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ME AND SWEDEN. Part 2.


Part 2: Spring. Malmö April 2023.

 

A small piece of public diary - with a poem at the end

 

Maybe you ended up here through a link from Facebook or Instagram, or maybe we know each other personally or maybe you're just like me, a Swedish expat living in Germany or somewhere else in the world. Here on my blog I sometimes write in Swedish (and englisch) and in Swedish I write about what it is like to be Swedish in Germany, about my longing for the sea, the constant feeling of not belonging, my creativity and my work: the theatre. That is the actual theme of this website. My work as an actress, performer, director, "theatre manager" etc. In short: my life.

 

My life is my work, my work is my life. And this became especially clear during the pandemic.

So I want to write about that.

 

I've been journaling all my life, and last year I decided it was time to post some texts here.

 

8.04.2023.

SPRING. SUN. SEA. PAIN.


Here I am sitting in a small apartment in my hometown  Malmö, near the sea that I call "mein Heimatwasser" (meaning: the water where I was born or where I grew up): Ribersborg Strand.

Here I am sitting in my friend's apartment and writing about what it is like to be Swedish and living abroad. About what it's like to be a theater person in a post-pandemic time in Germany. About what it's like to feel like a foreigner in your own hometown when you're visiting. And about how I struggle with the warming rays of the spring sun.

 

It's easter and spring is here, the sun is shining and the sea is shining bright blue - this sea that I love and miss so much when I'm in Germany.

The sun warms my face and body and the beach is full of sun-thirsty people. I am exhausted and tired after three long years of constant work (Read about it here: LINK). And the sun, which should make me happy and warm and relaxed, has, as so often in the past, the opposite effect on me. It hurts. Inside. In the soul.



When buds burst

And I think of Karin Boye's poem "Of course it hurts when buds burst”. Most of us may know the poem as "When buds burst” ( in swedish  ”när knoppas brister)., I see online that there are now translations in all sorts of languages and explanations of what this poem is about:

 

"The poem is about change and the pain we feel in the face of it. About how difficult it is to dare to blossom into all the greatness that every human being possesses.” Says Mother Google.


"Of course it hurts when buds burst.

Otherwise why would spring hesitate?"

 

I often thought of this poem in the spring when I felt depressed and wondered why I didn't like the rays of the sun and why I couln't just enjoy it, like other "normal people" do.

My interpretation of the poem is twofold. On the one hand, the above mentioned pain when something changes, a pain that is certainly born from the outside, from something in the external life that happened. But which can also come creeping in without external impulses. An inner sense of change, closely followed by fear and anxiety before it happens, it hurts to change, even when it is positive. And sometimes you can't find words for it, but Karin Boye did.

I also interpret the poem more literally: the physical experience of spring, something that comes from outside: the sun that warms. And it often triggers a whole lot of emotions and thoughts in me. I then think:

Now it's spring and I should be happy and relieved that the darkness of winter has left us, that the sun is here and we can wear less clothes and be outside more. We can be social and have fun with friends and family. Go out cycling and walking and have a picnic together. And when it gets really hot, we can swim and lie on the beach. But instead of being happy about it, I get stressed out by the sun.


There is so much you have to and should do then. And above all, you should be happy. You should drop everything you have and just suddenly have a lot of time to be outside. Why am I not relieved like everyone else? Because I work so much. Because I love my job. I can't take in that change so quickly, I can't just drop everything and be happy and sunny and have time off. I have to work. And I do it even if I'm on vacation. I choose to be alone and sit and write instead of spending time with people. Why? Because so much has changed in the last three years. I need time to think, I have to digest it, take it in, evaluate, write.

 

Leave me alone, sun. I want rain and calm. The rain calms and refreshes. Give me rain, please.


