Tag Archives: inspiration

Svensken, indiern, australiern och Bellman.

Nä, okej då. Den sista var inte Bellman, utan Blomdahl. De andra tre satt vid bordet intill mitt på Mahogny Coffee Bar idag. Indiern var nog i min ålder, medan de övriga såg ut att närma sig pensionsåldern, och alla tre var gissningsvis professorer på utflykt från Chalmers. Som reklamare är jag svältfödd på tvättäkta akademiker i min vardag, så jag kunde inte låta bli att lyssna roat på deras konversation.

Svensken öppnade fikastunden med att förklara för sina kollegor att ”this is apparently what you might call a ”hipster” place. Not that I know what a hipster is exactly, but I think it’s sort of like the guy behind the counter.” De skrattade alla hjärtligt, men lågmält. Jag fnissade såklart inombords.

Sedan pratade de om matematiska ”theorems” och något de kallade ”snips”. Jag såg väl ut att vara djupt försjunken i mitt arbete, men satt i själva verket och googlade fram single-nucleotide polymorphisms, som förkortas SNPs och uttalas snips. Svensken, som var den mest pratsamma i sällskapet, berättade också en historia som fascinerade mig.

Han hade en gång rekryterat doktorander och fått en ansökan som stack ut i mängden. Det var en man med en katastrofal studiehistorik, både i grundskolan och gymnasiet. Men som vuxen fick han smak för utbildning och tog igen det han missat, för att sedan fortsätta med högskolestudier.

Mannen, som nu närmade sig 30, började studera matematik, men stötte återigen på stora motgångar. Han gav dock inte upp i första taget, men underkändes gång på gång. Till slut bytte han spår och läste en termin teoretisk filosofi. Då! Plötsligt var det något som föll på plats för honom, han återupptog mattestudierna och fick i fortsättningen bara toppbetyg.

Jag uppfattade inte resten av berättelsen, eftersom det jag hört satte igång tankar hos mig själv. Mannen var ju ett imponerande exempel på envishet och uthållighet, men hans akademiska ”karriär” visade också två intressanta saker.

För det första: Hur olika faktorer kan påverka varandra helt oväntat. Den här mannen bar uppenbarligen på en stor potential för matematik, en potential som dock förblev helt låst ända tills han bytte spår och då hittade en oväntad väg in i den tidigare obegripliga matematiken. Heureka!

För det andra: Hur en människa faktiskt förändras genom livet. Mannen i berättelsen hade av okänd anledning inte klarat av studierna i grundskolan och gymnasiet. Kanske var undervisningsformerna bara helt i disharmoni med hans behov. Kanske var hans drivkrafter och intressen inte i synk med den gängse perioden för svensk skolgång. Kanske båda, eller något helt annat. Jag har ingen aning. Men uppenbarligen kunde han i vuxen ålder se, pröva och upptäcka sin potential.

Det finns många anledningar att ta med datorn till ett kafé och arbeta några timmar bland främlingar. Den här berättelsen är en sådan anledning.

Nr 27/100

Vem är Alice?

“I’ve learned not to worry about love, but to honor its coming with all my heart. To examine the dark mysteries of the blood with headless heed and swirl, to know the rush of feelings, swift and flowing as water. The new face I turn up to you, no one else on earth has ever seen.”

Orden är Alice Walkers. För några månader sedan visste jag inte vem hon var, fastän jag hade sett den världsberömda, Oscarsbelönade, Spielberg-regisserade filmen baserad på hennes mest kända roman: The Color Purple. Purpurfärgen.

För några månader sedan råkade jag se en dokumentär om henne och insåg då att hon är så mycket mer än författaren till Pulitzer-prisbelönta Purpurfärgen. Det var då jag skrev ner det där citatet, som gick rakt in i hjärtat på mig.

Hon var yngst av åtta barn i en fattig, afroamerikansk familj i Georgia, och växte upp under en tid där slaveriet fortfarande kastade långa skuggor över den amerikanska södern. Rasismen var inte bara norm, utan lagstadgad. Alice Walker var 11 år när Rosa Parks gjorde sin berömda bussresa och medborgarrättsrörelsen föddes.

