And the tubes have been tied. Part 3.

On January 23rd at 8 am, I walked into a clinic in Reykjavík, and two hours later I walked out with my tubes tied. I’m a single, childless woman in my late twenties.

Part 1Part 2
[Shorter Icelandic version is below]
I will also be making a part 4 sometime in the future addressing some of the criticism and comments I got along the way.

Today is Sunday and I’m on my 5th day of recovery. I want to tell you about the process from the start but before I do I want to put this disclaimer:
My experience is my experience. Should you have this surgery it could be completely different. It’s important to consult with your doctor and follow their instructions completely. I’m not going into details about what happens in the surgery as I don’t remember it detailed enough. Your doctor can explain it much better than me. In this blog I want to tell my story and about my first days of recovery. Now…

The night before I fell asleep quite late, which is not unusual for me. I was quite tired and groggy when I got to the clinic but excited. I signed a few documents, saying I understood the risks and that I was making this decision myself. Not long after I was given a bed. A nurse came by to give me a hospital gown and check when I had last eaten (as you have to fast from midnight). The anaesthetist came by as well as well as the surgeon. About 20 minutes after I was given the bed I was asked to come to the operating room where the anaesthetist put a needle in my arm. Everything went by so quick, he was grabbing things and tubes and put something in the needle, I felt a sharp weird but nice feeling in my head that I commented on and like that I was out.

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Fresh right after waking up

Waking up after anaesthetia is so weird! I remember being in the operating room and then all of a sudden I was wide awake back in the bed I had originally been in. I was a tiny bit groggy but I did feel I woke up quite nicely. A nurse came by and gave me water. I felt like I needed the toilet and she said I could go (but not lock the door) but that since my bladder had been emptied in the surgery nothing would happen. She was right, but there was a small blood clot that fell down.

The doctor came by and told me the surgery had went well. I had two band aids on, one over my belly button and one on the left side of my lower abdomen. He told me that I should leave it on for four days and that it was completely water proof. Not long after the nurse told me I could get dressed and leave!

I admit I was a little bit surprised, I thought that the “after care” would take longer but granted most of my research comes from other countries so the experience may vary.

I had read before that one of the side effects afterwards could be pains in the shoulder. This is due to the fact that they pump air into you to have more space to operate and then the air moves around the body in an attempt to get out. I wouldn’t say it’s painful but it’s uncomfortable and bit weird. I only got it in the right shoulder, for about a day.  Fair warning: there are a lot of farts as the air tries to make its way out.

I’m surprised at how little sore I felt, compared to what I had imagined. I felt mostly tired physically. Counting surgery day as day 1 of recovery I’d say the first three days I was quite tired and a bit sore, and did not feel like using my stomach muscles at all. So sitting up from lying down can be a bit of a task.

On day 4 (Friday, January 26th) I went back to my house in Reykjavík and had planned to go to a TV show viewing party downtown. I felt fine and looked fine, but I was there for about 3-3,5 hours and I was exhausted. As it was a viewing party for Rupauls Drag Race All Stars 3 and it was hosted by a fabolous drag queen there was a lot of cheering and clapping. It. was. exhausting.

I think the main thing that I’ve noted from this experience is how much energy it takes to heal. You may look fine and you may feel fine, but your body is working really hard to mend a huge wound that has been made. Most things I read was that recovery was 2-3 days or maybe 1-5 days but that it was easy. It’s definitely easy – but it’s also much harder than I expected. If you have this surgery – take time off and just rest. You may hear the phrase “take care of yourself” but in this case it means: do not do anything. Rest, take a nap and then rest some more. Give your body time. Take more naps. And then rest some more.

As to a bit more physical stuff, I was told not to go to the gym or have sex for at least a week, but as I’ve read 7-10 days, I will probably give it at least 10 days. If you’re a gym rat (which I am not), start slowly. Don’t go straight back to your normal routine and give yourself time to get there. The biggest risk with any surgery is internal bleeding and it can be hard to spot.

I took the band aids off yesterday as instructed. The cuts are about 1-2 cms (?). The one on my belly button is very well healed. The other scar was a bit more open so I bought “Steristrip” band aids to put over them as the help keep the skin closer together as it heals. In any case these won’t be big or noticeable scars for sure. Both scars have a bit of a bruise around them.

It’s been an experience for sure but once I came back home on Friday (after spending a few days at my mums house during recovery), I felt quite emotional. I felt like this was the first day of the rest of my life. I feel very right in my body now, I feel very free. My choice to be childfree is now somehow more validated in my head, as now there is no take backs. I honestly can’t find a better word than just feeling free. Free from some pressures about “changing my mind”.

So this is it. It’s done. I can now move forward in my life, child free and worry free.

Make your own decisions. Your life is yours, your body is yours. Choose to put yourself first, your needs, your wants and your life.



Styttri íslensk útgáfa

Mig langaði að skrifa bara stuttlega á íslensku um aðgerðina af því að mér finnst ekki nóg af persónulegum upplýsingum á netinu á íslensku. Þetta er mín lífsreynsla og ef þú ert að íhuga þessa aðgerð – talaðu þá við lækni. Þín reynsla bæði af aðgerðinni og batanum gæti verið allt öðruvísi.

Ég fór í aðgerðina hjá Lækningu í Lágmúla eftir að hafa talað við kvensjúkdómalækninn minn þar. Biðtíminn var um 5 vikur fyrir mig frá því ég hringdi svo til að panta tímann. Þar skiptir líka máli hvar þú ert í tíðahringnum. Skurðlæknirinn sendi mér upplýsingar í tölvupósti um kviðholsspeglun (mér fannst svolítið vanta upplýsingar um ófrjósemisaðgerðina sjálfa í það skjal reyndar) sem og umsókn sem þarf að fylla út og koma með á aðgerðardag.

Ég kom um 8 leytið um morguninn, skrifaði undir nokkur skjöl (um að ég vissi áhætturnar og að ég væri að taka þessa ákvörðun sjálf) og fékk svo rúm. Hjúkrunarfræðingur, svæfingalæknir og skurðlæknirinn komu við til að útskýra aðeins aðgerðina og ekki löngu seinna var ég komin í gulan slopp og upp á borð í skurðstofunni! Svæfingalæknirinn setti nál í handlegginn á mér og áður en ég vissi af var hann búinn að setja lyfið í, ég fann furðulega tilfinningu í hausnum og næsta sem ég veit er að ég vaknaði í rúminu sem ég var í fyrst.

Ég fékk vatn og bað um að fara á klósettið en þar sem blaðran er tæmd í aðgerðinni þá gerir það nú lítið. Ég fékk samt að fara og ég held að tilfinningin sem ég hafi fundið hafi verið vegna smá blóðkögguls sem kom út þegar ég fór á klósettið.

Læknirinn kom við og lét mig vita að allt hefði gengið vel og að ég mætti fara! Ég var semsagt mætt klukkan 8 og farin klukkan 10.

Það helsta sem ég tók eftir næstu daga er þreyta. Ég er búin að vera frekar líkamlega þreytt. Ég er talsvert minna aum en ég hélt þó það sé vissulega til staðar. Margar hreyfingar varðandi að setjast upp eða skipta um stellingu í rúminu eða sófanum eru óþægilegar og erfiðar þar sem að það er óþægilegt að nota magavöðvana.

Það mikilvægasta er bara hvíla hvíla hvíla. Taka því rólega, leggja sig og hvíla sig og taka því svo meira rólega. Ekki fara í stórþrif eða lyfta eða hlaupa. Mér var sagt að ég mætti fara í ræktina eftir viku, en ég myndi þá ekki fara beint í eitthvað hardcore heldur bara byrja hægt. Sömuleiðis má ekki stunda kynlíf í viku (og ég er svo nojuð að ég myndi hafa það 10 daga minnst). Ég er samt enn nógu aum núna á degi 5 til þess að geta ekki ímyndað mér neinn hasar!

Þrátt fyrir að vera enn frekar þreytt á degi 5 þá er ég svo glöð og ánægð. Ferlið var auðvelt, aðgerðin var auðveld og fljótleg og bataferlið er í raun frekar stutt og auðvelt. Ég hlakka til að klára þetta ferli og halda áfram með líf mitt – barnlaus.

