I was quite overwhelmed with all the response I got after I posted my experience of “Kraken days” last week. I had comments and messages on Facebook and messenger, I got emails, IRL-conversations and phone calls from so many friends and family. Your concern really touched me and I felt very uplifted. Thanks, all you gorgeous people. How much you mean to me!
Fortunately, and this is a major difference from a year ago, there are also many “Krikon days”. (Or, because the alliteration is better in English, “Damson days”.) Yes, I had a few down days and they were not nice at all. Quite horrible, in fact. However, they were followed by good days. And this is normal in life. And what, when you come to think of it, is “good” in this context? When I stretched out a hand from a Kraken day (articulating what I probably never would have done on a Krikon day) it led to a shower of kind words, of people stretching out their hands to me. If this isn’t good, I don’t know what is. This is, however, a sign that I am better. When I was at my worst, I couldn’t grasp a stretched out hand. Now I can. I hope.
For being better, or even well, doesn’t mean that all is well always. But it does mean that the view from the bottom doesn’t have the power to define what I perceive as “me” or “reality”. It is challenged by the other stories, the experiences of happiness and fulfilment and people close to me who love me – and whose love I can accept because I can, despite my feelings of otherwise, see that I am worth it.
I think this is the worst part of bad days: Not feeling worthy of love. The deep embarrassment of being who I am, cringing with and crippled by shame. And not being capable of taking in another person’s story of who I am. On bad days, the story I tell about myself is told by what I on good days can see is an untrustworthy and destructive narrator. She (my shadow?) holds up a black mirror to my inner self. And I believe that my own voice represents true reality. I cannot do otherwise. I cannot challenge my own, false – or rather, narrow, story. That is what the sickness is. The black mirror of depression and exhaustion.
I want to develop some thoughts I had at work today which relate to all these personal experiences. This is an aspect I love about my job: it gives plenty of opportunities to really think things through, in dialogue with bright minds. The trick is, though, to carve out time enough to actually think som long thoughts…
In preparation for our weekly ethics seminar this afternoon, I had the opportunity to think about narration of life (a favourite theme), with special regard to the relevance of narrative perspective. Is life, and thus morality, told from the first, second or third person perspective? From which perspective ought the ethicist work? We discussed a new book by a person I admire very much, the theological ethicist from Åbo in Finland, Tage Kurtén. In his book, he claims that moral language must have a first person perspective and that we as ethicists ought to be wary of the claim of a neutrality of a third-person perspective.
I really enjoyed thinking about these patterns of thought. It also occurred to me that although I agree with the primacy of a first-person perspective, a more distanced perspective is needed for the first person’s complex subjective experience to be fully articulated. (I don’t think Tage disagrees. What I am saying here is not in opposition to his book. It is a personal spin-off.)
Let me take an example. Think of a coin. And it’s two sides. It is impossible to see both sides from a single perspective. But both are needed for the coin to be considered valid as currency. They belong inherently together – but can only be seen in full one at a time. You have to know, or trust, that from a different perspective, the other side exists.
When I fell in love with my husband, one of the things I fell for was his relaxed and tolerant attitude, his laid-back-ness and, not least, his acceptance of me. Warts and all. Now, after ten years of marriage, I sometimes need to remind myself that these exact character traits are the still there and typical of him (bless him), but that I sometimes only see the other side of them. The dark side.
In a stressed daily life and from the perspective of a bad mood, I can interpret these traits in negative terms. Hubby therefore sometimes sometimes comes across to me as lacking in initiative and responsibility, a person who lazily accepts problems without trying to solve them and who doesn’t challenge my story when I need it to be challenged (at least not in the way I want to be challenged). If, however, I can take a step backwards, I can remind myself that I am seeing HIM in a black mirror. I therefore need to challenge my first person perspective. I need to take a step back from the story I am telling in order to incorporate both, true sides of who he is. And I need to listen to HIS story, his first-person narration.
I also need to see both sides of my own, dominant character traits. When I’m up, I need to remind myself to take responsibility for the dark side of myself. When I’m down, I need to remind myself that all is not hopeless – that I am worth something. That there is value in who I am. Although I can’t see it when I am down, I need to trust that it is there. Like both sides of a coin, for it is difficult to see both at the same time.
So. That all became rather complicated. But Krikonkraken is, in many ways, a project in which I am exploring all these double aspects of life and identity. I have Kraken days, and I have Krikon days. Both are ambiguous. Life IS complicated.
A very concrete example of a Krikon day was last Friday, when a friend and I visited the major Swedish Garden Fair (Nordiska Trädgårdar). Guess what I now have in my garden: Gamla Wasa blåkrikon! I have been so frustrated, because damson has been almost impossible to buy in Sweden. And I really wanted one. My friend saw it first, and the rest of the fair I walked around with a big grin trying not to poke people with my little tree. It is, in fact, not much yet. As you can see in the picture above. But it IS a damson.
To close this rambling post: There are ups and downs, straight aheads and status quos in life. The trick is to go with the flow, I find. Not panic, but live through the downs, enjoy and relish the ups, try to navigate where to go ahead and allow restfulness in status quo. Also, and this I have learnt is important: to accept backwards steps. They can lead to new directions and different perspectives. This blog is a way in which I try to cope and understand all these movements and directions in my own life. And to see that Kraken days can, in fact, highlight happiness, friendship and love.