Lockdown diaries: Dreaming of a new world

Lockdown diaries dreaming of a new world

“Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become.” ― John O’Donohue

It’s been over a month since India went into lockdown; longer for some of us who went into self-isolation even earlier. We’ve all adjusted and adapted to remaining confined indoors, and to making do without the help we are used to. And I don’t know about you, but I have discovered a much more simple life that I am really enjoying.

After an initial adjustment period, the husband and I have managed to find a rhythm to our days. My work day is book-ended with a walk on our terrace, since we aren’t allowed to go downstairs for a walk or run in our community. Watching the ever changing canvas in the sky, observing the flight and the lives of the birds, and soaking in the bits of greenery I can see from afar has become a beautiful, mindful part of this new simple life of mine.

Finding our rhythm during the lockdown

The husband and I have divided up the chores in a way that works to our strengths – he’s the master chef, I’m his sidekick helper and cleaner and finder of interesting recipes to try. I don the chef’s hat most weekends so I can give him a bit of a break from the daily cooking.

Most importantly, we’ve found ways to support each other’s creative interests even during this time. A quick look through online articles and “opinions” will have you believing that the lockdown and quarantines have left us all suddenly idle, with a ton of free time to kill. That isn’t the case for me – I am lucky enough to be working from home, so the only time that I’ve saved, really, is the 20 minutes it used to take me to get ready for work and the hour or so I used to spend on the commute to and from work. But that approximately 1.5 hours of saved time is now spent in the running of the household – not something I needed to bother with before.

All of those chores – washing the dishes, helping out with cooking, the occasional sweeping and swabbing – really isn’t my forte. Keep me away from the painty table too long, and I become a cranky stressed out ogre! It’s the same with the husband – woodworking is his way to de-stress. So even if it’s just for a short while, we both make sure that we spend some time tinkering away in our respective work areas every day.

Life in the time of coronavirus: Falling in love with a simple life

While it took us some time to adjust to not having any help during this lockdown, which we are so used to, we have found that we are enjoying this much simpler lifestyle. Not that we plan to fire our cook, but there are a lot of changes we have noticed in ourselves and our habits; in our longings and cravings and desires. It almost feels like this period of self-isolation has offered us as a reset button and a chance to take a closer look at our lifestyle and make some – hopefully – lasting changes.

Which makes me wonder: just how much of the stress and the constant desire for “more” is externally driven? How much of it is driven by a consumerist corporate culture that is built on profit margins and shareholder returns and greed? And how sustainable is this model?

If we are being honest, we’ve long known that our culture of consumption isn’t sustainable. We are putting immense pressure on the planet – on the oceans and land and forest cover; on the exploitation of cheap labor; on the environmental damage we are putting the planet through.

Sooner or later, it would have all come crashing down around us. As eco-psychologist and Jungian psychoanalyst Dennis L. Merritt says:

Our species needed to be shocked into an awareness that we have been barreling towards the edge of a cliff for many decades while showing no signs of being able to halt our “progress”. Well before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and the first Earth Day in 1970, environmentalists have been warning us about overpopulation, destruction of natural habitats, loss of biodiversity, mining our lands with modern agricultural practices, collapsing ocean fisheries, etc. Greta Thunberg rallied millions of young people to demand action on climate change but powerful oil lobbies and vested political interests have been unmoved. The long term consequences of climate change will make any losses from a virus seem inconsequential, making this a moment for us to re-examine our fundamental relationships with each other and with the environment.

The question before us now is if we will wake up before it is too late.

It can be easy to think that one person waking up is pointless, because what difference will one person make to the planet, after all. But we forget about the domino effect, or the butterfly effect. My change may inspire you to make some changes, which may inspire some of your friends to tweak their lifestyle, and before you know it, there is a small army of eco-warriors and change agents waking up and looking after Pacha Mama, this beautiful earth that we call home.

This disruption of everything that was so “normal”, everything that we took for granted, has also given rise to a few questions that I’ve been asking myself recently:

  • What am I longing for?
  • What am I not missing?
  • What do I want to bring into my new normal?

What I am longing for in self-isolation

As an introvert and a hermit, this period of quarantine has been relatively easy on me. Once I got over the initial panic and anxiety, I found that I am a lot more at peace with this simple life than I have been in a while. And yet, there are some things that I do miss.

Like the ability to pop over to the art store to pick up some supplies – or even just wander through the aisles looking at all the gorgeous paints and papers and charcoal sticks and pens and all that arty yummyness!

Or wandering through a bookstore and browsing through the shelves. There’s a thrill of discovering books and authors you may never have come across were it not for the title or the cover winking at you as you walked by. Sure, there is Amazon and the Kindle, but the charm of a bookstore and the serendipitous book discoveries cannot be replicated by its more sterile digital version and definitely not by artificial intelligence.

And then there are the impromptu meet-ups with friends – be that an after work coffee or a Saturday afternoon brunch that turns into a sleepover. Even as I say this, I realize that my pre-pandemic outings were few and far between, but just the fact that plans could – and often were – made at the spur of the moment is something that I do sorely miss.

