Governments around the world have restricted our movement and availability of services to the bare essentials. In some countries, e-commerce sites are selling only essential products, neighborhood shops selling non-essentials are shut down indefinitely. Feels like our days and choices are acutely restricted now. People across societies feel suffocated because of this lack of choices and options. Our news feeds are getting flooded with ideas of "things to do/learn/watch", so that we can get through this phase devoid of choices. Human life has indeed been stripped to its bare essentials.
We all scrambled through the initial weeks of lockdown in a state of panic, trying to secure the basics - safety, well-being, supplies etc. Now that we are weeks/months into quarantine (based on each country's trajectory), we are finding ways to rebuild our lives with just the essentials. Is it such a bad thing though? Are we living a severely constrained life or an unadulterated version of it? There are days when I feel that I am living an absolutely no-frills version of my past life, filtered out of toxic distractions, meaningless pursuits and obligations. The other day I read the blog "Metamorphoses" by Lex, and it got me thinking. Is this a Chrysalis stage for me? "Everything Feels Out of Sorts, but in Motion. I Am Transforming from the Inside Out" yet again.
It's as though life has given me a chance to declutter my head and give myself more space to breathe and just live. "Live" as in just be the human I am, not run endlessly, not do stuff because I must do something, not present a socially approved version of myself. Yes, these restrictions have forced us to depend only on the essentials. But it's also making me think hard about what truly are the essentials? Did I really need to spend time and money on everything I used to do in my past life? I seem to be surviving well enough now without so many of those things. What do I really need to live and what truly gives me joy and meaning?
• Losing access to malls and other shops has forced us to move away from the mindless cycle of consumption, albeit for a few months. It feels quite refreshing for a change, thinking less about "things I must have", not having to choose from so many options when I buy. In the next Amazon sale my only priorities are fresh linens and towels. Perhaps I'll allow myself the indulgence of peanut butter and coffee beans. I do love and want a few paperbacks from my Goodreads list. A smartphone upgrade? Eh, who needs that!
• Game nights and video calls are a pretty decent way to be in touch with once close but now long-distance friends. I have run out of all excuses of busyness!
• Home cooked food is actually cheaper and healthier than eating out. It took me a global pandemic to acknowledge that! And turns out cooking can be quite a calming activity too. I probably don't need craft beer to survive! Definitely can do with fewer happy hours and brunches.
• The need of the hour is to help our communities. But why does it have to be only now? Why have I not done that more often earlier, in whatever small way possible?
I do acknowledge that this crisis is only about pain and suffering for most people. It has been extremely challenging for vulnerable groups like the ailing, frontline workers, the elderly and more. Some of my friends with a history of mental illness are finding it harder to cope because they have lost access to their essential support system. I guess I can afford such musings only because I have the cocoon of safety and comfort. For some, the daily wage earners and employees in unorganized sectors, securing the essentials is a struggle in itself.
A Moodscope member.