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Life lessons from the lockdown

Punita Malhotra

Contributor

These are extraordinary times where the boundaries of our worlds stop at the walls of our personal cocooned sanctuaries. It's an alien reality outside - empty streets, abandoned squares, cordoned-off religious centres and padlocked entertainment hubs. According to Jack Fong, a sociologist at California State Polytechnic University, we can use such existential episodes of solitude to self-reconfigure. Prep for a new normal in the post-pandemic world with invaluable life lessons from this never-before, collective, contemplative pause.

Self-reliance is also about the little things

There’s more to the list of life skills besides the usual suspects like being tech-savvy, paying the bills and travelling solo. Minus lifelines of call-centres and support staff, we are all grappling with new-found, albeit unassuming challenges. Fixing electric short-circuits, cleaning greasy dishes, repairing kitchen pipes, mopping the terrace, trimming plants and whipping up healthy meals, is giving us a fresh perspective on self-reliance. Who would have imagined that these competencies would gain traction in 2020? 

We can be content with our own company

While we’re all missing family, friends and colleagues, a lockdown is a perfect opportunity to bask in the joys of our own company. Code name ‘mission liberation’ could be the occasion to get rid of the learned misconception that alone equals lonely. Psychologists urge us to indulge regularly in 'mindful solitude' with a view to restore, rest and gain insight into our inner selves. Cultivate a positive self-care habit. Allow yourself to believe that me-time is indeed a luxury, not a punishment. So, would you call it social distancing or social detox?

When no one is watching, we are real

Image is everything in today’s society where instagramming is more important than enjoying the moment and a ‘perfect selfie’ outlines your public identity. The fear of becoming ‘uninteresting’ is killing authenticity in a fake world. Reflect on this. Safely ensconced in the comfortable confines of solitude, we are finally indulging in true liberation, living a life that we want, tie-free, make-up free, salon-free, heels-free and pout-free. Unspoilt and filter-free, isn’t that what draws us to nature and wilderness?

Certainty is an illusion

Blame it on the ‘fight-or-flight’ survival instinct, but we humans are not built to withstand unpredictability. Since we are hard-wired to protect ourselves from danger, the anticipation of losing control naturally spikes anxiety and fear. But the unthinkable can happen and turn the whole world topsy-turvy. The mantra to retain sanity and thrive in adversity is to resist the need to predict and simply flow into the future. The key to achieving this, experts say, is to restrict our actions to our sphere of control. For instance, instead of endless scanning of social media all day long, tune in to credible news sources a couple of times. 

Our experiences have been saturating us

In an age powered by materialism and driven by endless aspirations, we have been shamelessly devouring more than we can digest, whether it is information, travel, cuisine, culture or even social interaction. At the risk of shifting into a jaded mode, we are rallying on, rapidly losing the ability to truly savour these experiences. Like the neutralising whiff of coffee beans between two perfumes, will this be a phase of voluntary de-addiction from excess? Will this be a turning point from mindless consumerism to conscious consumption? 

Sometimes, all the money in the world is not enough

Money gets us the coveted six-packs, trending outfits, latest gadgets, snazzy cars, fancy apartments, idyllic holidays, a prestigious job, and even social circles for clubbing. But riches can’t buy us the vaccine that hasn’t been invented, the freedom to be where we want or the comfort of a warm hug from a loved one. Do we still want to hanker for something which has a limited sphere of magic? Or appreciate the things that matter?

Our resilience will power us to adapt

In a recent TED Connect episode, Elizabeth Gilbert, celebrated author of ‘Eat, Pray and Love’ deconstructed the process of how humans deal with crisis and tragedy and drew attention to the innate power of human resilience. According to her, even in the most crippling of circumstances, we possess the ability to bounce back into action, focus on solutions, innovate beyond the obvious and tap into our latent potential. This knowledge itself should be enough to propel us from helplessness to hope. Armed with the humble realisation that we are simply co-inhabitants of this earth with millions of other species. And that maybe the singularly most critical payoff of the biggest global crisis we have witnessed till now.

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