Showing blog posts tagged with: love

A happy Christmas, again

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Christmas tree all decorated and pretty

And so another Christmas has come, and though it didn’t come easy, a small bit of Christmas spirit came too, mainly thanks to the images from crazy talented Underbara Clara (who lives in the north of Sweden and so is blessed with snow this time of the year). Here in Stockholm snow around Christmas is a rare thing these days, but we try not to talk about it too much, since my kids get very worried about global warming, and though it is tremendously important, now is not a time for them to fret over that.

 

They’ve had to take in a lot lately, my kids. First it was me, and the bloody cancer. They see me in pain, they know there are so many things I can’t do, they just adjust to it, but it’s there, under the surface, pops up in their nightmares or plays a constant undertone in their anxieties. I hate it, but I force myself to see it. Then there’s been the situation in the world around them, the flood of immigrants running from horrors too awful to try to understand. And though we don’t try to understand, we talk about it, and discuss what we can do. A while back was the terror attack in Paris, and since they've recently been made very aware of Paris, first as Ilir and I went for a weekend getaway, and then as they recently met their Parisian cousin, it hit very close to home. I talk about how the terrorists want to create division and hate, so that people will divide, some will become outsiders, and join the terrorists. I talk about how the only cure is love, compassion, understanding. They nod; it makes sense to them. But they still worry.

 

I worry too. I feel skinless these days. I worry about the same things as they do, really. The environment, how our government is handling the flood of human beings in need of safety, my health… There’s just this massive sadness inside of me, for myself and my family, for the world and what we’re doing to it. Maybe that’s why it’s been hard to get any kind of Christmas feeling going. Christmas is also the time when I feel the strongest that I really am a minority in Sweden. Born and raised here, I don’t recognise these traditions, I don’t know the songs, they just don’t belong to me. It’s only since the kids wanted it that we’ve been celebrating Christmas, and very much making up our own traditions as we go along.  

 

Thankfully, a few days before Christmas my sweet friend Li came over with her dog Buddha and together we made gingerbread cookies and had mulled wine and it started to feel a bit like Christmas.

Li and her pug Buddha in front of the christmas tree

 

The kids baking gingerbread cookies for christmas
 
And by the 24th, we managed to make Christmas, with a slightly smaller tree than last years enormous one, and less fretting about food and stuff. The kids made and bought presents both for us and for each other, and my dad and his wife came, as well as my mum and my brother and his lovely puppy, and we all joined in some sort of well meaning but slightly awkward togetherness. 
 
Cheese and bubbles for christmas
 
Why go all in on Christmas food when there's hardly an item there that we eat? We opted for cheese and biscuits instead, and some bubbles to go with it. Along with dates, pears, and organic grapes, it might be the best Christmas food ever!
 
 
Christmas eve together
 
And by the time the presents were opened, the wine drunk and the mess made, we started to relax and enjoy ourselves. No toys for the kids, as we had decided, but instead instruments, since they’re really into music right now. So with a brand new keyboard and two guitars for the Xbox, they get to play around with making music even though their parents are clueless and can't play any instruments.

Guilt and gratitude

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Deserted beach

Lead-heavy feet carry me slowly, slowly forwards as I uncurl myself from the bed and force myself to get up. I've slept still, rigid again, and it's hard to force my body to move again. You're already up, running about, making plans and fixing things. Your body is a tool to you - you're so healthy you don't even notice it. I know because I used to be like you, but that was a long time ago now. I smile as I listen to you, you want to go there, do that. I smile, guiltily, and agree - yes, let’s. Guilty, that while you have life driving you forwards, like an unstoppable force of curious exploration, I am pushing my life, like a broken down VolksWagen, and it's all I can do to keep up with you, even though you’ve kindly slowed your steps for me.

 

I take my morning coffee black these days, it helps hide the tears. I’m grateful that it’s still warm outside, that way I can go out to the balcony and have a morning cry in solace, salty tears dripping into my morning coffee, creating ripples on the black, shiny surface. You read the papers with your coffee, shaking your head and muttering at some third world disaster. I no longer read the paper - I can’t face the deaths and the trauma on every page, images haunting me. Instead I open Facebook. The first image that greets me is a woman, I used to know her from work. She’s young and pretty and talented and smart and kind. She has her whole life ahead of her, not behind her. She’s smiling into the camera, and the early morning rays of sun create a halo around her head and I think “Ah, how lovely she is. How happy I am for her, that she’s doing well”. The next post is an update. It’s made by the daughter of the owner of the account, to let us know that her mum passed away quietly during the night. So much for reading Facebook instead of the news, I think. My feed is a mixture of babies and marriages and death. 

