We are all existing, not living. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic went on a rampage across the world, decimating everything in its path and leaving the debris of over 100,000 dead bodies, we have all just been spending our waking hours, till it is time to go to bed again. I heard somewhere that without commemorating life’s milestones, we are all just marking time.
Source: Needpix, labeled for reuse
It has been 3 weeks, if not more, since we have all been isolated in our homes. The initial mild panic buying of groceries then gave way to funny memes about being stuck inside; then the jokes about the chores around the house came and went; then came all positive posts about how we are all going to get through this; but now, things have settled into a kind of a surreal routine, one that nobody expected. A routine that is filled with no space to bleed off excess energy, all the time in the world but not enough to make something with our lives, a routine that has us running on a treadmill but has us in a limbo, one where we are not going anywhere, figuratively and quite literally. If one goes by the latest press releases by the PMO it appears that we are all going to be in the same state of suspended animation till 30 April.
Yes, almost everyone reading this is fortunate by a mile. The readers of this post do not depend on uncertain daily wages to put food on the table. They are not the migrants that are dying on the summer-scorched highways while walking home to their villages hundreds of kilometers away. They are also not the urban poor who work as domestic help, security guards, cooks and handymen, who don’t know how long their meagre savings are going to last. They are most definitely not the factory workers who toiled away to meet the gluttonous consumption of the hungry hordes of consumers in India and abroad. So, by most measures, the readers of this post are a small and lucky percentage of India, who should just be grateful and happy to be alive and in the safety of a home.
But are we? Grateful and happy?
We lived in the world like there was no tomorrow. And now, time stands still and the tomorrows are not coming at us fast enough.
We were a bunch of drug addicts, constantly on the go, from one meeting to the next, from one social media post to the next, from one notification to the next, from one project to the next, from one pay check to the next. Oh, we were hopped up on the dopamine rush from the likes and comments, on the elusive endorphin rush from a brutal fitness routine just so we could feel a bit of a positive feeling deep inside, and on the validation that came from having and spending money.
We were druggies, constantly seeking the next fix
So many of our joys came from chasing some zeros in our bank accounts, getting those, and spending them. Spending money on ourselves, on our family and friends, on anybody or anything, to buy validation. Spending it, as long as we could get our hands on material possessions that made us feel whole. For all of a few minutes. Because the emptiness would return again very soon. It was a deep well that could never have been filled with money or the things that it could buy. The well sought something else that we were unwilling to give.
We lived in a world where our attention was always the most valuable resource available; a world were social media, content platforms, and apps were weaponized to capture that attention at any cost. That next post on social media, just that one more tantalizing episode on the video platform, or that last perfect song thrown out of the perfectly crafted algorithm was what we were all chasing and living on.
That was never a sustainable way of living. It was all going to implode anyway.
Now, we are expected to do something with ourselves. Do something with our bodies to keep them fit and moving and stretching. Do something with our minds and not let them become vegetables stuck to the infinitely alluring world of blue screens all around us. Do something with our spaces to keep them clean, tidy and uncluttered. And we don’t know how to do that. We don’t know how to stop the racing of our thoughts, nor do we know how to get better as people.
While some might say that the answer is to maintain balance, I would actually argue that we humans have never been great at balance. Mankind has always pushed forward by being completely involved and unreasonably pushing to get somewhere. That has always been how we have survived – by adapting to change and going all out with whatever new reality the universe deemed fit to throw at us.
The answer might be to stop consuming, and start creating. Creating space in our minds and homes, creating art or a note, creating our best work, creating space for more mindful spending of our limited time on this earth, creating a deliberate way of life. Creating a better version of ourselves by finding the stillness beneath the muddy waters. To actually live out our lives with purpose.