I’m born in Sweden but I have lived in England 25 years of my adult life. I moved back to Sweden in 2017. I have worked as a director and teacher of theatre, presentation, voice and physical training. I am also an actor but I do find more purpose in the teaching.
Since I moved back to Sweden, I have found myself in several situations where I have helped refugees to practise Swedish. It’s not my main task but I choose to share some stories from those moments.
I encourage them to talk about themselves.
A man from Syria is about fifty years of age. He tells me that his sweet shop was bombed and explains that that is the reason why he finds it so difficult to learn Swedish. He is gesturing the bomb that is destroying his shop. He points at his head and shows that it is chaos in there. Trauma. I ask him to tell me more about the shop. He had built it up for over thirty-five years. He picks up his mobile phone and shows me pictures from his shop in Aleppo. It’s not the kind of sweet store that we have in our Swedish town, where “pick’n mix” in plastic boxes are crowded on the shelves.
No, he shows me a museum, a beautiful shop, with tall hardwood shelves and lovely floors. The sweets are presented in various beautiful bowls, which in themselves are works of art. Pretty lids and delicate wrapping papers. It’s amazing. I’m crying with him.
Then we talk about his family. He has four children and two grandchildren in Sweden. One lives at home, one in another part of our town and two in other Swedish towns. The children are doing well and he shows me photos of them in his mobile phone. Happy faces! His wife is studying and she is doing well too. He is proud of his family.
For the remaining part of the lesson, we practise Swedish words and sentences.
I reflect upon my own life. I was born in Sweden as a bastard. Unwanted, hated and psychologically abused. Materially I was fine. No abundance, but Sweden provided for our needs. But no love. Reminders now and again from my single mother of where I came from. She decorated me with a disgusting “nickname” with reference to how I was conceived. It was her way of letting go of her pain. I was her dustbin. The hatred simply overflowed when the pressure became too high. And actually; she hated me. Already before I was born. So, I had no chance to show who I was before she made her mind up. I was a challenge for her as I happened to be a child with many talents and great entrepreneurship. I think she admired some of what I did even if she rarely told me, but I know that I formed a threat. The worst thing for her was probably the fact that I admired her when I was little. She was totally incapable of receiving that. She had been badly treated when she grew up and had a deep self-loathing. And wanted to be seen like that. So extremely provocative to have a daughter who tried to see her in another way than the way she held on to for dear life. What an unpleasant child who looks with a look of admiration. She didn’t seek admiration. She looked for contempt.
A young man from Palestine tells me that he fled from Palestine to Egypt through a tunnel. He lets me see pictures of the tunnel and the rubber boat he then fled in to Italy.
He explains that he hasn’t been able to do his homework because his mother is in hospital. In Palestine. I understand that he can’t concentrate because he’s worried for her. I ask him about his mother. He opens his mobile phone to show me a video. A video that shows him when he last saw his mother, five years ago. What I get to see is an explosion of love. The mother and the son, who hadn’t seen each other since he fled, embrace each other again and again. I have never seen such loving reunion. We cry together.
I reflect upon my own life. My mum and dad have never welcomed me in such loving way. If even at all. I wasn’t even invited to their house. The occasions I did visit them was after I had invited myself. Mum rather took a step back when I entered her hallway. Then there were searching eyes to find defects. She also looked for faults in my children despite them being ridiculously well-behaved in every way. But, as I said; She held on to her habitual and inherited view upon herself all the way to the grave. The bitterness had all power over her.
Thanks to my talents and my entrepreneurship I realised early that it can’t be like that; just because I have been born by a mother and a father who were unable to love or welcome me to the world, shall I shrivel up and blame them until I die. To whose delight?
This inferno needs to stop at some point. Generations of unacceptable behaviour towards the children. Sure – my mum did a better job than her mum. My sister and I got nutritious food, clothes, toys and activities.
So, this thing called love and the permission to exist. That was my task.
“Steer out of the orbit”. The planets keep spinning in the circuit. It’s always been like that and the easiest, for sure, is to go with it.
