Today is the final contributor post on Dear Sabrina for this period. We travel back to Sweden tonight, and I plan to get back to my regular posting on Wednesday. Thanks for sticking around during my absence, and checking out the words and stories from my friends.
Lisa Ferland is another American mother living in Sweden. I met her when we moved to our small town outside of Stockholm. Lisa self-published Knocked Up Abroad: Stories of pregnancy, birth, and raising a family in a foreign country, and the sequel, Knocked Up Abroad Again, is forthcoming. Lisa and I had tentative plans to do something together on Mother's Day while our husbands watched the kids, but I bailed on her at the last minute. Which is probably a good thing, because this story is about what she did instead.
I took our only car, and I drove and drove and drove. I drove on roads that were unfamiliar and pushed on into territory previously unexplored. I rolled down the windows, turned up the music, and let the wind whip my hair mercilessly around my face, like a teenager driving alone for the first time.
The sun filtered through the trees lining the back roads winding through the Swedish countryside, and I didn’t have to give a thought to which child would be carsick in the back seat. I didn’t have to answer to anyone. I was driving on my own, away from my responsibilities, if only for a few hours. Self-imposed isolation. A series of critical moments necessary to reconnect with myself.
Every day I connect, network, and converse with others, but why don’t I give myself that much attention? What is it that I want? What is it that I want to say? I didn’t know anymore.
Directionless but not without purpose, I drove until I found a place that felt right. I didn't have a specific place in mind but when I drove past the spot, I knew I had arrived. I parked the car, took out my day pack, and started hiking through the woods until I found a suitable rock upon which to spread my towel.
Then I sat and did nothing. The most fulfilling nothing ever.
That nothing was so full of everything—I could hear the birds chirping, the wind rustling the reeds on the lake, the sound of a fish surfacing in the water, the scratchy footsteps as a dog and his owner approached for a quick swim. My ears heard everything around me and the world was alive.
I pulled out my coloring book and colored pencils and yearned for that meditative state the Amazon reviewers promised. Bring on the Zen! I needed it.
In that state, I realized that I have been too harsh on myself, my accomplishments, and my efforts thus far. I have done what I can, and I will do more. This is only the beginning, not the end, and I can decide when I am finished with this chapter. This book. This series of books.
I am in control.
I am in control.
I am in control.
I have bottomed out before—I had to physically remove myself from my environment in order to change things—and this wasn’t that. However, this was a necessary preventative step to maintain my mental health. My request for alone time was not a request so much as a requirement.
As a mother, as a wife, as an immigrant facing numerous challenges of varying intensity every day, I needed this down time. I also need other things like I need air:
I need nature.
I need laughter.
I need quiet.
I need time for self-reflection.
Finding yourself within the chaos and noise of family is infinitely hard when other people’s needs must be met. I am a different person than the last time I found myself, and I’ll be different again the next time. Self-discovery is a continuous, iterative process, and sometimes you need to drive away broken in order to come back whole.
Thank you, Lisa! If you missed any of the other contributor posts, check them out: Laura writes about mentoring a teenage girl through making a costume; photographer Craig on his quest through Sweden to find the northern lights; and Sophia on her relatively easy, but not always perfect, decision-making process.
This post was originally published on Knocked Up Abroad.
All photos by the author.