Ninette Bahne

creating and inspiring in my little corner of the world

Our trip to Ireland & Worldcon

It was an eager pair of travelers who set out for Dublin in the middle of August – myself and my 16-year old son, both first timers to Ireland.
We stayed at an airport hotel, and the next day we met with the rest of the gang.

Our first stop: the waterfalls near Powerscourt – much more impressive in person than it looks like in my pictures! The water falls from the cliff sides in a valley that looks like straight out of a fairy tale – green and luscious and so, so beautiful. Definitely a must see in this region!

We had lunch at Powerscourt, indoors as it started pouring. There were so many rain showers when we were at Ireland – no wonder they have stories about rainbows and Leprechauns!

Onwards to our castle,  Wilton Castle

This was such a lovely place, quiet and peaceful and perfect as a writing retreat.

I want a shed like this in my garden! (there’s a wheelbarrow inside the shed/tower)

A castle of our own would also be nice!

Boardgames, impromptu disco, walking at Glendalough, lots of conversations and happy times

People brought with them specialties from their home countries. We brought Fazers Blå, Finnish milk chocolate. One of the Americans treated us to chicken & waffles – a real meal, despite how outlandish it sounds! Fried chicken with syrupy waffles…!

The castle was just perfect for a large group of people.

Some people even got some writing done! (not me!)

We went and saw Hook Lighthouse – saw this odd shed there ”Detonator store”. Kind of want one of those in my garden too! Would be nice to blast away at roots or something 🙂 (need a bigger garden for that though! And not live in the city! But a girl can always dream…)

…and we saw so many rainbows!

Then off to Bunratty Castle – which was so small some of us first didn’t even believe we were actually seeing the real castle! Noel and I decided to skip that so we just sat and had some tea and cake at a nearby pub.

Then onto the Cliffs of Moher – Ireland’s number one tourist spot. And boy, were there many tourists there!

Too many people for my taste – you can’t perhaps see it in this picture, but all those tiny dots along the ridges are people!

Many cows too – I love that there was cattle almost everywhere we went!

The cliffs look really beautiful in the pictures, but in reality we had to stand there with thousands of other people.

Then we were off to Inis Mor – one of the best parts of the trip.

The landscape there was just amazing!

Rugged terrain, the wind, the sound of the ocean – it was a place that soared through your soul and made its mark.

We stayed at a lovely B&B with lots of cows nearby!

One of the sitting rooms.

Dun Aonghasa was just a short walk from the B&B – an amazing fort.

Then a bus ride and a train ride later we were in Dublin.

I love the design of this bridge, the Samuel Beckett bridge – it looks like a harp!

The CCD, the convention center where WorldCon was held.

We attended as many panels as we could – and the rest of the time we stood in line, hurried between places or went looking for a place to have lunch.

The AirBnB that we stayed in was really lovely – a small apartment right in the Temple Bar district. I thought the noise of the nighttime revelers would disturb my sleep, but nope – it turned into background noise after a while, and became really comfortable.

The pub next door.

The Temple Bar district was really lovely. We didn’t have that much time to enjoy it though – most of our time was spent hurrying to or from the CCD.

The most Irish of scenes – the unloading of a Guinness truck!

Then it was time to go back home after a great trip to Ireland.

Bye, bye Ireland! Hope to see you again!

Hook Lighthouse – the oldest still working lighthouse

On our visit to Ireland, I went on a small excursion to Hook Lighthouse, the oldest still manned lighthouse in the world.

The lighthouse looks modern on the outside, but on the inside it looks kind of like the old churches where I live – it’s from the 13th century, just like those buildings, and was built using the same techniques.

The nature around the lighthouse is simply astounding! Ragged cliffs hollowed out by the salt water and the winds, with just a few dots of wild flowers here and there. 

It was breathtakingly beautiful and such a balm for the soul to stand there, listening to the wind and the waves!

The view from up the lighthouse was amazing as well – notice the rainbow! We saw so many rainbows while in Ireland, which is not surprising – the weather could mainly be described as ”four seasons in one day”.