To steer out of the orbit requires a tremendous effort. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But I knew I had to do it. I had to save my children. And their children. If I succeed in steering out of this madness, is the behaviour going to cease with my children and be forgotten already with my grandchildren. Well worth it!
And I too wanted a better life. The alternative to steering around the planets was mental suffering or suicide.
I built a home in England. A beautiful house in the countryside, with many rooms and a beautiful garden. It was going to be the family home I never had. My children were always going to be welcomed there. And their children. Come and go as they wish. A safe place. My husband and I renovated the house to make it sustainable for many years to come. Our children were not going to feel the pressure to come and repair it when we are old. Because this was a house to live in – for the rest of our lives!
When my youngest child had left the nest two years earlier I realised the then unthinkable – I couldn’t stay in this marriage. Despite us working well together in many ways, it wasn’t right to carry on. I had to go.
I compare myself with the Syrian man with the sweet shop. I put everything into the home and the children, I created a beautiful home. And the community. The belonging.
It wasn’t a physical bomb that fell into my so called life’s work. But a bomb in a way.
According to my vision was the highest a house, a family home. Where I, as the mum, receive my children. Always. Because that’s how I thought it should look like. A family has a house. Safety.
Courage was required here. Was the goal the house or to be able to breathe?
I chose the breathing.
It was the right decision. I feel better and my relationship with my children is even better now. Incredibly good, even.
But, of course, I have sometimes felt tearing pain that my twenty-five years of intense work for the home and togetherness didn’t end up as planned. I sometimes cry floods of tears when I miss my children as we can’t see each other often enough as we live in different countries. And for the fact that I’m not that mother in that house.
We all have pain.
We all have different wars. I have had an inner war. Some have outer wars. Some have both. We can’t always decide who to feel most sorry for.
But if we LISTEN to each other’s stories. Cry together. SEE each other and in that way create togetherness where we are – NOW. Then, perhaps, the vulnerability and the loneliness doesn’t hurt as much.
Perhaps we don’t need to make it so incredibly complicated during the relatively short time we are here on this planet. It’s most likely that we will always have refugees for various reasons. Some have to flee their countries. Some need to flee their parents. Many of us flee from ourselves.
The reasons to why some need to flee their countries has much to do with many years of inherited conflicts. Why some need to escape from their parents has a lot to do with many years inherited behaviours. Why many runaway from themselves has a lot to do with both.
There is no chance in the world that someone will be able to find out how it started. Instead, a lot of time is spent on blaming each other. For all eternity.
If we behave like that, we can forget the chance to reach a situation to be proud of, here on planet earth.
I’m not naive… well… a bit. But I’m proud of that. It’s taken a while to get here. I don’t claim that my life has been more painful than for the one who has experienced war or something else traumatising. What I mean is that we mustn’t be so afraid of each other. That it is incredibly important to see and hear each other regardless of what social class, country, culture, religion or upbringing we come from. We can’t measure our sorrows. But we can collect fine moments. No matter how broken we are.
I have been teaching, mainly actors, for over 35 years and started to develop the method Drop-a-level early on.
The method develops the ability to relax and to let go of our inherited and habitual behaviours. And contagious behaviours from others, those things that seem to escalate until we can’t see or think clearly.
I have applied Drop-a-level with all my students which has become quite a few over the years. I advice them to use it daily and they come back with wonderful stories about how things change to the better. The technique itself is ridiculously simple. A quite frequent comment amongst my students are “Why haven’t I thought of this before?” or “I wish I had learned this ten years ago. It would have saved me a lot of suffering.”
I apply this in all my tuition in order for my students to start owning the knowledge – for real. And to inspire their audience and fellow human beings.
I am, as many with me, concerned over the growing problems in the world. I would like to contribute with something I believe will calm down the hatred, fear, defence and shame.
That’s why we are launching this campaign to offer Drop-a-level to all individuals, groups and situations.
Our goal is to by year 2030 it will be many people in every country that are using Drop-a-level.
The year matches Agenda 2030. The year The United Nations would like to have achieved The Sustainable Development Goals.
I was thinking that that’s not a very long time for such ambitious goals. This is our contribution to speed up the process.
So, join the movement!