In recent times of collective change and challenge, it seems to become easier and easier for the mind to gloss over the Good that has come about from all of this. Amidst all of the noise generated from daily news reports of ever expanding government imposed restrictions, the ticking over of the Confirmed Cases counter and the blind, but persistent, hope for the day where everything will go back to 'normal', it is easy to get caught up in the stream of collective uncertainty and anxiety.
One thing I am grateful for, since all of this occured, is the expansion of my days, the feeling of having a greater abundance of time and of the clock ticking by more slowly.
When I was younger, I remember always being the one who would answer "Time Control!" to the question of "If you had one superpower, what would it be?".
So, what has actually changed? Quantitatively, the Coronavirus has forced my hand in culling a lot of the in-person, social obligations I used to attend to and therefore freeing up time that way.
And it is almost because of having too much time that I have suddenly developed a sense of Time Control. "What should I do with my time?" was now a question to ponder about, an objective to set clear sights upon - when before, any spare time was de-facto occupied by the 'usual routine'.
At some point I started looking up and, for once, noticed the clouds moving.
For me, it was not as straightforward as it might seem to come up with Good answers to that question and, in many ways, was quite stressful. Going through that process involved decision making and the finality of making choices, the selection of one path over another - which is difficult if you have a mind like mine, with an ever-growing To-do and Nice-to-Have list and the proclivity to work on everything, all at the same time.
There is this one day of self-isolation that sticks out for me, as I sit here writing this.
It was warm outside, but not too hot, with a pleasant breeze coming in from the ocean so I tried relocating myself to the outdoors for a change. I laid down, with my back to the concrete floor somewhere in the backyard (as you do), in a partially shaded spot. I noticed, for the first time, that the concrete was toasty and warm to the touch, which lulled me to a comfortable position on that floor. I remember also hanging my legs up on an elevated position from where I laid.
At some point I started looking up and, for once, noticed the clouds moving. They were hauling past at a good clip, far, far above where I was sat. I eventually brought my eyes to focus in closer. This was when I noticed the leaves, the branches and the trees above me swaying to the wind. Just like me, they were subject to the same forces of nature.
Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, I started to get too comfortable and found my eyes closing down on me. "Weakness!", I think to myself, as I sit here today reflecting on those moments, judging myself harshly for those past actions.
But in that moment, I could not have cared less. In that moment, I felt fully conscious of my actions, certain and content in the choice of laying down on that warm concrete floor, and being an observer to all the little, usually written-off-as-mundane happenings all around me. Nothing else mattered, but for that moment of clarity.
Once I woke up, all that was experienced was now in the past. I stood up, and went about the rest of my day.
Despite being short and fleeting, that experience was able to show me a thing or two about the magic of perspective - of looking at mundane things that are usually ignored in the rush of day-to-day living with different eyes. And the power this shift in perspective can have in unlocking and exposing elements of Life that would have never been noticed otherwise.
That experience taught me to question my own calcified assumptions of 'what Life should be like', and how I go about spending my time on a day-to-day basis. It pulled back the curtains and revealed that for all this time, I have always been the puppetmaster and the one in control. If the present is not all it could be then there is nobody else to blame but myself.
The question of "What should I do with my time?" re-emerges from the depths...
Why did it have to take a global phenomenon like the Coronavirus to allow me to sit on the floor, put my legs up, look up at the sky from a new perspective to gain these lessons? I'm not sure. But I'm sure as hell grateful.
There are masses of people out there going through real hardship during these times. I have a roof over my head, I have food in the fridge, I am healthy and to even have the luxury of being able to ask a question like "What should I do with my time?" instead of "What must I do with my time?"; I have much to be grateful for.
. . .
Post reflection. Yesterday evening, I sat myself down and started typing. I did not really know what I was going to write about, but soon words materialised on the page. On the very top, the words 'Personal Creed' were formed. Sounds serious and intriguing, doesn't it? (I got inspired by learning about Matt Mullenweg's creed for his company, Automattic. I'm no creative genius).
What does this mean? Well, it is still a work in progress so there is no end in sight just yet (or perhaps, ever). I am using this precious time to step back from the day-to-day. Before I get stuck in the weeds of figuring out everyday tactics, I feel that it is important to re-evaluate the overall direction this ship is heading towards. The current strategy is to think about and document what first principles might be useful in guiding me for today, and also into the future.
If any of this resonates with you, you can check into my work in progress through here: Personal Creed.
“Any man who does not think that what he has is more than ample, is an unhappy man, even if he is the master of the whole world.” - Epicurus