My technical life is a joke.
Last week I bought myself a phone.
This might seem like trivial news to you but it was a first in my book.

My parents got me my first phone back in the years just before the millennial shift. Several of my friends already had phones. I wasn’t asking for one but my parents were interested in being able to contact me. I was constantly out somewhere, out on adventure. The phone they gave me was this enormous piece of plastic and technical wonder. I believe it was some sort of hand me down from someone, so the phone itself had a few months or years on its back already when it ended up in my hands.
It would be impossible for me to tell you what brand or type of phone it was, all I have is my memories and those are most likely warped by the passage of time and my urge to dramatise this story.

As I said, it was a massive monster of technology. Huge in a literal sense. It came with two batteries, one slim that only lasted a few hours, and one thicker that lasted a few more. The size of this thing is difficult to describe but I’ll try to.
The length of it was probably 18 cm (roughly 7 inches) and that’s not even counting the antenna. The width of it was about 8 cm (just over 3 inches) and with the slim battery it was only 4 cm (1,5 inches) thick but with the bigger battery that doubled.
All these numbers are estimates, I might be underestimating the measurements, but I’m pretty sure I’m not exaggerating. The phone was a brick.

This was old school, before there were any games on the phones. Before being able to take or send pictures on the phone. As the years passed my friends started getting fancy phones, smaller phones. Without any antenna poking out of it. Phones with flip covers, phones with snake (remember snake?)

I didn’t keep my brick phone for very long, it was replaced by something else, and then something else after that. My parents gave me new phones to replace the old ones. I didn’t want a phone but I thanked them and took it because despite my teenage hysterics I wasn’t a complete monster and I wasn’t at a complete loss as to the usefulness of it. I was grateful, but phones never really interested me.

I was, for a period of my adult life, living without a phone. The experience didn’t leave me with any problems or bad memories, quite the opposite. It was liberating to be unreachable, not to be available and constantly “on call” for people. I admit, during that time I wouldn’t have received many calls as I was new to the country and had few friends and acquaintances, but still – even if no one would have, I felt completely undisturbed knowing that no one could. My quiet, little rebellion of solitude.

My boyfriend at the time didn’t find it as wonderful as I did. He was leaning more towards the word infuriating. He could never reach me, he never knew where I was and never knew when I’d be home or if I was safe. So he bought me a phone.
It was a cheap flip-phone in a deep red colour. The model being incredibly unfashionable and the technology was the bare minimum, but I didn’t need more. I had no use for any gadgets with bells and whistles. Despite the loss of my new-found liberty, I wasn’t sad. I could be reached by one of the two people who had my number, and I could make emergency phone calls, that was an acceptable compromise.
I’ll add to the merit of this particular phone that it actually served me well back in my bike accident (link to my blog post about the fall)

Every time I’ve had new (for me) phones they have been gifts or hand-me-downs. Given to me by my parents, or by some friend, or boyfriend.
I’ve never gone out of my way to get one for myself, or to look for one. They always seem to appear at regular intervals without me asking for it. My lack of interest and pride in my technological belongings probably confuses people and they want to help me out. So I graciously accept a free updated version and I go on doing my thing, being me.

But for the past two years I have given it some thought. My phone (a hand-me-down smart phone with a fruit symbol) had fallen on the ground of the parking lot as I had stepped out of the car. It was already getting old, as it was made back in 2014 and technology, as we all know, ages quickly.
I could live with the little crack on the bottom of the screen but a year later when the battery started giving up after just one day and I got reminded of that impractical brick phone, I got more serious with my plans. Sure, I could have repaired it, changed the screen and the battery, but it would be technically obsolete in a very short time. So, I decided that I’d get myself a new phone. A phone no one had given to me, just my own purchase. Not because someone wanted to reach me, or track me, or ask me to buy coffee on the way to work, but because mobile phones are rather practical devices. Besides, nowadays they have do-not-disturb modes that can let only prioritised callers get through, so win-win for us all. I still haven’t made the complete transition. I want my protective case to arrive, no more Miss Butter Fingers. But when I get it I’ll get the SIM card inserted and it’ll be official.

Last week I bought myself a phone.
This might seem like trivial news to you but I am feeling quite good about it.

