I am my own Captain


Illustration by Anna Nygren.

You and I have a conversation about what I should become. You wonder why I can not be what I am, why I am not directing. I say that I do not get any job. You wonder why. I say that I am not in demand. You wonder if I make myself reminded. I say I don’t have the energy. You wonder if I’m a bad director. I’m good at taking responsibility, being sensitive. I am caring and smart. I am clear and successful at leading. I keep agreements. But I fear, a fear that is stucked in my body.

About four years ago I received a call with a request that I could make a cameo as a director. It was a new play with a famous actor in the lead role, rehearsals had been going on for three weeks without the ensemble had begun to work on stage. I immediately thought that it’s impossible, it’s strange that the caller has not realized it. Then I thought that the person who asks is a competent and experienced person, and if that person think so maybe it still is possible.

I ask to call back. I’ll call a friend and say: I’ve got a kamikaze mission. Do you think I should I take it?
My friend says of course I should. Because it’s a good opportunity. Because it’s a step in my career.

I’ll do it. I see all the dangers, and I understand that you can not ask someone other than me. I have been planning a work trip to Tbilisi. The journey is only two days and those days are my preparation time. At a café, I sit and read the script, trying to make a sweeping analysis of what it is about. I have received a drawing from the set designer but have no sense of how things are going to move in the room. I am stressed, with a slight nausea. Already there and then I stepped outside from what I can control and feel safe with.

I put myself into a storm that lasts six weeks. One director has been replaced, three actors and a prompter will be replaced. AllEveryone in the production will be offered counseling. I and others in the ensemble will be hunted by the press. The production will quadruple. I will be there all the time, I will steer the ship forward. I will be ashamed because I feel so terribly bad, because I do not in any way take care of myself. There will be a chaos and in that chaos we make a performance that goes to a premiere.

You ask me why I took an assignment when I knew it was a kamikaze mission. I have not thought about it. You wonder for whom sake I did it. Maybe I did it partly in pursuit of a track in the CV, but it was not the main. It was for the theater’s sake. For the renegade director’s sake. It was because I’m programmed to help when someone needs.

I stay quiet and then I will answer you that it was not for my own sake and I become terribly sad.

I disappeared from the theater after the premiere. The sea was calm, but that sort of lull that hides the old lake. I wish I walked away victorious, instead of being ashamed of how bad I was. I wish I did not hit on myself, but said no and told someone about the nausea and insomnia that came afterwards. I wish I had been able to take it as a breeze or as fat fucking kick in someone else’s ass than my own. I wish that I would be proud of what I did, I did some of the worst and I made it.

You tell me that Kamikaze was initially quite different from a mission where someone is expected to sacrifice herself. It was a force of nature, a tropical storm, strong enough to disperse and destroy.

You say that one of my qualities is that I deliver. I’m reliable and I do not leave the ship. We have not known each other very long and I do not understand how you can know. You say that the only thing you do is to listen to what I tell you.

The old lake remain smoldering. On the beach is windswept pine trees. I have learned a new meaning of kamikaze, I breathe deeply and assumes me that understanding.

Next time we meet, I’ll tell you about my next piece. It should be about you and me and the unbridled forces of nature.

See you,

Gloria, Hartmund and Lady XY


Illustration by Anna Nygren

You say “pink rules” when you leave me at the airport. Three days we have been together. Our task was to explore our common identity.

We have made paper dolls, I, you and Maria. Your doll is named Gloria and mine Hartmund. Maria’s paper doll is called Lady XY. Sinead filmed us and asked questions, often replied by herself.

My plan was to evaluate a concept. I did not expect to make so many discoveries. I did not expect to be so concerned and confused. For example, I discovered that I am not aware of how I am a woman. For example, I discovered how others are aware that I am a woman.

I’ve discovered that I do not know if it’s ok for men with power to not wash their hair. I’ve discovered that I do not know if it’s ok to argue that it is not ok for women with the power to have dirty hair.

I’ve discovered that I like to wear high heels hoes. I’ve discovered that I do not know if I can wear high heels in general or wearing high heels for me always means a feminist action.

