I ask myself for the N:th time why I am still staying at my current job. I guess I’m still hoping for a turnaround. I give it until September, and if the situation is no better then, I will give up.

The team is trying to complete three priority 1 projects at the same time, all of which require constant attention, all of which must be done before midsummer. I’m like a juggler with too many balls, and more are being hefted at me. Other projects that we should prepare are getting no attention, so the next couple of months will be singularly unproductive because we’ll be picking upp all the dropped balls.

I am accumulating overtime daily, frequently catching up with work late at night at home. I sleep badly. I’ve missed breakfast twice in a week, and I haven’t gone to the gym in two weeks.

I’m walking precariously close to the line where I will break, but I’ve been doing it for so long now that I know the signs that mean I’m getting too close. When I cannot fall asleep at night, or when I wake up from weird dreams again and again, or when I wake up and yesterday’s stomach ache is still there.

I am so used to feeling constantly stressed – faster, faster! – that I don’t remember how to relax and slow down any more. Yesterday I had to tell myself to pretend I was not in a hurry, so that I could try and figure out how I might behave in that scenario.

By Sunday evening, after two days of focused effort on slowing down, I feel somewhat like a normal human being again. And tomorrow it’s back into the fray again.

After another stressful day in the office, I went out into the garden to look for peace. And photos. Those two go well together.

The first lilac flower I looked at was a five-petal one. Those are lucky in Estonia; I don’t know about the rest of the world. I remember hunting for them as a child. I spent my summers with my grandma at her summer cottage. That is what Estonian children do for summer – get sent to their grandparents. (Did thirty years ago, at least.) Swedish children – today at least – don’t do that. They get sent to camp instead.

I have many fond memories of my grandma’s garden. The cottage was there for us to sleep and eat in, and I remember it well, but it’s the garden I miss. And the forests nearby. Years after I moved to Sweden, she sold the place because she got back a part of her family’s lands, which had been expropriated when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union. Of course I understand that that place was home to her on a deeper level than the summer cottage could ever be, but I still wish I could go back.

I can’t recreate that garden here, and any attempts to do so would be sure to fail. But it is there at the back of my head when I plant the garden I have. This garden also has birches that sigh in the wind, and swallows that fly past in the evening. There are berry bushes and rhubarbs and strawberries – and lilacs and poppies and hostas and bleeding hearts.

Occasionally I suffer from restless legs in the evening when I’m trying to fall asleep. I’ve noticed that this is most likely to happen if I follow vigorous exercise by around three days of unusually idle life. Case in point: today.

Thursday was a public holiday so I missed my gym workout; Friday was a so-called “squeeze day” so I didn’t cycle to work; today we drove to Sala to visit the silver mine so I’ve mostly been sitting or walking today. Already on the way back from Sala, when I was about to nod off in the car, I was woken from my nodding by a creeping, itching, restless feeling in my legs. The evening was bound to be worse.

So while the family was at home having dinner, I went out and cycled. From home to Drottningholm, then a little circuit on Lovö, back to Drottningholm where I walked around and photographed for a while, and then home. Those 30 km got all the twitches out of my legs.

As a bonus I got to see a very cute swan family in one of the ponds at Drottningholm. The cygnets can’t have been more than a few days old – all downy and wobbly and weak. Soon after I got close to the pond, the family were about to get out of water. The parents got out onto the bank easily; the babies were almost falling over trying to get up the little slope, flapping their almost non-existent wing stubs. When they got, mum and dad were preening and cleaning their feathers, while some of the babies seemed to fall asleep from the effort of climbing those few steps.

Ingrid borrowed my camera. This is apparently what I look like.

Whenever I see a photo of myself, I am always a bit surprised to see how gray my hair is. I don’t notice it when I look in the mirror.

I now cycle to work two or three days every week. I still take the train on my workout days, because otherwise I’m too tired in the evening to do the whole groceries-school-dinner-bedtime thing. Cycling takes about 15 minutes extra each way compared to the train, so sometimes I’m tempted to save that half-hour… but then I remind myself of how good it feels to cycle, and do it anyway.

There’s a good cycle track for me to follow almost all the way, with few pedestrians and few traffic lights. For the most part, few other cyclists as well, but around Alvik it sometimes gets a bit crowded. In the afternoon I leave earlier than most people since I work part time, so the cycle path is nearly empty, which I like even better.

