My mother and my brother are here for Christmas.

My mother is an incredible energy thief. This is not the kind of thing one is supposed to say publicly about one’s mother, but I’m tired of pretending.

She enjoys complaining. Literally, she enjoys talking about things that upset her, because then she can be righteously upset. And I have to listen.

She criticises and denigrates just about anything that anybody does. Other people’s actions, opinions, choices – basically anything in the world – fall into one of three categories: it’s either something she agrees with, or something she has no particular opinion on, or it’s wrong/stupid/weird. There is no room in her world for simply having different opinions on anything, without the other opinion being wrong or stupid. And she simply must tell me how wrong/stupid/weird it is, whenever one of those things come up, and I have to listen.

She never has a conversation with me – only against me. Every conversation is an argument, or at best a debate. To everything I say, she will find a counter-example, counter-argument, counter-something. I can say that the sky is blue, and she’ll say that, well, it could be bluer.

I have stopped talking to her about anything I care about. I don’t talk to her about my work, my hobbies, my interests, my plans, my worries, hopes or concerns. Because there’s at least a fifty-fifty chance that whatever I say will be met with disapproval or contempt.

Instead I just listen and make polite noises, and grin and bear it.

The odd thing is, when I see her in a situation that involves other people, she can be perfectly nice: funny, polite, charming. I wonder if it’s just me she doesn’t respect at all – or if she has no respect for any human and simply feels that she can let down her facade with me and show what she truly thinks of people, myself included.

I can do it for a while, but it truly wears me down. Two days is about what I can take. My nerves are in a twist, I have a headache and I can’t sleep. I am running out of energy to constantly parry her negativity, find ways to turn the conversation in a more positive direction or change the topic, etc. I start snapping at her instead, or avoiding her. And both of those of course only make things worse.

I go to nature to charge my batteries. Today Adrian and I went geocaching in Ursvik. We walked, climbed on rocks, played with sticks, and found three fun caches. Now I mostly feel like a human being again.

November is not a good time of the year for me. It truly drags me down.

I have been getting more and more tired with every day that passes. Tired not so much in my body but in my soul. It takes an effort to get out of bed in the morning, and I wish I could just be done with the day, before it has even started.

The one thing that always helps me when I get into that kind of state is getting out into nature. But even getting out through the door feels like so much work. I need to pack, and prepare some food, and figure out where to go…

By mid-morning, after some prodding from Eric, I had gathered my last reserves and gone out after all. I spent the day hiking around Järvafältet nature reserve – mostly staying away from anything that reminded me of civilization, such as the wide gravel trails with people with their baby strollers, and the small farms.

The first hour passed in a daze, but after that I could feel my energy levels lifting with every minute that passed. By the time it started getting dark I felt like a human being again.

Swedish nature in November is not much to look at. It’s mostly dull, gray and muddy. So was the much of today’s walk. The ground was even still covered in snow in some colder “pockets”, from the recent unseasonable snowstorm we had.

But there was an hour of sunshine in the middle of the day, and while the sun does not rise very high in the sky this time of the year, there were fields where it reached past the tall shadows of the trees, and moments when it broke through gaps in the forest.

Sunshine! For the first time in two weeks I believe. How much brighter life immediately seems.

It’s been, what, three weeks since I went back to work? And already I feel in need of a vacation.

Those last few weeks of my summer vacation, I could actually relax. I read; I crocheted.

Now I’m always hurrying again, always looking at the clock, always feeling like the things I should do are piling up faster than I can do them.

The crocheting lies on my desk, untouched.

Clearly this means that something needs to change. I just don’t know what.

I had to go to town today for some shopping. After a long vacation that I have spent mostly outdoors, being surrounded by noise and crowds was a stressful experience. And it wasn’t even a particularly crowded place, really, only relative to what I’ve become used to. 15 minutes was enough to give me the beginnings of a headache and I hurried home again.

At home I treated myself to some macro therapy.

Tuesday morning is gym morning.

The ventilation in that room cannot quite cope with summer temperatures, so it’s been rather hot in there the last few weeks. But there’s only time for one more class, and then that’s it for this season.

I have enjoyed strength training more than I expected. I will miss my workouts during summer – even though I have to get up an hour earlier for them on Tuesdays. But then again I’ve always enjoyed functional whole-body sports, such as swimming, dancing, martial arts.