I wish I could say the same about being out in nature, but the fact is that is a longing I’ve had since years. The polluted city that I live in, and the associated allergy flare-ups, combined with the limited – and often unsafe – access to nature means that it wasn’t something that I could enjoy too often. No wonder then that in my imagination, I long to live in a cottage by a lake or a river, in the middle of a forest – but with a reliable postal service so I can order art supplies!

What I am not missing during the lockdown

The polar opposite of that imagined home is the reality of blaring horns, crawling traffic, polluted cities, and the occasional road rage that was my normal when I used to commute to work. Obviously, that isn’t something I am missing, at all! Neither do I miss the busyness and stress that seems so inextricably linked with “the daily grind” – getting ready for and going to work; juggling multiple things in the little pockets of free time I used to have; multiple interests vying for my attention, which often left me feeling rather unproductive.

When I think about it, not too much has changed even now. I still have little pockets of time within which I have to juggle all my interests, but I feel much more productive and at peace. I think the removal of that layer of stress and chronic tiredness that was the gift – or should I call it the curse? – of the daily commute is what has made things feel easier and in more of a flow state. In an ideal scenario, I really would love to move to a work from home model.

Speaking of which, I need to mention my new found love for home cooked food. Pre-lockdown, I needed a change every couple of days, which meant we would frequently either order in or go out for dinner. There were days when I could almost taste the butter garlic prawns from Big Wong, a popular Chinese restaurant in my city. But this has changed. I don’t know if my taste buds have had a reset, or if the husband is an exceptionally good cook, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t have food cravings and I am not bored of “the same old food”. This is something I definitely want to continue, even if that means the husband or I will have to cook more often over the weekends.

Which brings me to another surprising discovery: I’m perfectly content to be at home. I don’t miss wandering through the market or the mall; or the shiny new object syndrome; or the obsession over a cute pair of earrings that I just have to buy or I’ll be dreaming about them all night. While all of those purchases made me feel good in the moment {it is called retail therapy for a reason!}, they don’t fulfill me like art or a good book or some perfectly timed and themed music does.

And this, really, is another form of consumerism. We can make it sound fancy – like not denying ourselves beautiful things, or enjoying the pleasures of life, but the fact is, we don’t need 99 pairs of earrings or 20 lipsticks or 10 handbags, or whatever our indulgences are. This time at home has opened my eyes to what is really important, to what makes my heart…my soul sing. For me, that is art, and tarot, and books, and a stunningly gorgeous sunset, and loud belly laughs with the husband, and warm cat cuddles, and star gazing.

And while I may not completely stop shopping – I mean, I will always buy art supplies, tarot decks, and books, because they just fill me up in beautiful ways, and I may still buy that gorgeous red lipstick — after the two I already have are over – I plan to be even more intentional about my purchase decisions. I had already started on this journey back in 2018 with my no-buy year, followed by my depth year last year and then again this year, but now I feel even more strongly about cancelling consumer culture.

Dreaming of a simple life: what I want to bring into my new normal

When you think about it, consumer culture tries to convince you that only your next shopping trip will make you feel fulfilled, or beautiful, or successful, or….well, you get the point, right?

But what this lockdown has showed me is that the sense of accomplishment – or perhaps satisfaction would be a better word – that I feel every day, has nothing to do with what I buy and everything to do with how I spend my time, and my life. At its core, it has all the elements of a simple life: making time for my creative interests, enjoying simple home cooked meals, taking the time to watch the sunset. This is definitely something I want to bring into the post-lockdown world.

Simplicity – home-cooked meals, a spot of baking, following my interests down their various rabbit holes – this is what I want the most. Life these days feels uncomplicated and unhurried. There’s no stress; in fact, even work related stress is much lower. We are laughing more and fighting very rarely. And that, I think, is down to the fact that our minds are at ease.

I know that some things will change when we go back to work. Some of this peace may be difficult to hold on to in the midst of the daily grind. But some of these realizations and these elements of a simple life, I hope, will remain as guiding lights along my path.

Because when this is all over, I don’t think I will be the same person I was before. I can already feel the shift and the change. Just by observing what I am enjoying, what I find annoying, the things that I no longer care for, the things that still move me deeply….reflecting on these three questions…this is an inventory of sorts.

As a wise teacher of mine, Effy Wild, said:

No permanent decisions should be made in response to temporary situations, but inventories of a kind can be taken and filed away for future reference.

I’m especially interested right now in my day dreams. What am I looking forward to? What do I want to experience when this ends? What feels possible? What feels impossible? What feels like it really matters? What feels like a distraction? What feels like the truth? What feels like a lie?

I’m taking notes. I’ll reassess from the other side with a clearer, less ‘pandemic informed’ head, but I’m taking notes.

In a culture that glorifies busy, slowing down and living a simple life can be a radical act of rebellion. The lockdown and self-isolation has made it clear that slow living may require some rethinking of priorities, but the benefits of a simple, minimalist lifestyle, lived with intention, makes for a happier, more peaceful, and a much more meaningful life.