Mot alla odds arbetade hon sig till framgång, i high school, vid universitetet och som författare. Dessutom verkar hon vara en fascinerande person med stark integritet.

Jag kan inte berätta allt om henne här. Dels blir det ett alltför långt inlägg, dels vet jag inte tillräckligt. Så jag avslutar med ytterligare ett Alice Walker-citat ur filmen:

“I left formal religion when I was thirteen, in favor of the forest. I would spend every Sunday reveling in the glory of nature. The trees and the flowers, the sun and the wind and the rain storms. You know, this is the only heaven I care for. If there’s another one, go. Just leave me here. Mhm.”

Nr 26/100

När ska de avslöja mig?

Tredje arbetsveckan som pånyttfödd frilansare har passerat. Den har varit händelserik. Efter de 14 första, ganska lugna dagarna har jag den här veckan startat upp fyra nya projekt, varav två med helt nya uppdragsgivare. Det är en mäktig känsla att jobba med något man tycker om, att vara sin egen chef, och att lyckas med det.

Såvitt jag vet har de flesta någon gång frågat sig själva ”när ska de avslöja mig?”. Det har jag själv gjort många gånger, ända sedan studietiden. Jag tror inte att frågan nödvändigtvis kommer av bristande självförtroende. Den kan helt enkelt vara ett uttryck för den svindlande känslan när vi slås av våra egna framsteg, i form av alltmer avancerade uppgifter och växande förtroende från andra människor.

Men det var väldigt längesedan jag tänkte så. Och fastän jag nu känner efter extra noga, så kan jag inte hitta den där frågan inom mig längre. Jag tycker faktiskt att jag är värd det förtroende och de framgångar jag uppnått. Inte för att jag tror mig vara perfekt. Jag är väl medveten om mina svagheter. Och det kommer alltid finnas utrymme för mina styrkor att växa sig ännu starkare. Men ”avslöja”? Nä, den nojan verkar tillhöra mitt förflutna.

Nr 20/100

“Just be yourself!”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this advice, spoken both to myself and to others. Sometimes they’re uttered as general words of wisdom directed at anyone who’ll listen. Although well-meaning and true, I find this advice totally useless.

Before one can be oneself one needs to figure out what that is. Who that is. Who do I want to be? When do I feel like MYSELF? I didn’t figure this out until after 30. Then, once I realized I finally knew and felt at home in myself, the advice became redundant. When one truly knows and feels at home in oneself, how could one possibly BE anyone else?

When I talked about this on Twitter a while ago, my friend Joachim objected:

– What if one is not one, but two?

­– Split personality? I asked, jokingly.

– Rather that you walk around thinking you’re one, but others see someone else, he answered.

Distracted by work, I promised him to answer later, in a more spacious format than the 140-character tidbits of Twitter.

Yes Joachim, “who I am” will always be in the eye of the beholder, to some extent. And “who I am” will always evolve through my interactions with the people around me. The ones I love and admire as well as the ones I dislike or simply disagree with.

I am not an island. I learn from others and with others. But they are not the boss of me. If I let other people’s perception and opinion of me take over, then what will I become? An insecure shell, constantly seeking to be filled by the approval of others. An existence without life. I have been there, and I never want to go back. I can’t go back.

At the core I will always be me, even as I keep growing and changing throughout life. It’s not about thinking I’m immune to the influence of other people, or that their perception of me doesn’t matter. “Being myself” is about trusting my inner compass. It’s about self-esteem and integrity.

Or as Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently put it:

”It’s your life — but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.”

Why do I run?

Because I can. Because my feet and legs still move me forward. Because my heart pumps blood through my muscles. Because my lungs keep expanding and contracting, just as they should. Well, at least one of them.

I was 13 when my father took me running the first time. We ran down the hill from our white mexi brick house, across the big road, and down to the sea. Along the beach, through pinetree groves and back up again, following dirt roads, passing old, quiet houses and the occasional evening wanderer.

