For a while now, I’ve had the impression lockdown is rewiring my brain.
Last night, I went to bed looking forward to my morning coffee and it felt out of character. I’ve been tangling with chronic depression for years so falling asleep tingling with anticipation about getting up again isn’t exactly the norm.
Unless the sheer joy of being alive is deflecting depression, somehow, and it’s discombobulating.
The pandemic is forcing us all to reassess our values and dump what no longer serves us. When you’re alive and everyone you love is alive, what more could you possibly want? The ‘rona isn’t a mass extinction event for mankind but it still feels that way online.
Fear is a feast and the whole world is invited to the banquet of doom and gloom where you do not only pick up the tab but may also be someone else’s dinner. Fearful and angry people are docile and easily manipulated, something politicians, the press, and the internet understood a long time ago.
And yet, we go to bed every night hoping we’ll be reborn into a better world in the morning and as long as we wake up, it holds true. Because you get to see another sunrise.
Sometimes, you even get to see another sunrise alongside those you love and that’s the best world.
My best world contains coffee and cats.
I watch random felines roaming Dutch rooftops and it gets emotional sometimes. My guardian angels in furs still live in the Pacific Northwest, half a world away. The upstairs neighbors just got a kitten. Imagine standing on a very tiny balcony with bright blue railings and looking up at the sky and it contains a surprise — and surprised — teeny tiny tortoise shell cloud of fluff staring back at you with enormous yellow eyes that look like they swallowed the sun.
When that happens before your first cup of coffee?
You’ve won the day.
It’s the little things, it’s always the little things, it’ll always be the little things because they’re reliable and you can cling to them when the big things turn to shit. A cup of coffee is reliable, a cat sighting in a neighborhood where there’s plenty is reliable, even when it’s raining. In Dutch cities, you can see through your neighbor’s windows, they can see through yours, and most humans don’t care.
But the cats love it and so do I because staring contests.
This world isn’t the one we left behind that day we went home and stayed there so there’s a lot of words dedicated to documenting the unpleasantness of our indoor life but there’s probably not enough words documenting how defiantly joyful life can get, too.
For the most part, it’s not that we don’t dare write those words or that joy isn’t happening.
Words about joy don’t pay as much as fear, anger, greed, and sympathy do.
The pandemic is helping us see what we took for granted with fresh eyes.
The beauty of ordinariness is keeping many of us sane. It’s a never-ending discovery process, creativity in action, and how we humans have always survived and thrived. And yet, creativity sounds hopelessly abstract to most, often getting mistaken for some Holy Grail when it’s as innate to us as smiling and sneezing.
For Easter, a bright bunch of sunny flowers appeared. When time came to reluctantly throw the lot away, I noticed something odd. A small branch has unexpectedly sprung to life and sprouted tiny buds, tiny leaves, and tiny catkins.
So I kept it.
It’s as beautiful and as unexpected as its now composted companions.
Every morning, I marvel at life in miniature unfolding slowly in a glass jar on the kitchen counter. Creativity is a matter of filter, of perspective, of mindset: It turns the mundane into art.
And the best thing about it is that it’s accessible to all regardless of means.
To me, this branch in a glass jar is a symbol of defiance, resilience, and strength. And one day — if I ever manage to identify you and figure out what you need — you’ll be a bush or a tree, little branch, and you’ll thrive where you’re planted, in this generation’s living room, in the next’s yard, in a forest after that, maybe.
The branch that didn’t die is like the killer virus no one can see, nature reminding us it will always have the upper hand.
You’re waiting for your life to restart and reopen but it has continued throughout lockdown, even when you weren’t paying attention. You breathed, you developed an appreciation for toilet paper, you woke up again and again and again. Life goes on autopilot when you’re overwhelmed and sometimes, it saves you.
Hello, survival instinct, make yourself at home.
So what’s with the guilt about having hovered at minimum viable human level for some time now? The pace of capitalism is inhumane, always demanding more until we run out of time we can monetize, cue one endless spiral of exhaustion compounded by lack. Lack of resources, lack of health, lack of love. If it’s not one, it’s the other(s), or even all three.
But you survive anyway.
Why not be silly sometimes? Go brush your teeth with the other hand, dribble toothpaste all down your front, stop taking yourself so seriously, and breathe. Reverse that reversible duvet cover for the first time ever, go to bed stripes up rather than squares up. Grow your body hair, ditch the underwear, and embrace your inner Sasquatch then realize no one cares and you don’t either, not anymore. Whatever floats your boat, even if it’s a toothpick.
Try to find something good about now and love it hard, be it one cat or a dozen and none of them is yours. Their grace is universal, they’re alive, like my little branch.
Remember to surrender to awe sometimes and stay there a while because this is how you pull through. You already know how to, all kids do.
You just grew out of it so focus and you’ll soon remember.
It doesn’t take much to look at life under a different, more generous light. You don’t have to wait until you’re sick, broke, or dying to do so either. You can live in constant dissatisfaction as capitalism dictates or you can shoot for attainable contentment by focusing on what is, where you’re at, and what you’ve got.
And it may be a lot better than it looks once you pause to consider an otherwise abysmal situation in minute details. Random good will find you if you stop being afraid of opening your eyes.
But on the internet, you can always go meta and disrupt the disruptors with words.
Thriving while making do isn’t impossible but capitalism would prefer you not to know. But if Alex Jones can allege being honest is his superpower then you, too, can tell yourself better stories, and come up with your own definition of wealth, success, achievement, and whatever other metrics you want to measure your life with.
Or just cut the crap and Make Life The Metric™because as long as you’re not dead, you win.
What’s the pandemic but a wake-up call to redefine realness?
That’s how creativity flips the bird at the honesty of greed.
It’s imaginative and it’s courageous.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.