I’ve discovered that I can talk for a vey long time about dirty hair and high heels. I’ve discovered that I like to dwell on things.

I have discovered that I wear red lipstick as a protection. I’ve discovered that other people do not understand it that way.

I have discovered that it is an achievement to be natural. I have discovered that I find it difficult to be looked at. I have discovered that I find it difficult to be valued as an object. I have discovered that I find it difficult to be described as natural and beautiful when I perform actions which to me indicates sexuality. I have discovered that I think it’s terrible to be portrayed.

I have discovered that I think and solve things faster than many others and still I need to take time, my mind needs to take time. I’ve discovered that I get stressed when I’m not thinking thoughts all the way.

I have discovered that I am not aware of how conscious I really am.

I have discovered that it is difficult and vulnerable to provide trusts. I’ve discovered that I get sad when I’m not being understood. I have discovered that it is exhausting to talk about myself.

I’ve discovered that I can easily get stuck in sadness. I’ve discovered that when I talk about hard things I get tired. I’ve discovered that I need time to discover what is good.

I have discovered that you and I are different. I have discovered that I’m allowed to think so. I have discovered that I can tell you.

I’ve discovered that you are listening to me. I have discovered that what I say matters to you. I have discovered that what I do is important to you. I have discovered that you see that I’m able to make changes.

I’ve discovered that sometimes I just want to lie down and cry. I have discovered that you can see that and take me by the hand and lay me down. I have discovered that it is ok to lie down next to you. I have discovered that you think it is ok. I have discovered that you want to help me.

You say “pink rules” and drive off in your red car. I check in. It is only in airport limbo as my mind catches up. It is only then I discover all these discoveries. You have already disappeared into the darkness with Gloria, Hartmund and Lady XY but I still lift my hand and wave. I scream towards the exit: See you again soon to make new paper dolls! See you soon again to make new discoveries!



I am an übermensch


Illustration by Anna Nygren.

I previously said that I am no übermensch. I have to take it back.

For example right now, I am on parental leave, a time to do things I not have time to do otherwise. Not just stay at home with children but also repaint the bathroom door, write long letters, sew a new bedspread, work on at least two projects and write a blog, board working, apply for jobs, apply for scholarships and answer the 221 unanswered emails in my mailbox. All based on a belief that this time I will not require as much by myself, as on my last paternal leave, but take it easier. I am not unique. A parental leave offers new opportunities, ones that do not give any money but that is an investment in the future.

For some years I worked as an assistant director at one of the larger theatre institutions. At one time I assisted a production on the big stage. It was a huge ensemble with major and minor roles. The show was several hours long, with advanced stage design, many changes and comprehensive technology. It was a demanding task for the director where it was difficult to suffice. As assistant director, I was responsible for the planning of rehearsals and costume and make-up times, I also took responsibility for the technical reviews and mediated between producer and technical staff as they did not agree, I gave instructions to the actors in minor roles when there was not time for them to rehears, I listened to the weeping actor in the hallways who felt abandoned, and so on. My day started at eight and ended shortly after midnight, depending on how long the director needed for planning or if any of the major actors had the need to talk off over the phone. It was heading for a disaster. I saw it in decent good time and told the management. They understood, but instead of cancelling they gave extra resources with money to buy off time, from the already tired and stressed actors and technicians. Work continued, and everything just got worse. I tried to carry the director mentally, even physically by during rehearsal lead the director across the floor to show sceneries we together had planned.

It’s four days before the premiere, fifteen actors, about as many techniques as well as other staff, stands ready to begin an extra full-day rehearsal on the big stage. The director is gone. We have to work so I take over, with a microphone and headset I coordinate actors and technicians. For the first time we manage to do a pull-through of the entire performance. I can almost touch the relief coming from the others, I have taken them forward through what seemed impossible.

