A Sweden holiday with my brain

This summer, I spent two weeks in Sweden with two of my boyfriends, whom I’ll call C and D.
The holiday was largely D’s doing – he has a small cottage there and absolutely adores being there, talking off the ears of everybody willing to listen about the lakes and the forests and how beautifully cool it is there while Germany (where D lives) and Austria are collectively drenched in sweat due to the murderous heat in summer.

I can confirm that Sweden indeed has a lot of forests, and beautiful ones at that: mostly coniferous with a few birches sprinkled in between, their floors covered with fallen needles, thick, mesmerizingly green blankets of moss, occasional ferns, and innumerable blueberries. Whether we walked through the forests right around the cottage or any others we visited, I could bend down and snack on blueberries almost any time I felt like it. And when I got tired of blueberries, there were often raspberries around as well, just as ripe and even sweeter.

Lakes exist as well, their water sparkling in the sun and rippling in the wind. The one closest to us was invitingly warm, hemmed by reeds, carrying a few water lilies and a multitude of skimmers zipping across the surface and covering a few of the lilies’ leaves so thoroughly they were barely visible anymore.

On average, the weather was as cool as promised – the first two days were so hot that I started to doubt D’s tales (sweating even just lounging around on the couch inside), and then the weather changed – the temperatures dropped, and it was usually cloudy, with frequent, brief, and heavy showers. By the end, I sometimes lounged around on the aforementioned couch and considered digging my sweater vest out of my backpack, with my freezing cold feet tucked beneath C’s butt for warmth.

So much for the good parts. Now buckle up, kids, there’s whining ahead. A lot of whining.

Activities and environment

Prior to the holiday, D was full of tales about the many things we would do in Sweden: roam the forest, visit one of multiple little islands by boat, swim in the lake, go see ruins nearby, range through the national park. I imagined we’d be out and about for most of the day every day and come back home sweaty, tired and happy in the evenings, maybe even with burning muscles and aching feet. Swimming was a daunting prospect (C and I both have issues with the involved nakedness, for different reasons), but I bought and packed swimwear just in case and got excited butterflies in my stomach thinking about it. And in the evenings, I imagined we’d have enjoyable talks and play games – C brought Cards Against Humanity, which I’ve never played in real life and always wanted to.

We did go to the national park once and had quite a nice half-day there, jumping over or climbing rocks and rustling through blueberry bushes. It was rather full of other people, though, and we didn’t pack any food or water, so we had to turn back when we got hungry.
We also took a trip to a peninsular that was really cool, playing “the floor is lava” with moss-covered, half-buried rocks in the forest and enjoying the sunshine and the view over the sparkling lake (until it started to rain).
Aside from those days, though, we mostly hung around in the cottage and read, and in the evenings we usually watched movies and cuddled some in silence.

The area was considerable more populated than D made it sound in his adventurous tales of werewolves and mountain men. (Mountains? There was maybe one mountain there, and that one was rather small compared to the ones I’m used to from Austria.) There was no wild nature to explore – carefully maintained roads sliced through the forests near the cottage, frequently carrying strangers on foot, bicycles or cars past, and houses glinted through the trees every few steps. While a friend who went with D last year warned me about that, I was still disappointed.

The weather with its frequent showers also discouraged walks, and the temperatures made swimming seem rather unpleasant, despite the warm lake water. (Eventually, you have to get out, as I told D multiple times, and then everybody who is not D and does not run as hot as he does starts wishing they had never gotten in.)

D showed us a few beautiful spots, but aside from the already mentioned trips to the national park and the peninsula, they were just that – spots. There was nothing to do there. C and I were driven there in the back seat of D’s car (which made me feel like a child in an unpleasant way, but we couldn’t all sit in front and C asked me to sit in the back with him), hung around a bit and looked around, and then were driven back. To me, used to spending hours climbing a mountain and reaching the top exhausted and with a heartfelt sense of accomplishment, it was deeply unsatisfying.

The lake nearby also offered only a single spot. Admittedly, it was a pretty spot, but again, there was nothing to do but stand around and gaze out over the lake for a while and then turn back. You couldn’t even walk along the shore, since the spot was surrounded by trees and shrubbery too thick to walk through. (There were some raspberries, but they quickly ran out, and then there was truly nothing left to do.)
It was not a good place to go swimming either, not even in the hot first days, since it was too easily visible from other points across the lake. The spot D suggested to go swimming was farther away, requiring another car ride – he took us there once, and it was nice, but by then it had cooled down considerably. (Also, there were other people there.)