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My friend asked me the other day: I know you’ve told me in the past that you don’t regret things. But how does it work exactly?
(Sorry dear, I know that’s not exactly what you said. I’m paraphrasing.)

I have worked actively and hard for over ten years on rebuilding my self-image. I speak kindly to myself. I try to take care of my body and my mind. I rest when I need to, I eat correctly, and I forgive myself.

I refuse to torment myself over past mistakes, and I refuse to feel sorry for myself. Whether something was the caused by someone else’s misuse or abuse of me, or whether it was my own wrongdoing. I have messed up and people have been cruel, but I haven’t given up on living, I haven’t given up on being alive.
You might think that’s easy enough for me to say, I haven’t been through what you have. To that I answer: I don’t trivialise your suffering. I’m not here to compare, and most of all I’m not here to judge you.
I’m just saying – the suffering is completely unnecessary.

So, how do I remove regret?

For me it all started with the decision that I refused to beat myself up over something that I couldn’t change.
I had spent a long time in the company of someone who little by little chipped away at my perception of reality. Someone who so desperately needed to control everything around him to squelch his interior chaos. Someone who told me that everything I did was wrong and that every emotion I experienced was unjustified.
When someone controls you, it starts small. They make you question your perception of reality. They make you wonder if your imagining things, not like hallucinations, but they make you doubt the validity of your opinions and they make you doubt your ability to rationalise.

Sometimes we don’t learn fast enough and we might end up with the same problem in a different form. But eventually I figured out that if I try to fix broken people that don’t want to change, they’ll just end up breaking me instead.

I can’t change the past. I can’t go back in time and hold the broken, young woman in my arms and tell her that leaving someone destructive is the right thing to do. I can’t go back and tell her – hey, this is not what love looks like. I can’t kiss her forehead and tell her that she is beautiful, and that her mind is full of miracles of magic and adventure. I want to tell her that light will shine and there’s so much more to see, and so much joy to come.
I can’t wipe her tears away and make her to look into my eyes, so she can see that I truly mean it. I can’t go back in time and undo those lost years. Years I could have spent so much better than stuck in toxic relationships.

Neither can I go back in time and tell my teenage self to stop being an idiot. I can’t tell her to be kinder to my mother. 
Mum, I’m so sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you. I was so difficult. I’m so lucky that you loved me more than I deserved. Jag älskar dig (Swedish: I love you.)

I can’t go back and convince them to not take the car.
I can’t undo the broken hearts I left behind.
I can’t make that phone call that could have saved her so much pain.
I can’t run up to the stage.
I can’t take back that insult.
I can’t tell that person how much he means to me, still. After all these years.

I’m not going to list all my mistakes, nor all things that have been done to me. It won’t do any of us any good.

I can’t go back in time and undo any of my past decisions, good or bad.
Time travel isn’t possible. I refuse to treat myself badly for not having a time machine and neither should you.

Not feeling bad is not the same thing as not feeling sorry for causing harm to someone. I feel incredibly bad if I hurt someone, but I don’t let it fester in me. Things that fester in you turns you rotten. Bad feelings you hold for yourself or others end up hurting you.

There’s this quote that is often attributed to the Buddha that goes something like this:
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else — you are the one who gets burned.
The quote is talking about anger but I think it holds true to regret as well. We keep picking up the glowing coal, maybe not to throw it, but rather inspect it. Twisting and turning it in the palm of our hands, hurting ourselves. What good does it make?

I acknowledge my mistakes.
I ask myself why I did what I did, objectively and without judgement. Not to find who to blame, but to put my finger on the real problem. Why did I feel justified to hurt someone else? Why did I not tell the truth? Why did I not see it? Why did I choose wrong? Why did I not help?
What can I do differently in the future to avoid this? The trick is to not keep playing the tape in your mind on repeat and mentally relive the moment of regret. If you keep repeating it, you are essentially programming yourself to mess up again. The trick is to pick it apart once, and really learn from the mistake.

I ask for forgiveness, from myself and from the person I might have hurt. Forgiving yourself and others lets you release the issue. I have forgiven, but I haven’t forgotten. I put the coal down, I see it glowing on the ground. Forgiving someone doesn’t meant that they were right to do something, but it means you won’t carry that glowing ember around anymore.

It sounds simple, and it is simple. But simple is not the same thing as easy.