And while this pandemic hasn’t impacted my mental health much, and I don’t think I am thinking with a “pandemic informed head”, I also am aware that some of these longings for a simple life may be more difficult to implement in a “normal” world that glorifies the hustle and grind.

So yes to the note taking. And to giving myself the space and the time and the grace to figure out how to carry this simplicity forward when the lockdown opens up and we are back to our daily grind once again.

How are you coping with the lockdown? Have you come to any new realizations or any changes that you want to make to your life, or are you just waiting for the restrictions to lift so you can be out and about once again?

Posted in Soulful living and tagged .

24 Comments

  1. I completely agree about housework taking up ‘free time’ that we’re supposed to have . I actually am busier than ever with my still imperfect arm, Physio and erratic household supplies .
    I doubt we’ll go back changed people – most of us get back to our old ways pretty soon . I hoping though that we go back to our simple lives . We really have too much – most of which we can do without . Hoping this lockdown ends soon . Take car

    • I hope your arm is doing ok. With all the extra work and stress we are subject to, these old injuries tend to flare up.

      I guess in some ways you may be right, that we may fall back in to old patterns. But then again, we are constantly changing and growing, and just maybe this will be another phase of growth for some of us at least. What we – or at least I – can absolutely do is to hold on to this simplicity. Even that is a huge change!

  2. The one thing that I’ve learnt from the Lockdown is that I can survive on home cooked food and can love without food ordering apps ! I hope everything is safe and sound at your end ,😇

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! It was very insightful & I could relate to it in many ways. You have a natural flair for writing. You have earned yourself a hardcore fan!! ❤️

  4. Iam happy that I need not drive to and fro office which is saving time. No swimming and soccer classes to kids, no pick up drops. But, I don’t get as much free time as I used to get earlier due to more office work and household chores.

    • Ah! I’ve been hearing the more office work from quite a few of my friends. The not having to drive is a blessing, though. I find that it reduces half my stress levels to not have to deal with traffic snarls!

  5. One discovery that I have made and authenticated by my children is that I am good cook! Tried my hands at many things which I otherwise have never dreamt of.
    The world was waiting for the “restart” button to be pushed and it did…catching everyone unaware but now more stable, just like how the “hanged” system returns to the new normal by shedding that which was causing the burden and the error.
    Let the new normal be that of coexistence and of harmony!

    • When kids authenticate your cooking, that’s the best feeling, I would imagine! And yes, the world did need a restart/reset. Here’s hoping that we are able to find better solutions to some of the problems that have been plaguing the planet.

  6. There is no free time as advertised by the experts. In fact, I feel I’m doing a lot more than the pre-covid days as the two kids and the husband are home 24/7. One good thing is I am writing more often with all of them at home. Which makes me realize that I can continue to work from home with the little one at home after the pandemic is sorted. It is not ideal though as I’m interrupted umpteen times in an hour. But I’m gaining the skills to deal with interruptions impatiently.
    Your artworks are too good, Shinjini.

    • Oh yes, the amount of work has gone up! But then, the husband and I also decided we weren’t going to bother with sweeping and dusting everyday, because that just eats up all our time and energy! Alternate days works just fine for us, with dusting once a week, now that there’s less pollution. Good to know that you’ve been writing more! Must count all those little blessings too. 🙂

  7. I agree with you on so many levels (perhaps not about the earrings tho! 🙂 ) While we are doing more yet, it feels like there is more – more time, more space, more opportunity to go beyond the grind.
    While Monday-Friday is pretty grindy (!), I still hope to move into a better rhythm, which I will be over to take over into my ‘regular’ life post this epidemic. Or, even while it goes on, a new normal, which is more aligned with who I am and the life that I want! and enjoy!!!
    gorgeous pictures in this post!

    • Yes! There is a spaciousness and a much richer life beyond the grind and the razzle-dazzle of pre-COVID life. I’m glad you liked the photographs! 🙂

  8. Simple life and I agree – on many things that you shared, I am with you. When we go back from here, I am going to be grateful more than ever on having survived (hopefully) and knowing that happiness is a state. Like you after the initial anxiety, I am good and at peace. The time I am saving from travel goes way in cooking and occasional cleaning. And work takes up longer hours now.
    Take care Shinjini!

  9. Thank you for sharing your experience and reflections, Shinjini. I just pray that we remember this time and let the lessons it is teaching us last us through our lifetime. Since Jose and I are introverts, we do not miss the socializing bit at all. He feels we should make social distancing a permanent feature! 😉 I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and learning just to be.

  10. Love your pictures. And the food… Ohh I have been mostly doing basic cooking. But sometimes make special Marathi dishes. Angry ogre! You just described me when I don’t get to draw. This period has been extremely busy. I am slowly trying to find a rhythm.

  11. I am that person who enjoys having a lot of time for herself. After few initial days, I started to look at this pandemic in a different way and currently I am enjoying doing all that stuff i was planning to do but never hit the right chord. I hope all of us remember this time and the persons we became during this lockdown and hold on to those parts of us.

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