Category Archives: Personal

To go for it or not to go for it, that’s the question

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I promise I will not begin each post this year with a reference to my resolutions for the year, but bear with me as I drag you through another.

See, as so many people, I have decided to start exercising more. Actually, my GP has decided I could to with a bit more endorphines but still: this girl goes fitnessing. And I don’t mean ‘I’ve bought a membership card and some shiny work out clothes which will now serve as nest material for moths and the invisible mice I’m secretly convinced I share the apartment with’ (because there is no way -I repeat, NO way- that I ate that whole pack of Tucs by myself yesterday. no way, I say!). Oh no, I will not come near shiny clothes unless dressing up is involved and anyways, I’ve had the gym membership card since October . No, now I actually gó to the gym. Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ve been at it for a week and a half by now, so you could say I’m a regular (unlike my attempt at doing capoeira which ended… prematurely. let’s say I don’t think anybody remembers me there.).

Now, I absolutely loathe exercising. Not because it’s exhausting, or gets you sweaty, but because I find it completely and utterly boring.

Take the treadmill. I go to a University gym, which is cheap, but also basic (read: no tv or any of that fancy technology some fitness centers spend your membership money on). As a result, the ten treadmills they have are neatly aligned, right in front of the mirror wall. That’s right: as you run, you have the luck, nay, the privilege, to watch yourself get progressively more red in the face. I can assure you, it hardly makes for a captivating sight. Granted, you get to watch everyone else work out as well but still – that red blob hopping up and down in front of you will be terribly distracting. Just sayin’. And don’t even think about thinking of that blog post you wanted to write because all it takes is one second of distraction and you end up on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Which is a bad enough thought in and of itself, but becomes truly terrifying when you realize those are broadcast in Europe as well. Ten years later. When all your kids want to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon is watch old America’s Funniest Home Videos.

My point exactly.

Of course, I could take an mp3-player with me to relieve the boredom at least a little bit, but this has its own limitations – first of all, I would need to remember to charge the damn thing, and second of all my tinnitus doesn’t allow the volume levels required to be able to hear my music over that from the gym.

So, what does one do to keep their resolution and work úp the energy to work oút?

One finds a partner, obviously.

In this case, technically, he found me. ‘He’, indeed. A cute ‘he’, I might add. A cute Spanish ‘he’. A cute, Spanish ‘he’ with a cute Spanish accent who frequents the gym on a daily basis (Lin: think A&F sweatpants. yeah…) and who likes me. And who has only increased his attempts at flirting with me since learning about T and my break up.

Now of course, I’m a decent girl. I’m well educated, and I don’t do stupid things – not on purpose, at least. And I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize my not-so-slim chances of getting back together with T, let alone jump into (on to?) other people so soon after a break up. I wouldn’t, for example, consider the possibility of exploring just how much Spanish guy likes me. I wouldn’t take the risk, since said guy is an integral part of my social life here and I do not wish to screw that up. I wouldn’t feel the need, either, since I have spent the last three years in a loving relationship which was satisfying on all levels and gave me everything I needed. Except… you know… it starts with a c. Or a d. Or a p. I bet there’s probably a synonym for it with each and every letter of the alphabet, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

Oh conscience, how I loathe thee.

But it doés get me to the gym twice a week, so there!

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I just want to be who I’m not

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Sometimes, you just know. So when I saw Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd last year, with Her Royal Highness Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, I knew: this would be my Halloween costume.

My inspiration. Costume-wise, obviously.

Why yes, whilst everyone is still wishing each other a Happy New Year and desperately trying to hold on to resolutions they know they will not keep (case in point: my resolution to start writing again), I will write about a costume I made almost three months ago. What of it?

