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Friday, April 16, 2010

When it's hard

In the first years after Milosevic was ousted from power, elections were held in Serbia about once every two months and it seemed like the country was in a permanent campaining mode. On every visit we were greeted by yet another round of campaign billboards and Ruslan would ask in astonishment: "What, are you having elections again? But didn't you just have some last time?"

Anyway, during one of those semi-permanent election campaigns, one of Milosevic's former allies-turned dissident, Nebojsa Covic, campaigned under the slogan "Kad je tesko--Covic"
("When it is hard--Covic"), implying that he's the man to take care of difficult situation. He was referring to the fact that he had been appointed to deal with the crisis in Southern Serbia which had the potential to turn into an armed conflict (it did not, but it spilled into Macedonia instead).

It was a cool slogan, although it was not enough for his party to garner enough support. But I was reminded of it when, in a completely unrelated conversation, a friend of mine said that, in difficult moments, his slogan had been "When it is hard--Jelica." I thought that was very sweet and I knew it was true. But the irony of the situation was that, at that moment, I was struggling to keep my head above the water, swamped by issues I had no idea how to deal with, paralyzed by indecision and very much in need of help. But I kept the stiff upper lip because how can I be a reliable friend in need if I am breaking into pieces?

I suppose it is some kind of twisted pride, not wanting to share your worst moments and your weakness with people with whom you would otherwise share everything, and whom you love unconditionally. Maybe it is fear that, after the flood of inevitably banal reality sweeps in, it will be impossible to resume dialogue. I know this might sound strange, it does so even to me as I am writing it. It is a mixture of vanity (living up to expectations) and a Spartan, unsentimental approach to yourself.

As I had jokingly replied to my friend--when it's hard, bite the bullet and carry a lot of paper tissues with you. But I wish to add: and have a few friends around to pass you the tissues and help you wipe the snots, without anyone being ashamed or feeling embarrassed.

Not much of a Spartan, eh?

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