 

I take my coffee black these days, and I’m starting to like the salty aftertaste it’s got. And when you pop your head out to the balcony and ask if I want to go to this place that you’ve heard of, I bite my tears back and make myself smile and be grateful that those lines weren’t posted on my account, and I nod, yes, let’s go there, it sounds like fun. And I think that I can ignore the pain in my feet from walking there, the pain in my back from being there instead of lying down, just out of sheer gratefulness that it wasn’t me today, I got this day as well, and I got to spend it with loving, caring people. But the day will go on and I will forget about the mother who died in the early hours of the day. I will forget how grateful I am that it wasn't me. Physical pain isn't the same horrible fear to me as it is to others, but enough pain can blind you, make you unable to think or care or worry. 

 

And so we go to this place, guiltily I smile and nod, try to be interested, to be present. But the time we spend there is too short for you and too much for me, and when I have to beg to go home and you see my facade slipping for a second, you guiltily agree, and smile and through your teeth comes the lie I’ve come to expect, It was enough time, enough energy out of me, and you’re fine, really, you didn’t need to see those things or go any further. As you help me get into the car I see the guilt flash in your eyes, mirroring my own. For a moment it worries me. As we drive back home, tears of pain stinging my eyes and blinding me, I hear the distant sounds of an ambulance. My mantra comes unbidden, I’ve been through this so many times now that reaction is an instinct. Thank god it’s not me this time. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou. I will make more of what I’ve got. I smile at you, and try to erase all traces of sadness and pain from my eyes. As you smile back I know you’ve seen the effort I made, that you try to do the same thing back, and I focus, as hard as I can, on the gratitude I feel, and not the guilt.

 

Valentines work

by Hilla Duka - View comments

fifties chair after restoration

You know someone truly loves you when they're prepared to spend Saturday refurbishing an old chair, just to make you happy.fifties chair before renovation

A while back, I bought this little fifties chair, that had definitely seen better days, with the plan to salvage what I could and give it new life. I love refurbishing old furniture, I feel like a detective peeling layer after layer off to see what's revealed underneath, then like a miracle doctor giving new life to a patient. Ilir however, does not share my fascination (obsession as he calls it), so for him to announce on Saturday morning "Right, lets get started then!" meant more to me than any amount of flowers. 

fifties chair legs during restoration

It took us most of the day, the front legs where lose, so we wriggled them out, applied new glue and tied together. 

painting the chair legs black

We scraped layer off of layer of crumbling paint, revealing water stained teak legs, that were then painted a matte black.

removing the fabric and padding from the old chair

Anyway, apart from the ickiness at times, it is now completely refurbished, and will see many more days in our living room! Way better than flowers and a card, right? 


our cat Dee looking suspicious

Our cats haven't really warmed to it yet, but I'm guessing it's just a matter of time before they scratch the new fabric off and find inventive new sleeping positions in/on it. And who knows, next time it might be one of my sons who refurbish it, shaking their heads and wondering what I was thinking...


Six months or fourteen years

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Ilir

A lifetime ago, or at least fourteen years ago, in a desperate attempt to save a failing relationship, I planned a trip to London for valentines day, and for the occasion I wanted to book a table at my favourite restaurant. So I picked up the phone, and a man working there answered. He had an accent I couldn’t place and a deep softness to his voice, and I hung up feeling strangely overcome with emotions, only I couldn’t place them.

 

Anyway, I went on that trip, eventually broke up with my then-partner, cried my heart out and thought I would never find happiness or togetherness (in my head they were so intertwined they were practically synonyms), stayed single and learned how to do everything by myself, and it was a long time until I actually met him in real life.

 

And if someone would have told me that day when I spoke to him on phone, that years later I would marry that man, that he would be the father of my children, that he would end up taking care of me as I have gone through the hardest, most unexpected challenges of my life, that he would be the one who’s always there for me, I would have thought them mad. Sometimes he drives me crazy, but when push comes to shove, he’s home to me. Today we’ve been married for six months.

 

Life takes unexpected turns.

 

Sum up the year

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Paris

It’s not even Christmas yet, and already I see all these posts on different blogs summing up 2014 - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Though  mostly the good. Either I follow insanely happy, successful and beloved people, or we just tend to try to enhance the good and hide the bad.

 

I ended 2013 with a Facebook post saying “Goodbye 2013. 2014 - you’ve got big shoes to fill”. 2013 truly was a great year for me, in every way. I was suddenly making a career, something I hadn’t really planned on but found myself truly enjoying. I got to travel, meet amazing people, broaden my views. And at home, I finally felt as if everything started working out. For the first time since Jonathan was born, I started sleeping full nights again, and that did wonders for me. I felt the kids had grown past that baby phase, which was always so hard for me to cope with, and had now turned into these three amazing little people - my favourite people in the world. Though home life was still stressful at times, it was in 2013 that I stopped feeling as if I was constantly falling.

