Sigtuna town is full of tourists in the summer, families coming to soak up the sun, quaint old streets and waterfront. Little kids run around in the parks, grown ups sit in the outdoor cafes eating lunch, the lines for ice cream are long. I’ve eaten more ice cream in Sweden than I have almost anywhere. I queue up for a waffle cone of blueberry, creamy and sweet, purple jam-like ripple in places, it starts dripping down my hand faster than I can eat it, but licking blueberry ice cream from my fingers while sitting on a bench facing a shining lake seems very Swedish.
I walked to my hotel room on Wednesday morning, it is small and comfortable with beige wallpaper and yellow roses. The single bed is white and soft, the writing desk faces Sigtuna lake with white chiffon curtains that blow into the room with the steady breeze.
This place was an old monastery converted into a hotel and conference centre. Tuscan orange buildings with vines and roses that creep up the sides, one of my windows opened out on a rose garden courtyard and fountain. Beauty everywhere, climbing up the vines, pouring into my room, invading.
I slept for five hours when I first arrived and woke at 5pm.
Husband found this place after asking me what I was looking for, Beautiful, I said, something beautiful where I can rest, be quiet, think, sleep, write. He checked me in, brought me to my room, said goodbye with the boys – he blessed me, he released me, which in turn gave me freedom to fully enjoy it and to fully enter into what the time could be. Now I’m asking myself, How am I releasing the people I love? Or am I controlling them, trying to make them into what I want them to be? Or am I giving them the freedom they need to bloom, thrive and flourish?
Space to breathe. That’s what these three days were for me. I slept whenever I wanted to. I rarely went out. I sat on my bed and read and read and read. I wrote for fun, I wrote for serious, I just wrote. I took two showers a day. I went running. The first morning I woke up at 4:30am, no doubt the same time Baby was waking at home, because yes, they are always with me. You don’t stop being a mother.
There’s a dignity lost daily in the grind of motherhood, the inability to take a slow shower, the hurried pony tail and comfortable-over-style shoes, the way your body becomes a human washcloth and your brain a child activity centre. This isn’t a problem – all of these actions help me to love my children.
But we need dignity, it lifts our heads, reminds us that there is more, that our mind was made for something other than kids (even if you use it primarily for that now), that your body needs lavish care (even if it is wiping up messes now), and you can spend time on yourself (even if most of the time is spent on others now).
I feasted on a banquet of time and rest, one that filled me up, and a gift for which I will be forever grateful, but it reminds me – carve out a space in my day-to-day that is a space of dignity. Maybe it’s five minutes, maybe 30, and maybe one blessed day it will even be one hour (if one of my friends stops waking at 4:30am). But carve it out. Set it aside. A Sacred Stop. A Dignity Moment. Name it whatever you want, but call it something so that you know it is time set apart. It doesn’t matter if you have kids or not – all of us are pressed for time. Make time for yourself now, in whatever stage of life you find yourself. This is worth it.
In six days we remember the day we first arrived in Stockholm as a family. A two-year-old, a two-month-old, a new assignment, a new place, a new people, a new life waiting for us here. When I left Geneva, I said I was ready to write a new story and sing a new song, and for a while it seemed like I was. But winter came, sleeplessness came, and there was so much darkness. I think on this now in this season of light so bright I almost want to hide my eyes from it and disappear into a hole.
It is not easy to live in light when you’ve been in the darkness for so long.
But I am choosing differently now. I celebrate this place, I celebrate a new season of slightly older kids, more sleep, more connections in Stockholm, and I welcome it with open arms.
How will I live this next year? How will I love my children? My husband? What needs does my family met that must be met whether I want to or like to meet them? How can I meet them? What do they need from me? How will I love myself? What do I need of myself? How will I love my community? What does it need from me?How am I uniquely made and what space can I uniquely fill?
If there is anything I have learned it is this: We fight for what matters. We fight for our relationships. Sometimes it’s handed on a silver platter, and we say, Thank you, that was so easy. But most of the time, it’s carved one small victory. If we are armed with love and intentionality, we can battle for selflessness, faithfulness and gratitude: To be disciplined by selflessness, to endure in faithfulness, and to perservere in a committment to gratitude – in all things, at all times.
What about you? How will you live this year?