The view from above was spectacular

You would never believe the lighthouse has been around for so many centuries!

The landscape had a stark beauty that really appealed to me.

And the cliffs!

The lighthouse was definitely worth a visit, both for the environs and from the view from above.

The weather was really lovely all the time, rain or sunshine or inbetween!

Glendalough – so beautiful and calm!

We went for a lovely walk when visiting Glendalough – a glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland.

First stop, a monastery with an old cemetery.

The cemetery is still in use, new headstones mixing with old.

We walked around the lakes, a really lovely walk along broad pathways.

We passed some sheep. I have no idea how many sheep we saw while on Ireland! So many sheep everywhere, and cattle and horses and donkeys…!

Finally we ended up at the Miner’s village. They mainly used to process ore here, not mine as much.

It was a really wonderful day, with just the right amount of sun and clouds!

This landscape reminded me a lot of home, where we have a lot of rocks left behind by the glaciers.

Far too soon it was time to go back to the bus – a really lovely walk chatting with friends from the group, and a wonderful day to remember!

 

 

Inis Mor & Dun Aonghasa

On our trip to Ireland, we got to visit Inis Mor – one of the Aran Island. It was amazing!

We arrived in the harbor and rented some bikes. Noel and I both got mountain bikes, and we were so grateful for that! The paved roads were fine for any bike, but the smaller roads were really rocky and hard to traverse.

We set off biking and took a wrong turn, and accidentally happened to get almost to the Black Castle! The views there were spectacular.

The landscape on Inis Mor is definitely something else, almost out of this world. Long, flat cliffs, eroded by winds and the water from the Atlantic.

I thought these cliffs were just as amazing as the Cliffs of Moher, if not more, because here we were almost alone in nature!

You can hear yourself think a lot clearer when not surrounded by hundreds and thousands of people (like it felt when at the Cliffs of Moher). Or rather, you can almost not hear yourself think, because the noise of the waves and the wind was so loud!

It was amazing to hear the sound of the waves coming from far away, to see the spray extend all across the edges of the cliffs tens of meters up into the air!

We left our bikes further away from the cliffs – it was nearly impossible to bike all the way out to the ledge, and I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to! It felt a bit scary to stand there so near the edge and a huge drop into the cold Atlantic, with harsh winds throwing us this way and that.

The landscape on Inis Mor is really pretty with old rock walls everywhere, I’m guessing both aiding to know which property is whose, and also shelters the cattle a little bit from the wind.

Lots and lots of these lovely rock walls!

We met quite a few donkeys and horses along the way!

The main roads are paved and easy to bike on – except when the winds in your face, trying to push you back to where you started from!

Nice horsey, looked content to stand there and stare at everyone who biked past and took pics. There were quite a few of us! Inis Mor has about a thousand inhabitants, and hundreds of thousands of visitors every year!

We finally arrived at the small village where our B&B was located. The shops open and close when the owners feel like it!

Kilmurvey house – definitely worth a recommendation! The lady who owned the place was so nice, and our room was great and breakfast excellent.

From Kilmurvey house, it was just a small trek up the cliffs to visit Dun Aonghasa – a very impressive looking Stone Age fortress.

We walked up to the fort in very windy conditions – if I ever come here again, I’ll wish for a tad bit less wind! It was so windy, we almost thought we would fly off into the Atlantic Ocean!

According to Wikipedia, the holder of all knowledge, the fort was originally built 1000 meters away from the ocean.  The sea levels lowering means us nowaday-people get a whole other experience of the fort!

The cliffs are about 100 meters high here – and with the very windy weather we actually had sea spray hit us from down below!  The waves hitting the cliffs were huge, and the sound was just amazing. It was such a rush!

The stuff of nightmares, and also of so much inspiration -it’s no wonder Kilmurvey House sometimes houses Writer’s retreat! The location is just brimming with inspiration for all kinds of art!

The fort itself mainly consists of rebuilt rock walls, fitting on this particular island!