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Do I hate children? Part 2.

January 23rd 2018, 39 days before my 28th birthday, I will get my tubes tied.

This is part two of my thoughts about choosing to be childfree. You can find part one here.

I’ve never been a huge fan of kids. Not even when I was a kid. This is definitely a part of the reason that I don’t want to have kids of my own. But I think I’ve also made it more dramatic than it is, as a defense mechanism when explaining to people why I don’t want kids.

I’ve never really been good with kids. I don’t know how to speak to them or play with them and I don’t understand them. I feel like generally kids don’t like me either, but I’m not surprised – it’s probably a vibe I give off. And I never had the urge to change that, consciously. It’s a mutual understanding between me and kids that we’re just fine without each other.

However, in the recent years this has started to change. There are a few kids I enjoy being around, mostly ones that are close to me through family or friends. I’ve started to learn how to speak to kids and how to play with them. This is a huge learning process for me but I’m very glad, because it really held me back for a long time. Being around kids made me anxious, I didn’t want to be doing something wrong, speaking to them in the wrong way or telling them things they weren’t equipped to hear. So I stayed away.

The reason I say it’s a defence mechanism is because I had times where I’d be around kids, holding them or playing with them, and I’d get a “see! You’ll learn to love kids and want to have one of your own one day!”. And it really scared me. Would I really change my mind? Was what I was feeling so wrong? Does what I am feeling make me somehow a worse person?

In reality, my conclusion was always that no – my feelings weren’t wrong, I wasn’t a worse person and I would not be changing my mind. But somehow playing with kids made other people gleefully go “I told you so!” when actually, nothing had changed. And so, I made sure to stay away from kids and to make it absolutely clear that not just did I dislike them – I hated them. It’s was just easier to brush conversations off with “oh no I hate kids”. I convinced myself of it and it now makes me sad. It makes me feel like I didn’t let myself explore the feeling of having fun playing with nieces and nephews knowing that it did not mean that I didn’t have to have kids myself.

As such, I am still very unequipped at dealing with children. Being asked to babysit terrifies me. I’ve worked in three kindergartens and a summer camp and having to deal with kids terrifies me to this day. I never got the chance to learn, because being constantly told that what I was feeling was wrong, made me more adamant in showing them. Proving to other people that I didn’t want kids.

I know that for some it may sound ridiculous. How can a grown woman not be around kids? It is very hard to explain to people that don’t feel this way. I absolutely don’t understand how people can not like dogs because I adore them. (please don’t take this as me comparing kids to dogs…). But joy that other people, some of my closest friends even, get from being around almost all children, almost all the time (their own, others and even strangers) is completely foreign to me.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still not a huge fan of kids. I don’t think that will change. With this post I am not saying that I actually adore kids even though I don’t want them. That’s not the truth. The truth is that I am, mostly, very indifferent to kids. In general, I have no strong feelings, I still would rather want to stay away – except for a select few. And I don’t think that it is wrong of me to feel this way. But I also think it explains why I have a disconnection to wanting kids, because why would I want something I don’t even like?

Be sure to check back next week, as I will write about the surgery and recovery. January 23rd is coming up quick and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’m (almost) 28 and I’m getting my tubes tied. Part 1.

January 23rd 2018, 39 days before my 28th birthday, I will get my tubes tied.

I am a single, childless woman. I know this raises a lot of questions and I want to explain, both to educate but also to put my own thoughts in order.

Since I was a kid myself I never connected with this idea of motherhood. When I played with dolls, I was most often a single doll-mum and working. I remember playing dolls with a male friend of mine and making him be a stay-at-home-dad. I talked about the kids I would have because honestly, I didn’t know you were allowed to not want kids. My Barbie’s sometimes had kids, but usually they’d find a babysitter, so they could go do something else than be mothers.

Once I realized that it was a possibility I started talking about not wanting kids. I remember being a teenager and saying that I didn’t want kids and I remember people telling me then and into my early adulthood that I would change my mind. Not that I might change my mind, but that I would. I would meet the one and these feelings would start to come.

I was in a relationship for four years and we had serious talks about having children. In the end, this was probably the biggest deal breaker for me when the relationship ended, because I didn’t want children and he did. I realized that even when I thought I wanted children, at the end of the day… I just really, really didn’t!

There’s a huge gap in representation of women choosing to be childfree. Because when they do, there’s always speculation. Look at Oprah, Ellen Degeneres and Jennifer Aniston. Through the years there have been so many articles and gossip columns written about them not having kids. Jennifer Aniston was often viewed as having “lost” the break up with Brad Pitt because he ended up with children and she didn’t. I recommend reading this short essay she wrote about the matter. If these women wanted kids – they would have kids. They have the money to adopt or do IVF or use a surrogate as many rich A-listers do. But they don’t.

We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. (…) We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own “happily ever after” for ourselves.” – Jennifer Aniston.

It took me a while to accept within myself that this was my truth. That I knew I will not change my mind. I’ve come to realize that it’s internalized prejudice that has stopped me so far, I’ve believed the voices that told me I would change my mind and that I would end up having kids. I believed that I was too young to understand, that I was just too stupid to see it. That one day I would wake up with an aching pain in my uterus, screaming and kicking for me to inhabit it with a child.

Maybe I will change my mind. And guess what – if I do, that’s okay! But I wholeheartedly believe, and have for the past almost 28 years, that I will not. To calm all of you – if I do change my mind I will be able to use IVF as both my uterus and my eggs will be intact. Yes, I know it’s expensive. But you know what else is expensive? Years and years of hormonal birth control and the occasional Plan B when others fail.

I’ve tried pills, the ring and even IUD. Since I was 14 (first for medical reasons) I have been more or less on hormonal birth control, and when I have not been I’ve felt so much better. They have either buried me in side effects (I guess having your sex drive completely die down is definitely a good way to not get pregnant…) or brought me a lot of pain (I’m looking at you self-dislodged IUD and 30 days of bleeding. Yeah, 30 days.). I like my body when I’m off these, I like my natural cycle. I experience cramps and heavy flows and I hate that, but I also feel very free when I’m off hormonal birth control, I feel very me and my body feels right. (Note: I don’t want the copper IUD as it’s known to increase cramps and flow and I’m quite fine in that department).

It’s very simple. I do not want children. I don’t want to be a mother. I don’t want to take birth control hormones. I want to not have to worry about it monthly (even when taking other precautions as a single woman should).

I’ve researched. I’ve read. I’ve written. I’ve talked to friends. I always end up at the same conclusion – I don’t want to have children. And I’ve even come to find that I don’t think I’d mind having a step-child, I just really don’t want to have children of my own. I don’t want to be pregnant, I don’t want to give birth, I don’t want to breast or bottle feed, I don’t want to have children of my own.

I am still very defensive, but rightfully so. I’ve been told over and over and over again that my feelings are not right, that they are not natural. It’s tiring and rude and unnecessary. That’s why I’m writing this now, because I want there to be voices telling other women that this is okay. That they are not alone.

We need to stop telling people how they feel and start listening to how they tell you they feel.

I’m not doing this lightly. I have given this more thought than I think anyone can imagine. And I always arrive at the same place. My ultimate destiny is not to have children. It’s not to be a mother. What it is, I don’t know. But I can’t wait to be that family friend that spoils my friend’s kids rotten, that cool aunt that they come to when it’s too embarrassing to talk to mum and dad. Because believe me, I don’t hate children (my feelings on this will be another post).

I’m more than open to discussing this, I’m more than open to answer questions. But I’m done with being told how to feel or how to be. I respect people that want to have kids and I ask for the same respect when it comes to my decision. Please don’t talk behind my back, please don’t think I’m stupid. Ask me if you want to know, but do so with an open mind and open heart. Listen to me and believe me.

2018

Since it’s almost a new year I thought I would try my luck at some resolutions. Some of them are more of a motto rather than an actual thing to check of a list, but I also know I can’t be putting too much pressure on myself. I don’t like the “lose x amount of weight, do x amount of work” kind of resolutions. Because if (/when…) you fail, the fall is so high you’re bound to get hurt and put unnecessary blame on yourself. So this is about starting a journey and hopefully being a few steps ahead at the same time next year.

