I feel tired. Today is my only working day this week, but I’d rather curl up in bed than do something. I force myself into writing this, and later on I want to add new stories on Pangheya, but typing is slow, my mind can’t focus and my eyes would rather close than be open.

A big contribution to me feeling tired is the big effort I made earlier this week(end). My brother turned fifty earlier this week. Turning fifty in The Netherlands usually gets celebrated with big (surprise) parties involving (lots of) alcohol and silly artifacts. My brother was to some extend glad he could pass this birthday, as turning fifty does mean you can no longer deny you’re a middle-aged man. But as a family we couldn’t let this special birthday pass by unnoticed and uncelebrated. Therefore we came up with the idea (or actually my mother) to create a fifty flag birthday garland. All of us made a batch of flags with memories and photographs.

As I live closest by (a forty minutes drive), I was the one to put it all together and deliver it to his doorstep together with Daughter. I created a birthday in a box package, including a flower necklace, balloons, sweets, champagne and of course the garland. My intention was to sing for him and then leave. I don’t want to impose any expectation to anyone on being invited in, not even on my brother’s birthday. But as it was raining while Daughter and I were singing outside, with my parents joining by Facetime from their home, my brother and his fiancee quickly invited us in to celebrate with a piece of cake. Daughter and I gladly accepted the invitation and were able to watch the unpacking of his gift.

It was lovely and terrible. I couldn’t hug my brother, my parents witnessed it all from afar and we all cried. It was the best way to celebrate a birthday as we could considering the circumstances, but when I returned home I noticed I was knackered. The mentally preparing yourself for how to behave when your brother or his partner open the door. Reminding yourself not to walk towards the ones you love, instead doing a step back. Preparing Daughter how to behave in this situation, not getting her hopes up to be allowed to enter the home of her uncles. Then being inside, immediately washing your hands, instructing Daughter to do the same. Finding a spot in the room where you’re not too close to anyone. Not petting the adorable young kitten they have. Again, reminding yourself that a hug is not an option when you see your brother burst into tears. Filming the garland reveal for the rest of the family who can’t be there. P

Physically distancing yourself from people you love is so unlike natural human behaviour and that’s the reason why I feel so darn tired. It all costs so much energy to contain yourself against your primal instinct. Seven weeks of containing oneself in every way takes it toll. I’m tired, the muscles in my neck are too tight, I feel all the various points in my body that start to hurt when I’m stressed.

This month I have two special birthdays to celebrate. The Man turns fifty as well, Daughter turns four. I sure hope to find a little extra energy in the coming weeks to make those two days special ones as well. At least these two people I’m allowed to hug for as long as I like.