We’ve had a lot of words for this year, haven’t we? Unprecedented. Virtual. Challenging. Rhyme with a kind of quacking bird. But the one that’s standing out to me now, as we pack up 2020, is arbitrary. Not for this unprecedented, challenging year adapting to a virtual world specifically, but for the way we as a whole have reacted to many aspects of it. How to operate in response to a constantly changing situation? It’s not standardized by any means. Then on a micro scale, the deadlines driven by the end of the calendar year are arbitrary; the deliverables are arbitrary; and, finally, the holidays are arbitrary, but thank goodness for them.
Yesterday was the winter solstice—the shortest day of the year—and I wanted to write something about it, which is also pretty arbitrary, but I ended up not having the time at all. I like the sentiment that “it can only get brighter from here.” On Sunday, I was in a supermarket and saw a man putting several hachiya persimmons in a bag. I couldn’t help my curiosity and asked him whether he ate them on their own or had some recipe to make something with them. He explained that they were celebrating that night, the eve of the first day of winter, and it was customary to eat something that grew in winter. In Asian culture, we eat sticky rice balls to celebrate; I didn’t find any, and certainly didn’t have the time or will to make my own, so I settled for some mochi with peanut filling.
I do love all kinds of persimmon, with their dense, sweet flesh that holds no hint of tartness. It’s mild as far as scent. However, it must be ripe to be eaten, or else the tannins will cause a reaction that coats your tongue in a powdery-feeling astringency—a very weird and unpleasant sensation. It’s not ripe until it’s soft and yielding to gentle pressure.
It’s continued to be a stressful time, not only from unrelenting work demands (arbitrary) right up to the holidays but also the emotional toll from people I care about having to deal with illness and other situations. The new mutation of the coronavirus in England is very worrying, although it is believed that the vaccine(s) should be effective against it as well. However, as it’s the end of the year, we’ve also had our obligatory corporate group hugs by way of reflecting on “how well we’ve done” and “how much we’ve accomplished” and showing some video reels with accompanying sentimental music and imagery of people taking off their masks en masse. The timing is arbitrary, and to me at least, it caused a lot of cognitive dissonance because we are not there yet in being able to truly turn a new leaf. We can only press pause, not skip, no matter how much we talk and act otherwise.
Not that we can’t be optimistic. Things will get better. I wish everyone the best possible holiday season and some much-needed rest.
Plains-toi (Complain)—La Grande Sophie, “Une Vie” (One Life)
Tout près de moi j’écoute (Very close to me, I’m listening)
À mon oreille (To my ear)
Je sais que tu vas mieux comme ça (I know that you’re better this way)