named, was like Provence in comparison (maybe a bit dramatic, but hopefully you get my point).

Skara is kind of in the middle of nowhere but has a great big beautiful cathedral because as I researched, back in the day it was a really important city and is one of the oldest cities in Sweden, which would explain it’s cobblestoned-streets and painted- wooden houses kind of charm. What no one told me when I moved to Sweden is that even though it’s old and in Europe, it doesn’t really have a lot of that same “ancient and old world” feel as other countries in Europe such as Germany or France. I was told this was because Sweden wanted to make it’s mark as being “progressive” and “trendy” so in the 60’s they tore down a bunch of old buildings to make way for what I consider to be completely tasteless, brick and concrete squares with lots of windows. So as we walked the streets of Skara me and boyfriend kept looking at each other and saying “why aren’t we living in a place like this?” We both love old buildings and appreciate the value of keeping things traditional, so we easily fell in love with the old beauty of Skara. It almost reminded me of being in Germany again with all the cobblestones streets and giant, gray cathedral.

It was a rainy damp day with the chill of autumn slowly creeping in, but everything was still vividly green except for a few bright oranges and yellows. We ate pizzeria kind of pizza and looked into shop windows and imagined what was in them because it was Sunday, and for the most part, everything was closed. We weren’t in Skara very long, but we both agreed it was a very beautiful town that possessed the “quaintness” factor that Nässjö just doesn’t have.

I can’t argue it’s the best part of Sweden simply because I haven’t seen all of Sweden and I think I would have a very hard time choosing regardless, but the people seemed friendly, maybe a little chattier than the area we live in now, but I can’t say I noticed too much of a difference. Only in Skåne have a noticed people being noticeably more friendly or open than the rest of Sweden, but that’s another post!

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Merseburg, Saxony-Anhalt: The Little Cinderella City

I’m going to go back in time to this summer. I’ve been meaning to document more of my travels and I just got a feeling for it this lovely, snowy morning.The cats are playing around me in the cardboard boxes we’ve received as mail that have now been bequeathed to them and I’ve got a pot of tomato sauce with allspice on the stove. Allspice is my new favorite thing at the moment. I put it on beans and in sauces, I think it gives such richness to dishes.

Okay onto this summer. We were staying in Naumburg at the time, but wanted to take a day trip as we’d already most of Naumburg (it’s not a particularly big place). We debated on a few places, and finally decided on Merseburg. It was very close, and also had a very big, beautiful castle, the Merseburg Schloss that was listed in my guidebook on Germany. Thanks eyewitness travel guides! Unfortunately it was a cloudy day with a bit of damp undertone. We suited up in raincoats and umbrellas, but from the start we could tell there was a general lull in our energy levels as we explored. First we checked out the castle when we arrived from the train station. The rain hadn’t quite started, and I must say, the guidebook did not do the castle justice. It was very large and beautiful and had it’s own church. Here are some pictures to show you rather than me just fumbling around trying to explain it’s grandeur.

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We didn’t stay too long because we were very hungry so we headed to the centrum to look for some food. By now in the trip we had been very spoiled with beautiful, ornate old towns and were a little disappointed that Merseburg had such a small, and quite plain one. It’s not that it was ugly, but rather that it was just average. Not extraordinary. There was a beautiful, old church near the centrum, but it was unfortunately closed.

Since I’m a vegetarian, it was often difficult to find food in small town Germany that wasn’t just a cheese sandwich or a salad. Not that those are bad, but rather they didn’t leave me feeling too full after a day of intense walking (and usually up hills). But we found an almost empty Indian restaurant. My boyfriend loves Indian food so it was an easy sell to him, and I usually like Indian food too, just not if it’s super spicy, I’m a bit of a wimp that way. The restaurant had the rather uninspired named of Taj Mahaal, but I must recommend it to anyone passing through Merseburg, oh my goodness was it ever good! They put cloves in the rice and my aaloo mattar (a sort of potato and pea stew) was simply divine! So creamy and flavorful. We both concurred it was probably the best food we’ve eaten so far on the trip. Afterwards, with warm food in our stomach, we felt ready to embark on even though the sky was looking grayer and grayer. We walked around the centrum a little more, found a random Russian grocery store, and walked further on to an old looking tower in the distance. Along the way we passed through a pretty large graveyard with lots of trees, sanded gravestones and unruly vines. It was gorgeous. The wind picked up and our raincoats went on. We walked back to the castle and looked inside it’s old church to have an indoor activity to do, then we risked the dryness of our exposed legs and went into the rain again to look around the castle grounds. We walked along a river at the foot of the castle, the trail becoming goopy from the rain and tried to keep our spirits up by laughing at how crazy we most of looked. It’s not like this town was flooded with tourists at the moment, and we probably looked a bit strange in our sopping wet rain coats trekking across town.

But as the day went on, I began to get an appreciation for the underrated beauty of Merseburg. There was beauty that existed within the crooks and crannies of the city. We found a lovely view of the city skyline along the river. We saw some interesting details in the architecture of the buildings and the centrum had a quaint little book shop. It’s strange how we can make our minds find the beauty that’s right there in front of us if we only try to. Even though it was a fairly plain city by the standards of our trip and the weather was possibly our worst weather, that day in Merseburg has stuck with me, and makes me remember how important it is to look closely and carefully, because not all forms of beauty walk into the room wearing a satin ballgown, some come dressed in rags.

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Probably one of my favorite buildings I saw on the trip! IMG_2815

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The Best of Friends

When we adopted our kitties we were told that Freya Rose (the black one) was lonely when her siblings were adopted out so they needed to give her a playmate. So they put her with a slightly older shyer male cat that we’ve called Tovner. Even though they’re different ages they get along like the best of friends. If we pet Tovner, Freya Rose will start to purr, and if we pet Freya Rose, Tovner will start to purr. I’m not sure if this is common among cats, to sleep and play together so constantly, but I think it’s the cutest darn thing in the world!