The next day we biked back to the harbor and the ferry leaving for Galway.

This time we took the low road, and saw a lot of cattle, horses, donkeys and birds – there’s a really lovely little lake along the road that has a lot of wild birds.

All the signs are in Irish on Inis Mor, which is part of the Gaeltacht,  the places where Irish is still spoken as a mother tongue (rather like ”Svenskfinland”, I imagine, the parts of Finland where Swedish is predominantly spoken).

Then it was back to the harbor and the ferry back to Galway.

Inis Mor and Dun Aonghasa was amazing, and I so hope to visit the island again some time in the future!

 

Wilton Castle – I want to live there!

The first few nights of our trip to Ireland were spent at Wilton Castle, Wexford, an amazing location in the Irish countryside.

The castle usually caters to weddings, I think. We were really fortunate that we got to rent the whole castle for our stay! It was the perfect place for a writing retreat, not that I got much writing done! (I managed to write zero words – a record for me! I usually compulsively write something every day, but this time I decided I would take a vacation)

My firstborn and I shared this lovely room! The castle had several renovated suites of rooms – all of them so lovely and luxurious!

It was amazing walking along the long corridors, peeking into room after room elegantly furnished and renovated.

The castle burned down in the 1920s, but a huge part of it has been beautifully restored since. I loved the way they managed to mix the old ruins with the newer – you always had this feeling of history, despite all the new materials, which I loved!

I especially loved the little reading nooks that were found throughout the castle. Not that I spent that much time sitting in them! I mainly watched the cows through the windows, or admired the nook on my way to the dining room to play board games or have dinner with our fellow travelers.

The castle has a charming narrow staircase, that reminds me of a lot of English period dramas! I wonder what it was like ”back in the day” – did they have another staircase for the downstairs people, or did they too use this one?

I had googled Wilton Castle so many times before our trip, wondering if it looked as great in real life as it did in the pictures – and it did! Or rather – I thought it was even more impressive in person than in the pictures.

You sort of can’t take in the impression the surroundings make on you as you come to the castle – narrow roads bordered by stone walls and hedges, that resemble green tunnels, and cattle everywhere!

The environs were so tranquil and lovely – this is an ideal place for a bigger group for anything, in my opinion! I wouldn’t mind living here myself!

Look at the lamps! I really liked all the lamps in the castle. 

 

Yup, this might well be our dream home! (or one of them – Ireland turned out to be filled with lots of our dream homes!)

 

Greetings from Ireland!

That was an intense 10-days and nights spent in Ireland! My firstborn and I joined a gang of writers (most of whom I met on the WXR two years back) to travel the Irish countryside and attend Worldcon 2019 in Dublin. What a rush! It was such a great trip and I’ve got so many impressions running through my mind all the time now, that I kind of need some time to process everything.

I’m leaving you with a sneak peek at our trip – it was such an amazing time!

My battle to overcome a sleep disorder – 6 tips

I think I used to be able to sleep at night, sometimes, once upon a time. The first time I had trouble sleeping was while I was pregnant a little over 15 years ago, when I had undiagnosed preeclampsia symptoms that made it impossible for me to sleep more than an hour and a half at most. After the baby was born, I was able to sleep for about 3 hours at a time which felt like heaven back then, but there was a period when I still had sleep problems mainly because of the PTSD that I got as a result of the whole giving birth and almost dying-episode.

After that it was smooth sailing for a few years, despite having two small kids who didn’t always sleep through the night.

Then we got the kid with his own sleep disorder, and that’s when I first really understood what not sleeping at night meant.

Having one kid who sometimes woke up at night, or two who could sometimes cry several nights when they were sick – that was nothing compared to a child who at most slept for 30 minutes. All day and night long. 30 minutes almost to the clock, and then bing! wide awake. And if he managed to sleep, he had already developed a habit of making noises to himself to comfort himself (this is common in kids at orphanages, even really little kids like ours were). Either he was awake, saying nothing, which made me anxious, or he was awake and making noises, which also made me stay wide awake.

