I have a problem though. Anxiety, depression and cynicism are my habit and I can’t shake off this default setting. Why can’t I settle down and relax?
These days, life is laying very few genuine worries in my path. So, I have created some land mines of my own. They are self-focused and self-inflicted and not at all important in the big scheme of life. These little stresses manifest in a series of ‘bees in my bonnet’, that drain both Alastair and me.
Bees in my bonnet
These bees include learning French, finding my dream job, making Swiss BFFs (best friends forever) and setting up a ‘Garden & Home’ house on the cheap. An idea, a bee, dive bombs into my brain and buzzes around. It flaps its wings and bounces against the walls of my skull and I have no choice but to give it my full attention. My bees are distracting so, when they sweep in, my life focuses fully on removing these darn annoying fixations.
For example, I looked around my new lounge and thought, ‘this room feels like a fish tank. It needs curtains’. Curtains then became my all-consuming priority for the next few days. I couldn’t think of anything else. While Al was at work, I popped my measuring tape into my pocket and goose-stepped from shop to shop. I poured over websites and investigated options. I spent ages down in our storage cave in the basement, with my head buried in boxes and my bum in the air, as I searched for my old curtains from Johannesburg days. I stood in the centre of the lounge, gazing and gazing at the window frames, wondering whether eyelet curtains are better than pleats.
On many evenings, I lay on my back in bed, staring at the ceiling. Alastair leaned over and whispered, ‘What are you thinking about my love?’ I replied, ‘The curtains’. He sighed and rolled over and bit his pillow. The curtains gave me two sleepless nights. There was a lot to process – Where can I get the cheapest curtains? Cream or brown? Do my Joburg curtains look tacky? Are they too short? Will Marks & Spencer deliver to Switzerland? Do the Swiss charge customs fees? Where can we get a 5.6m pole?
Don’t even get me started on my French fixation. Learning French is like having constipation. The sentences are in my head and I am desperate for them to slide out but they don’t budge. This bee will be around for a while, I can tell. One Saturday Al said, ‘This French obsession is getting too much for me’.
Poor Al. I don’t mean to be a nag but often I need him to help me kill my bees. I am dependent on him for the manly aspects of house set up, such as drilling holes for the curtain rod. I got under his feet and he eventually said, ‘You have a bee in your bonnet and are not going to rest until this is done, are you?’
Once the curtains were up, Al sighed and said, ‘There. Are you happy now?’
‘Yes. What’s missing? Plants! Shrubs or flowers? Where can I get plants? When should we get them? Can we go to the nursery now, like right now?’ A new bee replaces the dead one and the cycle of meaningless angst and busyness continues.
I’m Julie “Honey” Surycz
Before we moved to Switzerland, people warned me it would be difficult to make friends. We braced ourselves for Saturday nights at home – just me, Al and Loneliness.
Sometimes low expectations are worthwhile because they create the chance for pleasant surprises. It turns out that opportunities to build friendships are falling out the sky, like manna from heaven. We can’t wait for relationships to develop organically so I’ve been bold and shameless in my quest for friends. I’ve advertised for a French friend online, we’ve signed up at a club that organizes outdoor activities; we’ve joined a church and a home group.
Meeting new people here is similar to online dating clubs. Blind dates always have an underlying subtext because you check the other person out with long term intentions and wonder, ‘Is this someone I can spend the rest of my life with?’ I’ve had similar thoughts when meeting new people here. I wonder, ‘Has this person got friend potential? Is this someone I can hang out with, confide in or call in a crisis? Can I possibly spend the rest of my life with them?’
I feel as if I’m Honey in the movie Notting Hill. Honey is Will’s (Hugh Grant) whackjob of a sister. She has big, goggly eyes and feathers in her air and, when she meets the movie star Anna for the first time, she gushes, ‘I genuinely believe we can be best friends.’ And from that moment on, they are best friends (in her mind at least). I feel the same way when I meet someone I like here. I want to say, ‘I connect with you. Can we be best friends now?’
It is very easy to form a rapport with people if you ask them about themselves and then listen attentively. Last Sunday, we went on a hike organized by the online activity club. I bounced from person to person like I was a host at a party and I asked people about their jobs, life, hobbies and families. One guy even asked if I was an undercover reporter.
I’ve just given Al an outline of my latest post and he said I don’t just get one bee in my bonnet at a time. He said I get swarms. So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth (so to speak).