Ribersborg, Malmö, April 2023


"What is this new thing, which consumes and bursts?“ 

 

Karin Boye's poem comforts me in some way and I think there are probably many who feel that way, who also feel pain before spring and its changes, and for changes in general. For me it often gets worse in the spring. When nature around me changes and I can't keep up. And for the last 3 years, every spring there is a reminder of another great pain in my (and many others') life:

 

The anniversary of the start of the pandemic. 16.03.2020.

 

This pandemic that forever changed my life. And I don't really know how to explain it to you, dear Swedish friend, family, reader, You had a completely different pandemic than what we had in Germany and in the rest of the world. And I understand if you're tired of talking about it. That's why I'm writing here, to those who can bear to read.

 

Thanks for reading all the way here. I'm almost done, I think. Perhaps. Just a little more.

 

Maybe my spring depression is because I'm Swedish, maybe it's because we Swedes yearn so badly for the sunlight in the spring and for some of us it's just too much?

 

Is there a special form of Swedish depression? I will google that and then write a text about it as well. Which fits my project "Sad girls and dancing mania".  https://www.ylvajangsell.de/sad-girls-and-dancing-mania


Well, now I'm losing the thread again.



Germany, February 2023



Slowly crawling 

I'm on all fours and slowly crawling out of the grip of the pandemic, I'm about to get up now. Of course, we now live almost completely without restrictions in Germany, yes, of course, only certain rules remain: facemasks in hospitals and in retirement homes are still required. After three years of partly hard, partly so-called light restrictions (well, other countries like China, Italy and Spain had it worse than us) the pandemic is declared to be over in Germany at the beginning of April 2023. Only then were the last restrictions lifted. For example, we wore facemasks for almost three years and I could write about how crazy Sweden's attitude towards wearing facemasks seemed from here, how absurd it was that the whole world used facemasks and delivered proof that it helped and worked. And Sweden continued to stick to old studies that claimed that face masks did not help. Sweden, which is usually so fast and efficient and ahead of Germany in so much.

 

I was surprised at how slowly things went in Sweden, when it came to the pandemic. And here in Germany I was constantly asked what I thought of Sweden's way of handling the pandemic, people wanted to move to Sweden to avoid the restrictions. And they wondered why I didn't want it. I was not in Sweden for two years and eight months. Between January 2020 and August 2022 I did not go to Sweden. It's the longest break I've had since I moved to Germany 20 years ago.

 

It was not forbidden for me as a Swede to go to Sweden during the pandemic, but I did not go there. Of different reasons. I was happy to live in Germany. I still am. After so many years in "abroad" (which is now my home) I unfortunately feel like a foreigner in my own hometown. I notice that especially now this time when I'm here. How much I am disturbed by both one and the other. For example, that you cannot pay with cash, that you must have an app and pay online to be able to take a bus, that you must be "connected" all the time when you get around. It's hard to be a tourist in my own hometown, quite simply.

 

And it is as if I haven’t been able to let go of  my "grudge" towards Sweden during the pandemic. Not yet, and I can't quite articulate why yet.


Malmö, Hamn April 2023

I just wanted to work. 

I could write about the vaccine and what happened during that period here in Germany. About the great division that arose in society and about how exhausting and upsetting it was and about how much was broken then. In my life too. I lost several friends during the pandemic. Not because they died of Corona. No, I lost friends both in Sweden, Germany and Denmark, mostly because everything got so messy. And also due to the consequences of the restrictions we had in Germany, which in some cases forced us to "choose a side". And I chose to work. I did everything to be able to continue working. I didn't want to have any opinion on the politicians' decisions, neither in Sweden nor in Germany nor in China.

 

I just wanted to work. I just wanted to keep working and I did everything I could to succeed in that.

 

The changes in Swedish society were, to put it mildly, minimal in comparison to what we in Germany and other countries had to put up with. And I have to admit that I get quite provoked by hearing from friends and the Swedish media that: "well, we were right".