After about 5 years of this, we were simply so tired all of us, and my sleep was really taking a toll. We of course tried everything we could to ease his sleep (including signing up for a sleep study through a hospital – with no results). The first time he ever slept through the night was after sleeping in a tent together with his big sister and his dad. It was a red tent and the mood inside it was rather like being inside a womb, and I’ve later heard that they sometimes use tents like these when treating kids with adoption or foster care issues, but we sort of stumbled upon it by accident. After that we took baby steps together to make his sleep improve even more, and now at 11 he sleeps really well.

But I don’t.

I sort of stayed sleep disordered, because of a lot of factors. In reality if I had had a job, I would have been on sick leave a loooooong time ago, but because I am a stay at home parent, I don’t ever get sick leave.

There have been lots of issues in the last few years that have made me be on full alert all the time, until my body simply said enough. My sleep went bad, from falling asleep at night to waking up every night at 3 o’

clock, to finally not sleeping at all. I’ve twice gone through not sleeping for three nights, and it is definitely and experience. You sort of feel as if you’ve got a hangover, shaking and headache, but without having had any fun the night before. And you are definitely not as sharp as you think after not sleeping.

By now I’ve tried most things that there are to try to get my sleep back in order, and the next big thing I’m really looking forward is the Oura-ring that I pre-ordered in January (and still haven’t gotten, but fingers crossed it will be in the mail within the next few weeks).

The main thing that has wrecked my sleep is my stress levels, so I’m putting my focus on lowering them.

And finally, finally, it is starting to have results. I still can’t sleep without medication, but I’ve noticed that the quality of my sleep is slowly getting better.

Since my kids are now all three of them thriving, both in school and outside of it, I can now concentrate more on myself and on getting healthier. Unfortunately I can’t crochet or knit for longer periods of time (because of back problems), or enjoy photographing and mountain biking as much as I want (because of eye problems) or even sing (because of chronic laryngitis, that is slowly getting better), but I try to work my way around the obstacles and work with what I’ve got.

…and I’m only drinking chamomile or ginger tea now. No caffeine at all for me at the moment!

Here’s what I’ve done recently to lower stress further:

  1. Cleaned up Facebook

Turns out, a lot of what was stressing me out was my Facebook feed. I solved that problem by unfriending a lot of people that live close by, that mostly are also friends with Niklas, so if they have a reason to contact us, they can always contact him. I kept my international friends, but other than that about a hundred people were deleted from my account. For no other reason than that I wanted to clean up my feed.

I also unfollowed a lot of pages and groups. Many of them were anti-racism groups, but I can only stand a certain amount of those on any day now that I’m recovering, so they unfortunately had to go. I also unfollowed a lot of groups with a lot of negativity.

Nowadays my feed is mainly statuses from my writer friends, news from interesting sources and bunny videos. Which gives me energy, instead of taking from it.

I also have hardly any notifications on my phone, and since I stopped getting those I forget to use Instagram and a lot of things that unnecessarily took me out of the now. I mainly use it as a camera, for listening to audiobooks and for the mediation app Calm.

  1. Stopped listening to the radio

I wanted to stop listening to morning radio. There is a correlation between listening to bad news and feeling bad for many hours afterward. I kind of started with this after Trump was elected, but then it spread, and now we never listen to the radio at all (or watch TV for that matter). I still get important news, but now I control when I get it and how. I am much more relaxed if I read about idiotic things that politicians say, than when I actually listen to their own words from their own mouths.

  1. Exercise

In a form I can do, which is mainly walking. As a typical ENTJ, I love getting an adrenaline rush every now and then, but because of my eye problems I can’t go mountain biking at present, so I’m going for 5 km walks every day, and also do some Tai Chi at home when the mood strikes me

  1. Playing games

We have a fun D&D game going on with a couple of friends that give so much energy. We try to have game nights with those of our friends that are into games, but other than that I’ve recently after a break for 15 years (sort of coincides with having kids!) started playing Civilization again (Sid Meyer’s Civ 6). This time together with my teenage son, which is so much fun! You don’t know what competing is until you’ve seen two ENTJ:s play a strategic game! He is winning by a landslide right now, but I don’t care – it is so much fun, and so relaxing.

