Influential relations: Always take the stairs


I hate crowds of strangers enough that I decided – on the worst day possible – to give up public transportation in favor of my own two feet. Gothenburg is a completely walkable city, so even though I generally stay somewhere in the city center and work outside of it, it’s not a big deal to walk – even though the mounds of uncleared snow seemed insurmountable this morning. It felt slightly reminiscent of the training montage (minus the grunting!) in Rocky IV when Rocky has to work out in the snow, sawing and carrying logs, running through icy rivers and helping a man with a horse and carriage stuck in snow (?) and stuff. It being the Soviet era, a bunch of the scenes of Dolph Lundgren as machine-like nemesis Ivan Drago are all red, as if he works out in a bright Soviet-red room. Then again, it was the 80s – that’s how it always looked. And it was the 80s, so everyone looks a bit coked out. (Thanks again, Grace Jones, for delivering Dolph Lundgren to the world. Just realizing that I have written about Dolph and Rocky IV too many times already.)

I am not sure why it took me until now to decide this (walking, not comparing my life to scenes from Rocky IV) was a good course of action – a few too many times getting slapped in the arm by overzealous tram riders gesticulating wildly while talking on the phone, a few too many broken-down trams, a few too many long waits (I am a wee bit impatient), a few too many scenes I just don’t want to be party to or relive. And I love walking. And I love the cold. Why not choose the one day of the year that snow falls and really stays to start? Walk!

Walking after midnight – Patsy Cline for SD, my beautiful firewall.

Walking everywhere – and then realizing that I never take elevators anymore if I can avoid them – makes me think of how influential people in our lives can be in the most imperceptible ways. Little things that change how we do things. One ex-boyfriend always walked and never took the elevator, and eventually that shifted my take on how I get around and … how I ascend (haha) in buildings. (It didn’t help my confidence in elevators that the one in our building was always breaking down.) Another ex-boyfriend insisted that I add color to my wardrobe – I resisted, but long after we split up – right up until today (and that split was, what… 15 years ago?) – I still wear colors and never returned to the all-black wardrobe I donned back then.

It’s funny recounting relationships how we are more prone to cite the landmark things – like how someone’s influence changed your whole feeling about love, made you want to be a better version of yourself, turned you against marriage, made you want to have children or even something like suddenly made you realize the merits of living in a big city versus the suburbs. But in reality the impact in day to day life is evident but almost unacknowledged – whether subtly adopting a word or phrase that that person used frequently, or always taking the stairs.

“Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs” – The Cramps: An apt tune. Always take the stairs, even if you’re a clumsy one like me, likely to fall down. Naked or not. (Check the awesome picture from when I fell flat on my face on one of Stockholm‘s main streets!)

The Cramps – Naked Girl Falling Down The Stairs

Yes, I fell and fell hard! Bruised and cut-up chin

Yes, I fell and fell hard! Bruised and cut-up chin

All of life is a transitional time


I wrote recently about a period in my life that ended up being the precursor to a big, life-altering change. I did not know it at the time – I was going in one direction that seemed to be what I wanted but turned out to be more like where the current was carrying me. A friend who was in my life during that period and came back into my life in recent years made a comment on the blog post, stating that she remembers that time and how transitional it was for both of us. While she is quite right, I actually found that I got completely lost in thought earlier this evening, walking in the premature darkness (that’s Scandinavian winter life for you), analyzing this very same idea that all of life is transitional.

Some periods are more transitional than others. Some people fight the tide of change while others ride it. Some make excuses or proudly announce, “It was such a transitional period”, as if this reasoning can provide cover for any number of bad decisions or indiscretions. Now, the older I get, the more I see, the more I realize all of life is a transitional period. In the slow creep of day-to-day life, maybe it does not seem like we are in the middle of some “transition” – but if you have anything dynamic happening at all, it’s going to be somewhat transitional. Especially if you welcome and invite constant change, as I do. (Perhaps it is the unwelcome and unintentional change that is harder to face.)

What prompted these thoughts about life as a transitional period was rumination about what to write in my annual year-end letter. (Technically, I view my Halloween letter, which accompanies my Halloween mix soundtrack CD, as my “year-end” letter. This year, given the collection of more music I have amassed and the technical difficulties of the CDs I did make and send out for Halloween, I am sending out a “revision” – I also could not resist the maddeningly, irresistibly cute series of Swedish Christmas postage stamps this year… needed an excuse to buy a whole bunch and use them – can I blame it on the fact that it is a “transitional period”?) I contemplated the fact that this year has been a series of disappointing events, mostly clouded by a hazy, grey aura, a good deal of (often self-imposed) loneliness (not because of a lack of people but more because of a lack of understanding and deep connections with others – and we thought that deep-seated sense of being misunderstood was a wholly adolescent affliction!) and a strange, ineffable sense of longing (for what I don’t really know). I considered writing something about how this has been a particularly difficult year full of change and transitions that were not what I expected or hoped for. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I write and repeat something in a very similar vein in my year-end letter every year. Is each year becoming qualitatively worse? Is each year a constant pit of disappointment? No. It changes. But there is consistency in the fact that it is all in a state of (often slow-motion) flux and transition.

Perhaps the period my friend referred to was more tumultuous than life feels now – certainly for her, if not for me, but life is always tumultuous. I try to remind myself of this when I ride the tram each morning and evening. I look around at the other listless-seeming riders, people whose lives are mysteries to me, trying to imagine their stories, wondering if they have always lived in this city. Have they had the adventures they dreamt of? Or is this what they wanted… or did they ever stop to think they could or should have done something else? I could never have been content just staying in one place and living without major upheavals and transitions (good and bad) – but for some people, a life with that kind of uncertainty is no life at all. I wonder also when the tram riders look at me, do they imagine a whole life story that obviously will not have one shred of fact in it?