Have you ever noticed how often we underestimate the power of change? This pandemic has been a surprise to all of us. Adapting to this situation has been particularly challenging for many of us.
Since day one of lockdown, a good friend and I kept calling and zooming each other to keep up the virtual social vibe. We are both single and live alone, and we were lucky to keep our remote jobs.
We were very empathetic to people living with kids in a small space, or how hard it might be to work in a hospital right now or to lose a loved one.
. . .
After one week of starting to take root in my flat, I asked her how she felt about the confinement. At first, she shyly answered “I am holding up, I mean…it’s OK.” As I felt like she was hiding her real feelings, I insisted. After a second thought, she said: “Honestly? I don’t want it to end”.
Same feeling on my side.
During the first three weeks, I easily woke up at 6 to do my meditation-yoga-reading-writing routine. I had time to cook homemade meals and work from my sofa. I could practice piano in between two Pomodoro sessions and even take naps in the middle of the afternoon. At night, I was reading before bed and slept like a baby.
I finally felt aligned:
- My eating habits were getting better; I had even lost weight.
- My reading speed had increased; I finished a few books I had started a long time ago.
- I could feel the benefits of meditation and felt more focused, less reactive.
- I was being consistent at practicing the things that matter to me.
- I fell asleep right away and woke up like Beyoncé every morning, fresh as a flower.
I was happy.
. . .
On The Road to Hell
As time passed, I allowed myself to watch one episode of a TV show per day, at night, after dinner. Eventually, every night became movie night, that turned into binge-eating-watching-super-combo-night. Some days, I even watched TV during lunch.
I felt like I had rebooted to my old teenage-self when I was eating McDonald’s and watching reality TV and didn’t like reading. I didn’t know about the self-help parallel Universe, and my journey to become a better Human being had not begun yet.
I was still working five days a week, but it became harder to focus. My morning routine had deserted my flat, leaving space for frustration to move in immediately.
. . .
Last week, I got back to work.
I’m lucky to live just 8 minutes’ walk from work.
I love my job, and I was happy to go back to work, but since that day, I can’t stop the mental chatter in the morning: “what am I going to start with today? I have slept only 6 hours. I must water the flowers. I watched TV again yesterday. Should I start with meditation? I haven’t read my book in a long time, I said I’d go running this morning, but maybe yoga, I haven’t written this week, oh no it’s already 7.30 am, and my lunch isn’t ready”.
All this happens before I even open my eyes. I end up doing nothing and going to work frustrated.
When I come home, I’m exhausted, and instead of doing what I haven’t had a chance to do in the morning, I watch TV and tell myself it’s not going to last, those bad habits will leave. When I go to bed, I think about everything I have done wrong that day and how I’ll do better tomorrow.
Despite all the knowledge I accumulated about habits and routines in the past few years, I am stuck, overwhelmed, and angry at myself.
. . .
Acknowledging Why I’m in Hell
Last weekend, my friend and I took advantage of our first freedom-trip since the beginning of lockdown in early March 2020. We went just 25 kilometers from Paris, in Vallée de Chevreuse, and it seemed like another face of planet Earth.
For that two-days trip, I had taken my laptop to write, my iPad to draw, one poetry book, and one self-help book. You know, the minimum you bring because you find yourself in-between “I want to make the most of my free time” and “just in case I have some time in between two walks in the forest”.
All conditions were reunited for me to have a good time: quietness, nature, picnics, walks in the forest, my friend and M. Sunshine, and my “just in case — not that helpful — self-help kit”.
Everything was quiet outside but like a tornado inside.
I realized that I was carrying the burden of two months — plus years — of being too hard on myself and not acknowledging that lockdown had been a silent threat to my mental health.
My friend asked, with her most relaxed and satisfied voice ever: “isn’t that heaven?”
That was hell.
. . .
I told my friend about my struggle and — just like my therapist a few days before — she said: “There are so many things going on in your life! I have just what you need”.
She handed me the book from her I’ll-relax-this-weekend kit.
I thought it would be another random book, but it looks like the Universe helped my friend pack her weekend bag.
The book starts like this:
It couldn’t resonate more with what I was going through.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m Wonderwoman because I can answer the phone, eat a sandwich, and wink to that cute delivery guy while buying paper clips. I’m part of those who thought that multitasking was a superpower. As much as superheroes are a myth, multitasking is only procrastination in disguise.
Many times before, people had told me that I should focus on one thing and stick to it until I’m done. But you know what it is; you don’t realize those things until you figure them out by yourself.
Leo goes on:
What I liked about Leo’s book was that it was more compassionate than many other books I had read about getting things done. It was about accomplishing more, but also about keeping a happy mind and being kind to yourself. Leo explains most simply and practically why those mental walls happen and how we can face those challenges.
I decided to simplify.
Three little words gave me the impulse to go through my daily struggles — or may I say mental charge — by taking care of myself.
“Step by step.”
. . .
My Next Steps Towards Heaven
It’s been three weeks that I’m implementing Leo’s techniques in my life, and I can already see change.
Previous routine: [want to] exercise, journal (3 pages) meditate, write, practice piano, make lunch, in whatever order, whenever I wake up. Go to work with
→ 30% done.
New routine: Wake up at 6 am, make coffee, ten minutes meditation, drink coffee while journaling — even four lines are OK, exercise for ten minutes. Get ready. Go to work and write for thirty minutes without distraction (empty office).
→ 100% done.
We must think “less” to get more from the areas of life we cherish the most. It’s the core principle of minimalism.
Some people think that minimalism is all about decluttering and owning only a bowl, a pillow, and an onesie as our possessions. It, fortunately, goes beyond that; it’s about giving more value to fewer items of our daily lives by narrowing them down.
Minimalism is also about structuring our time in a better way so we can take control of how we spend it. It avoids being overwhelmed by decision making and to define what our priorities are in life.
I can’t go back and pretend that I don’t know what I’ve read: those compassionate and straightforward methods to change were eye-opening. It led me to understand that I don’t want to get back to my normal life. It would be too easy. I’ve too often felt miserable when I thought I had it all, even before the pandemic. Getting back to this life is nowhere near how I want to feel tomorrow.
We tend to think that having more, wanting more, giving more will give us more.
But what if having less gave us better?
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.
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