Do I wish I had done some things differently? Yes, of course, but I can’t change it now. It is all in the past.

Something that is roughly related to this is the feeling of having to please people. I have noticed that those around me who desire to be liked by everyone often regret more than those who are more comfortable with not being everyone’s cup of tea.

If you ask for forgiveness and your apology is not accepted, you have to be able to leave that behind you. Your apology must be honest, that’s all anyone can ask for. If people don’t forgive you, that’s on them.
If you feel like you need to have permission, here it comes; I give you permission to leave their lack of forgiveness behind you.
You are not responsible for anyone else in that, you can’t control the way they feel, even if you’d might like to. You can’t save people, you can’t change them, you can’t make them dance and smile of their own accord if they don’t want to.

You can take the horse to the water but if it doesn’t want to drink…

What you have to do is grow as a person. Learn from your mistakes instead of beating yourself up because of them. Violence never did anything good.

Remember, you don’t have to please everyone. Many people don’t want to forgive you. You don’t have to make everyone happy. You don’t have to save the world. I think there was some other sort of quote that said something similar that was much spiffier that my confused gibberish, but the point is: you are allowed to move on. You are allowed to leave bad feelings behind you. You can leave the regret over there, and occupy your mind with interesting things instead.

The word regret is set up as a synonym for upset over past action. It is also tied to anguish, bitterness, contrition, disappointment, heartbreak, remorse, compunction, shame… The list can go on a bit further- but nowhere can I see anything positive come out of regret.

So, let’s go over this again:
Acknowledgement – I messed up in some way.
Analysis – Why did I do that?
Awareness – What can I learn from this?
Forgiveness – I’m sorry. I forgive me. Further forgiveness, if applicable, is a cherry on the sundae.
Release that lump of coal of regret, learn from what happened, implement, and move on. I promise you, it’s ok.

If you only take one piece of advice from me, please let it be this: Never again let an ‘I love you’ go unsaid.
There. That’s a large amount of regret avoided.

Thank you for reading.

Words are tricky things. They don’t always mean what you think they do. But at the same time, they mean exactly what you intended to convey. The person listening, or reading, is however not always aware of what you are trying to communicate.

Words, the collectively agreed upon association of noises. Agreements structured into languages and dialects. Arranged into codes only those informed are able to decipher.

A certain sound or spelling of a word can have one meaning in one language and a different meaning in another. Even in the same language, a word can have several different meanings and even changes in intonation of the same word can make the phrase completely different.

A word I like to use as an example of a multitude of meanings is ‘gift’. In English, as I’m sure you already know, it means something that you give to someone as a present. In Swedish it can either mean the verb ‘married’ or the noun ‘poison.’ Fertile ground for word play.

Like so many other people, I get money in exchange for my freedom. I spend five days a week at a company that does business internationally and we have offices in a handful of countries. Our business language, with colleagues and clients outside of France, is English and the level of English varies a lot from person to person. My English is often too advanced for my colleagues, so I am forced to simplify if I want to be understood. I concentrate on using as few and as basic words as possible. It doesn’t come easy for me and I find it unnatural.

From time to time there are minor disagreements between colleagues. I find myself intervening as a mediator to smooth out cultural and linguistic misunderstandings. I have a lot of personal experience and training in second language communication and I know it’s not always easy to get your point across in the most diplomatic way when you don’t fully master the vocabulary.

I love words. I’m not an expert in any way but I enjoy being able to express myself correctly. Words are powerful. Words are useful. Words are magical.

I have a deep admiration for the octopus. It is a marvellous creature that has been around for the past 296 million years which is incredible compared to our species, the homo sapiens, that is estimated to have arrived only 300,000 years ago (source wikipedia for those numbers.)

The octopus can pass through impossibly small openings. They’re masters of disguises and can change colour and shape in the most astonishing ways. They have an excellent sense of touch and they sense taste through the suction cups. Some species of octopuses create ink that they shoot out in self defence to protect them from predators. They have three hearts, and nine brains, one main brain in the head and a smaller brain for each tentacle. They are highly intelligent and are known to be proficient in problem solving and mazes.