Here are my hopes for 2018:

  1. Read.
    In 2017 I read a book. I honestly think I only read one book. That is absolutely terrible! In 2018 I will try to: read the whole Harry Potter series again. Read 10 books I have never read before. In total that is 17 books. More than one book a month, but less than two books a month. I need to re-learn to sit down and just read. Not get distracted by social media or Netflix.
  2. Put the phone down.
    It ties into the other point. Recently I turned off my notifications for Twitter and moved the app from the front page of my phone. I still check it religiously and I’m fine with that, but turning the notifications off helped me understand and appreciate that I don’t need to know everything right away. It’s been very calming. Putting the phone away and even on airplane mode while reading or cooking or cleaning my apartment will be good for me.
    I do also want to say that I absolutely love social media and I think it’s more a force of good than evil. It has connected me with some amazing people, people I call my best friends. But that’s not where the pressure comes from. It comes from within and it’s about thinking you need to perform to an audience, rather than the audience being there because you are you.
  3. Learn what I want, go after it, but don’t beat myself up if I don’t get it.
    Failing or getting denied is horrible. We tend to get defensive and we tend to blame it on who we are as people. Logically, I know that’s not right. Emotionally… maybe not so much. This ties into everything from dating to friendships to work to food to health to mental health. We’re prone to making promises like “I’ll start my diet on Monday!” and then hating ourselves when we don’t. Life style changes are about small steps, but we love short term pleasure. This may be the most important point. It also ties into the next point…
  4. Admitting, to me and others, when I have negative feelings about myself.
    As people, we are very good at beating ourselves up for our mistakes and failures. It’s understandable and it’s also almost logical. But the thing is, the lesson for me is, that being a human and living your life is a learning process. I’ve had such safe experiences for my whole life that I feel like I don’t know how to deal with failure. I’m very good at putting on a strong face and saying “whatever, it’s fine” when it’s not. The problem lies in the fact that either I will feel all of it when I’m on my own, beat myself up about it OR I will completely ignore it. I need to learn how to explore the feelings of failure and loss, without judging it. Allowing myself to feel it without judging myself. I feel like I have already started this journey and I feel like I’ve been doing pretty well with telling my closest people about how I feel, even when I feel like it reflects on me in a negative way.
    I need to learn that if people can’t/don’t want to see me, it’s not because it’s me – it’s because they themselves are in a situation where my presence is not wanted or needed. That does not reflect on me, it reflects on the current situation of their lives. I am still valuable.
  5. Seeking out being social.
    For the past few months especially I feel like I have barely met my friends at all! I know we are all busy and we have different work schedules and lives, but I don’t like this. I don’t like realizing on a Sunday that I’ve only met people at work. I have learnt that I need people more than I thought I did. It’s not about partying, it’s not about drinking. It’s not about making every social event a “thing”. It’s about human contact, about listening to others and sharing your own, it’s about being around love. I think one of the reasons it started to be a problem is because I, or even we as people often, put pressure on every social thing to be a… well… thing. A simple dinner at home is an event. I miss going to my friends house to do basically nothing and ending up on the sofa talking for hours without realizing it. I feel like I haven’t done that enough this year and I need to change it. I love being on my own, I love being by myself and I adore social contact through social media. But I don’t want to allow myself to miss out on meeting people.
  6. Leaving the house.
    I adore my apartment. I adore my bed, I adore my bath tub, I adore my sofa. I have a very hard time getting up in the morning and on days off I often make excuses that “I need to rest”. As much as that is true, resting is also about leaving the house. On days off from work, I know I need to go out more because otherwise I spend the day in bed waiting for my next work day and that only makes internal stress.
  7. Accepting my body.
    As much as I cheer for body positivity, I don’t always feel it. And it’s only recently that I learned that not only is that okay – it’s normal! Supporting body positivity is the first step. As a curvy lady, I’ve had body image problems since about 18 when I started gaining weight. I need to learn two things: that my worthiness as a human being is not how my body looks but also, that I can be beautiful and sexy in the body that I am in now. I can be and am desirable. No matter what we look like, there’s always going to be people that are attracted to us and there’s always going to be people that are not.

    bodyposi
    By: @maxine.sarah.art on Instagram. Go follow her, her art and her messages are amazing!

    It’s weird how we hold ourselves to completely different standards than we do others. I have looked at curvy and fat women and thought “well she’s more beautiful because she has better proportions”. I’m still learning that that is not necessarily right. I’ve learnt that “another person’s beauty does not mean the absence of your own”, or rather – I’m trying to learn that.
    I know this is a big thing for me to learn. There is a lot of things I don’t like or appreciate about my body, and often times it’s the parts that others like the most (#bigboobproblems).

  8. Re-accepting my personality.
    Here’s the thing. I am very open and very honest. I have a very hard time keeping my own secrets. But I have found myself going into a shell in the past year or so. I have found myself judging myself harshly for how I feel and am. I feel myself relying on and depending on other people’s opinion more than I used to. I have a few theories as to why that is, but that doesn’t matter. I need to re-learn to be proud. It’s basically the same thing as with body image – not everyone will like it and that is perfectly okay! I want to get stronger and more confident, I want to stand up to my opinions rather than trying to always make everyone happy when I don’t feel like it. My purpose is not to be everyone else’s cheerleader. My hope is that I am and can be a good person. I do think I am. But I also want to allow myself to be opinionated, to be strong and most of all – to be wrong without it being a big deal.
    My biggest step is accepting the parts of myself that are not “normally socially acceptable” or maybe out of the norm. One of those things I will soon make a blog post about as it is a very big life decision and can not be presented in a bulletin point (spoiler alert: I am getting my tubes tied.)
  9. Being honest.
    I have always been an honest person. I have a very hard time keeping secrets, even my own. But in 2018 I want to do so without the little voice telling me that I am too honest and too open. I want to do so with love. I want to stop being ashamed of it. I’m the type of person that probably puts too much information on social media. I want to learn to not be ashamed of it, because if people don’t want to see it, that is their choice. I can not restrain myself on my social media for the benefit of others. This doesn’t mean slapping harsh truths in people’s faces or making them uncomfortable, but rather putting a very clear boundary of who I am and what I am willing to share. And I am willing to share a lot.
    Being honest also means being honest with myself, and ties into accepting myself.

And lastly – the one thing I will not make into a bulletin point – learning food. Yes, learning food. My eating habits and my relationship with food is extremely unhealthy and I know that. However, at this point this is my biggest obstacle and I can not do it to myself to put pressure on this yet. I feel like this will follow the rest, but it’s better kept on the side line.

Most of these points boil down to one thing: acceptance.

Accepting myself and others, while not faulting us for it but also by learning from it. We aren’t set in stone, we are allowed to make mistakes, we are allowed to change but most importantly – we are allowed to experiment with who we are as people.

When I was 19 I got a really important letter. The last line said “I hope you will put yourself first”. Since then I have and I have both succeeded and failed. In 2018 I want to learn again what that means. Because putting yourself first doesn’t mean inherently being obnoxiously and negatively selfish. It means self-care and self-love which ultimately makes you a better person to know. In my opinion, it makes you a better friend and family member. People that truly put themselves first, know that prioritizing yourself means sometimes prioritizing others. The thing is, you do it without comprising yourself and your health. You do it out of good will and love. I want to be clear that I don’t agree with the phrase “if you can’t love yourself how are you going to love someone else” because I think that it’s not true. However I do think loving yourself first makes it easier for you to love and support others.

In 2018 I want to love myself so that I can love others better and so that others can better love me.

I want to practice self-love and self-care without the pressure.

I want to have fewer nights of doubting myself and more nights of celebrating myself.

I want to be happier than I was in 2017. And I hope you will be too.

Chasing happiness

Some days chasing happiness is harder than other days. That’s how I think about it a lot. But when I have time to think about it a bit more, I honestly think that we shouldn’t be chasing. We run after things so much, we’re never happy with what we have. Live in the moment and all that.

To me happiness is more good days than bad. It’s when awful weather doesn’t effect your mood. It’s when you embrace the sideways rain in your face. It’s when you do the small stuff at home and your mind isn’t racing. For me it’s not feeling anxious at every turn.

When I have a good day I don’t remember the bad and when I have a bad day I don’t remember the good. Like right now, I feel pretty good and I can’t recall the feeling of anxiety. The other day when I stayed at home in bed for a few days because I just couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t recall feeling like I do now.