 

And then came 2014, which is as I should remember the year I’m trying to sum up now. It’s been a year of extreme opposites. A year of devastating news as well as love and happiness greater than I’ve known ever before. Looking back, to me it seems it all began to fall apart that night in Berlin, where after a work thing late at night on my way back to my hotel, I slipped on a patch of ice and dislocated my knee and tore a ligament. That was the end of January, and that was the end of my health and my strength. It took me a few months to get back on my feet (quite literally, I was hobbling along) only to realise I just never got really well again. And that, of course, was the start of finding out about the cancer.

 

Never in a million years, as I welcomed the new year with bubbles and kisses all round, did I think this year would bring me to that. But I guess that’s the case for all of us - we just don’t see how it could ever happen to us until it does. I’ll not try to put to words the feeling of finding out you’re dying, I just can’t. Most of all, I felt small, and helpless, and terribly, terribly sad for my childrens sake. Then I felt angry, angry at the loss they would face, all the things I would miss out on. And then I decided the doctors were wrong, I would prove them wrong, I would be the miracle. And these are still the feelings I go through, and probably always will. It’s like a silly waltz I do: One, two three, one, two, three, sad, angry, denial, sad, angry denial. Round I go. Hello, new life. Dizzying.


But, as much as I hate having cancer, and believe me I hate it with a vengeance I never knew before, looking back on 2014 also means seeing Ilir and the kids and our wedding, remembering the times I’ve spent with good friends and great wines, all that laughter. Yes, I’ve seen more of the inside of a hospital than I ever would have wanted, I’ve been in pain and I’ve watched my own body be slowly poisoned beyond repair or recognition, but I’ve loved, and I’ve laughed, and I made others laugh too, and I am still here. 2014 will always be the year I found out about the cancer, but more than that, it will be a year I have seen through, and for that I am grateful. And as I sum it up, I weigh it out, and there is just as much love and happiness as there is sadness and sorrow. Perhaps the only thing that matters is that it is a year I am happy to have had?


Hygge

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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There’s a danish word Hygge: it means something along the lines of cosy and comfortable. My brother told me about this word as he joked that this is what I’ve become obsessed with: making hygge. I think he’s right in a way: Since I took ill, I’ve become much more interested in decorating, and the changes at least when it comes to direction and style are quite clear.

I grew up with a dad who was a newly graduated architect - keen to put his mark on the world and with very strong ideas about what was good design. Things were supposed to be modern and clean, no extra adornments anywhere. The walls had Pablo Picasso prints, and Théo Tobiasse lithographies. Modern, modern, modern. How very strange that I wanted something completely different. And a long time it took me to admit even to myself that I liked the complete opposite - old furniture and pillows with flowers on them. It wasn’t until I got the very real reminder that I didn’t have forever to grow into myself that I decided to not care that I was supposed to like polished steel and modern lines, and thus threw it out. Now, I only put into my house what I really like - and I don’t really give a damn what anyone thinks of my style - because it makes me happy.

 

And in the evenings I light candles and make as much hygge as I possibly can, and I cuddle up with the kids in the sofa and feel my heart lift with gratitude that I got this day as well, this love too.

 

This round of chemo has been so hard emotionally, so taxing. At times I fill with this vast sadness, how much I hate this illness, how fervently I wish I could be well again. When nothing else helps, lighting some candles, cooking something nice and making hygge seems like a good way to at least try harder to enjoy the present.


Magic and heroes

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Img_0393

I’ve just finished our bedtime routine. The kids all tucked up in their beds, with kisses for each lovely boy, me telling them I love them, to sleep well, and I’ll see them in the morning. I’ve read the story we’re reading for bed time right now, it’s non stop magic and little boy-heroes and happy endings. Milo’s sleeping on my arm, and I hear the sound of Jacob and Jonathan breathing, deeper, slower, telling me they’re falling asleep as well.

 

I stop reading, mark the page by the standard non-library-friendly dog ear, and put it away. I turn to face my little Milo, my face close to his. I look at his lovely long lashes as they grace his cheeks and flutter as he dreams. I feel his breath on my face as he exhales. His heart beats fast into my sick breast, and I feel my own respond. It aches acutely as I feel the loveliness of his being so close to me. For a minute, I think I will surely explode from these feelings. The love, the gratitude, so strong in my whole body. I made these boys, and they’re so beautiful, so lovely as people, and smart and funny to the boot. Such grace, so much gratefulness.

 

I slip out of Milos bed, turn to look at the lot of them - asleep, peaceful, dreaming dreams of adventures and fairy tales with wonderful endings. I quickly slide out of their room, before the sound of my crying can disturb them. Into the kitchen I go, and with a cup of tea, I let go and let the tears fall freely. How can they be forced to go through what lies ahead? How could I ever let go?