In a documentary I watched about a year ago it was said that the only reason that octopuses hadn’t evolved to be as sophisticated and complex as humans is because they die after mating. The female starves to death as she watches over her eggs, and the male becomes senescent. His body goes into biological ageing and he dies just a few months after his progeny has been conceived.

The octopus is a visual learner and acquire its skills from observing. Which gives you quite the disadvantage when you lack the social structure of a tribe, a consortium, a family. They have the capacity and intelligence to evolve but as most octopuses are solitary and rather aggressive it is difficult to advance together. When two octopuses collide it’s either to fight or to mate, and often they don’t seem sure about which one of the two it is.

Until recently it was thought that all octopuses lived in isolation but underwater “cities” have been discovered off the coast of Australia (search for Octopolis and Octlantis for more information) and it would be interesting to know if these grouped individuals far better than the loners.

How lucky we humans are that these creatures have a communicatory and reproductive disadvantage. As it stands right now, they are forced to fend for themselves right from the start, to fight for survival. When they meet another octopus they’re not able to communicate and will fight to death, unless the urge to reproduce is higher than the instinct to fight, and that brings death too.

As humans we don’t always agree but with the right words in the appropriate places we can be clearer with out intentions. But it seems we can’t even agree on what word to use for what to call the the octopus in plural. Octopuses, octopodes, and octopi. I’m sure that if they had words, structured like we do, they’d be able to set the record straight once and for all.

I have patience, a lot of it. I can wait in the same spot for hours without any specific stimuli, provided that I have some level of physical comfort. Hunger can make the best of us lose our composure.

The most difficult part for me is when I have to wait for someone else to do something before I can continue on my own path. Sometimes you find yourself ready and still be forced to delay. There’s nothing you can do but to wait.

We can not always brush off our impatience when there’s somewhere we really need to be. If your company pays you to be at work at a certain time, you make sure you’re there. But if I’m not hungry and the delay won’t put me at risk of losing my job, it’s mostly good. I can wait, my entertainment is always close at hand.

I’m talking about my brains, my imagination, my inquisitive nature – not my phone.

Did you know that the average person checks their phones every twelve minutes (source Huffpost) and unless my math is off that makes for 120 times per day.

Instant gratification is all around us and especially present on our phones. The fear of missing out is so great that we feel compelled to read every social media message or read every news item. Everything needs to be available 24/7. Our phones are the first things we look at in the morning. It’s attached to the instrument panel of our cars while we’re driving. It’s lying on our desks or nesting in our pockets. At night before we go to bed, the dark is chased away by the blue light of the screen. Our smartphones are always accessible, in constant view so we don’t miss the latest updates, notifications, and messages.

Every day I see people move about with their eyes locked on their screens. I watch with horror as the driver in the other lane is texting while driving. I sigh internally when my colleagues chat on social media during work hours. I feel a twinge in my heart when children play in the park, virtually unsupervised by their parents who have their eyes fixed on the device in their hands instead of their progeny. They’re not present.

When I was little I never read on the bus. I really wanted to but the mere idea of it made me feel guilty. As if I was rude for shutting out the rest of the world, for letting my mind escape.
I don’t feel guilty anymore. The book readers on public transport are few but every time I see a fellow reader I check out the title on the spine and make a mental note. But you don’t see many people read nowadays. We are a diminishing minority compared to the ever growing number of phone users. The times when I don’t have a book in my purse, I look out the window, or count phone users in my cart. They don’t mind, they don’t see me counting.

I wonder what people would do if you removed their phones for a day, a week, a month, a year. How long would it take for them to stop obsessing over what they think they’re missing, and how long for them to see what they have been missing all along? People are so scared of being bored nowadays that they forget that being bored is one of the most important conditions for breeding creativity. The break of boredom allows you to discover things and thoughts you didn’t know you had in you. You become aware of your surroundings.

If you have no medical urgencies or life or death situations that require you to have a phone on you, I dare you to try and leave the house without it. At least once a week for an hour or so. See what it feels like. If it is working for you, increase the time slot. What happens when you have to entertain yourself instead of relying on games or gossip on your phone? If might feel uncomfortable at first but I am one hundred percent convinced that when you step out of your comfort zone, that’s when you grow as a person.