I feel like I’m mostly happy. Or rather, content. I don’t really think I’m in the ideal situation that I want to be in. Very often I feel claustrophobic and locked in with my life. I don’t want to live where I live. I feel like I can’t chase happiness here. I think it’s partly restraints I have put on myself, I put pressure on the fact that I think I’ll be happier elsewhere. I think it’s partly that and partly the fact that society tells us to chase happiness. We’re not allowed to be happy with what we have.

I think that the pressure of achievement is what makes us unhappy. We always have to have a goal, even if the goal is “no goal”, and we put pressure on ourselves to not be happy until the goal is achieved. For many it’s long term relationships, babies, buying a house, all that jazz (though I wonder how many people would be happier not being constrained to that expectation). Society tells us to never be happy with what we have. It tells us that we can’t be happy with a “mediocre” life. We’re always asking “what next?”.

It reminds me of a conversation I had. This person knows I tried (and failed) moving to Copenhagen last year. He knows I love traveling and that I don’t like Iceland. But he made a fair point – will I be happy anywhere? If I move to Copenhagen and make a life there, will that be enough or will I forever want and need to wander to be happy? Is it the day to day reality that makes me “unhappy”? Will I constantly be looking for “what’s next?”.

I don’t think I can answer these questions, and honestly, I don’t think I should. I think it’s a very good question and definitely something to think about, but I think one of the problems is always wanting and needing to look far ahead. It’s the “what’s next?” again. Maybe nothing is next, or maybe I just don’t know. Or maybe I just don’t care either, because life will happen whether I worry about the future or not.

It’s the same feeling I got when I was in a relationship and people asked us where we thought we’d be in the next 5 or 10 years. I made a plan, in my mind. I made a plan so that I could answer these questions. But after I got out of the relationship and my plan changed completely in a matter of months, I felt much happier.

There was still pressure, and there still is. Just of a different kind. When in a relationship the question was always “When babies, when marriage, are you going to live in this apartment forever, what are you going to work as, how are you going to be the model grown up that we expect you to be”. Now it’s “when boyfriend”. It’s like I should be tied down to having a partner. It’s like society doesn’t believe I can be happy in the situation I’m in – a single woman. I should be chasing happiness in the form of love.

By all of this, I don’t mean we shouldn’t set ourselves goals or have wants or needs for the future. I just think we put too much pressure on it. And I think we put too much pressure on succeeding. We don’t allow ourselves to be happy. I know I do this a lot. I don’t allow myself to feel happy in my situation because I know it’s not my ideal situation. But that doesn’t mean I can’t and shouldn’t feel happy. I’m allowed.

Maybe all of this is me being naive. Maybe everyone else has already figured this out. I don’t know (I don’t think so, but it’s a part of my anxiety to worry about this).

Some days happiness is just sitting in a café, writing about happiness.

A café.

2016-06-29 09.59.08-5.jpgThe older women who still use the phone to call each other to set a date for the coffee date they have been meaning to have. They gossip about the old neighbourhood , that they used to live in, in their late 20’s, with the kids and the husbands that worked too much. They wear their knitted sweaters and take so long opening up their smartphones to add each other on “The Facebook” where they will most definitely write on each other’s walls later tonight, when their kids who don’t live with them have accepted a dinner offer next weekend and their husbands that work too much are asleep by the TV.

The kid in the yellow-green boots and his mum who, on their way home, decided to stop so that somehow, they could make the life disappear and have it only centre around this one sandwich and the jazzy music, rather than the problems that will face once they get home. The mum worries about the mess and if her marriage is failing and the kid worries about the girl he has a crush on and if he will be bullied tomorrow. But at least they could sit together and just, be.

The cousins that haven’t met in a long time but somehow both found themselves lonely at the same time and the universe just aligned that they had time to grab a hot chocolate and croissants. But somehow the conversation is just so easy and honest. “I’m thinking about going to a therapist myself” says the younger one after the older one described how easy it was to be able to talk to someone who didn’t know her whole life. “We need to do this more often” they say but wonder if the other means it.

The Tinder date that somehow is just so easy and the conversation just flows and they just agree so much with each other. But one is from here and the other is not but it doesn’t matter because what matters except this beer and this conversation, right here and right now? He put on a shirt but also a sports jumper, cause it’s a date but it’s not serious, right? And she put on a baggy sweater to hide what she doesn’t like, that is still open enough at the top to hint at the things she likes, or thinks he may like.

The dudes in the corner that laugh with their loud dude laugh but all just appreciate being able to spend time with their friends.

The couple in the corner that just want to relax and end up not really talking because they don’t need to. And maybe they don’t want to.

The staff behind the counter that are good at their jobs but can’t stop looking the clock just so they can get home so they can sleep and wake up tomorrow to come back to work.

And the loner, who sits on her computer and writes about the people around her because somehow, spending time with strangers that aren’t spending time with you, is less lonely than you can imagine.

My relationship with food: Why can’t I just eat normally?

When I was 14 I landed in the hospital due to a very heavy period that was never really explained. I had to get four bags of blood transferred into my body just to function. I was extremely thin and weighed next to nothing and the nurses asked my mum if she thought I might have some sort of eating disorder. She said I didn’t, and she was right, I didn’t.

I’ve never had a problem with food in a way that eating disorders are described. I don’t try to control my weight or looks with food and though I am often displeased with my body, I still try to love it as it is. This is and has never been an issue of controlling my looks or my weight. When I started writing this blog it was 9.30 pm. I had barely eaten (a banana and a few smarties) but I had taken out leftovers from the night before, not because I wanted to but because I knew I had to. It was the day Donald Trump had become president and I had been feeling a lot of stress, anxiety and fear all day. The food was delicious though.

I have a weird relationship with food. Let me explain.

Firstly, I don’t like cooking. I’m extremely bored by the action of preparing food and making food. I get so bored by it that sometimes I can’t even be bothered to toast a piece of bread, butter it and put a slice of cheese on it. That’s why a lot of the time if no one is cooking for me, I end up eating out or ordering in. A meal that comes to me ready. A lot of people say “Oh but it’s different if you’re making something fancy or cooking for other people” but to me it isn’t. I have had dinner parties; I’ve had a bunch of people over for Christmas where I had to get up at 8 am to start cooking for lunch. Yes, the feeling of having a feast and people complimenting you on the food is great. But not great enough that I want to do it again. Sometimes I will cook for people because I love them, and giving people food shows love. I’m not a great cook, obviously because I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but I do okay with what I know.

I realize this is a luxury problem and I’m being immature about it. I’m an adult, and sometimes adults have to do things they don’t want to. But why should I make something when I can order in or buy ready stuff?

Secondly, I’m an extremely picky eater. I’ve gotten better with age but when I was a kid I didn’t like a lot of food. I barely eat vegetables and it’s not been many years since I started trying sauces with meat. I don’t really know where it comes from. Some of it probably comes from imitating after my older brother, if he didn’t like something I didn’t like it either. When you’re 5, you kind of want to be like your cool 13-year-old brother. Like I said, I’ve gotten better with age. I can eat some vegetables now, though I rarely do, I love most sauces and I try to try most things. I’ve gotten to know that I do in fact like a lot of things I thought I hated. Part of this is also a gag reflex. I have a weird gag reflex. For the longest time I didn’t eat Skyr (thick yoghurt-y type of thing) because I couldn’t deal with how thick it was, it made me want to vomit. I like Skyr now but sometimes, at the last spoonfuls the feeling comes back and I have to stop. It’s like my body just rejects some food. And I get that people have gag reflexes for foods they don’t like, but it’s always been so many different foods for me and such heavy negative connections.

Thirdly, I also think that part of it is a sort of a control thing because ever since I was a kid I hated being told what to do. I hate being told what I might like or what I need to do. Yes, I realize it’s immature, but that’s the truth. If someone tells me “oh you’ll love this” my automatic system goes “You don’t get to tell me what I love!”. It’s very much a “I’m cleaning my room because IIIII want to, not because you told me MUM!” type of thing. I want to control myself, I don’t want to be controlled. Some might say “fiercely independent” (which sounds nice), others might go for a “extremely childish”. I think it’s a mix of both.

