I’m fine, really

It’s been a long, dark winter, and I’m feeling it deeply.

While Australia is burning, Sweden is offputtingly mild.

But while, back home, “it’s not the heat that gets you, it’s the humidity,” here, in second home, “it’s not the cold that gets you, it’s the darkness”.

We’re back up to an almost acceptable number of daylit hours, but the knowledge that any kind of proper spring is at least two months away, still, is a difficult burden to bear.

Still, it’s an everyday and first world burden, and the three weeks of back-to-back sickness are, so far, at an end.

Parenthood is a wild rollercoaster where the highs are elating, the lows are crushing, and spaces in between can be sweetly content or mind-numbingly boring.

Sitting on the floor, because Elsie screams blue murder if I stand up, clenching my jaw every time she takes a misstep or stumbles slightly, the desperation for her naptime almost as strong as the guilt I feel for feeling that way.

Looking at a pile of dirty dishes and feeling completely unable to deal with it.

Laying down instead and trying to still my mind and rest for a moment.

Remembering the things I’ve been meaning to look up all day. When do her next teeth probably come in? Is there a 15 month sleep regression? How to tell if my toddler is having nightmares? When is our appointment to weigh her and try to placate the nurses?

Half an hour into a two hour nap and she’s screaming.

She’s only happy if I’m carrying her around in circles and I can’t keep it up for long. Desperate screaming, red face, tears, head rubbing, if I sit down with her on my lap.

Parenthood is remembering things I want to do for myself and smiling at the memory of a time I could consider doing them. Then crying for a bit.

But then there are three good nights in a row and things start looking better. The sun comes out for five minutes, and I catch it on my exposed skin for the first time in weeks. The backs of my hands, my cheeks.

I pick one of the things I like doing and then do it. In a bit of a rush and with a subpar result, but it’s a start.

I remind myself that it won’t be winter forever and try not to imagine the greener grass in summer, where I used to live. I remind myself the grass is burnt. I remind myself of the feeling of relief I was overwhelmed with when we landed back in Landvetter with the clean air and distinct lack of ash falling from the sky, landing on my baby’s head.

But parenthood for me is also being so irreparably split in two. Two extremes.

Summer/Winter, North/South, Here/There, Day/Night.

My birthplace and motherland and the birthplace and motherland of my daughter and husband.

On a good day, the split feels like a blessing. A depth of culture that I’m so lucky to have. A complex gift to me and my child. A wild freedom to do anything and everything. A choice.

On a bad day, it feels like simplicity I used to take for granted has been ripped from me. That time with my parents/grandparents/brothers/cousins/aunts/uncles/friends is lost and ticking away all the time. A Fear Of Missing Out that can never be quenched. A choice.

Parenthood didn’t introduce this split to me and I wouldn’t take it back, but it widened the gap. A bigger reminder of the passing of time. A longing for my family’s daily inclusion in my daughter’s life is a new homesickness I grapple with.

But if last night had been a 9-hour-straight night of sleep, this might have read differently.

I feel my mood soar and crash depending almost entirely on what kind of sleep I’ve had. If it was punctuated by bi-hourly screaming or uninterrupted blink-then-you’re-awake.

And I put off writing because I’ve been so busy working on a blossoming business in subtitle translation that is transforming our lives and our future.

So busy walking in circles, holding a 9.2kg baby whose mood hinges on my ability to take step after step.

So busy holding in tears of exhaustion and trying not to bore/alarm my friends with tales of my homesickness and winter depression.

So busy watching my baby walk more and more sturdily, call more things “doggo”, discover the world, and love me so much she doesn’t know what to do but scream in frustration.

So busy kissing her hair and rubbing her back and praying to some unknown force for the fever to back off and for her to wake, happy and healthy.

So busy imagining an easier time while simultaneously willing myself not to wish away minutes/days/years I know I’ll want back.

So busy imagining much worse things than lack of sleep to force myself to be grateful for this relative peace and happiness.

As I lay in bed, trying to figure out how to end this piece of… almost stream of consciousness, not at all my normal writing style, she cries out again and I take a deep breath and remember that the sun is coming up again tomorrow.

A bit later than I might like, probably behind cloud, not so high in the sky, but unmistakably there.

And I feel so grateful for this tiny person I made and am shaping.

And wonder just how much more chaotic it’s going to be in August, when a baby who isn’t Elsie – as truly impossible as that is to imagine – will come to create chaos and deep feelings of their very own.

p.s I’m fine. It’s just been one of those weeks. Honestly.

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Lily Ray
Lily Ray

Journalist, photographer, traveller and knitter. Mother to a small but demanding infant, Lily's life is messy but generally lovely. She has a lot of thoughts. Here is where she puts them.

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