Well, you can start right now.
It’s Monday, another week in Covid-19 home isolation, and frankly, it feels just like yesterday and will probably feel the same as tomorrow. Who knew ‘Manic Mondays’ or the ‘Monday Blues’ could feel a tad outdated and trigger a slight bit of nostalgia.
I woke up this morning with a burning question in mind: what will you change in your life when this is all over? I sent a message to a few close friends, curious about whether this life in forced isolation and all the emotions brought about by a global pandemic that’s bringing every man-made system to its knees, has created any lasting shifts in the way they thought, felt, and viewed their lives.
I would love to hear your thoughts. As for me, here are a few things I’d like to really practice in my day to day life starting now:
Really be present.
Like many of you, I’ve also been thrust into an introspective space and state of mind. The key learning: be present. That’s not new in and of itself. What isnew is that I hadn’t experienced this type of “being present” before. Back then, let’s say I’m contemplating how beautiful a sunrise is and how grateful I am for that moment, I might be enjoying the present, but I sure as hell am also thinking about the future because all the positive feelings evoked by that sunrise is making me imagine ALL the things I still want to do in life. Even that, even that kind of positive feeling, I now realise is still living in the future.
But now that “planning for the future” consists of what time I should go for a walk, whom to call for a video chat, what to read today, what time I should sleep tonight…these things are really about TODAY, the PRESENT. It’s a different feeling and state of mind, so now that I am aware of what THAT feels like, I would be able to keep myself in that state and catch myself if I think I’m living in the present but am actually not. There’s now a whole new meaning to the cliché life is short.
What’s that I hear? Birds chirping. Wind rustling the leaves on the trees. What’s this I enjoy? Ah, my cup of coffee. That’s about all I can think about right now.
Choose people who choose you
This is very personal to me. I’m not one to care at all about the opinion of others, really. My job is in the public eye, with lots of over-the-top, attention-seeking personalities in the industry, so I’ve developed a thick skin over the years. Thankfully, I’m generally unfazed by groundless criticism or rejection. But I do care about the opinion and attention of those I love and those who play an important and valuable role in my life.
That said, however, there are times when those you love tend to overlook you, your feelings or your needs. Perhaps not intentionally. But if, even after having an honest conversation with them, this continues, it’s time to reassess the role of that person in your life.
It’s painful and not something any of us would want to think about. If we realise we need to cut ties with someone we love, it’s a massive personal loss, and the mourning can be deep and long.
When confronted with an overwhelming and scary world like this Covid-19 parallel universe, it lifts the veil on all the excuses we come up with to justify our addiction to and the continued presence of a toxic loved one in our lives.
If they aren’t treating you right, don’t put up with it. Choose people who choose you on a daily basis. Now that we have a newfound appreciation for each new day, make this a non-negotiable. If this were your last day, you’d want to be surrounded by people who love you for you and make you feel it.
Know your truth. Then be brave enough to follow it.
Thing is, I’ve practiced a lot of courage in my life. Even if I don’t always succeed at being brave, I always try because one of the greatest fears I’ve had since I was a little girl was having a mediocre existence, living a mediocre life.
So I pursued my dreams no matter how slim the odds. I went against established socio-cultural expectations and wasn’t the slightest bit bothered about doing so. I challenged those who blindly believed in something they hadn’t questioned. I went paragliding. I went to a war zone. I’ve battled illness. I’ve moved countries so many times I’ve lost count.
So why is this something I’d like “to change” if I believe I’m already practicing it? See, all those things I had been brave enough to go against or pursue were mostly things that either proved existing external limitations wrong (i.e. limits, real or perceived, placed on women or other minorities) or existing socio-cultural rules that trigger a lot of guilt when not adhered to. They’re mostly external.
Self-isolation has magnified a whole other measuring stick that challenges even the bravest of us: ourselves and our own self-imposed rules and checklists. It’s a very confronting thing to come to terms with OUR TRUTH and what we, in our heart of hearts, truly want, value, feel and believe in. When our truth contradicts the reality we have created for ourselves, when our truth reveals something about ourselves we might not have wanted to admit, when our truth means we need to make painful but necessary changes in our lives, it’s damn hard to find that courage.
But take heart. Finding, knowing and acknowledging your truth is a huge personal accomplishment in and of itself. The courage will follow.
Be okay with not being okay.
Everywhere I look these day, I am inundated with images, articles, and stories of the high-achieving multi-dimensional jet-setting men and women with high-flying careers who work out, do intermittent fasting, meditate, practice yoga and live by stoic philosophy. Phew. Got tired just writing all that.
But yep, I’m also guilty of trying to be and do all those things. I preach and try to ooze positivity no matter how bleak my circumstances (silver lining to this Covid-19 twilight zone, anyone?). Negativity is so frowned upon these days that we’ve created a whole new dimension of added pressure. Be positive! Be happy! Everything happens for a reason! It’ll all work out for the best, you’ll see! Gaaaaaah. Yes yes, I know all that. But sometimes I just feel crappy and want to feel crappy. For a whole hour! Is that really so bad? Will that really make me less of a positive person?
It’s okay to not be okay! Cry if you need to. Scream your lungs out. Hug your favourite stuffed toy. Get that sad playlist going in a loop. Go, do it!
Express gratitude and appreciation a whole lot more.
If you feel it, say it. If you think it, express it. Now that we’ve experienced what it’s like to be forced to distance ourselves from people we love, like, or enjoy being with, and now that we’ve realised there’s really no shortage of ways to get in touch if we really wanted to, find a way to be more expressive about how you feel especially when those are feelings of gratitude and appreciation for another person. Say thank you. Say I love you. Say I’m glad you’re in my life. Say I’m here for you.
Not wasting time. No, really. For real this time.
Our modern lives are overstimulated, no doubt about that. Even those of us who spend time on introspection and mindfulness have not escaped the constant churning wheel of our jam-packed days. There’s also no doubt that life in isolation means our entertainment and communication options are limited so screen time has collectively gone up.
But it’s precisely because we’ve been put in this extreme, in almost complete dependence on our gadgets to get through this that the need to go back to basics is even stronger. I am more conscious of zombie scrolling these days. Why? There’s no other way to put it other than doing that all day long makes me feel like crap.
To regain some sort of control in this new reality, I’ve learned to schedule time for reading, cooking, exercising, video calling, meditating, writing, working, all within the four walls of my flat. When you’re faced with 24 hours of unstructured time, multiply that by 7 days a week, and no end in sight for the foreseeable future, wasting time actually feels wasteful.
Living in this Covid-19 world has made us collectively confront the fragility of life and the fleeting nature of time, and it has also made us overwhelmingly aware and in need of all the freedoms we might have taken for granted before.
None of what I had written above are new, either to you or to me. But what’s different for me now is how strongly I feel about these principles and having this newfound conscious recognition of what it really means to do them, not just pay them lip service.
What about you? What are some things you’d like to change or work on as soon as all this is over?
And don’t forget, you can start RIGHT NOW.