Because of these things, disliking cooking and being a picky eater along with the control issue, I’ve generally never eaten much. When I was 18 I had to do an essay on vitamins and the like, where I had to write down what I was eating for a week, analyse it and understand it. In the same semester I participated in a research where I also had to write down what I ate, and come in for a physical. In both cases I reported eating way too little, except when I was eating a lot of candy. I was having pretty much no food. It wasn’t on purpose, I just didn’t eat. I’d buy a sandwich at school and then possibly eat dinner. When I realized it, I lied on the reports. I made up eating more, because I knew I was supposed. In my head I’ve always been like this, I don’t know if that’s true though. But I’ll eat once before dinner usually, and a lot of the time that’s because I know I should eat, not because I want to. But more on that later.

Last but definitely not least, and probably most importantly, feelings. When I was around 18 I was in an unhappy relationship, and we lived less than a 10-minute walk from a 24-hour store with a big selection of sweets. At that point in my life, I ate when I was unhappy. After we broke up, I ate a lot of junk food. A lot of it. From 18 I had started gaining weight. But in the past year or so, it’s changed. I wonder if I was always like this but somehow always ate the junk food before because that’s what I thought you did. In the last year I’ve often gone to the store to buy junk food, and either bought much less than I expected or bought stuff and then didn’t want to eat it. But I did. In April I moved into a house which was further away from a store than previously. I was also writing my thesis for school and it was a very stressful time. It’s not that I never went to the store, and I did indeed often buy junk food that I then didn’t want. But I lost weight from the stress this time, and that’s the first time I remember losing weight dramatically enough to notice it. I do often crave junk food but that’s probably just because my body knows it has to eat. But I don’t want it anymore, I don’t have the appetite. I’ll order a pizza and hate it while I eat it. Junk food is still somehow the only thing I know how to eat. I know how to eat simple food, simple carbs. Candy is easy because it’s ready. Previously, I’d eat when I was unhappy, but now I don’t. And eating is already something I struggle with on good days.

I need routine, heavy routine, and even then I have problems. In the summer of 2015 I was working a 2-2-3 system and on the days I worked I was eating pretty well. I’d have a kale and berries smoothie for breakfast and some yoghurt. I’d drink enough water and take vitamins. I’d have a sandwich for lunch and an afternoon snack and then dinner. I felt great. I know I felt better. But when my work routine changed, so did my eating habits.

This summer when I was traveling I also barely ate. I’d have one big meal a day usually, and maybe some yoghurt. But I also didn’t eat a lot of sweets like I’m used to so I lost weight. Honestly the more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t even remember what I was eating. I remember eating a lot of croissants in train stations and I always tried to make sure I had enough snacks for long train rides. For some reason I’m always very careful to have a lot of snacks when I travel. Healthy and unhealthy snacks. After I came back I started eating sweets more and I’m sure I have put on weight (I don’t weigh myself and haven’t for many years. It’s not helpful). When I had just come back people around me commented that I had very obviously lost weight. It didn’t make me feel good because I couldn’t see it myself.

My relationship with food is a weird one. I eat way too little, for all the reasons mentioned above. I probably generally eat less than 1000 calories a day of actual food. Some days I make up the calories by sweets, but lately not as much. I just don’t want to. I eat food and junk food because I know I need to eat and because in some way I think that’s supposed to be a coping mechanism, but it just isn’t. It used to be for me, it used to somehow help but it doesn’t anymore. I try to use this chance to not eat unhealthy, but the main problem is – I’m not eating anything instead either.

I’m writing this post because I believe writing things and letting them go by posting them can help. Writing them out helps me get my thoughts in order and posting them helps me try to take responsibility or even just feel some support through people possibly reading it. I want to stress that my odd relationship with food has nothing to do with weight loss or controlling the way I look. I don’t starve myself on purpose or feel bad for eating. Maybe now that I’m posting this I’ll finally get into a routine, start eating like I’m supposed to. But most likely, I might do it for a few days and then fall back into the same habits. We’ll just have to see.

Home.

Home is where the heart is. Or home is where the rump rests, as Pumbaa so delicately put it.

Last night I got back to my home town of Akureyri. This is the town I grew up in. I’ve had a lot of different feelings for this town. When I was a teenager I often hated it and as soon as I graduated 10th grade I jumped at the chance to move to Reykjavík, at 16 years old. The big city. A lot of stuff happened there too and I moved back to Akureyri when I was 19.

Since then I’ve lived in London for 4 months, Reykjavík again for about 2-3 months but I’ve been here in Akureyri since late fall 2010. A lot of life happened for me since 2010. Going from 20 to 26 is a big life jump. I was in a relationship for four years, I owned an apartment for almost 3 years. I owned cars, I started university, I graduated university. I made new friends, a new family and moved around a bit within the town.

But at the end of my last semester at university, this spring, I was done. I had to get out. I love this town, I adore it. But I had to get out, my time was over for a bit. It’s not a huge town, it’s 18,500 people but it is the biggest town outside of the capital area in Iceland. School was stressful that semester and I craved more. I needed to travel.

Being a butterfly I wanted to move after I finished traveling. I planned on it. I originally planned on London, but ended up in Copenhagen, and for reasons I’m tired of getting into, it didn’t work out this time. So September 2nd, I came back to Iceland, 80 days after I left.

After leaving Reykjavík in 2009 I never really liked it that much. I don’t know why. It’s an okay city and all and probably fine and good to visit as a foreigner but I just… don’t feel it, there. It’s not me. But it’s the city, I have a lot of friends there, and to be honest I’m not sure I’m ready to go for small town feel right now. After only being in cities this summer, that’s what I want. I’m a big city person. So I’m looking for jobs mostly in Reykjavík (though there is a very interesting opportunity here in Akureyri that I applied for).

Anyway, history lesson done. What being here only one day made me think about is “what is home?”.

Traveling gave me so much. Traveling gave me new experiences, it introduced me to new people, new stories, new characters, new everything. And even wanting to settle down in Copenhagen would be an adventure of its own because there I would not only be living in a new city, I’d have much easier access to travel within Europe.

I love cities. I love being able to be so anonymous. I love people watching. I love being able to go to another neighbourhood and pass people who I might never pass again. I love meeting other travellers and people that have different stories from mine. Small towns will never be me.

If home is where the heart is, my home is Copenhagen. At least right now. That’s where I left my heart. I feel like that, I feel like I left my heart, my soul, in Copenhagen. It’s very dramatic, of course, but I’m a dramatic person.

At the same time, coming back to Akureyri Backpackers, the hostel I used to work in and made a lot of my friends here, it feels like home. Sitting here, writing this, in the corner by the window, that feels like home. A lot of last winter happened here and it was good. So I feel… content. I feel welcomed. Maybe Backpackers has always felt like such a safe haven to me because it’s a hostel – it has the travellers.

I feel like I have four different homes. And I don’t mean the physical address or the places I still call home because my parents live there.

My homes are:

Copenhagen – where my heart and soul are, wandering on their own.

London – where I felt relieved when I first ever landed there and felt like I belonged completely.

Akureyri – because this is my town. My home town. And it was good to me.

Traveling – traveling is a home. Hostel hopping, living in Backpackers, staying somewhere long enough that you give the bartender a look and they start making your drink. The weirdo that snores, the one that gets up early and is too loud and wakes you up. Shitty showers, good showers, using shower shoes because you don’t trust the floor of the shower. Public toilets. Starting to not care that you’re changing in front of strangers. Doing your make-up in small, hand held mirrors. New roommates every day. Crappy curtains. Trains. Trains where you reserve a seat, trains where you don’t and have to move around because other people did reserve a seat, trains with compartments, trains where you sit with one, or even three, strangers. Trains where you make friends for 8 hours between Ljubljana and Munich and now have no idea what their names are. Trains where you make the friends that you get drunk with on the 8-hour train and one of them plays a mouth harp. Trains where you have to share a compartment with 5 obnoxious Dutch teenagers. Train stations where you have changed three times already and know where to find a corner to sit in where you won’t be walked over. Train stations where seeing a McDonalds feels like your life is being saved. Bars where you make the best friends you never knew you were missing in your life.

Jake.

