Holland is famous for its canals, windmills, tulips and a relaxed, bike-friendly atmosphere. The Dutch also cultivate a way of life known as gezellig – which broadly-speaking means joy, fun and togetherness.
I have embarked on some futile pursuits in my life, hanging on to things and situations way past their sell-by date. Some people spend their lives yearning for the holy grail of everlasting youth, beauty and life - more fool them.
I clung to a stressful, but well-paid job for years, more out of fear than desire, until the pressure drove me to the brink of nervous exhaustion. It was risky, but I handed in my notice, and thankfully found a much better job in a publishing house.
Then along came Covid-19, the magazine folded, and cancer struck.
Someone once said that cancer saved them, and I know what they mean. It sounds counterintuitive, but contemplating death forces you to re-evaluate life. It’s like a wake-up call, a sudden sharp shock to the system accompanied by the startling realization that the most precious commodity in life is not smooth, wrinkle-free skin, but health, and time spent with loved ones.
A year post-treatment and I am struggling financially, but timewise, I feel rich. I have time to focus on myself, time to devote to the holy trinity of yoga, meditation and sport, and time to dwell on my deepest darkest secrets, which prompted the title of this blog.
In a bid to stop ruminating, I am going Dutch - I am filling my life with joy, fun and togetherness - gezellig.
I volunteer at my local Saturday morning cinema club which brings me a sense of joy. According to neuroscientists, the act of doing a good deed stimulates the brain’s reward system serving as the perfect antidote to doom and gloom, just like chocolate. Seeing the kids laughing at old-fashioned, silent, black and white movies boosts my energy levels, triggering a release of dopamine. Equally, feeling connected stimulates serotonin and oxycontin, the happy hormones, which is how I feel when interacting with George and Sophie, my “friends” on social media.
George, (@George The Stourbridge Junction Station Cat), is a slim, white-chested ginger tom who lives and works at the eponymous railway station. George is a guaranteed source of fun. When he is not sleeping, he posts aesthetically pleasing snapshots of himself alongside a funny motivational quote: “Good Morning & Welcome to Tuna Tuesday! Life doesn't come with a rewind button. Enjoy the moment while it's here.”
Sophie, (@SophiefromRomania), is a mixed-breed German Shepherd with floppy ears. She was so frightened when she was rescued that she went and hid behind the sofa and refused to come out for days. However, now, thanks to the loving care and attention of her adopted family, Sophie is bouncing around the house, living her best life, a testament to hope and optimism.
Here’s to more fun, more joy and more togetherness in all our lives.