Let me take you back a few years. Two handfuls to be more precise. I had lived in France for just a few months and my language level was scant and my social life was poor.

I decided to take action. I really wanted to improve my communication skills and I was desperate to talk to someone outside the family circle. After a bit of searching I found a group of half organised people that met up in a certain pub once a week, where they helped each other with language studies. The group consisted largely of students and young people, like I was back then, who had a passion for languages. I had a great time.

I had met up with the group for a few gatherings and I had already managed to make a friend. She was French but spoke very good English and she was majoring in French sign language and studying Swedish on the side, just for fun. We had a lot of fun helping each other learning the language of the other person and discussing, in English, the interesting differences in Swedish and French sign language.

Language group day was rapidly becoming my favourite day of the week. I wasn’t improving much, at least not noticeably. My new friend was so good at English and she took great pleasure in speaking it, just as I was happy to have fun and interesting conversations with someone intelligent. I was overjoyed to have a friend.

In the same moment as I was rediscovering the elation of socialisation, I had invested my tiny savings in a bike. This was not an amazing piece of technology, just a little thing to pedal in order to get from place A to place B. Taking the bus or the underground was not even on the agenda, that would have cost too much in the long run and walking into the city took an hour if I kept a good pace. I walked any time I wanted to go somewhere but I had decided to give myself a break. The investment would be worth it. I was poor and unemployed and it was all I had, my wonderful bike.

So one day I decided that I would ride the bike to meet up with the group. It was a gorgeous, soft afternoon with clear skies. I was looking forward to seeing my friend. I had decided to ask if she wanted to do something outside of language group hours someday. I was going to ask her out on a friend-date and I was sure she’d accept. My mood was high and I rolled with ease.

I had gotten halfway to my destination when it happened. Gravity grabbed me like a cruel mistress and pulled me close to her. My entire right side smashed into the ground. Head to toe took a punch from the paved surface my head was spinning and I was in pain. Several people rushed to my aid and fortunately they were all kindhearted. A man asked for my phone, asked if he could call someone I knew, and groggy as I was I handed over my phone to him. Someone else recovered my bag that had slid off me in the fall. A woman tried to make me stay still on the ground and not move too much, in case I had injured my neck or back. An ambulance came. I’m not even sure what happened to the bike but it got home somehow.

My helmet went in the trash, it had given its life to protect me and I was grateful. The right leg of my jeans was cut all the way up to the knee as I was taken to the hospital. I was badly bruised and had a crack in my arm. Opiates were ordained and I was incapable of moving anywhere besides dragging myself from bed to couch for a few weeks.

When I was still bruised but had healed enough to get outside again, my bike had been stolen. The lack of money made it difficult to buy another one, even a used one. I never went back to the language group. They had moved to a different pub, my friend graduated and moved to America. The bad experience of the fall made me reluctant to try it again. I didn’t ride a bike any more after that. The more the years passed, all I could associate with riding a bike was the terrible pain in my cracked arm and my bruised side.

Last spring I went to Berlin for almost a week. The weather was cool but not too cold to walk around outside for hours. At the end of the week I was asked if we couldn’t rent bikes and discover more of the city. The underground system is good but you don’t see everything that’s between the stops. I refused. The fear of riding on the side of a busy street in the capital of Germany had me sweating hot and cold. I was however talked into renting a tandem. The ride went surprisingly good.

I pedalled through the city with the frantic pounding of my heart in my chest. My eyes closed for a lot of the time in fear of losing my composure. The helmsman was calm and in complete control of our trajectory and his enthusiasm and energy made it possible for me to enjoy the ride. Something I had thought myself incapable of doing.

Last week I took the big plunge. I bought a bike. The lady that sold it had gone through extensive hip surgery and she had to admit to herself that she wouldn’t be able to ride her bike anymore. It had been standing abandoned in her hallway for the past three years. Loved but never used it was a jumble of flat tyres and cobwebs. After a little cleanup and restoration it was ready for a test ride.

