In 1947, two years after she published Pippi Longstocking, the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren wrote The Children of Noisy Village (Alla Vi Barn i Bullerbyn in Swedish / De Kinderen van Bolderburen in Dutch). The book is about a girl called Lisa who lives in a house in between two other houses. The three houses are called Sörgården, Mellangården (where Lisa lives) and Norrgården. The book is full of stories about Lisa, her brothers and friends from Sörgården and Norrgården and all the fun things they do in the little village. Perhaps you have read it when you were little?
Astrid Lindgren based the story of Lisa in Noisy Village on her father’s childhood home located in the province of Småland in the south of Sweden. Today Noisy Village (Bullerbyn) still exists and I am writing this from inside the house Mellangården that my husband and I have generously been offered to stay at for a few days by the current owners of the house. It is a beautiful day, the sun is shining and the tourists (yes, they apparently still exist!) have arrived. I have already seen this house being photographed three times since I started writing.
As you might understand, this is a quite special place to stay at! It feels a bit like living inside an open-air museum, as located around the three small houses you can find a shop, café, small animals to pet and a barn full of hay to jump in. Also the fact that Astrid Lindgren is a world famous children’s book author makes this place pretty special to write in. But what makes Mellangården in Bullerbyn the most special for me is the fact that I have been able to travel here after 140 days of Long Covid.
Just five weeks ago I was so fatigued that I could only leave my house for a small walk on my street. And now (on the day of my 5-month covid-anniversary) I was able to pack a bag, sit in a car for four hours and arrive at this small place in the countryside. I cannot begin to tell you how amazing this feels! Some examples: seeing other views besides the inside of my house, my garden and the park behind my house. Seeing animals in fields. Driving through dense woods and small villages. Stopping to eat a bit of food in a greenhouse located by a lake. This country is breathtakingly beautiful, after 22 years I still feel privileged to live here.
It also feels really strange because in the smallest ways I notice how completely out of touch I feel with living a ‘normal’ life. Some examples: placing a food order at the greenhouse restaurant by the lake. Grocery shopping on the way. Or just the simple thing of arriving here in Bullerbyn, walking upstairs, unpacking my bag, making my bed, walking down again and still having energy left in my body. All of this we tend to call ordinary, but to me today this feels quite extraordinary!
When I become aware of doing all of this on one day, a fear of relapse immediately kicks in. I feel so conditioned by now that too much exertion leads to terrible relapses so it requires a huge amount of faith in my body and its ability to recover to start doing more things again. Giving myself more spoons to use every day, you could say. The Spoon-theory remains one of the most valuable tools I’ve learned from having Long Covid.
I notice that I’m constantly checking in with my body and asking it how it’s doing. And for the past week, it keeps on responding to me that it’s tired but OK. It also tells me that it’s not 100% there yet: I still have a chest pain/’tight chest’ that comes and goes and doesn’t seem to want to disappear. But in a weird way, a part of me almost feels grateful for that because it serves as a reminder of what I’ve been through and how incredibly important it is to listen to the signals of my body.
I still feel mentally somewhat shaken up and also tired. It has been a huge shock to my whole Being to become so incredibly sick up to the point where I thought that I would die. To live for months with strange and severe symptoms that keep on relapsing that nobody yet understands or knows how to treat effectively. And to not know for certain if I would recover again. It gets to you deeply, Long Covid. It just does. I don’t think anyone can really understand the depths of this experience without having lived it themselves. This applies of course to anything in life: there is a difference in reading or hearing about something and actually living it. It worries me that so many people still don’t seem to understand what long-term effects covid-19 can have, also on healthy and young people with no known underlying health condition. I still mostly read and hear in the news about hospitalized people, people with short flu-like symptoms or asymptomatic people and I keep on wondering why this is. I have understood that my case of covid-19 is still classified as ‘mild’ because I haven’t been hospitalized. Well, there are a lot of words I can connect to my experience but ‘mild’ is definitely not one of them!
But: here I am today, week 20, enjoying my change of scenery and the peace of the Swedish countryside together with my husband. We left behind two incredibly happy teenagers as well, who finally got rid of both their parents in the house. Win-win!
It feels nice to end with a quote from Astrid Lindgren and I found a lovely one from Pippi Longstocking:
Don’t let them get you
down. Be cheeky. And
wild. And wonderful.
With love from Bullerbyn ♥
Photo (taken by me): Mellangården in Bullerbyn