Since childhood I have known that living in a religious state has its advantages; there are many holidays! Numerous imaginary “saint” people are said to have been born and dead thousands of years ago, each occasion deserving a celebration. In Shia Islam there are twelve descendants to the prophet. Even though all of them would like to be commemorated, in Iran only some are lucky enough to have their births and deaths celebrated. I guess there are between 10-15 such days in a year. No one really cares so much about the religious aspects of the holidays, but more about when the “holiday” is falling during the week. Is there a possibility of a long weekend or not? Can we bridge one extra day and have a nice 4 day weekend? Being an Armenian in Iran was even more advantageous, because to these holidays were added Armenian/Orthodox holidays. Easter was one of them. We had the Sunday and the Monday off.
In France, I ended up in the most religious region; Alsace. Here, on Sundays you can starve and there will be basically no stores open. There are even less pigeons in the streets, all busy hovering above the Cathedral. Sunday markets are unheard of, and the church bells start to wake you up from 8 am reminding you to go and greet your savior. Alsace, is also the only region in France where the priests are paid from the public funds. More precisely priests and Rabbis, but not the Imams. To me this seems a bit problematic considering the large muslim population, but that is their problem. They should have thought of immigrating a bit earlier before Alsace was attached to France. First come, first serve!
In this land of puritanism, we have four days off for Easter. We observe very closely the Good Friday as well as Easter Monday. You can imagine the joy. At first, I thought of going away for few days, but then the weather forecast and my bank account soon dissuaded me. Instead, I decided to stay and rest in my cave. I thought that I can used these few days to put some order in my life and tidy up a bit my cave. I am a true cave woman, dangerously enjoying to be alone.
Today, the holy day of Easter, was the day I decided that I want to clean up the unimaginable mess in my kitchen. I have no idea how on earth I can accumulate so much trash (recycling stuff) and dirty dishes. My sister recently advised me to use more often my dish-washer. “Don’t waste your time standing in front of the sink, use this machine. It is so practical”, she said. But this has added to my problems, because now I have to leave the dishes in the sink for days before I run the machine. The sight of dirty dishes depresses me. I have not yet found the best formula for not to wash the dishes by hand, to use the washing machine, and not to see the dirty dishes for days. I am working on alternative solutions, such as using more and more dishes and glasses, so that the machine fills up faster.
During the hard core cleaning of my apartment, questions started to multiply in my head. I am living alone, I basically don’t spend much time in my apartment during the week, and yet the place is always messy. I can no longer invite people spontaneously, I need to plan in advance to have time to tidy up the rooms and the kitchen. This is so much not like me.
While my mind was processing this disturbing fact and trying to figure out “why” I have become like this, I thought of a program I heard on the radio few days ago. It is a couple of months that I am hooked to a radio program where a psychologist answers to the questions of callers from all horizons. Before sleeping, I listen to this program and recognize myself in many testimonies. I feel that I am in therapy every night from 11 pm to 1 am. The other night, a guy called to say that he can no longer throw away his trash, that he doesn’t clean his apartment and he doesn’t clean himself! Basically one of many people that I meet everyday on my way to work in the tram. Very charming.
“When did this start?”, the shrink asked. He said that suddenly by approach fifty he started to ask questions about his life and since then he has lost interest in life. All of this was not at all reassuring to me. I could very well see myself around 48, anxious and panicked about hitting the big 50 and asking to myself “where did my life go?”. I am already struggling with the trash in my apartment, will I also start to smell like a rotten fish and dress in rags? The shrink however was not convinced of his explanation, so she asked him in various ways what was the event that triggered this lack of interest in life. After 15 minutes that the guy tried to sell us his midlife crisis as an excuse, he then nonchalantly let it out: “I started to hear voices”. He said this with such a banal tone, as if he was telling us that he got a flu or something.
Well, hearing voices changes a bit the scenario. We are no longer talking about a routine midlife crisis, but some sort of deluxe midlife crisis. At this point the psychologist urged him to consult. “There is an emergency sir, you need to see a psychiatrist”. The guy was not convinced, he just wanted to find a way to clean up the trash in his apartment, because “he did not know how they accumulate like that”.
I guess for now I am more or less safe, no voices in my head yet. There are some preoccupying signs though. I talk a lot to myself, disturbingly sometimes in the supermarket: “What should I take, a steak or a pork chop?”. I see my neighbors looking at me a bit curiously. I smile at them and continue my shopping. Maybe the next step will be to ask their opinion. On other occasions, I can even laugh alone in public. If I see something funny or if I remember something amusing, I have a hard time controlling my laughter. In this situations, people are sure that I am crazy. They look away, pretending that they did not see what I just did.
So I guess I am on the right path. By 50 I will be ready to spend my days in the trams, talking to imaginary people who were born thousands of years ago and asking them what they think of our rituals for celebrating their lives. There is a thin line between sanity and insanity …