Better, in Other Ways | From a Distance

Sunday, April 5, 2020


"Have patience with all things, But first of all, with yourself."
–Saint Francis de Sales

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It's been a cold weekend. Not that it bears significance. (Is it Saturday or Thursday? I can never tell these days.)

I'm feeling a little daunted. Not by the obvious state we're living in, but because, as I'm typing this on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I'm not.... particularly... doing anything.

Now I don't know who it is out there that has convinced me I could've used this time to meditate – or to exercise, or continue working.

But strangely, I feel like I have to. Daily. Every minute of every day. And any way I fall short would mean I'm wasting precious self-isolated time. (So cook a recipe! Finish a book! Work out! Oh, and have you watered your plants lately?)

There is an idea that we must strive, relentlessly. To transform into this pseudo-productive version of ourselves. What better time, after all, to tap into our potential, than a 24/7 lockdown with each left to our own devices? 

I'm all for personal growth, and I agree – I do look forward to morning walks, or extra time to read.

But I'm completely uninterested in this intensity we're pursuing. This internalised pressure to stay creative, productive, with a promise for some sort of enlightenment.

It's unfair, on top of all this, to expect that we'll be the same level of productive as we've always been. Especially when we're not acknowledging just how heavy this transitional experience is.

It feels nearly impossible, really, to even focus on something. And yet I still feel bombarded by a myriad of ways I should work more effectively. Little do they know making myself a meal feels like a feat. Submitting an assignment on time feels close to a miracle. 

The cycle must keep going, it seems. The hustle to our day's end.

In my opinion, we can still hustle on our way to retirement.

This, right here, is just not the time for that.

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"In a year from now, you won't remember everything you put on your checklist. You won't remember how every single second was spent and every moment you felt the most productive. But you will remember how you felt when you felt loved and seen. You will remember people you got to show love to. You will remember that even though you had moments of restlessness, worry, and fear, it took courage, strength, love, and grace to make it another year." –Morgan Harper Nichols

I understand some turn to productivity because they have no other choice. (To whom I say, do what you have to do. These are hard times – take care, and we are here for you.) 

But on the other hand – and bear with me here – can it be that we work so intensely to regain a sense of control? A control that has clearly vanished when things have unravelled so wildly from our grip?

Hence we resume, blurring the lines even more now between hustle and rest. Work, and home. And God forbid we don't somehow capitalise off of every minute of our lives.

But are we noticing, though, how drained the past few months has rendered us? How little time we've given ourselves to heal?

Now I'm not encouraging you to leave responsibilities and proceed to take salt baths, pretending the world isn't in trouble.

It is. Things are shaken. We are shaken.

But we can, and will, rise above this.

And not in the ways that you think. Not because "Shakespeare wrote King Lear" when he was alone, or because great corporations were built during the recession.

But maybe this is meant to teach us something, if we can just stop being so goddamn impatient with ourselves.

We have built so much of our identity and self worth based on what we're able to do, that when all is stripped bare, and we're only left with who we are, even momentarily, we've forgotten what that even looks like.

This means filtering the amount of news we consume – staring at new cases and body counts, dear friend, serves absolutely nobody. This means compassion, to others and ourselves. This means taking deep breaths when you need to. Allowing yourself to just be.

It's to no one's fault – it is this "time is money" world we grew up in. If you're not exerting the very last ounce of yourself, you're going to fall behind. You're losing value. You're wasting time.

Yet here we are, enduring a hardship no money in the world has been able to resolve.

So what does this mean for us?

We've been given a pause. A mighty inconvenient one, I admit, but a pause nonetheless.

And I propose that we simply receive it. That we breathe.

And we take it for what it is.

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Now a part of me still insists that I make something of myself. What am I doing with my life if I'm not either doing the next best thing or pursuing the next best thing?

In this thought process, though, I make myself identify why it is I feel that way.

- Does this serve me?

- If it isn't money, then what am I chasing with all this intensity?

- Is it validation? Am I trying to prove something to myself?

- Have I been spending so much time online in comparison, that being stagnant feels like I'm falling behind in a race that doesn't necessarily exist?

I hear you – it's hard to grapple with. But above all, here's my proposition:

What if this situation can, in fact, change us for the better? What if there are still things we can aspire to become, even in this dire circumstance, that have nothing to do with our money-making skills?

Some ideas.

I, for one, want to be a better listener.

Especially now when the ways we connect have been so redefined. I admit I'm guilty of cutting people off one too many times – it's starting to dawn on me, too, the importance of feeling heard.

Two, to emerge with more compassion. More empathy. When was the last time we were as forced to think so far beyond ourselves?

Three, I need to tell people how much I appreciate them. Clearly. Out loud. How would they know how much they matter otherwise?

And perhaps, it's about time we all take a long-overdue self inventory – couldn't we see now, more clearly than ever before, what matters and what doesn't?

We are all in this. We have all experienced the losses. I'm suggesting – how do we reduce this anxiety and not amplify it?

It's a long tunnel ahead, and we march to an end unseen.

So don't we owe it at least to ourselves,

to make the journey worthwhile?

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I'd like to thank healthcare workers. Public transport operators. Food service. First responders. Farmers. Warehouse employees and truck drivers. 
Every frontline worker keeping our society intact, to whom this discussion wouldn't even apply for they weren't given the luxury of a choice.

It's time we donate and send support, but more than that, 
find ways within your local government to advocate for better pay.

I send love and encouragement to each and every one of you, 
working from inside your home or out of it.
Do what you must. And take care.

I have so much faith in us.

Signed,
Jo

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From a Distance is a blog series documenting life in the social distance. Paper airplanes flown out my window, hoping to reach yours. For connection. Companionship. A little human-ness in this very strange time. My hope is to make you feel a little less lonely. If you are. Whoever you are.














2 comments

  1. Totally agree with you. It is like suddenly there is that need of wanting to be super productive. Don't get me wrong, I have not been sitting all day in the sofa eating crisps and watching crap telly. I'd go crazy just doing that.. but I have no rush to do whatsoever.
    Yes, I am taking advantage of this time to do more of what I enjoy and didn't have time to do - I'm back into writing on my blog, I am taking more photos at home and discovering that I am lot more creative that I thought I was, I am rediscovering myself.
    I felt the need to workout because I need to move - being (almost) 39 weeks pregnant means that I also have to do this in order for this baby to come out until his due date - but I just take time to do nothing, think, breathe, be grateful.

    This is the world giving us a time to pause, think about what we have been doing so far, to understand that many of the things we thought we couldn't live without, we actually can and, in the other hand, that other things we took for granted are more precious that we thought. We need to appreciate this time as much as we can.

    Lovely read x

    www.thelisasworld.com

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  2. I agree with bot you and Lisa's comments above.

    Most people force their activity so they don't feel guilt. Yes, some actually want to pursue something, but let's talk about the majority.

    I myself take this as a chance to relax.

    When we are sooo busy, we want to just sit and do nothing, not even hobbies, not even things that we like, just NOTHING.

    And here we are, presented with it.

    I am doing as much nothing as possible (yes, battling with due dates).

    I also hate those people who force others to be productive (during these times only).

    If I do need to do one thing that I like, that would be reading your writing.

    God Bless and stay safe Jo.

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