Thursday, January 13, 2011

Learning How (Not) To Cry

I wrote the majority of this during my most recent trip to Norway. It was 3 a.m. and I couldn't sleep. I got an itch to write and it needed to be scratched. So I wrote in the dark under a big blanket that was keeping the warm in and the cold out. 

In a smallish nutshell, I'm going tell you why I cried in Norway. Exciting, right? Maybe not, but I certainly learned a lesson I think is worth sharing.

I arrived in Bergen and it happened just the way it usually does: I happily get off the plane, I happily wait for my luggage (and chuckle to myself about someone's bra that has mysteriously escaped her suitcase en route) I happily collect it, and then I happily walk through the arrivals gate and spot Stian instantly. The craving for his hug and kiss is unbearable and it takes everything within in me not to ditch my luggage and run full speed into his arms (ditching luggage and leaving it unattended is highly frowned upon at any airport, fyi). After our mini reunion, we head for the parking structure.

I knew before arriving that it would be cold (it's Norway at the end of December, of course), and when I was flying over the country it seemed there was a large, white blanket smothering everything. It was simply white all over. I felt a chill just looking out the window. So when Stian and I set foot outside, the reality of the cold slapped me in the face. Almost sort of takes your breath away. I immediately had a goal: get to the freaking car and get the hell in. For your information, I achieved that goal and let Stian worry about the details (after all, he was used the cold, right?) of putting away the luggage. Once the heat got going and the seat warmers warmed my chilly rump, I felt great!

That is, until we got to Voss. It was here that we had a short pit stop in our 3.5 hour journey to his parents' house to get some hot dogs. It was -25 C, which translates to approximately -17 F. Yikes. My nose hairs crystallized instantly upon going outside - again my goal soon became 'get the hell back in the car.' We got back on the road and eventually made it to our destination. Upon arriving we had dinner, family time, and I even got to open some belated Christmas presents! I got lots of wool clothes which came in incredibly handy for this outrageously cold weather.

Since it was the holiday's, we had a handful of parties to attend and social things to do. This was great news because I love parties! Sadly, these parties are part of what leads to the crying...but I'll get to that (and to answer any lingering questions: no, I did not cry because I drank too much. Just so you know.). I'll explain each situation separately:

Scenario #1. Movie night turns game night. Scrabble. Norwegian Scrabble. Uh Oh. I tried to pay attention at first, but my attention span for listening to something I simply do not understand lasts for approximately 15 minutes at most. All the people that were there are lovely, lovely people, but being the only English-as-first-language speaker in the room, the conversations were predominately in Norwegian and thus, I could not participate in the game, nor the majority of the conversation. So, there I was, sittin' on the couch looking at my socks. Luckily, Stian's adorable 5 week old niece was there, so I was able to distract myself a bit with a baby. That worked until she got hungry, then it was back to the socks. Who makes socks, anyway? And how exactly? It's still a mystery. Needless to say, that I night before I fell asleep, I cried. I cried because usually I have absolutely no problems mingling at parties and social gatherings. It's never been an issue, but that night it was. I cried because I felt boring and unreachable. I cried because I simply have not learned enough Norwegian to have a conversation, and I cried because I've become impatient learning and waiting for my mind to process a new language and a new culture.

Scenario #2. More parties.  I was apprehensive going because of all the feelings associated with the previous crying and I didn't want to be put in that situation again. However, I went because I'm headstrong and I try and try again. I found a spot on the couch with a hefty glass of wine in hand, and I immediately found my socks. Actually, these were tights, but I guess that's not important.... Half way through my first glass I thought to myself: "what the heck are you doing! just talk to people. they'll talk back!! grow some cajones, and let's do this." So I did. I talked and I connected and then I talked to some others and connected some more, and then the party moved locations entirely. I talked to some more people and went home very happy. So, there it is ladies and gentlemen, I taught myself how NOT to cry even when I'm staring at my socks and feeling sorry for myself.

Scenario #3. Snowboarding. Oy. So let me preface this scenario by saying that I've been snowboarding many-a-time, but whatever experience I've previously had made absolutely no difference to how this night was going to go. So here was the problem: the lift. Essentially, it is a pole with a tiny seat (smaller than a frisbee). There's a 'trip' sensor that tells the whole lift to begin moving when you're "ready" (after you pass the trip thing). You put the pole between your legs, you trip the sensor, and it jerks into motion pulling you up the hill. Oh yeah, and your feet stay on the ground while you're supposed to lean back onto the "seat" and hold on as you go up. I had heard rumors from some locals about this bewildering thing, but was by no means prepared to use it. So I attempted it, and was thrown forward onto my rear end. Damn. Well, get up and try again. Same outcome. Damn! I tried again and, you can probably guess, I fell a third time.