((I went off a writing prompt and this is where I’m at now. Tell me your thoughts))


 

“Jake, I’m giving up”, his wife sighed and her voice was cracking. The kids were in bed, the kitchen was clean after the usual tornado of a dinner. The house was quiet and mellow, but he had just been in his study having a heated conversation with a business partner who lived so many time zones away that it was still business hours for him. Jake was never off work. Being a lawyer involved in international affairs meant there was never a day off.

“You… it’s like…”, she searched for her words. She had thought about this a lot, she knew what she was going to say but now, standing in front of him she forgot what even was bothering her. She looked up at him, and he could see in her eyes how lost she was. Somewhere deep down he knew what she was going to say, what was bothering her, but he needed to hear her say it because if he said it he was admitting to a weakness he had buried deep down.

“Ella, what is it?”, he said firmly, even though he was feeling vulnerable and wanted nothing more than lock himself in a cabin with her and forget that there was a world out there.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, cleared her throat, stood up straight. She opened her eyes and looked straight into his eyes. Her hazel eyes and his dark brown eyes locked, like so many times before but now she felt there was an ice cold air between them. Not hate or dislike, but like the heat that had originally bound them together and gotten them to where they were had evaporated and left small icicles instead.

“Jake, you are never home, you are always on edge and agitated. Even when you are home, you’re not present. You’re constantly on your phone, or checking your phone, or checking your e-mail or writing an e-mail or reading documents. You’re here but you’re never here. I don’t… I… I don’t know you anymore. You are not my husband, you are a lawyer, a machine. Jackson Rodwell, of Rodwell and sons, corporate man, business man, top lawyer. But you are not Jake, my Jake, my husband, my kids father”, she blurted out and as soon as she did she felt a ton lifted of her shoulders. Her knuckles were white from holding onto the kitchen counter, she didn’t even realize. She was breathing heavily, she could go on but she needed to know where he stood before she kept going.

This was it. That phone call he had taken at the end of dinner that had been the last straw. Or rather, when he wasn’t off it to clear the table, help with the kids, bathe them, get them in to pyjamas, read to them, make sure they didn’t fight, keep an eye on them until they fell asleep. He had been on the phone call for 2 hours. He had promised to take care of the kids so she could take a bath, relax. His life was stressful, she knew, but so was hers and she didn’t think he understood.

He didn’t know how to respond. Where to even start. He had been buried in work and he kept telling himself it was almost over, but it was never over. It would never be over. Being a partner in a big firm wasn’t an easy job but he knew he was taking on more than he had to. I loved his job but he knew it had been taking over. He just didn’t know how to quit it; he didn’t know where to stop. He had become his job and his job had become him. Somewhere along the way he had lost Jake and become Jackson again.

“Ella, I’m sorry”, he started. She sneered, “sorry is meaningless Jake”, she said. Quickly her despair had become anger.

“No, Ella, really I am sorry”, he hurried to say, because he was, “look babe…”

“Don’t you dare fucking “babe” me, Jake. This is a serious conversation. Do you even understand? I am giving up, I’m so close to being done”, she hissed back.

“Please let me talk, okay?”, he sighed. She had every right to be angry. His kids barely recognized him or talked to him. He had no idea how they were doing in school, in life.

She crossed her arms and nodded at him, with a disbelief, edging him on.

“It’s just that this deal going through right now is very important and they’re giving me a hard time and I need it to…”, he started, trying to wrap his own head around why he was where he was in life.

“Don’t fucking care, Jake. I don’t fucking care about your business deals or firm. Everything is important, every deal is the biggest deal, every deal is the most important deal of your career. I don’t care anymore. I knew it was going to be difficult and I knew you’d be working hard. I’m proud of you, I am, but I didn’t agree to being a single mother. If I’m going to be a single mum I’d rather be actually single, have some fun, rather than sitting at home waiting for you to be too tired to even talk to me. Did you know Alice is at the top of her class and got a certification for doing well in English? Did you know Alvin got the lead in his class play? Did you know Alma had a crush on a boy and cried over it?”, she looked at him and she could tell he had no clue.

“See, I’ve told you all of this before”, she sighed, “I’ve told you all of this”.

“Ella, I don’t… know what to say. I don’t know what to do. It’s not like I can walk away from the company, it’s my company! I can’t… I don’t have the resources…”, he grasped for excuses.

“Yeah, it’s your company. You can do what you want. Hire people. Take a break. Jake, I… I will ask for a divorce eventually”, her voice was cracking again.

“What do you want me to do?”, he tried to reach for her over the counter, but it was too wide and she crossed her hands even tighter.

“I want you take a month off.  A whole month. The first three weeks I want you to spend on your own. Away from here. Away from this country. No phone, no internet. Read books, write a diary, watch movies, breathe, try new food, meet new people, no business. I think you need it. I don’t know who you are anymore and I think it’s because you don’t know who you are either. How can I know when you’ve lost yourself”, she said. Her expression relaxed, he shoulders went down.

Was she insane? A month? With some planning he could maybe take a week off and even then he’d have to keep in touch.

“Ella…”, he started, his voice weak. His forehead wrinkled up in thought and desperation.

“No. This is the condition. I’ll give you two weeks, after that you better have a plane ticket out of here or I leave. There is no if’s or but’s. I’m going to bed. Please sleep in the guest room”, she turned around and walked away. Her own heart was breaking, she had to walk away because she didn’t want to cry. She needed to be tough. Every time he wasn’t on his phone until she was asleep, they would argue or not even talk.

That night, she cried. A ton had been lifted off her but another ton had been put on instead.

That night, he cried. He had been punched in the gut and it had opened up everything he had carefully ignored.

They cried for each other.


 

“Are you insane?”, his brother laughed.

“No Damien, I am not and I am also not kidding. It’s not even just about saving my marriage, my family, it’s about saving myself. I am not taking on more cases and I’m giving my small cases to Lois. I will be taking a month off. Maybe I’ll be crazy when I come back, I don’t even really care anymore”, Jake said firmly. Damien could see a change, there was something happening in Jake’s head.

They had been brought up in this company. The two of them had been destined for the lawyer path since they were born. The family name. The family company. Taking over. Damien had two sons and Jake had one and their father had been adamant that the company live on. He could see his sons do it but Jake’s son Alvin took after his mother, he was softer and artistic and thoughtful. Damien liked his sister in law but he couldn’t understand how Jake fell in love with her, they were so unlike each other. His own wife was also a lawyer, they had met in law school.

“It’s not like I can stop you but have you thought about what this can do to the reputation of the company?”, Damien asked, completely serious.

“The company, the company, the company. Of course I have Damien but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather not die at 65 like dad, okay?”.

Their father had worked hard his whole life. Jake and Damien had been born into wealth, because their father had made his own wealth early, from nothing. They had good work ethics, maybe too good, maybe a bit too focused on work if anything. Their father always made sure they knew how important work was. And at 65 his heart gave out.

“Fine. Fine! You go be a hippy, find yourself, breathe the ocean air, clear your head, maybe then you can realize how stupid this is”, Damien said, dismissively and waved Jake out of his office.

Ella hadn’t been talking to him. Not more than she needed. They slept in the same bed but he knew she was done. Today he’d book a ticket. He had no idea where to go but he understood. The past week he had been distracted. He was all in his head. The demons he’d worked so hard at repressing, so much that now it was automatic, were waking up from a deep sleep, crawling their way up to his conscious. His body started to get tired cause he let himself realize the weight, he let himself understand how much the stress was killing him. Little by little he was getting locked in his own head but his wife’s voice echoed in his head. Maybe they didn’t need to be married but she was right, he wasn’t himself, he was a machine.

Jackson the lawyer, Lawyer Jackson, hard hitting, hard business, hard money Jackson. He wasn’t Jake.

He was automated, he was a robot. Now he was just a different robot. A robot Pinocchio who was realizing he wanted to be a real boy.


 

He’d been in airports a lot. He knew this airport like the back of his hand.

“I know this airport better than I know my wife”, he thought to himself. “I know it better than my kids know me”.

The man at the check-in desk greeted him like an old friend. “Where to now? New York, Paris, Rome?”, he joked as he took Jake’s passport.

“What business do you have in Hawaii? Taking over the whole world, eh”, he asked, curiously. Jake hadn’t been there before.