True to my increasing obsession with lowering my carbon footprint, I decided to haunt some thrift shops for the right clothes. The only problem with this plan was the fact that I did not know of any thrift shops here in Lund. A Facebook status and some helpful Swedish friends later, however, I had an address. And an e-mail from my dad, offering financial support since apparently I was short on cash if I needed to resort to… thát… . There’s a thin line between sweet concern and annoying mingling, and I’m still not sure on which side said e-mail belongs, but I have learned one thing: make sure you give enough information or people will draw unexpected conclusions.

A purple skirt, green t-shirt, and some textile dye later, my kitchen looked more or less like this:

You're not supposed to do this in food pans. It is not supposed to boil over, either.

 I have since made copious amounts of soup in that pot and I am still alive, so I’m guessing it wasn’t that bad after all, although I do think next time I try to dye something I will try to use the washing machine… .

It took me a massive amount of time to sow everything by hand (not aided in the slightest by my too-late realization that, while your wrist might fit when the end of the sleeve has a circumference of 14 cm, there is no way your fist will) and some help from above when I found a friend willing to lend me his corset (and no, I’m not mistaking pronouns here) to make everything come together. And even though my sleeve still ripped at the seem within half an hour and the likeness to the original is debatable, I still looked smashing, if I may say so myself.

I kind of got into the whole girly skirts/dresses thing after that, so although I was briefly tempted to cross-dress when the next costume party was announced (“Hollywood”), I decided to keep it classy, stylish and feminine. My high school prom dress was slightly taken in (which I’m only mentioning because it sounds nice, but in all honesty the thing was already baggy back when), and an hour and a half of YouTube tutorials and many frustrations later, this is how I turned out…

Guess who? (click for a hint)

There’s no denying it anymore

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It was only a few weeks ago that a friend of mine posted something on Facebook: “Just made jam from the plums in my garden, gotta love the fruits of the autumn!” (or something along those lines, my Swedish is still a bit shaky). I immediately replied, of course: “As long as the trees are still green, it is summer, I don’t care how cold it’s getting or how much fruit/mushrooms/nuts you collect!” (again, that was the intended message, whether the Swedish I threw together meant the same remains an open question).

But then autumn-themed posts appeared in my feed. And the trees actually started changing color (well… the leafs did). And I knew… there’s no denying it any longer.

Lund University Library in autumn. Photo by JanneM via Flickr.

It’s not like I have anything against autumn in particular. I don’t. I don’t have anything against any season. I don’t really have anything for any season either though, to be honest – the concept of a ‘favorite season’ is kind of alien to me. No – what I like most about seasons is the mere fact that they’re there. I would hate to live in a country which has summer all year round, or even only two seasons. It’s the changing of the seasons, the continuous dynamic of that vicious circle that keeps things interesting. I love the freshness of the green in spring, I love the abundance and smells of summer, I love the colors and tastes of autumn, and I love the serenity and quiet of winter. Granted, I generally long for one season when another one is still going on, but I’m working on that.

Still, this year, I’m not exactly looking forward to the changing of seasons. Autumn is not too bad, I guess, although a few extra degrees would never hurt, but the really bad part about autumn is that it is so, so close to winter. And I just. don’t. feel. like. winter.

Don’t get me wrong – wrapped in a fleece blanket, hot chocolate, coziness by the fire place, snow walks (I REALLY need to lose my snow angel-virginity this year), skiing: I get it, it’s great, it’s wonderful. But winter also means: dark. And here in Sweden, even though I can’t really complain as I’m as southern as it gets, there’s an awful lot of dark: at the winter solstice, the shortest day is around 7 hours long – or short, as you prefer – with the sun setting around 14h40. Last year I minimized the effects of this: objectively, Ghent only gets half an hour of daylight more, so that’s not too big of a deal, is it? But, since Ghent is not only located more south, but also more west, this translates in a Ghent sunset over a full hour later. And last year that mere hour of difference induced a full-on winter depression for me.

So no, I’m not really thrilled about the leafs falling and the temperatures dropping, the nights getting darker and the birds moving south. I know (better) what I’m up against this year, so I know what signs to look out for but still… I’m not looking forward to it.

