Nov 27, 2016

To be a -56 (or being one of the -56s)

There are the very distinct terms. The Baby Boomers. Generation X. The Millennials. Generations having their significant features. Then there is the crowd born in the Fifties. And they are like…nobody. Anonymous. No features at all. I am one of them.

Friday evening I was watching the 60 year anniversary of television in Sweden. We were born the same year, Swedish national television and I, in 1956. It was a great show. Fun. Dramatic history. Warm. Nostalgic of course. It was like watching my own life pass in review. So familiar. Close. Emotional.

There have been more anniversary shows this year. Because although the Fifty-generation generally is perceived as pale, there are exceptions. And in Sweden they happened to be born in 1956.

The -56s. That’s the term they go by. And they were all, except one, athletes. Internationally very successful, still some names might not ring a bell to you unless you had a special interest. To Swedes though, they are icons. So let me just list them. Frank Andersson, wrestler. Linda Haglund, sprinter. Tomas Wassberg cross-country skier. Ingemar Stenmark, downhill skier. Björn Borg, tennis player. And then of course Ted Gärdestad, composer and singer who left a much loved treasure of Swedish pop ballads for us to adore and pass down when he died much to soon.

Well, Björn Borg I know is still an icon to more than Swedes of course. And Seattle, you might remember Ingemar Stenmark as he was competing with the Mare brothers.

So, 2016 I have been watching all these shows of the iconic -56s. And it’s like I am watching myself. Especially Ingemar Stenmark who grew up in the mountains of my region. Who talks with the same dialect and is shy and self cautious as northern Swedes in general are. Who made all of us hit the slopes. But “watching myself” is more about watching my own story. Feeling myself through the familiar footage. Sensing who I were. The people around me. My life. I actually think it is really good therapy at the 60 year turn.

I am also realizing how much I am identifying myself with the -56s. Or, is it even that I am defined by them? In what degree do they have something to do with the fact that I have through my life expected myself to be a success? I can’t specify an area or a topic, but at some point I would be successful and in some way recognized. Is it that if you are born 1956 you would be destined to succeed? Anyone else born this legendary year who can relate to this? Well, it might rather be my mother’s grand plans for me. Or a combination.

Anyway. People born in Sweden during the Fifties don’t have a name or a special characteristics. We are pale, bleak, anonymous and forgotten. Except for six outstanding persons born in 1956, giving us unforgettable memories and experiences and making our lives visible. I happened to come to this world the very same year. I think all of us born that year feel a little bit like one of the -56s. Freeloading in the sun of those iconic legends. And my own success? Well, there is still time…

Nov 20, 2016

A 95-year birthday and a 4 year anniversary

It is lighting up the November dark outside my balcony window. An hommage to my dad. He used to decorate the railing of the back porch in my childhood home. Twisting pine twigs with lights around the railing at Christmas time. Light wires weren’t common in Sweden when I grew up and I don’t where he had found this. But the more rare and beautiful it was. I remember being proud about our special back porch and my father’s skills. Pottering was unusual for a man.

This summer I finally fixed a power outlet on my balcony with the only purpose of making my balcony railing as beautiful as my dad’s. I need to be practical though. Although I am surrounded by pine trees it’s too hard for me to cut the twigs and make them stick to the railing. So I bought a package of fake twigs and lights-combo at a cheap store. It really looks nice though this hommage to my father and it makes me feel like he is here with me.

Today would have been my dad’s 95 year-birthday. He passed away though, the day after his 83rd. I miss him everyday.

A different anniversary happened on Thursday. Marking four years since my back crashed and I started needing help in my everyday life.

As much as my dad left too soon and as much as I miss him I am often thinking it was a blessing he didn’t have to see his daughter in this situation. My back problems started more than 30 years ago and I know it was painful to him seeing me suffer. And needing to ask for help with all those things he taught me. Changing the tires, attaching a shelf to the wall, saw wood, painting the front porch. Well, that was long ago, now I need help with the most basic things.

The most important for a Swede is to fend. It is deep down in our culture. To not be a burden to anyone, not to other people and not to the society. Although the welfare state is (or has been) the Swedish soul, asking for help when you are weak and vulnerable is a failure. It’s the receipt for that we are in fact weak and vulnerable. 

We are not thinking twice about payed parental leave, child benefit, payed sick leave and state student grants, they are as natural as rain to us and I would say we are perceiving them more like human rights. But to apply for the help we are entitled to when we are becoming at age is to surrender to fragility. Giving in to that our life is over in the western way of perceiving it. It’s the proof of us not fending. 

My mother was sickly for many years at the end of her life and my father took care of her. He did not want people in the house doing the cleaning and helping out with food and grocery shopping. He wanted to fend. 

It is also a matter of dignity of course. It is an art form keeping your dignity while needing help from others. I am sure my father would have performed that art well if he had surrendered to it. But to watch his daughter surrendering at the young age of 56 I think would have broke his heart.

The first two weeks of November came with snow and my pine/light wire looked like Christmas, just like my father’s. It’s gone now, the rains are falling in the deep dark. But the lights are helping. On the 95-year birthday.

Nov 13, 2016

A soft-boiled egg without a shell looking even more forward to the first female president

Alyson Camerota and Chris Cuomo are staring right at me. They are dead serious. Announcing Donald Trump is elected the 45th president of the U.S.A.

My plan was to stay up during the night, but I was down in fever and a cold and couldn’t do it. I dragged myself out of bed in the late morning and onto the couch. Put the TV on. CNN. Met by my usually energetic midday anchors. Not a smile on their face. Donald Trump is the new president-elect.