“Vacation, actually”, Jake replied and smiled. Usually he would chat but he didn’t know how to explain.

“Wow, never seen that happen before. Where’s the family, already gone?”, the man said as he printed the boarding pass.

“Something like that”.


 

He checked into his resort. He had decided to start in a town, but in a few days he had a cabin on a cliff a few hours away from any towns. The nearest civilization was a tiny village with a store, a bar and a café. He found safety in knowing there were at least some people within a half an hour walk. The cabin would still be secluded. He had mostly brought books. His computer was with him but per his wife’s wishes there was no wifi. He had a basic phone, no smart phone allowed. He had immersed himself in this idea.

His first night he went down to the hotel bar. He was still dressed business, business casual if anything. He didn’t really have anything that didn’t scream business. His whole life was business.

A young man was sitting at the bar by himself. He had apparently been there for a while and very obviously a tourist in shorts and Hawaii shirt.

“Here’s to nothing”, Jake thought and sat down near the guy, one seat between them. He ordered a whisky, neat. Keep it at least a little bit familiar.

The guy ordered a big, fancy, colourful cocktail.

“Looks good, that”, Jake said, trying to break the ice, and lifted his own glass.

“When in Hawaii!”, the guy said, lifting his glass in return.

“You traveling with family”, Jake asked, fixing his posture so he was facing the guy a bit more.

“Solo traveller. Best way, NAY, only way to travel, my friend. Why get attached, when you can be free. Fuck all”, the guy smirked.

“Good point. This is my first vacation… in years”, Jake replied.

“Well, cheers to that, may your days be filled with wonder and your dick attract all the women… or men, if you will”, he took a large sip from a big loopy straw.

Jake laughed, “not sure if the wife would like that”, he winked.

“Ah, family man. Very business, much serious. I’m Russell”, the guy extended his hand towards Jake.

“Jackson Rodw… Jake, I’m Jake”, he took his hand firmly, immediately realizing how business his handshake was.

“So Jake, how long will it take you to leave the whisky behind and take some chances with a tall, slender, fruity cocktail?”, Russell teased him. He was right. Whiskey was safe. It was manly, it was business. Jake downed it.

“Order for me then”.

A few hours, more than a few cocktails and a life story later, Jake had learned that Russell was only a traveller. He envied him. Though he was happy… or thought he was, being a family man, he envied Russell for being able to find the freedom. It was a reality that was so far away from his own. He had travelled a lot but he stayed in hotels, went to meetings, drank whiskey and smoked cigars with other tall, dark haired, business men. It was a business man’s world and he was right in the middle of it. Though he had travelled far and to cities all over the world, his view of the world was still very limited. Though learning customs of other countries, being invited to family dinners of his clients or business partners, the business part was always the underlying part. He and Ella had gone to Barbados for their honeymoon but that was many years ago, they had been young and his eyes had been clouded by the beauty and grace of his new wife. They had taken the kids to Disneyland and Disney World but that was it.

“You’re lucky, Russell, you know that”, he said, while he fished a strawberry up from his empty glass, waving to the bartender to get another round. They had made a deal with the bartender to never bring the same drinks twice in a row and he had demanded it all be put on his room. He was paying. He wanted to say fuck all to being responsible. These three weeks were not about that.

“I’m lucky. I am but it’s a different lucky. It’s a lucky where my wife is a beautiful human being, inside and out. Her heart is pure, her grace is undeniable. My kids are… my kids are great, they are hilarious but I don’t think I know them, I could know them more, you know? You know? She was right, Ella, she was, I need this. This is only my first night and I feel like I’m floating. May be the drinks, may be the fact that I haven’t talked to any other white, middle class men about money for almost 24 hours now. See, you’re lucky because responsibility, it kills you, Russell, it kills you. There’s responsibility and then there’s re-spohn-she-bih-lih-teeeee, you know”, Jake rambled. He was talking to himself more than Russell if anything but Russell was listening.

“The point, Jake, of traveling, is hearing these stories. I teach you something, you teach me something. I’m terrified of a life like yours. I never want to be tied down like that. It sounds to me like you got stuck because you enjoyed it but you got stuck nonetheless”, Russell replied, grabbing Jake’s upper arm.

“Be free man, BE FREE!”, he yelled, “MARSHALL TURN THIS SONG UP”.

Before Jake knew what was happening he had been whipped out to the floor of the now empty hotel bar as Russell threw him around in an extravagant dance and they loudly sang along with a song neither one of them knew.

When they got kicked out, Jake tipped generously, and Russell suggested they walk down to the beach.

“You gotta clear your head, you gotta do it by the ocean”, he said and Jake immediately heard his brothers sarcastic comment echo in his head.

He was right though. It was pitch dark but the sound was calming and the sand dug between his toes.

“I have been wearing black dress shoes since I was born, probably”, Jake sighed as they sat down and opened the bottled beer they had gotten from the hotel bar.

“I’ve been to beaches but…”, he didn’t even know what the end of the sentence was.

“Jake. This is… the first day of the rest of your life”, Russell said and pushed Jakes shoulder.

“I’ve been in love, you know. With a human. But the love for places is much stronger for me. I couldn’t settle down. And they wouldn’t travel, so… here I am. Sitting on a beach with a business man, a family man, a suited up guy”, Russell sighed.

“Tell me about this person”, Jake said, laid down and closed his eyes. He had talked too much about himself, his head was spinning. It was too much. Getting lost in someone else’s story, someone else’s problems was exactly what he would need.

“Well… we got along so well from the beginning. Met at a bar. Not unlike how I met you to be honest. But his face captured me, his presence captured me. I was overwhelmed from the beginning and I feel like he had the upper hand. I don’t think he felt that way but I was absolutely… surrounded by him. We talked for a whole night and it was like we had never not known each other. We were born to meet each other. I know a few people like that. Some people just capture you, but this was love. This was more than friends, this was a raw, extreme need”, Russell sighed. Jake got into the story, he could see it clearly in his mind.

“He was tall, taller than me. Slender but strong, broad shoulders kind of. Maybe his looks weren’t exactly super model or anything but to me he was the most beautiful person from the start. But I knew he was holding something back. He kind of told me even, he told me I would never know him completely because he would never be able to open up completely. But I feel like I knew him. I knew him through not knowing him. I think I understood him and he understood me. And it just happened. I didn’t plan on falling in love, I didn’t plan on settling down but before I knew it I had a steady job in a new city, I had a boyfriend, we went on dates with other couples. We found an apartment together, we decorated it”

Russell paused. Obviously, the story was about to turn around.

“But I… wasn’t happy. Or I was but, it was wrong. I adored him. He adored me. To be honest, our life was perfect. We did travel but, it was mini breaks. It was resorts, it was swimming pools at hotels. Which is great and all but for a long time, it’s not for me. I’m a backpacker. I’m not sure I have a heart, I have a backpack instead. My heart lies in travels. I get fidgety if I stay in one place to long. And I stayed for two and a half years. That’s a long time for me. I’ve been travelling for 12 years, 2 and a half I spent in the same place for longer than a month and that was with him. Because of him. He understood me completely, I never held back. Or I thought I didn’t until one day I woke up and I had to face the fact that I couldn’t stay. I knew I couldn’t. Our friends just announced they were pregnant and I could see in his eyes that he wanted that. He wanted a family and I… didn’t. I tried for two weeks to picture myself as a dad, as a family with this wonderful, wonderful man. This man who had saved my soul, this man who owned me completely.

So a couple of weeks later, I sat down in front of him. Said we needed to talk. And he said “You don’t want a family. You want to travel”. He just knew! He knew exactly what had been bothering me. He knew me so completely that I didn’t even have to tell him.

I won’t tell you all the details about the actual break up because it’s too painful but also, I don’t remember it. I don’t remember it clearly. It’s like it’s wiped from my head, a faded memory. Clouded with fog or something. I know it’s there and I understand it happened but I don’t remember it. I feel like I’m watching it from the outside. I know I cried, he cried, but we’re both level headed guys and we dealt with it. It was easy, if you could say that. He kept the apartment, basically gave me some money cause he kept all of the stuff. I found my backpack, I packed it, I booked a flight and I left.”

“When was this?”, Jake asked. Wondering what he had been doing in life when this friend of his had been having his heart ripped out from his chest.