 

I have had a few weeks of intense impatience, waiting for medical test results. This was one of those things that I could not hurry along with any action. But I took the challenge and let my impatience be what it was. I hid my phone and only used it when I had put it in my schedule. I didn’t hide in distractions, I created music and I wrote about what I was going through. I let the fear and anxiety flow out of me and turn into art.

My wait is over now and results are good. I feel lighter, not only from the medical test results but from having worked through the difficult parts instead of hiding them from myself. I cried a little, I grew a lot, and I was fully present doing so.

Patience is your capacity or willingness to endure something. Boredom is not a life threatening condition, trust me.

Persevere, and work on how to make yourself the best person you can be. Persist through the boredom and grow. Think for yourself and observe what is happening around you, right where you are. We are all better when we are present.

There were no buskers where I grew up. There were no street performances, no pop covers on the corner, no reggae in the park. I grew up on the country side in a village so small it hardly qualifies as one. The music I heard was played on the stereo or fell from my mother’s lips.
The first busker I saw was in a film they showed on the television. Nothing fancy, just a man playing his guitar as people tossed small change in his open guitar case that lay on the ground. I don’t remember the film, but I remember the busking, and it was glorious.
I didn’t see a real busker until I was about twenty and had moved to Scotland. Suddenly the buskers were everywhere. I have been singing in front of people my entire life but always in organised situations.

“Let’s go busking!” said my guitarist a few weeks ago. “I’ve never done it and I’ve always really wanted to.”
“That sounds like so much fun
” I replied. “I’ve always wanted to as well, but I’ve never done it.”

That last thing was a lie, but I didn’t mean to. I just didn’t remember at the moment.

Once, when I was a little girl somewhere between the age of seven and nine, I visited my friend who lived in town.
Town was this big and magical place where people lived in apartments instead of houses and where the children played in fenced-in areas filled with sand, instead of playing in the forest. It was an odd place with paved roads, litter, noise, and so many people. And no one said hello to anyone else – ever.

The adults were busy that day and paid us very little attention, so we went outside to the playground in search of something to do. After a short while my friend grew tired of the swings, she could use them whenever she wanted, for me they were an unimaginable luxury. She pushed her smudged, thick glasses higher up on her nose and poked with her sneakers at an empty chocolate bar wrapper that had flown into the sandbox.
“I wish we had some sweets”, she said.
After some mutual agreement over the tastiness of caramels, we remembered that if you wanted sweets, you had to have money. I didn’t have any money, I never needed it out in the forest.
My friend, though a full year younger than myself, was a bit more used to the workings of the world. She told me that people sometimes collected money for children in need at the local grocery store. Her logic was too strong for any possible reticence I could muster. For what were we but children in need?
We returned inside and took the biggest coffee mug we could find in the kitchen cupboards and attached a handwritten note saying “CHILDREN IN NEED” on it, and we were off.

The people milling past us at the checkout were not in the most generous mood and my friend had once more a brilliant idea.
“Why don’t you sing something to get them to notice us?”
Her idea was to attract their attention with my singing. They would definitely give a coin or two for our good cause, once they had a chance to notice the mug. So I sang. I sang every little song I got in my head and the result was better than we could have imagined. As the coins accumulated so did the dreams of chocolate and lollies.
I don’t remember who found us and snagged our dreams and money away but I remember being scolded for disappearing AND for committing something called “fraud”.

So, in a sense I didn’t lie to my guitarist. Fraud and busking are two very different things, although I really did feel like I was a child in need.

In a few weeks were taking the streets of the city. We have put together a long list of covers and we’ll avoid any false, or morally grey, advertisement. Nothing fancy, just two women singing, a guitar, and the open guitar case in front of us. It’ll be glorious.

Today was the National Day of Sweden that is a rather new concept as a national holiday. Not many people celebrate it but they’re still happy to have a little break from work in these early days of summer.
One thing that I can guarantee has happened today is that the de facto national anthem has been sung. The lyrics can be translated into something like this

Thou ancient, Thou free, Thou mountainous north
Thou quiet, Thou joyful beautiful!
I greet thee, loveliest land upon earth,
/:Thy sun, Thy sky, Thy climes green.:/

Thou thronest on memories of great olden days,
When honoured Thy name flew across the earth,
I know that Thou art and wilt remain what thou werest,
/:Yes, I want to live, I want to die in the North.:/
(translation from Wikipedia)

All in all a rather positive song that is unfortunately used in nationalistic circles as a statement of the patriotic superiority.
Although this is an important matter to discuss, I do not wish to argue with anyone today or become angered. All people, no matter their origin, are equal in my eyes. Xenophobia has no place in my world, except when playing scrabbles. Nobody choses where they’re born. We chose how we act.