 

I spy with my public eye

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Back home, I’m very protective about this blog – there is only a handful of people that know about it, generally because they stumbled upon it by accident, and I have literally asked them not to read (I can only hope they actually complied…). Here, however, I tend to be more sloppy, although most times I can deflect questions “oh, but that’s my Dutch blog, you wouldn’t understand it anyway”.

Right before summer, however, we were having a bbq with some friends. It was just a cosy, comfy afternoon, and as we were talking, something slipped – I’m not even sure what it was anymore, but it was clear to everyone that I’d written and published a non-fictional text in English.

You have to give us the link!

Ehm… how about no?

Needless to say, a lively discussion ensued. Why would I refuse to give the link? Why couldn’t they read something that was already out there anyways, open for everyone to read? How could I expect something that I posted on the Internet to remain private anyway?

They have a point, of course. It’s not like I break taboos here – I don’t talk about my sex life, I rarely discuss very personal things, I don’t bash my friends/coworkers, … in fact, I think there is little to no content to be found on this blog that I haven’t told anyone before, that I would get into trouble for or that I would be ashamed to admit that I wrote. There is nothing to hide here – so why do I insist on doing just that?

Because they might not like what they see – and it scares me shitless.

I can go to a public sauna, and I won’t even bother to wrap a towel around me when I leave the cabin to go shower. I will be surrounded by hundreds of strangers, men and women, and I won’t care in the least. Like what you see? Nice, thank you. Don’t like it? There’s a skinnier/rounder/bigger-breasted/better-whatever-you-want girl right over there, kindly re-direct your attention.
But now if I would go to the sauna with, let’s say, my dad, now that would be… awkward (and yes, that happened.).

And that’s how it goes in the blogosphere. There’s a whole lot of strangers passing by your writing, most of whom just glance and move on, while others actually like what they see and strike up a conversation, i.e. they comment or subscribe. You get the occasional side eye or disrespectful look, but there is always the excuse: they don’t even know me, what do they care, and what right do they have to judge me anyways?

That changes when people you actually know are added to the equation.

Because at the end of the day, I’m proud of my writing, I’m proud of what I’ve put out there – if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have published it in the first place. And while obviously I don’t want to obligate my friends/family to read my blog, if I give them the link I will expect them to read it. And I will expect feedback. So imagine -just imagine- that they don’t like it. That they find my writing boring, or pompous, or just completely pointless. Imagine they just don’t care. Either of two options will then happen: 1. they will lie to me or 2. they will tell me straight up my writing sucks. And that I won’t be able to brush that off the way I could with the (fairly) anonymous comments before.

I’m not sure I’m willing to take that risk (yet).

Drop-in

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I just wanted to quickly drop in and leave you all a hug. I know I haven’t been around much, and I’m sorry to say it’s not likely to change soon.

Basically, my GP has put me on sick leave until mid August and referred me to a therapist. It feels ridiculous, since I’m a 29-year old with a house, in a steady relationship, with a good degree and a wide circle of friends, and I should therefore by all accounts be content, if not happy. Truth is, I haven’t been handling things very well lately, and if you get to the point where you ignore e-mails, texts, and any other contact attempts from friends, you know something needs to be done. So that’s what I’m doing. Something. To get back there, and get back here. Get back to myself.

Love,
Lies

My week

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Monday
Experienced true friendship firsthand when a couple of Spaniards threw me in the Baltic Sea. One gave me his dry clothes (I didn’t have spare ones), the other drove me home, so we’re all good.

Tuesday
I discovered the Draco Trilogy, a 2000-page Harry Potter fanfiction. Draco Dormiens and Draco Sinister are right up there with the canon works, that’s for sure. It leads to a strange fascination with Tom Felton and Draco Malfoy.

Draco Malfoy in A Very Potter Sequel. I'd say (s)he's cuter than the original one, what you?