Helmet on and hands white from the tight grip on the handlebars, I took off. The bike made a terrible clattering sound. The bike wasn’t in a bad shape, I was just shaking so much that the frame rattled from my tremors. I was afraid, but I did it anyway.

I have now been on two longer bike rides, my bottom is not yet used to the saddle but that will get better with time. I’m not riding fast or in busy areas but I can start finding pleasure in it.

It’s like that; life and riding a bike – you never forget how to do it but you might need some encouragement to get back in the saddle after a bad fall.

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I spend a lot of time inside my own head. I have a good time there with myself. But sometimes I need to write.

I first heard about the bullet journal system while reading a web comic called Octopus Pie, made by Meredith Gahn. It’s a beautifully told and drawn story of a group of young people and I would strongly recommend everyone to read it, from start to finish. The entire thing is there on the site.
I was all the way down the rabbit hole of this glorious story when, in episode #973, a character called Marigold writes in some sort of handwritten planner. The spread had a monthly to-do list on one page and the days of the month listed on the other side where she inserts an important event. It’s just a tiny detail in the big picture of what’s going on in the story but it caught my eye. I read the comments to the episode and the second one says “of course Marigold has a bullet journal”
It struck me then, there was a concept here that I didn’t know about. Whatever it was that was so “of course” about Marigold – I had to know what it meant. A short search later and I was diving into sites and information about productivity and lists and calendars – about bullet journals.

I have been writing a sort-of diary for a very long time. Most of the time the entries have been purely creative, where I have written some sort of free-style stream-of-consciousness poem, like a polaroid of my feelings at that precise moment. Some of those poems have made it into song but most of them live a tiny little inky existence in my notebook archives.

I also write a ton of lists, but I never used to write them in my journal. Lists are great. Who doesn’t like lists? You can write lists about everything and anything. You get your thoughts and ideas onto paper, visible, tangible. You remember things better with lists. You can figure out preference, need, want, all by making a simple list.

I am no expert in the bullet journal system so I urge you to go to the official website to read about it if you don’t know what it is or how it works.

In my own short words.

The bullet journal was created by a man named Ryder Carroll. The system is a way to increase productivity. You write down your to-dos and tasks in bullet point, and you tick them when they’re done. It’s that simple but it’s also so much more. It’s a brain outside your head. It is a collection of lists. It is a diary. It is an agenda. It is a notebook of doodles.
It is pretty much whatever you want it to be, built on the base that – whatever works for you that’s the way to go.

A lot of people that start using the system seem to get anxious about making things pretty and about being artistic. There’s a plethora of inspiration that might feel intimidating for a beginner. But once you allow yourself to just be you and organise for your own personal needs, that’s when the magic begins.

My bujo (short for bullet journal) is whatever I need it to be. There’s an overview of the current month and week with lists of things that need to be done, there are diary entries, budget tracking, doodles of bugs, concert tickets, running trackers, writing and study schedules, meal plans, book reviews, drawings of mountains, knitting patterns… and so much more.

The mixture of freedom and structure, the organised entwined in the artistic.

I spend a lot of time inside my own head. But sometimes my thoughts are here on the screen, and some times they show up in black and blue ink.

Do you have any hidden talents? he asked me.
Well, how do I answer that?

As we saunter through life on our stroll of consciousness we find to our surprise that there are a few things that we can do that people find more or less extraordinary.

I have always loved singing, and people tell me that I’m really good at it. They ask me how I got so good, so I tell them I’ve been singing since I could talk and perhaps even before that. It started early, I was encouraged to continue. It was fun – so I kept singing.

Most of our talents are like that. We discover them early. We discover that there is something that we enjoy doing, so we do that thing. Practice makes perfect, as they say. At first the notes were probably not very sweet, but my heart was there.
If you keep working on something, you become more proficient at it. If what you’re working on makes you happy, you want to do it even more. This applies to most things and it’s worth remembering.

