There is no doubt that I am not the only one who is experiencing a certain degree of restlessness. Our government is not composed of raging maniacs, like other countries that will remain unnamed at this point, but there are still plenty of things to be concerned about. Not in the least other countries that are run by raging maniacs – apart from the fact that I have people there that I care deeply about, the state of those countries directly affects mine.
We are all in this together.
Covid-19 is a part of it. There is a resurgence of the virus in the Netherlands right now, particularly in Amsterdam where I live, and although I do not fear directly for my own health or that of my direct relatives, this is because I am relatively cautious. In short: I am doing what I can, and that brings me a certain degree of peace.
Key words: ‘a certain degree’. Spoiler: that degree is not very high.
The fall-out of the virus so far has been far more worrying. The social as well as economic effects of isolation and having to keep our distance are devastating. It adds to our restlessness and worry and mental fatigue every time we encounter them.
(Let’s leave the economic effects for now. I just cannot even…)
We can stop by my parents, the minions and I, but we cannot touch them or get close. We can see friends but we cannot hug or even share a bowl of peanuts. I have become an outdoor person just so I can have coffee with friends.
Add to this some work stress, worry about advancing climate change anxiety (we live below sea level here!), discomfort with the world-wide political shift towards greed and lust for power, and top it off with more than a pinch of insomnia.
Did I tell you I have a bunch of house plants? Bought a box of them early on in the Covid crisis and now they keep sprouting new babies who are slowly colonising new areas of our home. Isn’t that just lovely?
Every morning since early this year – I would have to look up the exact date – I start the day with writing a number of pages. It is nothing fancy and certainly nothing read-worthy but it is a ritual that I have come to recognise as essential to my wellbeing.
Which is strange because I find myself struggling to find wellbeing recently. (Imagine what a mess I would be if I didn’t write in the morning, I guess?)
I started with the full-on intention that I would continue to write Every Single Day and while the intention was serious, there was at that time already the little doubtful voice in the back of my head. The little voice that says ‘yeah yeah easy there grasshopper you won’t keep it up anyway nice try though’. My inner voice eschews punctuation. And then I did something extraordinary: I kept doing it, every morning, every day, a few pages a day.
Usually I write three pages. Sometimes more. Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly down or when I am in an extreme hurry, I write less. But I always write. And that feels nice because I am usually a giver-upper of such pursuits.
There is one snag. I wanted to write to get rid of some of the anxiety feelings I had during the day. But now I lie in bed in the morning trying to guess the time because I don’t want to miss my ‘quiet’ spot for writing when the rest of the family is still in bed and the house is mine alone. But I don’t want to get up every morning at 5 am either, just to be sure. Between 6 and 6:30 is the sweet spot.
Now, I am not saying that this is going to totally change your life because if this is going to change your life then, baby, you need a better life. (I read in an ad the other day “This menstrual cup completely changed my life!” and I was thinking, that must have been one terrible life to begin with. I digress.) On the other hand, sometimes you need a little quantum butterfly to change direction.
For example, a woman I know started taking a weekly refreshing swim in the (cold!) water behind our house. Not only does she tell me it is very refreshing and invigorating, she has since started her own business giving literary tours in the centre of Amsterdam. Not saying there is a connection, but totally saying there is a connection.
Here is what you do. Put an orange in the shower. Then eat the orange under the shower. No sticky mess, no worries. Drop the peels to the floor, no worries there either. The steam picks up the citrus scent as you open the fruit and the tangy flavour clashes comfortably with the warm water on your skin. An extremely pleasant way to eat your vitamins and fibres at the start of the day.
There is a monument in Amsterdam. Everyone knows it. It is on the square right across from the Heineken brewery. Thousands of tourists must pass it every day. The text is in Dutch. It is a quote by Henk van Randwijk, a fighter in the resistance during WWII. Loosely translated, the words say:
A population that yields to tyrants Loses more than life and limbs Then the light will go out…
We have our elections today in the Netherlands. From what I understand in the media, we are being watched eagerly to see what will happen politically on the European continent. I hope the Dutch people will find wisdom in their hearts and minds today. May we not yield to tyrants.
Carrie Fisher had died and I was going to be that woman. Remember that blog I made a couple of months back? I do. They have been on my mind ever since, both Fisher and the blog about that phrase: ‘that woman’. It was a solid, bad-ass thing to say. And I did not, nor do I now, have any idea how to achieve it.
How to be That Woman?
There has been plenty of opportunity for that-womanness. I mean, the political landscape is about to blow up in my own country, and has done so across the pond in the US. Everything and everyone has been stripped bare politically and chickening out, while always an option for the willing, has never been so unattractive.
I am familiar with the chicken-out option. I do it all the time. “I am not an activist”, I will say. Or, “I am really not good at that”. Both are true. I am not an activist and I am really not good at campaigning for or against something. I lack the necessary persistence. In addition I have become quite good at picking my battles and with limited energy resources I will choose carefully for what causes to climb the barricades, and for which I will enthusiastically cheer from the sidelines.
Is being That Woman about being politically active/activist?
My daily life presents a fair number of struggles, albeit mostly internal. I am grateful for the life I (am able to) lead and I feel privileged every step of the way. My children are healthy and at least most of the time they are happy. I am not cold, do not need to be hungry and I am relatively safe. That covers most of the bases. Add to that the freedom of time and speech to write a blog about whatever tickles my fancy – there is much to be grateful for. No, my own doubts and inabilities and internal fights are the most taxing. They are not so easily overcome. But I wouldn’t presume that my struggles are anywhere near how Fisher tackled her addictions and mental illness.
Victory or truce with my own struggles and limitations, does that make me That Woman?
What I admired about Fisher is the fearlessness with which she approached her life. She just went ahead and did things. Her frustrations and setbacks were not permanent and her persistence is what kept her going and growing. Along with a healthy self-critical attitude of course but that is another aspect of fearlessness. What to direct it to, what to spend it on – that seems to be the main question for me now.