Wednesday
My EMBO-scholarship application (the one with the interview with the scary professor in England) is denied. My funds run out in August and because I’m not entitled to unemployment benefits going back to Belgium will mean moving back in with my parents.

Thursday
The lack of sleep (see Tuesday) hits me during the wrong time of the month, and an early-morning meeting with my PI ends up in me running out of the building, crying. Tip for those who make a runner in the rain: take either your mobile phone, your key card, your house keys or an umbrella with you, otherwise your options are extremely limited.

Friday
I get been awarded the Lawrkis scholarship I applied for 3 weeks ago. I get to stay another year in Sweden and don’t have to move in with my parents come September. On top of that, the repeat-meeting goes (more or less) smoothly, and my PI is happy with me.

Didn't have the top. Or the blonde hair. Or the body. But I got the tattoos! (via Flickr, kyleburning)

Saturday
An American friend organizes a “Think Pink!” party. I buy the first bottle of nail polish I have ever owned in a bright, shiny pink, and use a permanent black marker to draw P!nk’s tattoos on my ankles, arms, and neck. My brilliant impersonation of P!nk gives me the prize for most original interpretation of the theme: pink lipstick. Yes, first lipstick I have ever owned.

Sunday
I haven’t practiced accordeon, I haven’t cleaned up the apartment, I haven’t cooked, and I haven’t caught up on my Reader and the e-mails I am to reply to. But I wrote another story and spent a Lazy Sunday once more.

 
Yes, I’d say, overall it has been a good week.

How (not) to go to the sauna – revisited

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Remember this?

This is Malmö’s kallbadhuset, a sauna-and-bath complex located at the end of a 200m-long pier. Last December, a friend and I thought it would be a neat idea to go to the sauna – it was the middle of winter in Sweden of all places, so it was only fit. The “fun” trip turned out to be a nightmare involving getting lost in a construction site, spraining an ankle, incredible disappointment when we found ourselves before closed doors because of misinformation on the sauna’s websiteand ultimately pleasant surprise when receiving two vouchers for a free sauna visit after complaining about said misinformation. So when a friend of mine came over last weekend, we thought we’d finally cash those vouchers and enjoy an afternoon of bathing.

Turns out…

… the vouchers are for a different place.

See, when we initially looked up the opening hours for the bath house, we actually were looking at the website of ANOTHER bath house, which coincidentally has the same name. But not the same opening hours. So when we found ourselves before closed doors it was not because there were two websites, one of which was not updated, it was BECAUSE THERE ARE 2 BATH HOUSES!

So basically I complained to the second bath house that the first bath house was not open during their hours.

Derp.

Standing in front of the cashier with my totally worthless vouchers, I felt immensely stupid.

We still enjoyed our (paid) visit though. I am used to sauna complexes with literally 10+ types of sauna scattered over a domain, while here there were only 2 sauna’s, and just plenty of room to sunbathe, but the atmosphere of the place is so unique – located almost literally in the middle of the sea, the whole complex gives you a stunning view over the water wherever you are, and it’s such a charming, quiet, peaceful place. In addition, men and women’s sections were separated, which at first I found a bit stupid (and odd… it’s bloody Sweden! they don’t even have separate restrooms!), but which, in strange way, did make the whole experience a whole lot more relaxing. The “best” thing though? Cooling off after the sauna in the sea. There’s nothing quite like a 10ºC (50F) salty bath to arrest your blood flow ;).

I still got 2 free vouchers for a bath house I don’t even know the location of though… .

While life was happening outside…

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So this has been my life for the past couple of days weeks. It has been fun and rewarding exhausting, but I have learned a lot:

  • I can function on an average of 3 hours of sleep a night.
  • As long as I have chocolate I do not need any other food.
  • Crystallography is a pain in the ass.

Well, to be honest, I’m not sure about the first two, but trust me on the last one. Don’t go there. Just… don’t.

Hello to you too and hold on to your seats – I am back.