  1. Romance books

Ever since I started writing Fantasy & Horror, I have really been struggling with reading books in genres I used to enjoy. My editor brain can’t shut up most of the time, unless the book is really compelling (like Map of Times by ) or if the book is in a completely different genre. Romance is the thing for me, I’ve noticed. I had lots of prejudices against the genre, but after having the Audible Romance Package for about ten months now, I have really found many authors there that I love. I love character driven stories, and I love knowing that most of the time there will be a happily ever after, if I’m listening to a book while I’m falling asleep or at night when I can’t sleep.

During the day, it’s horror and fantasy for me. But at night – romance all the way. I like finding a narrator with a soothing voice, and a story that hasn’t got too much bad things happening. I’ve found many regency novels that fit that description. And also romance stories that are really dark, that I have to listen to during the day when I’m out on one of my walks.

  1. Taking the time to write

Last year on the Writing Excuses cruise, I talked to both Sandra Tayler and Emma Newman about the hardships of being a mother and a writer. They were both so supportive, but it was still difficult to come home and try and take the time to write, because just as they both guessed – I feel selfish when I take the time to do something for myself. Writing is such as selfish hobby/occupation. You get to wallow in whatever it is you want to wallow in, to really explore all the depths of your mind and every little whim and fancy.

But this is what I need to do to feel better. Every time I’ve finished a first draft, I feel as if a weight has lifted, and I have really started to enjoy editing as well now that I give myself permission to focus on writing.

I also try to let myself be and not do anything important at all. If I want to spend a whole day listening to MBTI lectures and doing some Hama beads projects, then I try to let myself do that. But most of the time I try to fit in something a bit more objectively productive as well, like gardening for an hour.

 

That’s mainly it. Other than that, I try to limit what I have in my calendar. Preferably nothing in the mornings, because if I do, I almost know for certain that I won’t be able to sleep the previous night. Slowly, slowly, my stress levels are becoming lower. I’m not there yet, but I can almost see the light in the end of the tunnel now.

 

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Unreliable Narrators-interview & The Vessel of Ra

So many things I want to write about, so little time. I came home from the Writing Excuses cruise in August filled with ideas for millions of blog posts. But there is just not enough time for me to sit down and actually do the blog posts, other than in my head at times when I’m far away from the computer. There’s just been so much writing this fall – first I did the Writing the Other-course, and then it was almost time for NaNoWriMo (which I’ve already won, yay!). I’ve haven’t even had time to read all the wonderful books that I bought on the cruise, but as I finish them I will post about them here on the blog.

My time this fall has been spent

1. trying to learn how to see with my new glasses (I still have double vision)

2. going for long walks trying to get rid of the headaches caused by the glasses

3. writing

4. listening to podcasts about writing

…and then family stuff of course! It’s been an overwhelming period, mainly because of the health issues I’ve had all fall, but now it feels as if I’m on the better side of that. I even have a sort of Christmassy feeling already – and I almost never look forward to Christmas, so this is really huge!

Anyway, when we were at the cruise, Niklas and I were interviewed by the lovely Catherine Schaff-Stump and Chris Cornell – you can listen to the interview here (we’re 24 minutes in, I think).  It was so nice meeting you guys, and spending that day in St Petersburg with Chris! I hope we’ll meet again sometime, if we ever get the means to get on another writing cruise or something similar. Their podcast is called Unreliable Narrators and you can find it here.

We had dinner with Cath on the cruise, and talked about how much I love reading YA and Cath was nice to send me her new novel The Vessel of Ra.

It’s YA, set in the 1800s about magical families in Venice involving Egyptian Gods – that’s a nice mix! Catherine is an accomplished writer who definitely knows her way around sentences, and her characters are so interesting. Plus magic, in Venice – one of the most magical places on earth!