I had hopes for the proposed boating trip, but the boat turned out to be too heavy for D and me, so we couldn’t even get it into the water. (C didn’t want to go boating at all, but probably wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.)

We probably could have taken more trips – to the ruins D mentioned, or back to the national park with provisions (or taking some the first time around) – with better organization.

Unfortunately, C and I both have the dubious pleasure of extremely passive personalities, meaning that we both tend to leave decisions to other people. We are also both pretty young and had fairly sheltered upbringings, which means our passive personalities count double if there are people we identify as adults around, and D – being somewhat older than us, owning cottage and car and knowing the area – qualified.
Since D is not exactly a natural leader and mostly just asked what we wanted to do, this made for a less than ideal dynamic, frequently resulting in situations like the following:
D: “We could do X, if you want.”
Me: *looks at C*
C: *looks at me*
Me: *shrugs*
C: *shrugs*
Me: “Do you want to?”
C: “I don’t know. If you want to?”

As you might imagine, this was not very conducive to actually doing things. Another stumbling block was that D typically sprung such suggestions on us out of nowhere, and jumping at the chance to do something right now would have required more spontaneity than I possess – anything I haven’t had sufficient time to mentally prepare for is automatically something I wish to avoid. (How much preparation time I need depends on the activity in question, but more challenging activities like big trips or going swimming, which D frequently suggested, need at least a day or two.)

In other cases, possible activities died quietly for lack of planning – when we left the national park, we all agreed to come back on another day, but nobody mentioned any specifics, and so we never did. Similarly, we never visited the ruins – I nodded when it was listed among other possible activities, and then it vanished never to be seen or heard of again. (In hindsight, though, that might also have been due to C answering in the negative when D asked whether he was interested in history.)

Food

At home, I prepare and eat my food alone in my room, and sometimes (rarely) eat together with others. What I don’t do: get, prepare or eat food in front of people who are not also eating.
If other people are in the kitchen – even just roommates – and I need to get something from the fridge, I wait in my room and listen until they are gone before I do so. (I quickly learned to store some food in my room to avoid hungry, impatient waiting times.) If I am out on errands all day and absolutely need to eat in public, I hide in corners or secluded places as well as possible, focus solely on my food, and don’t look up again until I am done.

In Sweden, this became an issue pretty quickly. It would not have been if we had had communal meals, but instead, it seemed to be expected that everybody would just prepare himself food and eat whenever he got hungry. This sucked for me. Especially on the first few days, I was simply incapable of preparing or eating food unless someone else was doing so as well. Which doesn’t sound like that much of an issue, but I never knew when that would next be the case, or if they would eat enough for me to be satisfied then (yes, I also have difficulties eating noticeably bigger amounts of food than the other people around me, as well as getting seconds if they are not). This made my brain panic and focus unnaturally on my current feelings of hunger or lack thereof. (Hungry? How horrible! We will starve to death! Not hungry? Okay, good. But do we feel a little bit hollow, maybe? Will we be hungry an hour from now, or two? Will we get to eat then?) This in turn spit up old and distinctly unwelcome thought patterns around my eating, weight, and body shape, exacerbated by the fact that C is considerably thinner than I am, and D, while eating a lot and often, has his weight-lifting as an excuse.

Fortunately, it got better over time. A somewhat regular meal schedule emerged, at least for C and me (D just ate irregularly the whole time, except for breakfast, which was the only meal we had together), and getting used to the surroundings and our day-to-day life there in general probably helped as well. (My brain is easily freaked out by not having a fairly good idea of what is going to happen next, including what my surroundings will look like, what I will be doing, who else is going to be there, what they will do, and so on.) I started to be able to get food on my own if the time was close enough to those regular mealtimes, and even vary the amount of food based on my own appetite.