“It’s been four years since I left”, Russell replied, “I was 26. Right at that age where your age group starts splitting up. Kids versus no kids. Career versus travel. I chose no kids and travel. Because thing is, Jake, thing is… no matter how much you love someone you can’t deny who you are. You are always at the core – you. You can change and grow and all that shit, but you can’t make yourself change. The change comes from within and you have no control over it. Your heart changes you, you don’t change your heart. I tried to change. I tried because I loved him. But love isn’t necessarily enough. You can love someone who is completely wrong for you. He wasn’t, he was right for me in so many ways. It wasn’t completely wrong but it wasn’t completely right. I could’ve been happy, I could’ve faked myself happy and it would’ve been alright but it’s always been hammered into me by my mum that life isn’t about loving other people. So I left. I left. I miss him, every day but it was the right decision.”

They were silent.

“Thank you for telling me your story”, Jake said. “I only know my story. My family’s story. Your story is different from anything I know.”

“You’ll be alright Jake, you know that. Life sucks but it’s beautiful, if we let it”, Russell said.

“Lets hope.”


 

They parted, as Russell two days later kept on his mission to visit every state in the USA. With promises of keeping in touch and exchanging contact details, Jake found himself alone at the hotel bar. The next day he was headed to his cabin. Russell had told him to meditate, to read, to write. Write whatever. Write, save it, and never read it again.

He had a pleasant conversation with the bartender. His name was Gary and he’d been working at the bar for a decade.

“A lot of interesting people come through here. I’ve seen people fall in love, make friends for life, break up, hook up… I’ve seen lonely people realize their dreams, I’ve seen them drink their life away, I’ve seen happy and sad and everything in between. There isn’t a story I haven’t heard at this point”, he said, smiling to himself, as he put glasses away. His moves were automatic.

“Have you heard the sob story about the lawyer who over worked to the point of his wife wanting to leave him and his kids not knowing him?”, Jake asked, half joking.

“A million times. There are three endings”.

“What do you think for me?”

“Jake, you don’t want to know.”


 

((to be continue))

The storm

BOOM CRASH CRACKLE

The first thunder hit and she knew she had to be quick. She’d been getting ready for it for a long time now. It was all happening like she knew it would. The lightning had brightened up her otherwise dark room just seconds earlier. Thankfully it was still far enough away for her to get ready and into position. She’d already packed what she needed, even though in some ways she didn’t really need anything. It was only a small backpack, her notebook, her lucky raven feather given to her by her master at the beginning that had guided her through some troubling times, her mother’s woven black jumper that had stayed with her since she was a kid, her headband in case it got cold (even packing it she laughed at herself, why would she care about cold) among a few knick-knacks. She didn’t really know why, maybe she was hoping she could somehow cling on to these things.

BOOM CRASH

By the time the second lightning lit up her room she was already tying on her thick black cloak. Even though she didn’t need it, even though whatever the temperature would be she would be shielded from it, she wanted to wear her cloak. It was comforting. It had been through the past three winters with her and knew her secrets. It knew her thoughts and it knew everything she’d been through. It’d kept her warm when she couldn’t find her way and had to sleep outside, it had comforted her when she felt like her heart was leaking out of her body all at once. It had kept her confident when she stood tall even when she didn’t feel tall. If this worked she sure hoped this cloak would make it through. At least they’d be together, whether they’d separate or not.

CRASH CRACKLE

She looked back at the big house she was leaving. There was a lot of love there for sure, even if it was at times strict. She knew why her master had to be strict. What he was teaching them, teaching her, required discipline. It required total focus. She knew that’s why they advanced so fast, too. There was no room to slack behind. Often times she had hated it, she had slammed her doors, she had hit her walls, thrown her stuff around and screamed in frustration. The first time it happened he’d let her, because he understood. But when she was finished he came to her, calmly, coolly and told her that this sort of behaviour was not allowed and that there would be no next time.

There of course was a next time because she was just as stubborn as he. And he tried to punish her but she didn’t care, it made her resist more. She took the punishment gladly and did what was asked of her, mostly because she knew it annoyed him that he wasn’t getting to her. She wanted to pay the prize because lashing out like that helped her. She didn’t know any other way.

BOOM

It was getting louder, and nearer. She had been calculating this for a while. A year and a half to be exact. During this season there had been a lot of thunder storms but she knew it was getting to an end. She also knew it had to happen now. Maybe she got lucky finding the information at the time that she needed it, so it gave her time to prepare or maybe it was fate. There were a lot of calculations, position of the earth in relation to the sun, position of the other planets in relation to the earth. All sorts of astrology crap that she now regretted not paying more attention to from the start. It had to be this year, or else she’d have to wait for 24 more years. It had to be this night, this hour, this minute. She couldn’t know what night was “this night” until it happened, but she had been wary for the past week because she could feel it. The electricity. She had timed it down to the very second, because the time frame was small. Very small actually.

She was glad it hadn’t rained at all that day, because it made her trip a lot easier. The small path would be muddy in a second if it started raining and it was already dark enough with rain not clouding her vision. As she ran through the small forest, everything she’d ever been through felt like it came brushing past. It was funny how those things that once seemed like the worlds heaviest worries, flew by and got left in the fallen leaves on the forest bed, disregarded and meaningless.

She was also glad that the forest was there to hide her. She knew she wasn’t allowed. She knew he’d be furious. But it wouldn’t matter, if she was successful. As she started to see the end of the forest, she had a sting of pain in her heart. She hadn’t realized that she hadn’t said good bye. She hadn’t realized that she couldn’t. She’d been so preoccupied with the plan, with the future of it, that she hadn’t thought about what she was leaving in the past. She was grateful to him, she was grateful to her fellow students. Without them who knows what sort of job she would’ve held in her old world. In the world where she was dull, she was nobody, she was grey. Not even grey, she was see through.

As she reached the end of the forest, near the top of the hill she slowed down. She had time enough… –

BOOM CRACKLE BOOM CRASH

The storm doubled in size, all of a sudden she was surrounded by light and thunder and she knew she was in the middle of it and she knew this was the time. She thought she had more time. She looked at her watch but it had stopped. She knew why. It was because time didn’t matter. This was it.

From the moment he found her lying at the corner of the bridge, just by the river, higher than life, with a needle next to her, ribs sticking out, no food in days… from the moment he woke her up, she knew her life would change. Maybe she hadn’t realized in that moment, because she was malnourished, high, disoriented and careless, but thinking back she realized it was the first time in a long time she had felt something. He took her hand, looked her in the eye and told her she’d be okay.

Maybe it was stupid of her to follow this grown up man that she had never seen before. Maybe it was stupid to trust him. But her gut feeling had always been right, even though most of the time she acted against it on purpose and she knew she could trust him.

He took her to a diner, bought her food and coffee, and told her amazing tales. She didn’t believe him at first, or she didn’t want to believe, but she listened because she was hungry and he was buying. He told her about her mother, things about her mother no one should’ve known but he did, he told her about her grandmother and her great grandmother. He told her the reason she had gotten off the beaten path and lost her way. It was like he had opened her soul, stepped in and showed her truths she hadn’t dared to know about herself before.

That was four years ago to the day. He told her she had to stay clean for a year before starting her studies with him, but he gave her books to read, herbs to try and he gave her the cloak, on the only condition that she wouldn’t use it until they met again, a year later.

BOOM BOOM CRACKLE CRASH

This was the actual moment. She stepped onto the hill. Time seemed to slow down, sounds quieted and she felt calm. She was one with the storm. She took the small vial from the left pocket of her cloak once she reached the top of the hill and poured the liquid in a circle around her. She took the bigger vial from the right pocket and poured it over her head.

The wind picked up and it was as if she was standing in the eye of a hurricane. Lightning was all around her. The storm screamed but so did her heart. She took the last vial from the inside pocket of her cloak.

The deep purple liquid looked as though it had a thunderstorm inside of it as well.

She took a deep breath, uncorked it.

She saluted her fate.

***

12 hours later he walked up to the hill calmly knowing exactly what to expect. It was sunny, the birds were singing, and not even a whisper of wind blew through the tall grass on the hill.

Right in the middle lay her cloak, her backpack and three empty vials.

He was proud.