Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hell and back

On Wednesday two months of me being away from Zoe will finally come to an end and we will be reunited in Copenhagen airport as she steps off a plane from Stockholm as an unaccompanied minor (something she is a pro at by now). She will fling into my arms and I'll hug her so hard that she will have to tell me to stop. We are going to have the most amazing summer together, first going to my new job for a couple of meetings (she is super excited to see my new offices) and then going to the summerhouse with our family, including her two little baby cousins.

But until then I am flying back to New York from a conference where I was invited to give a keynote talk. Being a small conference it was very social and nice because it was an opportunity to catch up with old friends while also make new acquaintances and find potential collaborators. I even got to hang out with two friends from Stockholm who I hadn't seen for a couple of months. We exchanged gossip and general information, them telling me about Zoe, how she eats bacon for breakfast each time she visits them.

Last time I said goodnight to her, we counted the days. "Mommy, if we don't count today, how many days until I see you?", she asked and I showed her six fingers. Okay, she said. I kissed her goodnight through the video and told her I love her.

She, out of everybody, knows nothing of what I have been through the past 3-4 weeks and she will not know for another many years. But then she will because she is clever and she will figure things out. Some of my friends know a little, others know more, but none of them know it all. I share one or two things with each of them, but I will not bother anyone with all. Because that is too much. Just like you don't tell your mother about that one thing, because you know it would tear her apart that she couldn't protect you. I try to turn even the worst thing into something positive, like I'm actually seeing a therapist now. I think that's good for me. But even her, I have yet to tell the details of how my dreams are disintegrating in front of me again and again. And again.

It was the second morning at the a chic coffee shop with great service in Chicago where I finally found tears dripping down onto my phone. It was not something I had expected but the betrayal and the hurt I felt just over floated as I sipped my double latte. The incoming calls on my phone remained red and that was not going to change for the next while. "Remember, put the mask on yourself before helping others", my friend had reminded me on the phone the other evening, using the airplane analogy. This is something I frequently have to remind myself. I told her some of the stories but not even half the pain. She has enough pain herself I'm sure.

On the plane back to New York I thought about the most amazing part of this: I'm still standing. I'm standing right here. I gave a killer keynote, had senior people asking me to write funding proposals with them, had a guy flirt with me in a pretty non-equivocal manor. And if anyone can take all of this in one go, all four horrible things, it is me.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


I wake up to the buzzing sound of traffic and noisy neighbors. On weekends when my alarm is not there, it usually only takes me ten minutes of trying to snooze until I realize that I'm in New York and instead of wasting time in bed, I can spend my morning breathing in that hot New York air, walking the still sleepy streets with the other single woman on their way to get their morning coffee, the jazz player rolling his double bass to the brunch restaurant and looking up at the fire escape clad brick buildings. I hop out of bed into a soft Brooklyn Industries dress and go to pick up a croissant from the french bakery down in the village. I kiss Zoe's picture on my desk on the way, imagining her playing with friends right now and looking forward to spending a whole summer with her. I have lunch with a friend and dinner with another. In between I send emails about committee work and grade student theses that were due last week. I'm finally calm after a few difficult weeks.

After two weeks of grueling decisions, chats to most of my friends and me crying more than I should, because I was bound to lose out in both cases that I had to chose between, I finally reached a place in my head where I can breathe and where I think I can do most for Zoe. I think leverage is the best term here. So although I have not made an official announcement in my real life, I might as well describe my upcoming years here. And it is about to get even more messy:

From September I will be working full time in Copenhagen (with only one job). In any normal scenario this would mean I would also be moving to Copenhagen, but since Zoe is stuck in Stockholm, I will technically move back to Stockholm. But I will also live in Copenhagen, and I will certainly also be living in New York as much as I can to keep my sanity. I told Zoe part of this on the phone the other day and her eyes lit up in amazement. "Are we going to live with grandma?" she excitedly asked and I said I didn't know yet, we probably will have our own apartment in Copenhagen as well as keeping the small one we have in Stockholm. I will fly to Copenhagen for weekdays and fly back to see Zoe on weekends, with her hopefully coming down to Copenhagen half the time too. Because after all she is Danish and we have all our family there.

Let me be clear: this is in no way my dream scenario or dream life. This is something I have to do for Zoe. She needs to see her mom regularly without having to go for two months without, crying whenever we talk because we miss each other so much. My new job is a helluva lot better than my old one in Sweden and has several major benefits: Three of my good friends work there, making the work environment good (back in Sweden I had one close, amazing colleague friend, and she still will be, but two people do not a community make); people speak my native tongue at work, not some kind of Muppet version of it where they refuse to consider me as anything but a strange foreigner until I speak English; I get to teach two subjects that I really enjoy. Oh, and I'll obviously keep my gold status on my airline because I will be spending the better part of a two days per week 'commuting' between two major cities. Yes, I'm trying to see that as a benefit. But my new job is not my dream job in any way, it simply is not. That I had to say no to. Instead it is another bump in the road to the actual dream job, which I might be able to take in 10 years time. I might only just have one life, but Zoe only has one mom.