Too often these days, I find myself taking exuberantly long showers. Since my soccer days, back when I was a wee teenage lass, the keyword for my showers was always efficiency. The purpose of my ablution was to get as clean as possible in the shortest amount of time. Get in – get clean – get out! If it was Swedish winter – the kind were sleet and wet shoes has driven a chill deep inside your bones – I might have stuck around for a few extra minutes to regain feeling in my extremities, but that was about it. Nowadays, sitting in the bathtub in our basement suite and letting the hot water rain down on me, I lose all sense of time. On occasion, my husband pops his head in to ask have I drowned in there? And can he please use the washroom because damnit woman you’re taking forever.
I don’t think of anything in particular while marinating in the steaming little world I’ve created behind the shower curtain; not work, not feelings, not hatching plans of world domination. I simply sit there (or, if I’m feeling adventurous, I stay standing while leaning against the wall) and shut down. Once, I ended up like this for almost forty minutes, simply sitting, feeling completely detached from the world. I’m not entirely sure what it is, or why I do it. It’s not a well-needed reboot. I don’t feel particularly grimy. I don’t feel energized or more relaxed afterwards. I’m guessing it’s a way for my brain to heal itself – being very distanced from the mood and mindset I was in only a few month ago, but feeling the need to go about business as usual. My brain feels displaced.
It’s like summer weather, see? Sometimes, it’s raining in the morning, scorching hot around noon, topped off with a smooth breeze after dinner. Sometimes, the sun is shining while huge raindrops keep creating mini explosions on your windshields. Sometimes, it’s just murkily overcast leaving everything not quite dark, but glum and dull. And honestly, living in a basement suite, I have no idea what the weather is like outside before I leave my hobbit hole. Use that for as many metaphors as you will.
In everyday life, I feel sort of normal most of the time. My fuse is shorter, my emotions have done an odd crawl from my chest, down my arms only to now be worn right out in the open on my sleeves. I’ve been told I smile less. Perhaps I do. Besides that, I feel like myself. Except (we all knew an exception was coming, didn’t we?) for when people talk about the fire or the evacuation – and there is no way for me to shut it down or drown it out. Everyone deals and has dealt with this time of upside-downs differently, talking can be hugely beneficial and bring a sense of relief and connection. However, it also works splendidly as a Swede repellent. I don’t react like this in every conversation every time, it’s usually not the stories or the pictures, those quiet moments where you gaze into the other person’s soul and poetically exclaim: ‘dude, that was fucked’. It’s the monotonous repetition of words that seems to have lost their meaning after the first weeks of campaigns and hashtags, the bandwagon conversations and light-hearted talk of the how to build your reputation and business on a still smoldering situation. The gossip, the tedious social media drama, the bumper stickers. There is nothing wrong with these things, honestly, but it pokes and prods at something in my mind. It feels as if I have a perpetual rock in my tightly laced shoes, just as I need to make a mad dash for the bus. It makes me very, very uncomfortable.
Then again, it is what it is. I have discovered methods and little tricks that help keep me sane (and from becoming a hunkering, fanged, drooling she-beast that snaps at people like she hasn’t had a cup of coffee since the dawn of time). People needn’t stop doing what they’re doing. I’m not asking anyone to stop talking in a certain way about certain things. I’m only saying, that when I put my headphones in, don’t take it personally – it’s only my brain being on the brink of implosion. I honestly don’t want to hear about it anymore.
Speaking of things that keep me sane, there are three things that get most of the credit for keeping me adulting and laughing.
One of these things is art. I know, I know – no one and his grandmother is surprised, but so it goes. When creativity is happening around me, or better – when I’m a part of it, I feel like I’m completely myself again. Be it a monologue workshop, a photo shoot, a coverall ad, a quick visit to a DramaForce rehearsal or getting tickets to Steel Magnolias – it reconnects that part of my brain that seems to be elsewhere far too often. It brings me back, it centers me, it makes me happy. I can’t wait to do theatre again!
The second thing is the two weeks I recently spent in Sweden, the land of twilight and hipsters, odd foods and bicycles, family and friends – that mystical place that most of us call “home-home”.
It had been two years since I was there last. Two eternities that passed in the blink of an eye. Hugging my brothers, celebrating midsummer’s eve in my hometown Oskarshamn with friends I knew since before the time when I tweezed my eyebrows off, going for walks in Malmo with Kajsa – it was all almost just as I remembered it. Talking about absolutely nothing and everything in the universe all at once with people that knew exactly what I meant. It was liberating, it was soul soothing, it was absolutely amazing. It also made me realize that going back for less than a month every other year simply isn’t enough. I need my family and friends, I need to speak my language and be understood from the word go. I need to be Swedish to function in Canada.
I think you can already guess the third thing, can’t you? You know what it is, because I think you’ve felt it too. It’s the people. It’s the friend that appear in your doorway when you can’t stop crying because you’re five years old and homesick for a place that no longer exists, carrying a wheel of cheese and a bottle of whiskey. It’s the husband that hugs you when you’re in a sour mood and makes you laugh. It’s the co-workers that supports you, the acquaintances checking in, the strangers that spend hours of their time making quilts to bring comfort and show support to those who lost their homes, it’s the random midnight texts from someone who wanted to send a joke or a picture of a cat. These people keep my head on my shoulders, no matter how many screws might have gotten loose.
Some things to keep on your radar:
Drama Force at Keyano Theatre; shows on August 5 & 6
Storyhive voting for locally produced Rig Pigs and Nerdvana: The Series: opens August 8
Steel Magnolias at the Keyano Recital Theatre; shows on August 25, 26 & 27
River Station Arts Re-Opening and Exhibition; runs until late August
Fort McMurray International Film Festival; September 3 & 4
Auditions for Other Side of the Pole (directed by Michelle Thorne); September 9-11
Now, if you need me, I will be in the shower.