The day after the director is home on a sick leave and the theatre manager steps in and takes over. Together we go through sceneries, deletions and proposed actions to put together the chaos into a performance. The few days leading up to the premiere, I sit next to the theatre manager. Hir completely avoids eye contact with me, instead, only profanity and fry comes in my direction. With the extremely small strength I have left, I give the theatre manager the information needed. After finishing rehearsal the day before premiere the producer put me in at taxi and send me home. I do not protest, but is completely exhausted.

There was an opening. I sat in the dark on the balcony, with bleeding red lipstick, and cried my way through the four-hour show. In silence.

A few months later, we had technical evaluation of the production. I asked to put on the record that the work was not worth the effort, that the production demanded too much of both the participants and the theatre, emotionally and financially. The director is now back from it’s sick leave and I get a reply: This is theater – then you have to endure! It’s just as well you get use to it.

I often return to the notion that ” just as well you get use to it”. I think that I do not want to get use to it, to work with stress and sickness in the body. I try to be aware of it and not put myself in those situations again. I’m learning all the time about how important it is to have a clear framework for myself and my work. I must first and foremost ensure that I-m ok before I help others. It is not that easy. Sometimes it’s easier to be an übermensch, one of those who work more hours than there really exists. Such as, despite constant lack of sleep, own and others’ screams, still trying to accomplish something. (Whew, I could write the last word before the baby woke up. The bedspread, however, I do not finished.)

In the hope of a continued calm day,
Anna Lina.

Promise me to be a shit!

Illustration by Anna Nygren.

Illustration by Anna Nygren.

I think about you now.
And I thought of you when I saw the programs about the author Astrid Lindgren, which was shown on Swedish television. In one of the programs a letter was cited. The aged Astrid writes to her young pen pal: /…/ I want you to know that an outside person think that you are right. You have the right not to be a kind and durable kid!

I wish to give you and me such an invitation. I wish us a lifelong correspondence of letters.

Astrid is filmed in her office, at her desk in the summer house. Her body is an assurance that she and the words, she and her thoughts, must be the most important. Those programs made it real for me, just how important you and I are. And that it takes courage to be us. We want something and we express it by writing.

I want to talk to you about this, but it’s hard. Talking becomes too easy, it goes too fast. Shades and movements stand in the way and mix into the meaning and make it messy. What I want to say need to be sorted, rinsed, go through the body unchallenged. Most of all, I want to exchange large, dizzying thoughts with you. The thoughts that are like secrets, for those who do not understand. They do not understand how writing can be a need, how it can provide comfort, how it can offer wings and roads far far away and how it can become a strategy for survival. Since they can not understand it so it is not possible to embrace writing difficulties, how words can move the reason, how the feeling can take over, how longing for the words can create holes and frustration.

I get so guilty when I think that I need to be on my own, when I yearn to travel far away to the sea and not meet any person. I long to be alone with my writing, to have an affair with myself. I want to tell you about it. Maybe you can understand and maybe you also want to escape. Perhaps you tell me that you are weak and afraid of the world and afraid of yourself. I try to give you the right words, words who comforts and strengthens, that open roads and creates security.

We change trusts. You tell that you have a secret; you know I am a strong, honest and nice person. You ask of me that I should create conditions for me to write, it is my duty. I have a secret as well; I know you are not a threat but just very fragile. I ask of you to create your opportunities to enjoy yourself, it is your duty.

We are fairytale characters in real life. You are Ronia the Robber’s daughter and I’m Birk Borkason, or vice versa, or some completely different. I think the forest of Astrid LIndgren is the world and that the world must be respected. I’m here. If you stand there on the edge of Hellmouth, I know I’m jumping. I do not stretch out my hand for you since you do not need it, you just need the knowledge that you will get by even this time. I count and so we jump, at the same time.

I do not want to see the third and final part of the TV show. I want Astrid to continue her correspondence of swapping confidences forever, I do not want her to die at the end. However, she does. Death comes and as usual it is unbearably painful, but as usual, life becomes normal again after a while.

I write to you now. I write that the world around you is injustice and people and life is a bitch. I am writing you hand encourage you to make a fuss, to be awkward and fight. You should not beat yourself, do not harm the wonderful fine as you are. But the outside world, you must be a shit!

Your friend, Anna Lina.