I felt like when I was watching the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. My body went into a cramp. This couldn’t be true. This is not happening. But like with the planes and the towers they ran it over and over again. Breaking news. The banner. I read it. Over and over again. And again. I cried.

The last few days I have been extremely tired. Like zombie tired. It’s the cold of course, but I am beginning to think I am having a mild PTSD light, hopefully transitory. 

I know what a shock is. I have had a few. So I don’t use the word carelessly. But there on my couch I was registering the feeling of a mild shock.

I think the fact that my companions for the occasion and the day, Alyson and Chris, clearly were as horrified and stunned as I was, enhanced the feeling. We were in this together. As all the commentators and experts in the studio that day.

For three days I kept CNN on morning to lights out. I watched Hillary Clinton’s succession speech momentarily. I saw the motorcade ride for the White House with the new president-elect while it happened. I heard every reporter and expert comment during the 1,5 hours the two presidents had their first meeting in the Oval Office. I watched the photo shoot at the end of it. President Obama relaxed (as relaxed as he could be in that situation) on his turf. And Donald Trump looking pretty small and his man-spread interestingly narrow compared to Obama’s. I watched all this to be present in the moment. That’s my way of processing. And it comes with experiencing intensely.

Switching over to Swedish National Television at the end of the third evening I discovered something odd. I felt slightly uncomfortable. A little bit of anxiety out of the slower tempo and the softer voices. Abstinence. I resisted the reflex zapping back to the high energy that’s been feeding me for three days. And in a while my breathing deepened. My pulse slowed down. I felt like I landed in Umeå after sitting in Seattle traffic for some weeks.

Then the fatigue. And a feeling of being in limbo. Part of it fear and uncertainty of what this planet will turn to with the boy brought up to be a killer never admitting he is wrong at the helm of “the free world”. Part of it because I don’t really know where I am at.

Three days experiencing and processing the frightening change of history with Alyson, Chris, Wolf Blitz and the breaking breaking news has transferred me to the U.S. My mind is there. Although my body is here. I feel like I am sitting in a tiny wooden boat without ores, drifting on the open sea. Balancing tide and waves. And myself. The trick is to just sit there. Follow the movements of the water. 

Here on my couch I feel a strong need for silence. It’s like those three CNN-days are still ringing in my ears. Shouting. And the message of it. Too much input. I need that silence and listening to myself to move back here. Touch ground. It’s hard though, since every day will be dramatic in this political shift and the temptation being present in that first hand information via American media will be strong.

The shocking fact that Donald Trump will be the next American president and the experience of the election has left me vulnerable. I am a soft-boiled egg without a shell. But I will try to stabilize myself with a positive future scenario. The fact that it didn’t come to a third Democratic term (which would have been historic) makes it possible for them to return in four years. And the fact that Hillary Clinton didn’t win makes the opening for a different woman to do so, which would not else be possible in a mans-age. 

So, let’s look at Donald Trump as a bump in the road. I know, he is a big pump. And a dangerous one. One who can throw the whole carriage over. But more Americans wanted something different than Donald Trump in this election. And in 2020 it will be Elizabeth Warren or Michelle Obama. I am looking forward.

Nov 6, 2016

The secretive girl seeking her father’s validation and the boy brought up being a killer who is never wrong

It is the last Sunday before the election for the next president of the USA. I want to write about it. I need to write about it. But in what sense? I am keeping the by nature loud CNN on while a quite snow is falling over my fields as a soft backdrop.

An American president election is as important for the world as for the U.S. That’s one reason to why we are so obsessed by it over here. Another reason is of course that it’s good entertainment. This time around good isn’t the correct word even, great would be more proper. I would say frightening though. As this is not a well written TV series. This is a reality show which is not only about being the most malicious one on the set, but who will be, as it’s called, the leader of the free world.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Neither one of them generally perceived as really sympathetic persons. A man and a woman of mature age. Once they were a little girl and a little boy. And as different as they are from each other, they have one thing in common.

The girl Hillary and the boy Donald both grew up with harsh and demanding fathers, even cruel. No matter what Hillary did, however a straight A student she was, her father responded “Did you get all A:s, then the bar in your school has to be set too low.” In addition to that he was mean, and abusive to her mother.

Young Donald was sent by his stern father to the New York Military Academy at the age of 13, spending his school years boarded in the grimmest educational environment the father knew of. Finding the severe discipline he exercised on his son wasn’t enough and believing a military structure would provide the best setting to shape him in the right direction.

The two young students became extreme achievers. Due to the constant fights in the girls home, her room became her refuge. She closed her ears the best she could and developed a talent for secrecy, concealment and inscrutability.

The boy became a young man within a military environment along only boys and learned about women through Playboy magazine. His father used the expression “a killer” for the personality he wanted from his son. In addition, he was taught to never admit any kind of wrong doings. One could say the boy learned well and his father should be very proud.

I am watching Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton flickering by on my TV screen. A woman who probably all her life has been looking for her father’s approval in everything she does. Longing for validation filling that hole he created in her. And a man who is the perfect product of his father’s pursuing.

The two candidates for president of the USA. The most powerful position in the world. A girl prone for inscrutability seeking her father’s validation. And a boy who is never wrong and brought up to be a killer.

I wonder if there are any parents not messing up their children. I think it’s inevitable. Fortunately most messed up children (that is all of us) are a problem only to themselves and their closest neighborhood. Not to the entire globe. So, in this particular case I would vote for the secretive girl seeking her father’s validation. Not for the killer who is never wrong.