I have become stronger than I expected. Now there is no exercise where I pick the lowest weights. Mostly not the heaviest, either, but sometimes.

Sweden’s parliament will vote tomorrow about a law restricting asylum and immigration. It includes rules that limit the right of families to reunite, replaces permanent residence permits with temporary ones, and sets higher requirements for paying for your own upkeep. All signs point towards the proposal being passed.

I am appalled and ashamed. We live in one of the world’s richest countries, and instead of helping those in desperate need, right on our doorstep, we shut them out and pretend that it’s someone else’s problem. Just like during WW2, Sweden pretends to not see the problem. We make a dirty deal with Turkey and turn a blind eye to Turkey’s human rights problems, so that we won’t be inconvenienced. We’d rather let refugees die than have them come here and disrupt our comfortable lives. Fifty years from now, Sweden will look back at this time as a shameful period in our history.

The refugee situation has made me consider applying for a Swedish citizenship, for the first time ever, just so that I can go and vote against the people who are pushing Sweden in this direction.

I remember my own first few years in Sweden. It wasn’t in any way comparable to the refugee children’s situation, of course. But still, even now, over twenty years later, I remember the stress of having to live with a temporary residence permit, the anxiety that started building up months before our permits would need to be renewed, and how it grew and grew the closer we got to the deadline. Never knowing whether I might be sent back, away from my friends and my school; never daring to make plans for a longer-term future; having to take undocumented summer jobs (because we needed the money) instead of openly looking for a proper legal job. Not being able to sleep at night because I didn’t know if and when we might be kicked out, leaving my life behind.

I had my mother and brother with me at least. I cannot even imagine what it might feel like to go through this alone, knowing that your family is living in a war zone and won’t be allowed to join you for years.

And now Sweden’s politicians intend to put all refugee children through that.

I happened to have a camera in my hand and turned it around. That kind of setup rarely leads to any good photos, but when I looked at this one, the uncomfortable crop of this hurried shot had an awkward kind of appeal.

I am feeling uncomfortable in my life. The everyday keeps threatening to overwhelm. In the last week or so I have literally had nightmares about server crashes, code that does not work, train stops that I miss (with two kids in tow and many pieces of luggage) etc.

It’s not so much about all the things I have to do. Rather, it’s about all the things I have to think about. After ten years of being a mother and eight years of being a manager, I am simply tired of always having to be responsible for other people.

On our way back from the birthday party in Otepää.

Yesterday when we drove from Tallinn to Otepää, I ignored Google’s #1 suggestion of taking the obvious route via Tartu and chose a shorter and more scenic route. We had some time to kill and nothing better to do with it. In the end I don’t think that road even took any longer than the primary one – the roads were slightly smaller but much emptier.

Today for various reasons we took the Otepää-Tartu-Tallinn route after all. This drive was no longer but I enjoyed it much less. An empty road is so much more pleasant.

I don’t normally enjoy driving. It’s a chore. But I now realized that the thing I don’t enjoy is in fact not driving itself but traffic. When there is none, I can relax and actually enjoy driving. Just like with skiing: when we were in Idre, I noticed that I instantly became a much better skier when there were no other skiers sharing the slope with me.

At the end of our drive we had an hour of slack time in Tallinn and spent it in Kadriorg park. The spot in the photo is one that I remember from my childhood visits to the same park. At least I believe it is the same spot: the park has changed over the years. It’s a small brook, trickling along a picturesque arrangement of mossy stones, shaded by large trees. As a child I always thought there was a fairy tale kind of feeling to it.

I have settled into a good workout routine. Early cirkelfys class on Tuesday mornings before work; lunchtime class Thursdays at lunchtime; other non-organized non-scheduled physical exercise on weekends.

The routine is essential. The routine is what actually makes the workouts happen. If I didn’t have the regular classes, I’m sure I’d fall off the wagon pretty quickly. There are always important tasks that need doing at work, always other hobbies to spend time on in the afternoon or evening, always a reason to sleep that extra hour in the morning.

The other thing I have settled into is an almost-permanent mild soreness. The workouts always give me slightly sore muscles, and with two days between classes there isn’t enough time for it to pass before the next class. It’s just enough to remind me that I’ve had a workout, not so much that it actually bothers me.