I doubt I have craved anything more than my age-old desire for an extended period of quietness. To be able to count my breath as each second passes without feeling like I am racing against time. To have a prolonged period of rest without the pressure of meeting deadlines. To exist, just be, frozen in time; days on days with nothing in particular to accomplish.
I remember how this year started in fast forward for me. Work was a marathon, chasing back to back transactions. This actually started in October last year, reaching a peak in February. The Christmas break was more or less a haze, swept past without me savouring the festivities. Work was crazy and the months went in a flash, leaving me burnt out ending February.
It took a lot of mental strength trying to balance life and work. The one thing that kept me sane was my holding on to my planned trip during Easter. I drew strength each day from looking forward to that escape. The thrill of visiting a new country, relaxing on a beach with all cares forgotten and eating airplane food after several months of not flying (I actually miss airplane food served during International flights, weird I know).
But then, Covid-19 became a global problem. It was easier seeing on the news how other countries were battling the virus, that sense of nonchalance when disaster seems far from home. Then an index case was discovered in Nigeria and shit got real.
I ended up spending my short leave slated for the Easter break at home, flights grounded worldwide and travel plans cancelled.
A lot has changed and we are all basically winging life through strange times. From the initial panic and everyone being on edge, to dealing with boredom while at a loss as to how to navigate this new territory. Initially when the lockdown started, everyone seemed to be throwing themselves at different things; online challenges, video calls, hours online and whatever just to pass time.
I think things have slowed as we have all realized this might be the new normal for quite a while. Some persons have settled into the new isolated life, others are still struggling. Personally, at times I have a hang of it all, other times I’m lost/clueless. General nonchalance about the seriousness of the virus is beginning to set in and I foresee a collapse of the lockdown order (if it gets extended further) as economic realities bites harder since our government has failed to provide palliatives to the vulnerable.
Initially, I loved the rest and extra free time that came when the lockdown started. Though a part of me felt guilty I was relaxing too much and wasting precious time. I continued reading the book I was on before the pandemic, spent more hours watching movies and series, as well as exploring music.
One week into the stay at home/work from home I got bored. My entire being began to revolt. On a normal day, I’m an introvert and I love being indoors, but I felt restricted sort of, like this wasn’t me staying indoors because I wanted to. I guess when choice is taken from you, it’s never the same.
The haze that was February was suddenly forgotten. Staying indoors began to take so much effort. I found myself downloading houseparty, making video calls, doing things on a normal day I won’t do. I had to talk to myself when I realized I had consumed the amount of data I used for a month in just 15days. Then I knew I was going about the lockdown the wrong way. My rule is, when I’m indoors I should be saving money (as far as I am not doing online shopping).
I saw that infamous post circulating on social media –
This got me a bit angry. I mean, the motivational fanatics must always do the most. Really though, people need to chill and learn how to enjoy rest. We must not be doing something always, chasing this or that.
Just as Chude stated in his post, the lockdown is a gift wrapped up in a pandemic.
“I am receiving the gift of suspension. I am not placing myself under undue pressure. I am resting. Like a lot of you need to, especially if you can afford it.
If you haven’t had the time to catch your breath for weeks or months or years, you have been given a gift, wrapped up in a pandemic.” – Chude
It was until I read Chude’s post I realized this was a gift I was letting go to waste. I have long imagined what it would be like to take an extended break off everything. Not have a to-do-list to pursue daily, no work to go to in the morning or be on an itinerary when I’m on a tour.
I had to consciously accept rest. I chose to bask in it. I was not going to feel guilty about doing nothing. You know that feeling of guilt whenever you want to take a rest? We need to dead the idea that relaxation is laziness or waste of productive time.
“I don’t want to rush all through the effort and the hard work just to get to the end. It’s not a race. I’m not against anyone. This is not a competition.
I don’t want to get to these milestones I dream about getting to and find myself exhausted and so burnt out that I can’t enjoy the fruits of hard work and sustained effort. I don’t want to be miserable at my most proud moments.” – Jamie Varon
This pandemic has shown that most of us don’t know how to rest. There is always something we are chasing. What’s so wrong in deciding to do nothing? To take out time to rest and savour the progress we’ve made in our journey.
“I never enjoy anything
I’m always waiting for what’s next
I think everyone’s like that…
Living life in fast forward
Never stopping to enjoy the moment
Too busy trying to rush through everything
So we can get on with what we are really supposed to be doing with our lives
I get these flashes of clarity
Brilliant clarity where, for a second I stop and I think
Oh wait, this is it
This is my life
I better slow down and enjoy it
Because one day we are all gonna end up in the ground
And that will be it, we’ll be gone…” (Stuck in Love Movie, 2012)
I had to measure myself after half a month of resting and not indulging in any serious tasks. After two weeks of free styling each day, I decided to create a plan for myself, sort of a quarantine routine.
The goal was to keep
myself on a self-development path after
chilling resting for a few weeks
while also ensuring I didn’t overdo it. I gave priority to rest being that
working from home is almost a scam. There really is no boundary and I found myself
working at odd hours, weekends were not spared. I mean, you are working from
home so when really is your closing time?
The quarantine routine was also necessary, because – “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come to you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” – Proverbs 6: 10 -14 and Proverbs 24: 33- 34 (yup, it’s repeated twice in the bible)
I wanted to be active and not struggle aimlessly with boredom or idleness. Based on the arrangement with my colleagues, I went the office twice a week and worked from home the other days. This helped in lots of ways I didn’t think it would. I was able to balance the lockdown period by going to the office twice a week. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s has been like for those living in cities with full lockdown for a month plus.
So far, I have successfully read two hard copy books. One was a self-help book, the other a novel. I lost count of the numerous online articles and blogs I read. I’m currently studying/reading texts for a professional exam while cooking more often, and using early morning chores or light workouts to gain clarity for the day.
One thing I love about the quarantine routine I set up is, it prevented me from overindulging and getting too comfortable with free time. This pandemic will not last forever, soon enough it will be back to business. I’d hate to struggle to get back to my routine when work resumes especially with the announced easing of the lockdown by May 4. I’m expecting it will be back to daily work routine at the office. Hopefully this isn’t a ticking bomb that’ll escalate to something terrible like how bad Italy had it.
I am going to use this last week of the lockdown to sort out my now distorted sleeping pattern, get closure on the long hours of sleep I enjoyed and also psyche myself in readiness for return to the fast lane office routine.
“Nothing I am spending my time on right now is part of ‘the hustle’ or some tech bro ten step list to being productive. I feel focused because I know what is important to me and I know how good it feels to take consistent, inspired action.
The intentions I have for my life aren’t for other people. It’s not to be impressive or shiny, to be aspirational or prefect, to prove something to other people.
It’s for my own well-being, my happiness, my joy.
It’s for the feeling I get when I act in a way that is loving toward myself.” – Jamie Varon
Weirdly, this period got some of us learning the right pronunciation of quarantine. I can’t wait till the term ‘social distancing’ is no more frequently used, God knows I’m tired of hearing it. But till then, I’m keeping safe while trying to take things easy and also cut down on news channels as that has proven to be a major source of fear. Its okay to keep familiar with happenings in my immediate environment, but to absorb news from every corner of the world about the pandemic is only asking for panic and anxiety.
We need to pay attention to our mental health this period and also be smart about our finances. Cash is king, but doesn’t mean you should spend recklessly in the name of surviving the pandemic and killing boredom. Prioritise rest, but also be smart about how you overcome boredom. This is not the time to take up more debts, try as much as possible to be prudent financially.
Also, wear your face mask when you are outdoors, always.
This too shall pass and we will come out stronger.