All roads lead to 'coronatijd'
Am I going to write about the pandemic again? Lately, it feels like even if I don’t set out to, I end up writing about it anyway. All roads lead to coronatijd, apparently. Here is a life update: I’ve bought three new plants in the last week, and I’m also attempting to grow my own chili peppers on the South-facing windowsill in my apartment. Dutch rain is attempting to get the better of me, but I will have my cayenne, come hell or high (or low) water. Ah, damn, now I have a metaphor built into this article, and three paragraphs from now I’ll say something about how we are all the chili plants, struggling through the soil of the pandemic and overcoming all the odds...God, I disgust myself.
I’m tired of positivity. Sorry! Maybe it’s that I haven’t seen my parents in nearly a year. Maybe it’s that I parted my curtains today and there wasn’t a single speck of daylight in the sky to greet me. Maybe it’s that people have died, and will continue to die, because of circumstances that are, by and large, removed from my control. Sure, the key is to find happiness in the small things -- my girlfriend made me a latte today, with the milk all foamed up from the 3-euro IKEA frother I swore was an essential kitchen item. I can see new leaves on all three of the plants I bought. I made my own hummus from scratch yesterday, and peeling chickpeas by hand for a solid hour was absolutely worth it. But I’m so tired. The small things are too small to make up for the blanket of tragedy over everything, that thick, impermeable fog that makes it hard to see your own hand in front of your face, let alone anything else.
I wasn’t raised with religion, though my parents were -- probably because my parents were -- but I still read as many myths as I could, and we still took the time to celebrate Hindu holidays as a family when we could. It’s a tradition that I’ve carried into “adulthood” now that I can’t be with them. This past weekend was Diwali, a festival of lights. It’s always been my favorite holiday, because it falls close to my birthday. The story goes that Rama, the hero, after defeating an army of evil, was finally returning to his hometown, Ayodhya, and the townspeople lit oil lamps all around the town to help Rama find his way home. Most oil lamps are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but if you have enough of them, dotted around a threshold or a porch, they can be blinding. Now, my first priority is fire safety, so I lit tea lights instead, five of them, and put them on the coffee table so I would see them every time I walked into the living room. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
I’ll be honest: I don’t really feel like a chili plant. I don’t feel like I’m surviving, let alone thriving. I feel more like a tea light: a limited well of energy, fully capable of burning out if I’m not careful, and, most importantly, very, very small. But I’m a tea light with a phone to call my mother with, and a Skype plan that lets my grandmother see my face, and a municipality-issued postcard to send to another tea light when they’re having a bad day. I’m not happy, but I’m here, and I can see the tiniest bit of light on the horizon and think about when I’m going to be happy. For now, that’s going to have to be enough. Maybe you’re not a chili plant, either. It’s okay not to thrive, it’s okay to be exhausted. But it’s more than okay to ask for help when you need it to make sure you don’t fizzle out. Tea lights come in packs of a hundred, don’t they?