Cover photo credit goes to Monica Lie
Friends have been asking, “How have your plans for your 12-month break changed since COVID-19?”
I am clearly just one of many people who has had plans derailed by the global pandemic.
I am also acutely aware that I am extremely privileged to have “how I spend my time” as my biggest concern.
Oftentimes, I just don’t respond because I don’t have anything meaningful to reply with.
I stopped writing for a while because I felt like whatever I had to say seemed so trivial compared to news of the pandemic.
Surely nothing else is more deserving of attention.
And yet, when I thought about what my highest contribution to the world could be in these strange times, continuing to write about my journey towards a more meaningful life is probably it.
I think back to the many messages of “I am glad to not feel alone” after my earlier posts.
Perhaps now, more than ever, individuals are searching for meaning in a time where everything that was once considered stable is now irrelevant.
Perhaps now, more than ever, these documents of my own individual journey are relevant.
And so, I’ll continue to write and hopefully you’ll find some comfort here.
In week 5 of Funemployment, I noticed my levels of anxiety had been increasing.
These physical symptoms usually manifests before my conscious mind registers what’s going on.
During meditation practice, on slow inhales, I feel like I’m drowning and almost gasping for air.
The knots in my stomach are almost palpable.
My heart rate is elevated, and my mind is continuously racing.
The night before, I binge ate almond butter straight from the jar and finished half of it in minutes.
(It was 100% organic but still, far too much of a good thing!)
These were things I used to do whenever I was overwhelmed by something.
A few weeks into my time off from work, I realize I may have an addiction. An addiction to busyness.
Here I am, unemployed and solely accountable to myself.
There is absolutely nothing that I have to do.
I can choose when and where to do anything that I want.
And yet I find myself busy all the time and behind on so many tasks I had set for myself in my ‘productive time’ that I was causing myself elevated levels of anxiety.
Why was I re-creating the exact same situation that I knew I had to leave?
There is a certain sense of self-worth that I derive from ticking boxes on my to-do list.
I actually go through the extra step of creating check box icons on Evernote just to do this:
I sometimes even write it down physically to double the satisfaction of crossing it out.
There is a voice in my head that says
“If you don’t have enough check boxes ticked in a day you are a waste of space on this Earth and will never amount to anything.“
And so, almost out of desperation, I’m constantly looking to “get things done”.
To get that one more tick.
To tell myself it was worthwhile leaving a stable job for this time off.
To tell myself I’m a worthwhile human being.
And yet, this “get things done” mentality comes at an enormous cost which I am beginning to recognize is not a price worth paying.
The soundtrack of “what’snext, getthisdone, needtodothatnow, whenisthisover” is on infinite loop.
Racing ahead all the time, I forget to see what’s right in front of me.
I had dinner with my partner the other day.
Having spent an hour preparing the food, I was keen to “finish it” and laid it out the moment I arrived at his place.
My partner, who hadn’t seen me all day, sat down with me and joyfully started to share things he’d done that day.
I found myself staring at the food getting cold and, I am ashamed to say, got slightly annoyed thinking:
Can we not focus on finishing the food first?
I had completely lost sight of the whole purpose of the meal, which could have been a beautiful moment.
Where two people who care about each other are nourishing each other not just in food, but also in conversation.
I am sorry to say that by wanting to “get it done”, I savoured neither the food I had spent hours preparing, nor the wonderful things my partner had been sharing with me.
I look back at this lost opportunity with sadness and regret.
How many times have I blanked out in the last 20 pages of the book or movie to just “get it done”, feeling it a chore?
Instead of savouring the ending, the exact moment of I had been building up to, it is lost on me or forgone for “the next thing”.
I have been in constant motion for much of my life that I am now having to re-learn what it means to slow down.
In a way, having my original plans shut down by COVID-19 has forcefully taken away all my excuses for ‘busyness’.
Learning how to be okay with doing nothing is surprisingly difficult.
So, this is how I’ve been spending my time:
Mostly at home, trying to do nothing.
Although, because I’m still learning, I also have a few book recommendations from friends and an 8-week Mindfulness program which I started yesterday.
I’ll update on how that goes!
How about you? How are you spending your time these days?
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I can’t promise anything life-changing, but I can promise lols, bad puns and honesty.