I did, however, make the maybe-mistake of weighing myself for the first time in ages – there was a scale standing visibly in one of the rooms (I personally don’t own one), and a good opportunity arose (optimal conditions: nobody else around to see, early in the morning before any meals, not dressed yet).
While I was pleasantly surprised by the number, I felt constantly tempted to weigh myself again during the rest of the holiday, to check if the number hadn’t risen (and restrict my food intake and monitor any future weight changes more closely if it had). I also kept feeling proud of myself whenever I went to bed hungry, but to be fair, that happens at home as well.

In hindsight, maybe debating D on whether anybody self-disciplined enough can lose weight might not have been the best idea either, although his opinion (roughly: “yes, but the amount of self-discipline needed is crazy, and weight loss is nobody’s obligation anyway, no matter what”) might even have helped.

Interrupted routines

I’ve never exactly been a sports freak, but I did manage to start a workout routine this summer and stick to it for a while. I had been fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to keep it up in Sweden, both out of embarrassment at being seen (or simply known to exercise) and because I didn’t have the necessary equipment (my bunk bed with for pullups and rows), but I had hoped I’d at least do some of the exercises sometimes, even just the warmups. I didn’t, except for one blissful early morning where I got up before the others (originally to pee, but then I very much didn’t want to go back to bed) and practiced handstands against the cottage’s sun-warmed wooden walls for a bit.

I also had a treatment regimen to follow for two warts on my right foot – cream and foot baths with a supplement, prescribed by a dermatologist in early July. Despite the fact that I hate creams with every fiber of my being, I had managed to keep to his instructions prior to the holiday (life hack: apply creams with q-tips so you won’t get them all over your fingers). The whole treatment usually took ages, though, first soaking my foot and then waiting for the damn cream to dry, all the while unable to go anywhere, and while I (optimistically) packed the cream, I never got around to it in Sweden – I always felt like I needed to be ready to get up and move at any time, maybe because of D’s spontaneous activity suggestions, or because C and I had to take all arising opportunities for some alone time, or because D might have wanted to cuddle at any moment (without regard for how difficult it is to keep one foot carefully in the air while doing so).

Sleeping arrangements

In past visits with D, I learned that while he doubtlessly has many good qualities, being a good sleeping partner is not one of them. He interprets bedtime as cuddle time (and tires of cuddling considerably later than I do), tends to cling really tightly to me during the night (while I prefer some space to move around), needs less sleep than I do and lacks the good manners to let me sleep on when he’s awake. I also know that C had trouble sleeping when we first started sleeping together (he felt like he had to lie perfectly still so he wouldn’t wake or bother me).
For these reasons, I was apprehensive about sleeping in a single big bed with both of them for two whole weeks, and suggested an opt-in system instead: everyone should have his own bed, and in any given night, anybody who felt like cuddling could switch to the big one instead.
That didn’t happen. When we got there, D produced sheets for the big bed, and that was that.

Because I am the common link between C and D (who had never met in person before), I slept in the middle. The first two nights, I slept right on the gap between the two mattresses, not wanting to favor either of my boyfriends, then I started drifting onto C’s side, half out of rational consideration (he is smaller than D, so there was more room on his side), and half to escape D.

In one of the early nights, I drifted off to the edge of sleep no fewer than three times, just to be roughly yanked back when D chose these precise moments to pet me. In all the rest, I had trouble falling asleep because he’d continually pet me and grind against me, often in ways slightly too sexual or suggestive for my liking, given the normal workings of our relationship. In one of the later ones, he actually started drifting off before I did, which unfortunately meant that he painfully dug his fingers into my arm and later waist during muscle spasms. Twice, he got out his cock and started rubbing it on my lower back, without warning or any encouragement whatsoever on my part unless you count playing dead as encouraging.

I reacted to all of these unwanted advances the same way: first, I’d tense and lie still and hope he’d stop on his own, either because he’d interpreted my body language correctly or simply because he got tired of it. When that didn’t work, I’d move whatever body part he was touching away as necessary – pull my arms close to my body, or put them up above my head, roll on my stomach with my arms tucked close to try to provide him with as little a target as possible, try to flatten myself into the mattress, or snuggle closer to C (cautiously, so I wouldn’t disturb him). That didn’t work either – he’d just come after me, blissfully oblivious, with the rather nasty side effect that I was squeezed in tight enough to render me unable to move or turn at all.
In later nights, I’d emphatically put his pillow all the way over on his mattress, to no avail – he’d just move it closer again, along with himself. Once, we wandered across the bed so far that C had to ask us to give him more room.

