Stephanie Burgis
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bad landmarks and cool trips
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It's been a tough week. In the past, I always used to assume that grief must be linear - it would start out at its worst, then get slowly-but-surely easier to bear. Instead, it just seems to go up and down. I went for a few days where I started to feel more human. Then we hit two weeks from the day Nika had been put to sleep, and I think it finally hit my subconscious: this is real. As shocked and broken as I had felt in the first week or so afterwards, I think some part of my subconscious really had just kept on believing that it was all just a nightmare - something too awful to be true, and if I just paid lip service long enough, things would be brought back to normal somehow. I would never have thought that on a rational, conscious level, but when I got to that 2-week landmark, it finally seeped through to the irrational levels that nothing was going to change. She isn't coming back. And God, that hurts.

Work has been a good distraction. We've been spending a lot of time in bookstores, too, where I can sip tea and escape into books. I haven't wanted to come home at all, at all. Earlier this week - on that two-week anniversary, in fact - I actually had a physical panic attack when it came time to come home to the empty house. No fun at all. And lots and lots of horrible, Monkeys-Paw style nightmares. Neither of us has been sleeping well. The weekend loomed up like a threat - two days with no work, and far too much time in the house. We really, really need to get away for a while.

So this morning we did something impulsive that I'm really, really glad about: we booked airplane tickets and a hotel room in Stockholm, leaving two weeks from today. We'll be there for a week, and I can't wait. From the moment we booked the trip, I started feeling calmer: just fourteen more days to go. I can cope with that, counting down the days one by one. It's a bit scary financially - Sweden is very expensive - but this is something we've been wanting to do for a very long time, and something we both need to do for different books. (Patrick's in the middle of his trilogy set in Stockholm; I really want to write a book set in Stockholm in 1792, surrounding King Gustav III's assassination in the Royal Opera House; neither of us has ever been there, and we really need to do on-the-spot research.) And I think it'll be really, really good for general mental health. I really need some time far, far away from here. We'll both be applying (with very little hope) for the SLF travel grant, for our respective books; if either of us gets that, it would sure help pay for the trip, but if not, we'll figure out a way to make things work regardless.

After booking the tickets, we went out to Borders, got the Lonely Planet Guide to Stockholm, and a Berlitz Swedish phrasebook and CD which we started to listen to as soon as we got home. Aack! Swedish is sneaky - it looks like German but doesn't sound like it! Oh well. We've got fourteen days to go. Surely we can learn enough of the language in that time...right? And I've already memorized one Swedish term I've completely fallen in love with: "Fika: the institution of meeting friends at 3pm every day for coffee and cakes". I can't wait.

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