I’m not a patriotic person. I am however proud to be Swedish. I’m proud that I grew up somewhere sheltered from war. Somewhere I was educated under equal conditions as a boy. A place where it is encouraged to be the unique individual you are, as long as you respect everyone else’s need to be the unique person they are. Respect and empathy was etched into my deepest core, and I’m grateful for being so lucky.
Sweden is incredibly beautiful, but it gets way too cold and dark in the winter and that’s not my cup of tea.

If someone asked me to sing the national anthem for them I would not hesitate. It is a positive song about a lovely country. But that’s not the reason I like it.

Let me take you back a good few years. It was the end of term celebration at my school. The summer holdays were just a few minutes away and my teacher had asked if I could round up the celebration by singing the national anthem for the school. I stood up and sang in front of the entire staff, every teacher, every student, all the families assembled. I was six years old and it was my first solo performance.

Every time I sing the national anthem I get struck by the realisation of how much has changed. How much I have developed as a singer, as a human. I thronest on the memories of those great olden days, but there are many more beautiful days in the future. If ever I doubt myself I think back to that little girl. The joy she got from standing there, singing her heart out to lyrics she couldn’t really understand but loving every second of it.

You’ve probably seen them on the internet, or in the glossy magazines in the waiting room.

  • How to get killer abs in thirty days.
  • How to become a better partner by doing these seven things.
  • How to lose weight by removing these ten foods from your diet.
  • How to become stress free in five easy steps.

The list of examples could go on.

We are constantly bombarded with messages and helpful tips and hidden advertisements. Given the promise to remove or improve whatever your heart could desire. You have read the lists and suggestions. Maybe you’ve bought the items required. Maybe you try the exercises for a few days but it doesn’t stick. You can’t figure out why. You have the recipe, so why isn’t it working?

I had been searching for so long for the how to get focused and working on the things I really wanted to and I never understood why it didn’t work.

What I wanted to do was write.
I didn’t have the tools I needed to get started, so I got the tools but it still didn’t work. Apparently writing doesn’t appear through osmosis no matter how much we want it to. I can stare at my screen all day but the words do not simply appear by sheer force of will.
I didn’t have the inspiration and when I did it lasted two minutes. I was distracted by my inner editor that rejected my ideas before they were even written down.
I didn’t have the time to do it. I was so busy, busy, busy doing things that I didn’t even like doing.

I made lists. Now don’t get me wrong, I love lists but that’s all I did.
I wrote lists on how to find inspiration. Lists of ideas for my project. Lists on how to find time to write. Lists of my supposed priorities. Lists on how to do this, and how to do that in many shapes or sizes.
There was still no progress on my project. Why?

And then it shifted.

All this time I had been searching for how to do this thing, when I basically knew how to. – Just write, one word after another, that’s how it’s done. There is no other way to write than doing the actual writing. You just do it.
The shift came when I changed my question. I stopped asking how to write and I started asking why I wanted to write.

Motivation can only work through the why, not the how. When we truly figure out why we want to – write that book, lose the weight, quit our job, make our relationships work – that’s when we see what’s at stake.
If I don’t make my relationship work, I will lose that person or be unhappy in the relationship we are sharing.
If I don’t take care of my weight problems my health will suffer even more than it already is. If my health suffers I won’t live as long or as well as I could, and I won’t be able to experience the wonders that the future holds.

I am simplifying big problems, I know. But at the same time, I’m not.

Why do I want to write?
Because I have this world inside me filled with stories and people and impossible things. I have this gift of curiosity to see where my imagination takes me. I have these urges to share and be vulnerable, to expose a part of my soul so that my reader can discover something inside themselves through my words. I have a need for an emotional outlet that can make me breathe, and feel, and let go. I write because I love the immediate emotional response I get from creating.
I write because you are reading, and I thank you for that.

It is simple – but not easy.
How do I find motivation in one simple step?
I ask why, not how, and I believe that I deserve all good that comes out of it.

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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