Go check it out here.

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Writing the Other

I’ve been blogging almost constantly for many years now, and what happens when I do a writer’s course? I stop writing. Or not really, I’ve only stopped writing the blog – I’ve been reading and writing more than almost ever before, and these past six weeks doing the course Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl and K Tempest Bradford.

I met Tempest on the Writing Excuses Cruise, and we spent a day at the museums in Copenhagen. She was so supportive of my writing and answered all my uninformed questions, and also told us on the cruise about this course that I then signed up for. I am so glad I did! It’s been so enlightening, and just as Tempest wrote in the last e-mail of the course – it is a safe space where you can confront your prejudices and learn things you didn’t already know about whoever is the Other for you.

The best thing about this course was getting to work on your work in progress while thinking about these things. I had already planned a lot about my world and done a lot of worldbuilding, but this really took it to the next level.

Some of the exercises reminded me of things I learned while studying psychology and philosophy. We had many courses where we analyzed movies or texts, and in philosophy class we debated and learned to really look at an argument – what is said, what is left unsaid. The same thing goes for being a psychologist: your job is often to analyze the person in front of you. Which words are being used, what do they tell you about the person. What emotions do they elicit in you, and are those emotions yours, or are they just a reaction to the emotions that the person in front of you are feeling?

Being a psychologists, being a debater – both are skills that overlap being a writer. The funny thing is, while I studied so many people at parties and acquaintances thought psychologists went around analyzing everyone all the time, and that they sometimes manipulated people because of their superior knowledge about the human nature (wrong on so many levels). But the thing is – the people who really do this, analyze other people and try to manipulate the emotions – those people are called writers!

Writing is art and entertainment, and the point of both is to evoke emotions. And to do that you need to understand human nature. To do that well you need to write convincing humans of all kinds.

To write inclusively, you need to really look at your prejudices. To know where you come from, and to realize your blind spots and to do something about it. That is what this course was so great for. I really got to read and write and think about these things intensely for a few weeks, and it shows in my writing and in my thinking.

In an ideal world every writer would do  this course! Or rather, every human being, because we all need to confront our prejudices, and learn about people who are Other than ourselves, and learn how to treat them with respect.

 

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Changing my bucket list

You have to be in a certain state to have an aha-moment, and I definitely was when we were on the cruise. Which I am so grateful for.

“Other people salted away money for their old age, but Nanny preferred to accumulate memories.” – my favourite Terry Pratchett quote, and also why I went as Nanny Ogg on Costume Night on the cruise

I’ve been trying to find out what I want to do with my life for my whole life. I started out wanting to be an archeologist when I was little, then I wanted to be a researcher, but then some grownup (rightly) told me how little money there is in research. Then I wanted to do something with arts, but I couldn’t decide on what – becoming a sculpturist (but there were no programs for that), a photographer (the studies seemed boring), interior designer (no programs for that either) or an architect (too much of the job seemed to be designing office buildings). All of them felt fine, but not great. Not like something important enough that I would like to spend the rest of my life doing.

I went to an occupational psychologist  and she looked at my profile and asked me: ”Have you considered becoming a psychologist?”

That was the first aha-moment that I can remember, because it felt as if all the pieces of the puzzle just clicked.

Of course I was going to be a psychologist! I would get to use all my creative and academic abilities and also help people, and the art thing – I could do that as a hobby. I put all my effort into getting into the program, and succeeded on my first try.

Then life happened. I got my psychologist’s license and a teaching degree on the side, because teaching was what I then loved most, and my husband and I both tried to get jobs after graduation. We told ourselves that we would move to the place where the first one of us got a job, and started looking for jobs outside Finland. Niklas (who has a degree in business administration) got a consulting job soon after that in Copenhagen, a real stroke of luck, and only a couple of months after we even talked about going abroad we were living in an apartment in Österbro, the northern part of Copenhagen.

