A few weeks ago, during an Instagram DM conversation, someone complimented me on how my new life in Sweden suited me and that I seemed to be thriving. Needless to say I was grateful for the well wishes and the chat continued on a jolly note but the word ”thriving” set something off within me. The seed was planted and the words for this post have been brewing like a jug of a good kombucha. Thriving implies that one is experiencing extraordinary success and prosperity. Am I truly thriving?
Now I know you what you might be thinking – here comes yet another dramatic tale of an influencer melt down where she capitalizes on the topic of mental health. Don’t worry – this won’t be it, au de contraire in fact.
On the 31st of August (my 40th birthday, a day that had been meticulously planned for and fussed about for months) I found myself in a hotel room in Dubai’s DIFC, counting hours until the night fall. I was newly single and leaving for Sweden the following morning. Had someone asked me to paint a picture of my biggest adult nightmare this was probably it, right there, smacking me in the face with a five star pillow. All I wanted from life was to stay a freelancing creative who lived in an Umm Suqeim villa. The furnishing would be very ”Pinterest ca 2015” with a fusion of light Nordic woods, mid century Danish furniture (even the Dragon Mart rip offs would do), a few Afghan rugs and Moroccan leather poufs scattered about in the socially inviting majlis. Ahlan.
I also saw myself dancing around the well equipped kitchen in a Missoni kaftan, making intricate gut healing meals and broths for a husband and some adorable multilingual children.
For my actual birthday dinner – so different to the grandiose feast that had initially been organized – I ordered a sophisticated room service meal that consisted of skinny French fries and a ”second one from the bottom of the list not to seem cheap” affordable glass of Merlot. Nothing gut healing about that.
As the meal arrived, I noticed that the staff had written Happy Birthday around the edge of my plate. So far so good, but the twist here was that they had done so with Nutella. ”Nutella though? Why not something more… potato compatible? Like ketchup?” I asked in a somber tone. The waiter answered grinning ear to ear, clearly pleased with his logistical solution: ‘Madame, ketchup runny. Nutella better. Doesn’t smudge. Also I poured you a BIG glass of wine to stop the crying”.
In that very moment, staring at the slightly sad looking plate in front of me, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. The man sure had a point! Ketchup is one runny mothaf****a of a condiment and you go Glenn Coco for thinking outside the box.
I genuinely laughed for quite some time and even more so after I downed the aforementioned XL sized Merlot. Solo French-fries-with-brown-goo was not what I had imagined that I would be eating for my 40th birthday dinner. Yet there I was – fragile but composed and one hazelnut / palm oil based swirl away from a good belly laugh. There was something really disarming about what had just happened and whilst I knew that I would forever remember this day, now I would remember it for the Nutella-gate and not only for it’s utter gloom. A huge sense of relief followed and helped me get off the self pity rollercoaster, one I had previously been riding so hard that you’d think I had been given a complimentary wrist band.
The conversation about how Instagram is only a showreel of curated highlights feels rather dated and doesn’t need rehashing. The sunny moments I have shared with you since arriving in Sweden have 100 percent been genuine. I have made work progress I am proud of, lined up projects that I feel challenged by, eaten my weight in Scandinavian cinnabuns and yet managed to miraculously loose significant amounts of weight. If you wonder why my instastories are saturated with selfies, it’s because I’m shamelessly pleased with my newly re-chiseled features and the recent guest appearance of my cheekbones.
I have had the clarity of mind not to escape my feelings but to hold space for the broad spectrum thereof. I have made a lucid plan for my future, one where I am my own dancing culinary demigoddess if needed be, one who’s happiness will be “nurtured by” and ”contributed to” but not “depending on” others. If I want that villa I need to get one myself and luckily – LUCKILY – I already own a Missoni kaftan. Maybe even a toe ring to complete the leewk.
I have also been on a few fun dates and one SO DISASTROUS that it ended up being funny. All good and I am in no rush on that front. At least it distracted me from the fact that at the moment, in Sweden, the sun sets at a very depressing 2.30 PM.
So, to wrap things up – am I truly ”thriving” as per the above mentioned Oxford dictionary definition of the word? The answer is no. What I am is a very levelheaded OK. And that is OK!
I’m using this momentum to propel myself towards a future that I know I am singlehandedly capable of creating and ultimately deserving of. There is light and there are shadows and there are ebbs and there are flows. What we need to be doing is to focus less on chasing the fleeting highlights and making the most of the turbulence, trusting to the very core of our essence that ultimately, in the end, everything will be ok. The ‘new ok” might look different to ”the old ok” that you had envisioned but tremendous growth happens when things get chaotic.
(If you ask me nicely in the comments field I will tell you all about what dating is like in Sweden. Spoiler alert – it involves splitting the bill (because Swedish men like saving a penny by calling it ”equality”) and wearing ugly shoes (because the combo of ice covered cobble stoned streets is a direct threat to ones life and evermore so to my expensive heels). But more about this next time. / XXX Teresa
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