But then there’s this thing.

Hidden talent.

And I’m not talking about something you’re good at that you don’t tell people. I’m talking about those things that you are really good at. Things even you didn’t know you could do. Perhaps you’re like me, constantly doubting yourself and your abilities. Or maybe you just never had the opportunity to try something.

Let me take you back to the middle of November.

I go through a box of things that I hadn’t unpacked yet after moving. In the box was a bag of stuff that I  hadn’t had time to sort and see if I wanted to keep. Basically a bag of rubbish that I wasn’t ready to part with yet. Among the rubbish was a keyring with a tiny Rubik’s Cube attached to it. I gave it a try. It was tricky but fun. And then, to my surprise, it was done. It’s probably not a very impressive skill but it surprised me how easy I found it.

What else could I do that I thought I wasn’t capable of doing?

In another part of my life I’ve been wondering what challenges I should give myself. I feel a great urge to learn and develop and create something amazing.

I am definitely finishing my book this year.
I am practicing my instruments.
I am studying Japanese.
– I am looking into computer programming.

What if I had this amazing talent for coding that I didn’t know about? How can I know if I don’t look into it?

Do you have any hidden talents? He asked me.
I sure hope so, I answered.

Queen of Hearts

Love is one of the most common themes in literature, music, and the arts. It’s one of those emotions that you think you know what it is but if you were forced to describe it you’d be lost for words. You would get into the tricky business of defining what you could feel love for. You’d find yourself in the business of defining different types of love and get caught up trying to defend it from being confused with friendship and or lust.

The heart is often a symbolic representation of this emotion. In fact it’s a symbol of the centre of all emotions. The broken heart, the burning heart, the black heart. The symbolic representation of the heart carries a very minor, close to non-existent, resemblance to the actual, anatomical heart.

Love as an emotion has been a big fascination for me, as an artist, as a writer of stories and lyrics. Symbolism and metaphors have always intrigued me, in the sense that it’s a code or a different type of language, using pictures to convey messages and to communicate.

The anatomical heart has fascinated me for a few years now, and I was both thrilled and a little scared to spend time in cardiology at the end of last year. We were pretty sure that nothing was wrong. But the fear is there, no matter how hard you try to ignore it.
There’s not much in this world makes you feel as helpless as when you’re watching the person you love getting wired up, electrodes on his bare chest, in a sterile room with fluorescent lights.

The heart is important. It needs to be taken good care of.

When I was 22 I had a friend who was a magician. He made up a card trick that he said was just for me, although I always suspected that he said that to every woman in his life. He called the trick “The Queen of Hearts” and it was a dazzling number of misdirection while moving the Queen of Hearts all over the deck of cards, all over his person, and finally into the front pocket, right above his heart. The last time he performed it to me he gave me the card and I’ve kept it with me ever since.

What’s in our metaphorical hearts is precious and we might deal out the cards profusely and honestly but we never deal them out lightly. We save our most treasured affection for the worthy, for those that truly see us and lets us be ourselves. We cram people into our hearts and find to our surprise that there’s more room there than we first might have suspected. Full of family, and friends, and perhaps someone you have romantic feelings for.

For Christmas, after the handful of cardiological expeditions to the hospital, I got a stethoscope. A real one, dark blue and double sided. Double sided means that one side of it has a drum with a diaphragm for hearing the high frequencies, and a bell side for hearing the lower frequencies. You twist the stem and you hear something from a slightly different spectrum.

This Valentine’s Day I wish you so much more than commercial gimmicks and forced traditions. I hope you indulge in true connections that lets you hear all the high and low frequencies. In people that value you for who you are, and in something that makes your heart beat a little faster.

With love,
Amle

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

The Fault in our Stars has been raved about by so many, but as I live in a cave (metaphorically) I have managed to avoid any spoilers and I will spare you, fellow cave person, of the spoilers too.