I knew that it would be difficult for me to get any jobs in Denmark because of the language barrier, but I didn’t mind. I was happy going to museums and looking for an apartment and then later renovating that apartment. I tried half-heartedly to get into art school, but that was mainly to get all the relatives off my back about me being a parasite who was just living off my husband… I didn’t get in to my great relief, and then we surprisingly got a child. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, because we were in fact trying insemination at a private clinic (for free! Denmark has great health care, or had), but neither of us thought it would succeed.

I had to rearrange my whole life now that I was pregnant, and lay all my career plans on hold. I was to try and get a job and then later on we would adopt a child, but now the child was in fact growing inside my body.

I was so scared being pregnant, so unhappy about not knowing how things would turn out or if I would do something to make the baby not have the best possible start in life, but I tried to have my private little moments with the baby when there were just the two of us in a sauna at the nearby swimming hall. In spite of that, he turned out to have a pre-birth defect that made his birth more difficult. And I got preeclampsia and had to be induced. And I almost died afterwards because of complications that the doctors hadn’t foreseen. And the doctor made a hasty judgment that injured me for life. And I got PTSD and didn’t get any help for that, in spite of my first words after surgery being that I wanted to talk to a psychologist to prevent PTSD.

(Here’s a tip: don’t go to hospital during the summer months when everyone’s on vacation!)

This was now my new life. Three surgeries to remove scar tissue from my vagina (we’re grown people here, right? I get tired of euphemisms sometimes…). Constant pain killers for many months in spite of me breast feeding my son. I was almost not able to walk, and still through all of this I did physical therapy with my little baby that had to train his neck every day for the first five years of his life and always be careful not to injure his spine or he could die or be paralyzed from the neck down.

I had no thoughts of any career at this point, but after finding a physical therapist who helped me (Birthe Bonde, phys. ter. and also a sexologist) I could finally see a bit more clearly without constant pain. I also went to a great therapist specializing in PTSD and paid for it myself, and after that I was finally able to watch TV or talk on the phone again and not relive the same day over and over again.

I could breathe a little bit again and have actual thoughts.  I found out playing and talking to a restless child was not what I wanted to do 24/7, so I found a great little Kindergarten with just a few kids and lots of members of staff, and started studying economics.

Then we had our daughter through adoption. And then we had our youngest son. A surprise adoption, which almost never happens, but it happened to us.

I still can’t remember what I said in that one phone call, but it was life-changing, that’s for sure!

Suddenly we were a family of five, with the eldest being only four, and everything felt so overwhelming. We decided to scrap my plans of having a degree in economics. We scrapped the plans of moving to Sweden, and instead we moved back to Finland to be nearer to relatives and hopefully get some help with caring for the kids.

I really regret not living in Copenhagen anymore, but I don’t regret the kids getting to grow up here! The schools are great, the health care is excellent and the kids get to grow up sheltered with nature all around them. Now our family was on the right path with lots of help from both physical therapists and psychotherapists, and my husband found a job that he loved.

But what about me? Where did I fit into this narrative?

I had no idea. Suddenly I was adrift in a life that had tossed me in all kinds of unforeseen directions, and sometimes even because of a decision I had made. I had the life I had dreamed of, but I hadn’t come there by the paths I had thought I would take, and the paths had made me a different person.

I was home with three little kids and felt as if I was going a little bit more crazy for every day, so I started a blog. I thought: ”There probably isn’t that much money in blogging, but at least I can get some other things out of it like a sense of not just being a stay-at-home-Mom, and who knows – maybe a new path will show itself because of the blog?”

And it did. Many paths. I was encouraged to DIY our home, and we had our home photographed for many magazines and even a British book (the author came all the way here just to take pictures of my DIY:s!). Even our garden became interesting enough that many magazines wanted interviews about it.

I also made a craft book with a friend, and because of it got to make craft articles for a Finland Swedish monthly magazine, which I loved. I came in contact with so many new people through the blog, and got new friends (mainly before the smart phone revolution back then when people still commented on each other’s blogs).