Now and then, I had to stop to catch my breath and walk. At the end of the run I could taste blood in my mouth. I was beat. My dad went for a second lap.

I was not an athletic child. I had grown quickly and reached puberty early. My body was my enemy. I was an artist, a singer, a reader and a dreamer. Somehow, in spite of everything, I became a runner.

I had tried dancing, riding, tennis and soccer. Unfortunately, they all involved other kids. I was afraid of other kids. When I found running, it was a perfect match. Not because of my speed or endurance, obviously, but because I could do it alone, when I wanted, where I wanted. No choreography, no big animal, no ball. No kids. Just one foot in front of the other.

Since then, there have been periods without running in my life. But I always come back. And every time it blows me away how good it makes me feel. Physically and mentally. It makes me stronger and more self-confident. It helps ease depressions and anxiety.

Almost six years ago, my right lung popped and collapsed. No reason whatsoever. I was getting ready to go to work in the morning, when I felt something snap next to my sternum, like a small muscle rupture. It got harder and harder to breathe, and my whole chest cramped. Unfortunately, ignoring it did not make it go away, so I finally called a cab and went to the hospital.

I remember crying and thinking “I have a heart attack and I am going to die. Why now?! When I finally enjoy being alive.”

(I thought I was dying, but I didn’t call for an ambulance. Oh no, miss self-sufficient took a goddamn cab. Go figure.)

Ten months later I knew that my predicament was called spontaneous pneumothorax. By then, my lung had popped and collapsed several times, and it was decided I should have surgery.

“You have a very healthy-looking lung”, the surgeon complimented me afterwards. Apart from the whole popping and collapsing business, I guess…

In very unorthodox and brief words, he had cut off the damaged corner of my malfunctioning lung, “stapled” the hole shut, and “glued” the lung to the inside of my chest. I was happy, high on morphine and thrilled to get rid of my lung problem. Until it happened again, while I was still healing. This time it tore right at the bottom, towards the diaphragm, where the lung was “unattached”.

Apparently, this was not unusual. So they just left it to heal on its own. At least the lung could no longer collapse, since it was now held up by my rib cage.

I got back to work and eventually started running again, encouraged by my surgeon. Staying active would be good for me and my lung. But I kept having problems for years. My impatience made me too ambitious, to soon. Last time it popped was after an evening run along the Las Canteras boardwalk in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. I could feel the familiar tightness in my chest and had to walk the last kilometer back to my hotel. Next morning, there it was again. That bubbling, rustling sensation inside my chest, at every breath.

I gave up. Thought I would never run again. Started taking yoga classes. And I found myself gradually breathing better, deeper, gaining a new kind of body consciousness. When I finally dared to try running again, I was taking no risks. I decided to run short distances, slowly. If my chest tightened or felt heavy, I would pause to stretch my upper body, and breathe, deeply and slowly. I was patient.

For a while, my stamina got even worse, but I carried on. All that mattered was that I got out there and did a few kilometers. If nothing else, the air and the monotonous movement soothed the depression I was in. And I was relieved and thankful to be running at all.

Both my depression and my lousy endurance turned out to be caused (partially) by anemia. And when my blood count got back to normal again, so did my running. I had been able to keep my lung intact for fourteen months and now there was an oxygen party in my veins. This was the summer of 2012.

Today, I run more than ever. Call me crazy, but I’m training for an ultra marathon in June. I am going to run 53 kilometers! My longest run so far is 23.5 kilometers, and the only race I’ve participated in was a 10K a few years back. I’m a lone runner, remember? Races never appealed to me, until last summer, when I heard about Tjejmarathon.

It was started last year by Madeleine Johansson and Ann-Sofie Forsmark, as a marathon for women. But rather than making it shorter than the regular marathon, like women’s races usually are, they decided to make it longer. Because why should a women’s race be shorter? When I heard about it on the radio, I had just read Christopher McDougall’s “Born to run”, and my love for running was back with a vengeance.

I’ve also signed up for a half-marathon in May. Let’s call it a warm-up. I’m not fast. Never have been. But I’m thinking I might have what it takes to run long. My only goal is to keep going, because I never want to stop. I just love running, and I’m thankful for every step.