Hazel is seventeen and she has terminal cancer. She has been terminal since diagnosis and she is accepting of the fact that life is finite. She’s trying to live within her limited restrictions, not creating too many ripples. In an attempt at keeping her parents happy, she agrees to go to Cancer Kid Support Group. The group was meant as a way to relieve depression and for her to make friends. Hazel finds the group even more depressing than she first imagined. What else can you think when the members of the group keep dying and only gets renewed by another set of young people, that are also dying.
But one day Augustus is there. He shows up as moral support for another member of the group. Hazel and Augustus connect, and their lives change completely from that moment on.

First to the negatives. Let me stress that I judge only from my own taste, knowledge, and experience. I wish no offence to anyone who likes (or loathes) this book, and I most certainly mean no offence to John Green.
I had a hard time identifying with our main character Hazel. She had a working brain but her affection towards Augustus didn’t feel organic. I don’t think I had enough time to observe him, to see what she saw. I couldn’t understand what attracted her to him in the first place but that didn’t stop me from accepting it and going along with the story.

Now to the likes.
I liked the way that the most important thing in life was something other than cancer.
I liked the horrible needlepoint.
I liked that it was an easy read.
I liked the way Hazel’s dad talked, even if he was just a tiny part of the story.
I liked that some infinities are bigger than other infinities.
I liked how Green showed that what you wish for, might not be what you wish it was.

I give this book a resounding – Okay.

It was back to school today for most of the French children. My co-workers, the ones with children, came in to work a little later than usual, the dropping off had been done. Some of the kids went there for the first time, some were old enough to tell their parents to go to work or just get out of there and stop embarrassing them.

I honestly can’t remember any of my first days back after summer holidays. I just have a vague feeling of how I wanted to get back to school and my classmates. I suppose the fact that I usually had my birthday at school start helped blur the lines of what was a prioritised memory or not. I can’t say for sure.
Last week was my birthday and it wasn’t celebrated in any grand fashion at all. I got an extra kiss on my cheek from a colleague, I was taken out for a lovely dinner by my partner, and I got to hear my parents sing to me over a distance of approximately 3470 km.
 
 
Despite the fact that I turned thirty, which I hear is something most people dread, I was happy to finally leave my twenties behind me, to be closer to the age I feel in my mind.
Despite the even-ness and all the celebration that number should entail I was too distracted to really care. I was trying to pack as much and many of my belongings as I could into cardboard boxes and prepare for the end of the work week when I would get the keys to the house.
I’m here now, pretty much all installed. The first thing I conquered was the kitchen. I scrubbed it from top to bottom and filled it with things I love. I claimed it my own and have already managed to perform tiny, delicious wonders in it.
Most rooms are, if slightly empty with only an echo, habitable and unpacked. Going from a tiny flat to a big house without buying a large amount of new furniture does that I’ve noticed. It makes for a lot of free space. We’re not in a hurry. We like it here and want to stay for a while. There’s plenty of time to fill the rooms and decorate.
My home office is already starting to look great. I’ve found all the screws and bits to assemble my old desk that had been hiding in a closet these past three years. It is an inanimate object, I know, but I am convinced that it likes it better here than in the mould over in the old place.
All my books are unpacked but hardly in any organised fashion. I have huge stacks of them all over the desk. I’m thinking a few good bookcases is first on my to-buy list. If I had been handy enough I’d build them but I don’t have the tools and not enough know-how to figure out where to start. Perhaps I could ask someone for help, we’ll see.
 
It has been less than a week since my first full day here in the house and I have already forgotten most of the details. It sort of like going back to school. I knew I wanted to go, and it was fantastic when I finally got there. There’ll be no tests or exams this time but there will be challenges all the same. I have no idea what I should study for but I look forward to seeing what the future holds. Thirty is going to be a great year.