 

But ok. The Germans also say that "We did the right thing, our rules were good". But no, I don't want to write a political text about the pandemic, so we won't go into this. It will be too much. I just want to say that there are still big wounds in society that have not healed yet. Which may never heal. The relationship with family, friends and work is upside down, and as it stands now, it will not return to any kind of "the way it was before". Not on any plane at all. Neither job-wise nor so-called "private".

 

There will be no back to normal, there is only „the new normal“.

 

I'm kind of quoting myself here (and millions of others of course). I said this already after a few months into the grips of the pandemic somewhere in one of our many lockdowns here in Germany.

 

Mine and our lives have changed so much since then. I have lost so many of the jobs and functions (including as chairman of the Swedish association in Hanover, although I myself chose to resign) I had before the pandemic, and the jobs I have now look very different. I work in a completely different way now.

 

It's almost like starting over. An older colleague told me a few months ago: The development that your theater has gone through in 2 years normally takes 6-7 years. Yes, it has been going at a turbo pace and I have growing pains, I can't keep up. Of course, I am incredibly happy and grateful that my theater and I as an artist (and person) have survived. Thanks !


But it has been incredibly difficult and consuming, yes even tearing, as if my whole existence has been turned upside down. As if I have to divide myself into 7 different parts to be enough. And yet the day only has 24 hours and I don't have time.


"But has it changed for you personally as well? Isn't it just job-wise that has changed for you? ”, asked a friend about a year ago.


Like I said:

My life is my work, my work is my life. And this became especially clear during the pandemic.

Whether this is a good thing or not is debatable, but it is what it is now.


"Difficult to be uncertain, afraid and divided,

hard to feel the deep pulling and calling,

yet sit there and just quiver"


writes Karin Boye and it feels as if it is "the story of my life". And during the pandemic, it was increased.

But the heavy and difficult things are starting to ease slowly, especially now that I'm on Holiday I find some peace and quiet both for mind and body. Step by step it's progressing, but still I'm still kind of in the middle, or at the end of the middle, like the filled drop in Karin Boye's poem in "tremblings of anxiety" in the second verse. But then in the third verse:


"… then, when fear no longer exists,

the branch's drops tumble in a shimmer,

forgetting that they were afraid of the new,

forgetting that they were fearful of the journey "


I hope that, like the drops on the branch in the poem, I too will soon "forget" how much I have worried for the past 3 years, so that I too can feel some kind of security, for a while anyway, just a few months, a year maybe? And that I might then also be able to enjoy the success I've had during this time. How well things have gone for my theater, how grateful I am for everything that has happened. Yes, I will write more about that. Soon.

But I don't want to forget and close the lid, and pretend there was never a pandemic. As I read somewhere recently:


REMEMBER:

IF YOU ARE NOT SPEAKING IT, YOU'RE STORING IT,

AND THAT GETS HEAVY.


So I will continue to write about this and that and other things that occur to me.

As I have done all my life…



THE POEM

Ja visst gör det ont (Karin Boye)

Of Course it Hurts

Of course it hurts when buds burst.

Otherwise why would spring hesitate?

Why would all our fervent longing

be bound in the frozen bitter haze?

The bud was the casing all winter.

What is this new thing, which consumes and bursts?

Of course it hurts when buds burst,

pain for that which grows

        and for that which envelops.

 

Of course it is hard when drops fall.

Trembling with fear they hang heavy,

clammer on the branch, swell and slide -

the weight pulls them down, how they cling.

Hard to be uncertain, afraid and divided,

hard to feel the deep pulling and calling,

yet sit there and just quiver -

hard to want to stay

        and to want to fall.

 

Then, at the point of agony and when all is beyond help,

the tree's buds burst as if in jubilation,

then, when fear no longer exists,

the branch's drops tumble in a shimmer,

forgetting that they were afraid of the new,

forgetting that they were fearful of the journey -

feeling for a second their greatest security,

resting in the trust

        that creates the world.


Thnak you for reading all the way to the end!



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