A man from the lift came over, found out I was American, laughed, and sent me to the kiddie slopes. I could have punched his round, grinning face...but I knew he was right. So with my tail between my legs, I tried the lift with the 4 year olds. I fell 5, count 'em!, 5 times off the kiddie lift. The children laughed and I grew frustrated. I got very determined and decided I WAS going to do this. So....I did. A few times in fact, and it was blissful to ride down the slopes to get some cool wind on my face. So, still determined, we got back in line with the big kids. The whole time in line I kept telling Stian to tell me that I could do it and wish me luck. I was absolutely going to make it on that damn lift. I held on for dear life and made it past the first 50 feet, then up the slope, and up, up, up, some more! I was victorious!!! Ahh it felt so good. We were going to get off at the top, but as the slope gets steeper, the lift moves a bit faster, and I actually fell off (not by choice, mind you) not far from our destination. We had to go through the woods to get back to the trail, through powder that was amazingly deep. The first time I fell in the powder, I could not even find my board it was buried so deep (this actually amazed me because I figured that if it was connected to my feet, it's GOT to be down there somewhere). After that minor fiasco and a few others like it, I eventually took off my board and waded through snow up to my knee or lower thigh to get back to the trail. We finally made it to the bottom. Time to get back in line.
To make a longer story longer, I couldn't get on that stupid lift again. After plenty of attempts, we gave up and went back to the kiddie slopes. On the way up, I cried. Getting off and sitting at the top of the hill with a perfect view of the other "big kid" lift also made me cry. I was mad at myself. I was disappointed in myself. I was annoyed and my butt hurt A LOT (the last attempt on the big lift threw me on my rump SO hard!) and all of that made me cry. I was done. It was time to call it a day.

My personal response to being frustrated with myself is to cry. It's an annoying girl thing to do, I know, but that's just how I am. I get frustrated that I can't learn a new language fast enough and I cry. I get frustrated that I can't get on lift at a ski resort, so I cry. I don't typically make a big show about it, but the tears are definitely rolling down my cheeks accompanied by the sniffles. The thing is, when this happens, I'm just mad at myself. I'm mad that I can't make myself do something that I want to do. I'm mad that I tried, and failed. I'm mad that this is a regular occurrence in my life right now - this trying/failing/crying thing - it gets old! I don't want to be this way, I certainly didn't choose it, but it's how I am and I think it's a perfectly reasonable reaction. Crying helps me let go of the current problem, and prepare to try again. The cycle may seem endless, but I will continue to try, to fail, to cry, (lather, rinse, and repeat) until I succeed. Having said all that, I have to give myself a pat on the back for trying. And for trying lots of new things all at once (new country, new culture, new family, new friends, new language, new ski lift). It's not easy. As one of my good friend's told me once "if it were easy, everyone would do it." Well said, friend!

So, lessons I've learned:

1. I'm a crier and probably will be for the rest of my life (or at least as long as I continue to try new things). I'm okay with that I guess.
2. I need to learn some more Norwegian vocabulary for the next Scrabble night.
3. Stian and I need to purchase Norwegian Scrabble for our house because it would be a good learning tool.
4. I start feeling sorry for myself when I stare at my socks, so I better get some neat ones.
5. I need to be patient at social gatherings; it helps to bring wine and/or beer.
6. About the lift, I have no comment as of yet. Perhaps they should get a chair lift instead, it would be incredibly more efficient for the public in general.


  1. dearest cousin - i love your blog. seriously.

  2. aww thanks mary! :) i love yours as well...i'm patiently awaiting your next post.

  3. Alyssa...this is EXACTLY ME!!!

    I just had my birthday here (as you know!), and it was a nice gathering of Stian's family members. It was very sweet of everyone to come and bring cake and gifts, but seriously, the entire night was NORWEGIAN!!! I didn't understand anything...I kept zoning out and staring at the cake (don't think my socks were as pretty hehe) and I just felt so unsociable and distant. I want to get to know his family, and I want them to know me for who I really am- not some weird silent person who has nothing to contribute in a social setting. I totally cried after everyone left. It was awful. I feel like they expect me to know more Norwegian by now since we've been dating for over 2 years. I'm also angry with myself for not being able to learn faster. Everything you wrote here is amazing. I totally know how it is!! I will definitely keep following your blog :) Hope all is well in LA!