At minimum, it was a whirlwind. It started in Oslo, when my cousin flew in from the States for some Scandinavian gallivanting. Little did we know that meant we would kidnap a Norwegian man and take him with us for our weekend excursion in Stockholm.
In our defense: he wasn’t a stranger, but a long cherished friend of my cousin’s… and we’d met up over beers. What even is reason after coughing up cash for alcohol in Norway, anyway? For the three of us, a weekend was reason enough for two overnight buses and a night in a fantastic hostel.
We felt like zombies as we stepped off the bus at Stockholm’s transit center. The three of us had run into two other girls from my university, so we made our way to the Espresso House, the only open coffee shop we knew of that early in the morning, and one who’s name (or creative versions of it) would repeatedly find its way into inside jokes for the remainder of the trip.
Separating to make our way to our own hostels, our party of three found our hostel and left our bags there before just as quickly heading to a delightful breakfast joint, STHLM Brunch Club. Snow had frosted the window panes and I gladly warmed my hands with the hot ceramic coffee mug. Although I highly recommend it for its delectable menu, fresh juices, and antique-cozy feel, the walls and wooden floors we also trusted with some beautifully tragic stories. That Saturday, three individuals decided it was better to leap into the depths of the more difficult conversations in life than only admire our colorful brunch.
We spoke, shared, and listened to one another divulge in struggles with grief and depression, experiences of pain and bewilderment. Quite possibly the most intimate time of this breakfast was my cousin and I being able to speak face-to-face for the first time about a book authored by our uncle. Sadly, she had only accidentally discovered its release date through a post he was tagged in via social media, just weeks before he deleted us and our cousins and siblings from his network. The subject matter is his perspective on our family’s background, though he unabashedly chose to publish it without a phone call to any of his sisters’ children. Full of defamation of character and claims against my murdered father and my precious cousin’s deceased mother, we both were filled with confusion and pain as we read words he had never braved to speak to any of our faces. But what wounded me most was that my uncle, a pastor and mandated reporter, emphasized in this book his desperation to shed light on sexual abuse and mental health, but he had refused to help me when my mother approached him on my behalf as other “family secrets” were brought to his attention.
Tears were shed, hands were held, and a most true human dilemma confronted us: we all hurt each other throughout life, and not one person is unaffected by actions of another. We cannot make sense of all or any of the wounds and grievances we face, and there comes a time we must all consider how the consequences our own actions have affected our fellow humans, friends or foes.
Hours later we found ourselves in one of the most profound spaces I had ever set foot: Stockholm Stadsbibliotek. Within its cylinder dome, wisps of voices almost danced to fill the room with the energy of the thousands of souls who had penned their words. I questioned how many of my own interpretations of history are the reflection of pain for others, and mourned how many people I have hurt because of selfishness, fear, insecurity, or pride. There have been times when the stars align and it is possible and proper to extend an apology to another’s aware soul. Other times, we can only send forth our admittance of guilt and hope that restoration has found the other spirit and freed them. And choosing forgiveness when we are wronged by others also falls to us to grant, with all due respect to boundaries and safety and well-being.
If you patiently walk on the main floor under the rotunda, find the center by tapping a toe or snapping your finger. Seek the spot where no noises find you, where even the air is still. Listen to the acoustics of your sound bounce so quickly back from the surroundings and you will feel as though you are in a bubble. Outside the space, everything seems muted and the moment is yours to center yourself. Your nonjudgmental audience who has told their own truth peers down from ancient shelves. Space inside of space. And outside the State Library, the snow swirled ’round Stockholm.
Read more about Thirty by Thirty here…