This all would have been almost enough, if not for the fact that our personal economy tanked for the second time because of some bad choices that my husband made. This time I had more time on my hands when the kids had started school, so I thought  – now is the time to start with the whole writing business that you’ve always had in the back of your mind ever since you were five years old. The blog is not making you enough money, and how hard can writing be? you know how to put together a sentence. You have read thousands of books, and are always a critical reader.

I started writing and writing and writing. And listening. To podcasts, to lectures, to everything at least twice, doing all the exercises that they recommended. I did NanoWriMo twice, and while I was working away our economy got slowly better and I didn’t have the same pressure to submit anything, which was great because I still haven’t felt that anything I have written has been polished enough for submitting.

While doing all this – writing, trying to keep a damaged family together, trying to keep order in the household – I started doing my bucket list. I hadn’t made one in ages, and realized so many years had gone by without me even noticing that I wasn’t looking forward to anything. So many years spent taking care of others and trying to keep my head above water, that somewhere in all that I lost sight of myself and the part of me that defines me.

I wrote a bucket list and it contained only one item.

And that item was there only because I remembered it being on the bucket list from ten years ago. Not that I really wanted to visit the Chelsea Flower Show, but because I felt I ought to have more items than zero on my bucket list.

That is not a good sign, my friends. As a psychologist, I knew all the danger signs were there, but there were so many factors in my life that I had no control over. So many stressful things that I just had to endure.  But we muddled through somehow, and my husband finally found a psychotherapist that he liked and got to work on his issues, which lead to us becoming a better team taking care of the kids, and also the kids grew up and their brains matured, and they finally started enjoying school a little bit more,  and finally I had some space to breathe again.

I watched SKAM and remembered what I was like before life happened. When I was young and ambitious and wanted to change the world, be a positive force in the world.

I found a part of me that wanted to feel alive again, and I started on my YA-novel with new energy.

My narrative was still: ”I need to make a living out of writing so that I also have a place in the grown up-world”, and that didn’t sit right with me, not really. It was what I was telling myself and also others, but that never felt like the real story. There were still layers underneath that statement.

Then suddenly on the cruise I got my aha-moment. Emma Newman had had a lecture about fear and writing, and so many emotions ran through my body. It felt as if layers of skin peeled off and the raw me emerged, and she was filled with lots of other explanations for wanting to write than the more analytical side of me.

Emma told me ”You are coming from an academic background, and are seeing this as an academic exercise – but it’s not. It’s art, and art hurts.”

And that was it! My aha-moment. The second moment in my life when I felt that the pieces of the puzzle that was me fell into place.

I realized a few nights later that my narrative had changed. I was telling people I want to be a writer because I want to use all the experiences that I’ve had, all the education, all the difficult periods in my life and make that into art that can help people. I want to be my teenage-self again, she who wanted to make the world a better place, if only a little.

That talk about making money – that had only been a superficial argument, because if I had analyzed myself more completely (which I usually do, but this was my blind spot apparently) I would have seen that I have turned down job offers, because they would interfere with our family life, which always takes precedence. I’ve turned down queries about ads on my blog, haven’t written sponsored content almost at all, and turned down lots of little doses of well-needed money because I felt they would cause me more pain than gain in the long run. They would have chipped off a bit of what I felt was me.

And that is why ”I want to make money writing” is not the complete picture. That would be great, but that is not my main reason for writing. My main reason is to be truthful. To be part of the community. To get to tell stories that make the world a better place for my kids. To write stories for my adolescent self, she who was fed up with girls not getting to go on adventures in books or not getting to be anti-heroes.

To be that idealist that my husband and the rest of the world thought was a bit crazy, and not grown up enough. But that is who I am, deep inside, and that is what I want to be when I grow up. This crazy, idealist woman, who inside is still a teenager feeling everything in deep colours, and who wants to use all the impulses and inspiration that she gets from everywhere in art. In writing.

My new bucket list is very Prague-oriented – luckily we live just a cheap plane flight away from Prague, so this feels like something we might actually do some day!

 

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