Some things in life seem like unsolvable differences. But, sometimes there is a solution and compromise waiting to be found.
One of the first big disagreements I had with Mattias after moving to Sweden was over a Christmas tree. He had always grown up having a fresh-cut tree. And during many years of living by himself, there was no Christmas tree.
The first year I was in Sweden, I wanted to buy a fake Christmas tree at the store.
Mattias was emphatically against the idea. I didn’t want the mess of a regular tree as they get dry and drop needles. And as the main house cleaner, I didn’t want to clean up after the tree. And for many years at home in the US, I had a fake tree and I figured I was at least recycling it by using it for many years in a row.
Mattias had never had a fake tree, was sure it was a plastic hazard to the environment and something we didn’t need. He felt it was better to have no tree than to have a fake tree.
But, for me, it was really important to celebrate Christmas with a tree and decorations. The first year, we got around the discussion because we celebrated Christmas at his brother’s house. There was no tree at our apartment.
But, the next year came and now we had a baby in the house and I wanted to have the Christmas experience.
But, with caring for a newborn child, I also didn’t have the energy for the extra cleaning required of a tree. Every time I saw a fake tree at the store, I imagined what it would look like in our apartment and Mattias would say absolutely not.
But, I still didn’t want that cut tree and I still really wanted to put up decorations on a tree.
So, one day we passed the outdoor market and they had small live trees in a pot. I asked Mattias if he would be happy with a live tree.
And then he got even more excited at the idea that we could plant the tree later.
So, we found a solution to our problem. We got the mini live tree.
I would love to tell you that the first tree survived and went on to live a long healthy life, but we had a young child at home and we tried to water and care for the tree, but ultimately it really wasn’t too happy after going from our apartment back on to our balcony. It was our first peace bringer, but it didn’t make the move from our first apartment to our second one.
When we moved to our second apartment, it was 3 and a half years ago. We decided to get another live tree and this time, we would let the tree stay outside on our balcony and not bring it inside for Christmas to try to keep it alive longer.
And as our child was always “rearranging” things on the tree, it kept the ornaments more intact this way also.
When we moved here, Mattias had a few job interviews in other cities coming up and so we said we might only be in the apartment for a short time. And then after 6 months had gone by and the interviews passed without a job offer, we slowly unpacked the rest of our stuff and settled in. But, this apartment has always felt like a temporary place to live.
Mattias and I were still wanting a house. Not knowing what direction our lives would be taken in. That first Christmas, we gathered around the tree. We decorated it and put some lights up. Then Mattias said,
“Let’s promise that before this tree reaches the ceiling, we will buy a house.”
I wasn’t sure how everything would fall into place, but I thought it was a nice thing to say, so I agreed.
“Yes. Before the tree reaches the ceiling.”
As the tree has grown and we water and tend to it, we have reminded each other of this promise.
“Before the tree reaches the ceiling, we will buy a house.”
As the tree has kept growing and is now within inches of the ceiling, Mattias said- well maybe we need to put the pot on the floor to give it more room to grow. But, I kept hoping maybe this tree would push us to the right situation or spot.
There have been a lot of challenges in the time of 2020 and 2021. In the world, there has been uncertainty and stress from a virus passing around and from economic changes.
But, there has also been a calm feeling of coming together to surpass something that has touched us on a global level. A feeling that we are all connected and also a feeling that life was moving too fast. A worldwide reminder that we can stop and pause when we need to.
So, as we are nearing Christmas this year and our tree is nearly touching the ceiling, I am excited to report that we will be moving and our little tree will be decorated outside the balcony of our new home.
I thought we would end up possibly buying a condo as the housing is so expensive in the area we currently live. But, both of us want to grow a garden and have space for our child to run and play. Currently, going outside requires a 48-stair descent and an adult to supervise play.
Having our own house means our child can have small moments of freedom, at least in our own yard. So, we were looking at many different houses that were way in the middle of nowhere or way too expensive, or a bit of both.
I was kind of resigned to the idea that we might start with a condo, with a little yard. But, every time we talked about buying a condo, my stomach felt sick. I don’t like apartments and the thought of buying an apartment just didn’t sit well with either of us.
But, as we kept talking about what we wanted and what was important to us, we noticed there was a house for sale in Herräng. We talked about all the reasons why it would never work to live there, but both of us were secretly thinking about that town.
And then on one discussion, I asked Mattias – if you could work closer to the town, would you want to live in Herräng?
Both of us were a resounding yes on that one. So, then it was just a matter of figuring out how to make it work. We are both swing dancers and Herräng is the host to the international dance camp that will be resuming this coming summer.
We are beyond excited to start working on our little patch of garden and joining the small-town atmosphere, while still being in the region of Stockholm (just barely).
So, when you are struggling to find an agreement with your partner. Stop and write down your goals and your needs. And then start to ask the question “How can we make this happen?” instead of just worrying “Why isn’t this working?”
We look forward to celebrating Christmas this year with our growing tree at our new house.