I can run. So I run.

Why do you run? Or why don’t you?

The color of 2013.

Part of me wanted to go black. Because it really is my favorite color, and I don’t care what people say – black is not boring. It’s beautiful.

But another part of me wanted a bright and energetic color. One that fits the health and the lust for life that I regained in 2012.

That year started with a decision to escape my growing exhaustion and depression. To find a way back up. So, for my 2012 diary I chose the color beige. A “soothing and permissive non-color” that promised me “no more drama”. And I started moving in the right direction:

1) I was kind to myself.

2) I made professional choices that would minimize anxiety and maximize stability. True, I was lucky to be able to work at all. Working kept me afloat. It gave me a reason to get up in the morning and keep moving forward.

3) I was open and honest about my depression. I shared it with my family and my friends, naturally, but also with co-workers and with my social media networks. Not primarily to get help and support (although I appreciated it). It was more like…“This is me. Right now I feel like shit and it might make me difficult to be around for a while. But I’m working my way back up, so just bear with me, ok?”

4) I prioritized work, food, exercise and sleep, while minimizing my social life. People exhausted me. Even close friends and family. This might seem harsh and ungrateful, but it was just a matter of surviving until I got my health back. Now that I’m “back”, I am filled with love and gratitude towards the people who stood by me.

5) I sought professional help. The psychologist agreed the problem did not seem to be “in my head”, and the doctor concluded I had anemia and hypothyroidism. Eventually, I was also prescribed an anti-depressant, which I am still taking.

The results were mindblowing. I got my life back. Colors are brighter, contours sharper. I’m still no superwoman, but compared to one year ago, I feel super. I still hate getting up in the morning, but I no longer fall asleep sitting at my kitchen table at 7 p.m. I’m still miserable when it comes to basic everyday logistics, but it no longer turns me into a sobbing pile of misery on the floor.

I embrace 2013, with a smile and a…(drumroll)…red diary. Not dark, blood red like in 2010, the year of passion and risk-taking. A brighter, lighter red, that stands for energy, joy and generosity. Red for following my heart, loving without fear and taking center stage. Red like my face will be after I’ve run 53K on the 29th of June.

Bild

Liquidation.

I’ve started cleaning out old stuff. The storage spaces in the attic and the basement are full, and my apartment is a mess. Dresser drawers that haven’t been opened in over a year. Binders with old papers that I’ve filed for no obvious reason. Phone bills, electricity bills, bank statements from years back.

The space under my bed has gradually turned into a storage room. There are tools and extension cords. More piles of paper. Two porcelain dogs that used to belong to my grandmother. A shoe box with old mix tapes, Nirvana’s Nevermind album and recordings from our show in Normal, Illinois, in 1995. A wooden box containing tubes of oil paints and paintbrushes, some of them completely dried up. My old palette, still smeared with the paint from my last project, many years ago.

Why am I saving all this shit? For whom? Am I anticipating the future archaeological excavation of the future ruins of the house that I live in? As if my old bank statements, outdated garments and scribbled notes from university lectures in the late 90’s will tell someone something about me. As if someone will care.

Come Sunday night, I’m far from done, even though I’ve spent most of the weekend going through stuff. Sorting it into boxes and binders (too much), throwing it out (not nearly enough). Before calling it a day, I go to the recycling station with two big paper bags. Through the damp, dark January evening, down the hill, past the day-care center and the playground. Near the tall, yellow-brick block where I lived with my ex-boyfriend ten years ago.

Then it hits me, like a train, and I stop walking.

There will be nobody there after I’m gone. Nobody will wonder what my life was like before they were born. Nobody will want to play dress-up in my old clothes. Nobody will inherit my dark eyebrows, crooked smile or theatrical gestures. Nobody will seek their roots in the memory of me.

I am going to need a moving van.

The color of 2012.

No more drama.

That was my thought when I first laid eyes on my 2012 diary in the store. I had been looking for the right one for a while, and almost missed it, hidden from view on the bottom shelf. The color wasn’t exactly an eye-catcher either. But it was surprisingly right.