Fifteen times. That’s the number of times I’ve moved, including this one. Twice from one country to another. Soon I’m getting to live in the sixteenth place I’ve called home and I hope I will be able to stay there, happy and safe, for a long time.
I spent my morning packing things in the “kitchen” that won’t be used in the next week. I only saved two of each from the cutlery and plates out for us to use. The cupboards are very empty looking, which is a grand feat for such a tiny flat.
I’ve also packed most of my books. I put the heavy, pretty tomes in small cardboard boxes. Small, so they’re easy and light to carry. I put a few of my less sensitive paperbacks in my lovely four wheeled suitcase – Something I warmly recommend if you ever have to move and have a lot of books. Save your arms and back.

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Tomorrow will be a day to go through the closet. Sort out what to donate, throw, and take along. I hope there won’t be too many things damaged by the mould, that I noticed had attacked my winter coat in the closet, and I hope I have the sense to throw away the things that are broken beyond repair.

One week until we get the keys to the new place and I’m very excited and impatient to get there. The first place in France I get to live in that’s bigger than a shoebox. The first house since I moved away from my parents. The sixteenth place I get to call home.

So many months since I wrote here last but I’ll try to briefly recap some of the major events as best as I can.

January
held a large surprise in that I got a job offer, it was supposed to last for two weeks, then a month, and at the end of that month I was asked to stay until the end of the year. It is a job I’m still today learning to perform fully but I enjoy it very much and I feel that I’m making a difference. It doesn’t exactly make the world tremble of change but it creates a tiny shiver and I’m mighty proud of that minuscule undulation of good that I can actually do.
A cat came to visit, a very sick and undernourished cat. We took him in, we bathed, and healed, and fed, and loved him. He has been sharing our home for nine months now and our other fur babies have accepted him in the pride.

February
was all about work. Learning new things, trying to get everyone’s names right, getting used to a hundred cheek-kisses a day and so on. We had a big event where people from all our offices around the globe came over. There were meetings and greetings and I managed to charm the heck out of one or two people. Plus I got to speak, albeit briefly, twice to the CEO.
I saw, for the first time, a picture of my best friend’s baby bump. Living far away was a little more difficult than usual then.

March
The beginning of March was spent in bed with the flu. After that I spent a lot of time thinking up food things that I could make since I had an income and I was finally able to relax about my finances. After being unemployed for several years it was strange to get used to spending. It was very odd and wonderful to not have a completely empty kitchen at the end of the month.
An online friend published a book and I received a signed copy (Link to the book here)
I ate frog legs for the first time. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t so bad. It tastes, not so surprising, like frog and it has a texture that is a mixture between fish and chicken.

April
Björn (my better half) threw his back out and was forced to stay at home and not move for a few days. Work related illnesses at 32yo seems a bit too early.
I was asked if I wanted to be a godmother to my best friend’s baby. I said yes.

May
A beautiful baby girl was born up in the north of Sweden. My mind circulated about news and worrying about her as she spent many of her first days of life in the hospital.

June
Saw Queens of the Stone Age live. The sound was awful but the evening was great.
I studied a lot of German and I worked, worked, worked.

July
I wrote a story. We decided that enough is enough and it was time to look for a safer, bigger, and better place to live.
The flat became a health hazard after, as we found out much later, a water leak next door but the owner of our current home refuses to let us move out earlier. All walls have been attacked by mould, things have been ruined, the air is often uncomfortable to breathe.

August
Took a trip to Sweden to become a godmother to the happiest and most wonderful child I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Saw my family, and my best friend and her family. Sang, and ate, and celebrated my birthday a little early together with them.

And here we are, back from our short vacation trip. We just found a house that we love and will soon move into.
Reading through my diary notes from the past nine months has been very interesting. It feels like so much has happened and at the same time so little.

I hope it was interesting in some way to hear, if briefly, what has happened over here and I hope you will be around to hear about my upcoming creative projects and musings.
Until next time, my friends.

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