Not only is my path clear – so is the space around me. Whenever I switch from cycle to car for some reason, I feel closed in. I am pushed down and strapped into a seat, with a roof almost touching my head and most of my view restricted and criss-crossed by objects. On a bike, I am high up and in the open.

That is why I like cycling. The exercise is a positive side effect, but it’s not why I cycle. I do it for this feeling of openness – the sensation of wind against my face, of space, of movement, strong and fast and free, with nothing and no one in my way. Freedom. Until I get to the office.

Normally Eric drops Adrian off at school in the morning and I pick up both kids in the afternoon. Once a week we swap, so I get a free afternoon/evening. Today was such a day.

I use these afternoons in various ways. Sometimes I go to a movie. I may go book shopping. Or I may simply work late, digging into some fun project.

Right now I feel no inclination whatsoever to invest more in work than I absolutely have to. I also don’t think I could focus on a movie. So I simply cycled home via a slow, scenic, circuitous route, through parts of town that I rarely visit.

The area around Bällstaviken is an interesting mixture of modern housing (including cool all-wooden modern apartment buildings), greenery that is still mostly dead at this time of the year, scruffy boat yards, and views of industrial buildings across the water.

I’ve been cycling to work several times a week now – since the ski trip I feel that I need to move more.

Not every day. Yet. Firstly, because of the unsettled April weather – I don’t want to cycle in rain or snow. Secondly, because I’m not strong enough to combine 20 km a day with twice-weekly strength training, and still have enough energy in the afternoon/evening for everything else that I want or need to do.

The situation at work keeps going downhill fast, and physical exercise is the best way to clear my head somewhat for at least a little while. Cycling, gym workouts, digging in the garden… I cannot focus enough to read, and relaxing activities such as knitting don’t distract the brain enough.

In the evening I’m still full of adrenaline. I literally feel like I have stress hormones up to my eyeballs. (And when I use the word “literally”, I do mean “literally” and not just “general expression of emphasis”.) Probably they extend above the eyeballs as well but I cannot feel them up there because there’s not much muscle up there. My body is ready to flee or to fight, almost twitching, looking for an outlet for the nervous energy.

The situation at work is spinning out of control.

We got a new CEO a couple of months ago. Various workshops about our processes and practises followed, and were welcomed by the team, because we knew things needed to change. Agreement was easier to find in some questions than in others, but in general, we worked until we agreed on key points.

Now I feel that the development process has effectively been hijacked by the CEO. The development teams no longer have much say about important parts of it.

Previously we had workshops. Now we have meetings where we are told what to do. We sigh with resignation, and he does not seem to even notice.

We do not have agile self-organising teams any more. We have top-down planning and scheduling instead. We don’t really even have teams any more – just a bucket of people. (A “bucket” being the technical term for “an unordered collection of weakly related items”.)

The chances that I will still want to be with the company in, say, half a year’s time are decreasing by the day. Currently I’d put them at 10%. This thought actually feels quite liberating.

So I went to the gym and took out my frustration on the kettlebells. I cycled to and from work to tire myself out, so I can sleep at night. When I got home, I found peace in photography again, and then attacked some of the more stubborn large rocks in the ditch I’m digging.

Today, after I’d had time to speak to family and friends, the reality of Friday’s terror attack in Stockholm finally hit me in the guts.
Today I also found out that on Friday roughly a third of our developers had been told that the company will not be needing them any more.

I went home and looked for peace in the garden.

Glitterheim to Gjendesheim, 23 km.

A slog of a day. We’re coming down from the mountains and running out of snow. It’s the end of the season, and according to the local folks, they haven’t seen a winter with this little snow in some 60-odd years.

Up, down, along mushy snow and around bare patches. Skins on, skins off – and even skis on, skis off, where the bare patches are too many to ski around. Sunshine and a nice icy lake in the middle provided a bit of a break. But the further we went, the worse the conditions were. Some slopes were too patchy to ski, but the snow there was so mushy and deep that we kept sinking thigh-deep into it and getting stuck when we tried to walk on it, so we walked from one rocky juniper patch to another. Finally towards the very end we ran out of snow entirely and could simply walk.

Knowing that this is the last day of our trip, and tomorrow means going back to civilization with all its trappings, does not make things any better. I’m doing my best not to think about it.