One night – the night of the cock – I fled. I got up as carefully as possible so I wouldn’t disturb C, left the bedroom and stood in the dark kitchen/living area for a long moment, nothing but space and silence around me. No grabby hands anywhere on my body, no stale breath in my face, no loud breathing and sniffling and sighing and burping, only cool air and quiet. The freedom was almost dizzying.
I lay down on the couch instead of going back, listening to the quiet as if it was a symphony. I didn’t exactly sleep much there, with the temperature just barely above the shivering range it was too cold for that, but I rested some and read some and slept about two hours in the late morning when it got a bit warmer again.

I only escaped to the couch twice during the whole holiday, the cold scaring me away most of the nights. Also, if I had done it more often, they would have asked about it (after that first one, D actually did, but I was not up for a big discussion and readily agreed when he asked if I had been too hot). I suffered D’s hands with clenched teeth and tensed muscles (at least he refrained from doing the cock thing after the first night I’d fled), and then when I couldn’t do that anymore, I resorted to truly drastic measures by my standards: displeased noises and physically shoving D’s hands away a couple of times. Those, I was relieved to discover, worked. I don’t know if or how much I disturbed C, though.
All in all, the nights were hell, and I am absolutely overjoyed to have my own, empty bed back now that I’m home again.

Space

At home, I listen to music while I brush my teeth in the evening, pacing and occasionally moving along in weird ways that could only very generously be described as “dancing”. It’s a small ritual for me, and I can’t find words to describe just how much it means to me – it is my way to relax and unwind after long days, so much so that I look forward to it every evening, and afterwards I feel refreshed, peaceful and ready to go to bed.

The bathroom in Sweden was too tiny to move in, and shutting everybody else out for half an hour or more every evening would have been inconsiderate, since at least C and I went to bed at roughly the same time. Dropping the weird movements and just pacing to movements would have been an option, technically, but plugging my ears with my pleasantly noise-cancelling earbuds while others are present is unwise: inevitably, someone I hadn’t heard coming will enter my field of vision too suddenly and too close to me or – even worse – touch me, and I’ll only very narrowly escape a heart attack.
So I didn’t to my ritual at all for two weeks, brushing my teeth like a normal person instead and occasionally longing to be back home again.

I also usually go for walks while listening to music at least a few times a week. Sometimes, if I find one of the playgrounds on my way deserted, I go on the swing set and swing for a while as well. While less regular than my teeth brushing ritual, this is also a great way to unwind and relax for me.
In Sweden, I didn’t get to do it. Once, I got up before the others and walked to the lake by myself, but there were not many opportunities to slip away like that. D went for walks by himself sometimes, and spent long hours lifting weights by himself (I was not allowed to watch, though I would have liked to), but C was basically always with me and frequently bored – if I had gone for a walk, he would have wanted to come along, and I would have felt bad about refusing him. While walks with C were nice, I could neither listen to music on them nor relax as much as I wanted to – the former would have been rude and, again, possibly led to premature death, the latter was made impossible by the need to match my pace to his (I walk faster than him by default), and pay attention to signs he wanted to stop and watch birds or kiss or hug (sure, I could have simply not cared, but that would have been rude), and hold hands. So those walks didn’t help.
Especially towards the end of the holidays, I often found myself lying on the couch reading, noticing the nice weather outside and wishing I could go for a walk… and then keeping quiet about it and even declining when C suggested one, because I wanted to walk alone.

The aftermath

Now, I’m back home. I brushed my teeth while listening to music (and enjoyed it greatly), slept alone in my own bed (and enjoyed it greatly), made food for myself all alone (which was okay), and resumed my wart treatment (which I did not enjoy at all, actually, but it’s necessary anyway). I have yet to go for walks (the weather has not been encouraging) and resume my workout plan (I planned to do it today, but ran out of time. Tomorrow it is!).

I also wrote this monstrosity of a blog post. You’re welcome!
I initially planned to include one more section about touching/body contact, but as I was trying to write it, it sprouted new thoughts and became too momentous for me to deal with right now – it will probably require a blog post of its own soon. This one has become more than long enough anyway.

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