You know you have neglected your blog for way too long when…

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… you can’t remember your username to log in to WordPress :o.

It is a serious crime, I am well aware.

It might of course have to do with the fact that my sleep pattern is heavily disturbed lately (so I pulled 2 allnighters in a row. what? there’s so much STUFF on this internet-thing), or the fact that I’m stressing out about my beloved PhD-work which has still not been published and because of which I may or may not be scooped by a Japanese group (don’t they have more urgent stuff on their mind? like a melting nuclear plant?) (and shouldn’t I have finished this ages ago instead of blaming the Japanese and trolling the internet?).

It may also have to do with the fact that my parents are coming to visit tomorrow. That’s good, right? I mean, I haven’t seen them since January. Damn, I have barely heard them. Literally. I called once to wish my dad a happy birthday. That was it.

I have called my parents once in over 3 months.

Now, I’m one of those forgetful people. Out of sight out of mind, you know. It’s not that I am so busy or I got a lot on my mind. I don’t (I should, though). It’s just… I get easily distracted. So yes, when you don’t contact me, chances are there’s not gonna be contact at all. Working quite unsuccessfully on that one, I promise.

So my parents call me. Biweekly, more or less, I’d say. Or well, they used to. The reason for that? Well…

I mean, of course, me and my mum… we’ve never been best friends. Something, somewhere went wrong, I don’t even know what, ’cause really, we’re both nice people. And we’re a lot alike, I hear. But I guess we’re just too different on those little things that really matter. And it doesn’t work. Her and me. Of course, the fact she didn’t talk to me for 3 months when I confessed my relationship with T didn’t help. We’re doing better now, but still… not BFFs. That and I’m not sure she knows how to work Skype yet.
My dad on the other hand… he is was my hero. He’s like… MY DAD. I know you’re not really supposed to have this admiration for your dad when you’re 29 years old, but I do did. As with my mum, I’m actually not really sure why this came to be, but I guess my dad’s just this cool guy, who’s a DIY-expert and helps me out and just generally supports me whatever I do.

So in short – my dad doesn’t call anymore. Because he is very well aware he’s lost his hero-status.

Last December, my dad was given a pacemaker because he has been… fainting, I guess. It appears his heart just… stops… once in a while, causing him to faint. It only happened 3 or 4 times, but when you know one of those times he was driving, you know something needed to be done. Hence, after many tests and checks: pacemaker.
And then, in January, he had another car accident. Let me align some facts on this particular incident.

  • it was a total loss
  • I was e-mailed (!) about this almost a week after it happened
  • although my dad admitted to having drunk ‘some’, he made it appear as if the main suspected cause was his heart

This already pissed me of, but only now we’re coming to the fun part

  • he had almost 4 times the allowed amount of alcohol in his blood

Now, I’m not sure I have mentioned this before, but I have a BIG problem with alcohol abuse. I cannot deal with drunk people. I simply cannot. I see no reason to spend a lot of money on an excuse to act irresponsibly and not remember any of it. And be proud of it, at that. I don’t even know why I feel so strongly about this topic, and I don’t really want to go into this here either, so let’s just keep it at that: I am strongly opposed to alcohol abuse.

(Between you and me, I’ve long maintained I feel my dad has an alcohol problem. He drinks on a daily basis, several glasses, and he gets cranky if for some reason he cannot have his drink at night. It’s the one flaw (that, and the fact he smokes. secretly.) I have had trouble with, but nobody shared my opinion – my dad was just a social drinker (really? while watching tv on his own?) and had it under control.)

And then my dad goes and crashes his car in the middle of the night having close to 2 promilles of alcohol in his blood. That should NOT happen. It míght happen to an 18-year old going out for the first time and (terribly) misjudging his/her alcohol intake, but that is about as far as I’m willing to take it. No excuse. At. All.

Especially not if you try to cover it up as if it had a different cause.
And you don’t mention it for a week.

