How I Hit Reset On My Life, During the Pandemic
On work calls these days, I often think it is Thursday when it is barely Monday.
The pandemic has upended our sense of time. It has halted the daily ‘go-go-go’ autopilot that dominated our lives. Personally, this has worked out great for my nervous system. For the first time, I’ve found myself not waking up grumpy or going through the day feeling a constant undercurrent of stress. In between making mediocre gnocchi, watching the birds and butterflies, and teasing my very serious boyfriend, a smokescreen has lifted. A year-plus in, I’ve somehow discovered a fully formed sense of what brings me joy.
This has come as a huge relief. And I suspect there’s a case to be made for why the pandemic may be our one shot to drop the microscope, pick up the mirror and make an honest appraisal of what’s working and what isn’t.
Here are some reflections based on my experiences this past year:
Laughing at my mom’s jokes is a mental health priority: I now talk to my family two or three times a day. In the process, I’ve rediscovered the radiant, goofy absurdist that is my mother. When I was home earlier this year, something hit differently. It seemed like the never-ending war I had waged with her as a teenager was finally over. We were suddenly just two grown women discussing life, theosophy (my mom, it turns out, has THOUGHTS on the nature of consciousness!), what her relationships with her siblings were like, and how I’m her favourite child. I now know that simply being in my mother’s aura fills my cup and that going to that dive bar every week to shit-talk does not.
Butterflies don’t use shampoo: There’s this beautiful Flamboyant tree in front of my house, and watching it all day from my living room window gives me life. Delhi humans will get this — the tree is like 4s, but for birds. In the past year, 32 species of birds have come hung out on this tree. It is also lovely and reviving to watch the tree be — you get the sense that it isn’t trying to be anything. It just is. There is neither projection nor playing small. There is only grace. Unlike us idiots, trees and birds and butterflies don’t “get dressed” to go anywhere or use shampoo. They’re not a Twitter lurker, and they’re not virtue signalling. They’re just doing their thing, rested in the knowledge of their splendour. Slowing down and watching nature, it turns out, is brain tonic.
Hitting reset on friendships: Another curious thing that started to happen this past year was the re-ordering of my friendships and the shrinking of my social world. There isn’t a good word for people that you like but do not really know. I had many such ‘friendships’, and those seem to have withered away. My inner circle has seen a reset. Folks I’d talk to daily pre-pandemic don’t quite feature in my life as much. And friends from when I was a child found they’re well way back in. Social scientists call this ‘relationship funnelling’ — a phenomenon where fragile ties are replaced by more robust connections. I guess this means that post-pandemic, I’ll spend less time socialising and more time writing and cooking and being in nature. And actually, that feels pretty okay.
I have interests: In all of my 20s, when I’d go on dates or speak with my 80 million crushes, I’d always choke up and get all twitchy anytime anyone brought up ‘interests’. You see, sleeping in isn’t a hobby. I wouldn’t say I liked coffee, and I couldn’t afford to travel. I didn’t want to learn a language, and I found dancing (and dancers) preposterous. But this past year, I gardened, birded, wrote, painted (badly) made bath bombs, ran, and cooked entire meals regularly. I made many Spotify playlists and re-watched Interstellar. My Kindle confirms that I read at least 60% of many books on subjects like space, the multiverse and the nature of reality. This has all been very privileged of me, of course, but rewarding all the same. For the opportunity to stop coasting aimlessly through life and follow my curiosities, I am grateful.
I try to think about how I might describe this time in 40 years. When I do, the present feels pretty significant. This is a moment in history that has come with devastation, uncertainty and challenge. But it has also thrown up some opportunity. Old structures and routines have given way, and we now have the choice to live the rest of our lives with more intentionality. We can bring our whole selves to our jobs and relationships. We can pause and really SEE ourselves and let go of what no longer serves us. I'm cautiously optimistic about the rest of my life.