If you have followed my stories from the start, you know that I’ve made a habit of choosing a diary of a color that will set the tone for my year to come. Two years ago, I chose red, and embarked on a risky, passionate and exciting journey (read the color of 2010). For 2011, I decided to go with shocking pink. Still hot, bright and daring. But more fun and less masochistic (read the color of 2011). That plan didn’t work out quite the way I wanted.

My “dark passenger” from the past has come back to weigh me down, in spite of it all. Professionally, physically and socially, 2011 has been a successful year. My business has taken off. I have fallen in love with yoga and managed to find a running regime that doesn’t tear a hole in my lung (8 months and counting…knock on wood). I have thoroughly enjoyed new and old friendships. Emotionally, however, it’s been tough. Anxiety attacks are back, and I have found myself, once again, falling into those deep black holes where neither joy nor hope exists. This backlash has to be stopped before it gets worse. I can do it. I will do it.

Which brings me back to that special color. I had been thinking I wanted to stick with pink or go back to red. Mainly for the sake of love, the mystery that still eludes me. So I was surprised, even a bit disappointed, to find myself falling for…well, beige. Or sand, latte, tan; whatever you prefer to call this:

 

 

 

Anyway, this is it. The color of 2012 is beige. A soothing and permissive non-color for my rebellious pink mind and passionate red heart to land on. Beige like the beaches in Kerala where I will be spending the last two weeks of February.

Beige for no more drama.

The color of 2011

I started Flowervalley Stories exactly one year ago. (True, posting has dwindled to a halt lately. But that’s another story.) My first post was about the year to come. About envisioning the character of 2010, through my choice of a new diary.*

You see, I believe we need rituals and symbols. As I once wrote, “I have no god, no religion”, but I have a strong belief in the power of love and the human mind. So I choose and create my own rituals and symbols. And for me, picking out a new diary towards the end of a year is a symbolic act of closure and evaluation, of vision and new beginnings.

Last year’s color was red. “Red for passion, courage, sex and fire. Red for love.” I could have added red for pain. Don’t get me wrong, I have no self-pity. I believe this stage was necessary in order to move forward. To break old, safe habits. To start saying yes. Taking risks. Exposing my true self. Sacrificing some to win more. This new habit of mine has been both painful and rewarding. And I’m ready to move on.

So, yesterday I bought a pink diary. Shocking pink, in the words of the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. I discovered her creative genius and inspiring attitude at the Musée de la mode et du textile in Paris, in 2004. Schiaparelli was a strong woman with a mind of her own. She challenged old aesthetic truths, experimented with fabrics, patterns and shapes, and was at least as much of an artist as a fashion designer.

I challenge the general image of success and happiness. Experiment with myself, both on a professional and on a personal level. In 2010, I quit my job and started my own business in order to start exploring my creative and intellectual needs and potential. I entered into a number of relationships which were all doomed from the very start, in order to acknowledge myself as a sexual being.

And on that note, I even challenge the division between professional and personal. Is it possible to be always professional, always personal? I think so, and I will continue to test that hypothesis next year. Like Schiaparelli, I want both worlds. I want to add value to the business and brands of my customers. But I also want artistic, intellectual and emotional growth for myself and for people around me.

The color of 2011 is shocking pink. Pink for creativity, kindness, curiosity and fearless energy. Pink for love.

*You can read “The color of 2010” here, if you wish.

Worthwhile

”Six years wasted. Six years for nothing.” That’s what he said when I left him.

I was 29, panicking over where my life was heading. Whether I wanted to stay in the backseat of someone else’s car, or get in the driver’s seat of my own, finally. He was 27, ready to start a family. For him, our six years together had been an investment in the future. I erased that future with six words.

”Six years wasted. Six years for nothing.” These are among the most significant phrases in my life. They will always stay with me. Reminding me to treasure every day. Even the bad ones. Nothing is wasted. You will always have something to show for the love you spend. If only a scar, reminding you to spend it more wisely next time.

I hope, dear Martin, that you have come to realize this too. Finally.