I’m overreacting. I know I am. But I just cannot read an e-mail from my dad anymore without thinking “you ass”. I cannot think of him without my blood starting to boil. I can’t look forward to their visit, to show them around in my life here and have dinner together because I don’t know what I’m gonna do if he orders a beer to go with the meal. As if the whole picture of my dad has crumbled and fallen apart and there’s nothing left.

“Who’s this guy and what has he done to my dad?”

I don’t know how to deal with this. I don’t want to mess up my parents’ visit by being a moaning jerk. But I don’t want to let it slip and pretend nothing’s wrong either.

I’m picking them up at the airport tomorrow morning at 8h30. Between that and passing by the lab before, I have some 3 hours of sleep left. I better get to it, or I will be too tired to be able to play pretend even if I wanted to ;).

The elephant in the room

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There is one thing that puts a serious strain on my relationship with T. Actually, there’s more than one, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just look at this one for now.

I’m talking about her right shoulder. Or rather, her lack of one.

T’s always been a heavy sporter. She started playing badminton when she was 14 or 15, and when I met her, she was training at least 3 times a week – plus competition almost every Sunday, both individual and in team. She basically grew up in that sports hall (and even dated her trainer for over 6 years). Sports, badminton, her club – that was her life. I was never able to keep her from going to training: whatever it was, it would have to wait.

But some 2 years ago, she had to give up during a tournament because of unbearable pain in her right shoulder. She had been struggling with it for some time, but it suddenly worsened and she was temporarily banned from playing. She still went to train, though without playing, and took physical therapy. When things didn’t improve, sports was banned as a whole, while physical therapy continued. She decided on an operation, during which they couldn’t see anything wrong and therefore just removed some synovial bursae (??). More physical therapy. A homeopath. An acupuncturist. A specialized sports doctor. A different homeopath. She was first allowed play, then not, then she could but no movements above the head, then she couldn’t again. Pain was something she lived with daily, and which no approach seemed to relieve.

By the end of last year, a ‘treatment of the final chance’ was started when she visited yet another specialist, who gave her 3 injection treatments to make a final break with the chronic infection. She was to keep the shoulder immobilized after each treatment until the pain stopped, and encouragingly this time decreased with every treatment. Moreover, for the first time she actually had pain-free days. She was already dreaming of her now dusty rackets when she finally started what should be the final round of physical therapy. Except that she couldn’t – the long immobilization of her shoulder had caused her muscles to atrophy, meaning she effectively had no longer any shoulder muscles. She would have to start from scratch. Very, very slowly. And about 2 months ago, finally, she could start doing low-intensity exercises. She took up running again. So far so good.

Until a few weeks ago, when the pain started to come back. The exercises were cut back, and finally, as of yesterday, completely stopped.

She still goes to after-training drinks, and to competitions, to cheer for her friends from the sideline. But as it becomes more and more clear she might never leave that sideline again, that she might never actually get on court again, she becomes increasingly unhappy. Cheering her up is all but easy – there’s only so many times you can say everything’s gonna be alright, it’s only so long before that looses its credibility. In addition she is much too realistic to let herself be influenced by maybe’s and if’s: as a scientist, she needs proof before she will allow optimism to slip in.
She refuses to adapt her goal – re-enter national competition – though, although she’s been officially removed from the ranking and hasn’t prolonged her membership at her club. I can’t understand why she won’t keep it more realistic, start with being pain-free and be able to cope with the everyday life, and take it from there, I don’t understand why she absolutely has to go running or go to the fitness as soon as the pain diminishes even slightly, and she can’t explain it to me. Words have never been her strongest ally, and thus “you don’t understand” is the only response I get, after which some days of radio silence generally follow.

I go from being sick of the situation and her increasing unhappiness, to wanting to help her but not knowing how. I know there’s no real solution here, and I’ll just have to sick it out until she gets better. I’m just not sure what we’re gonna do if she doesn’t.