Today marks my 17th day of quarantine and amid all the gloom and doom surrounding us, I am straining to find the little things that still bring me joy. But I’ve made myself look harder every day, because I am convinced this is what the world needs from me right now. It might seem narcissistic to think the world needs anything from me, someone who isn’t a medical professional on the front line or responsible for providing any essential service. But humans are needy creatures, we need purpose and meaning. Purpose to keep going even when all feels lost. To feel needed can be the greatest motivator of all time. And I do believe every one of us has a purpose during this time – even if it is not something that will make the headlines, even if it is something relatively simple like to make a meal that your household enjoys while they’re unable to get their favorite food, or entertaining your friends virtually to keep them from going stir crazy while they’re isolating.
I’m trying to do my bit by keeping myself sane first of all. This is a purpose every single one of us have – we are all part of society and hence we all matter. Even if all you’re trying to do during this time is keep one person from losing it – and that person happens to be yourself – you’re serving. In these strange times when it feels like the real world is on pause, you’re still serving a purpose worth serving.
I’m searching for the little things that give me hope, make me smile even through all this and I’m sharing them here just in case one other person also experiences a tiny hopeful moment because of it (or even is amused at the notion of this girl trying to convince herself she has thoughts worth sharing).
While I am trying to drag your attention to the brighter things, please know that I am not saying that not being able to see beyond the despair is any type of failure. God knows I have had enough moments/days/weeks like that. If that is your state of mind right now, and all you’re doing is keeping yourself fed, you’re still doing something very much worth doing.
Now that that’s been said, here’s something that I’m grateful for right now: feeling connected to so many people. The number of people I’ve talked to in the past few days – like had actual conversations with that go beyond small talk – is significantly higher the usual. People are reaching out to family, old friends, new friends, and engaging in conversations they normally wouldn’t have time for. Without the usual pressure of living a “fun/cool/interesting” life, people are being honest with each other about how they’re feeling. How marvelously freeing! Being unhappy/anxious/bored/sick of life is terribly hard – and having to pretend you aren’t makes it so much harder.
I’m very thankful that people have granted each other this reprieve and I hope that this “trend” of connecting, of checking up on each other, of being vulnerable with your feelings, will last beyond this crisis. If life is never the same again after this experience, let this be one of the changes.
Another thing that we always had but I’m especially grateful for now: art. All kinds of art – music, movies, shows, literature, painting, poetry – the list goes on. Most of us consume a few forms of art regularly without consciously acknowledging that they are works of art, born of creativity and effort, that we are consuming and benefitting from. Art alleviates our quality of life so much. Practical goods and services enable us to live, no doubt, but art is often what makes living worth it. If science is what will bring us out of this crisis, art is what will help us survive the wait.
I see so many people making more time for art in their lives now, whether they’re consuming it or making it. People are reaching into their piles of unread novels, digging out old sketchpads, sharing playlists. They’re appreciating art more than ever, maybe because they’re realizing how much harder this experience would be without art to turn to. I hope this realization stays with us even after all this is over and manifests into greater things such as more funding for the arts, more acceptance of those who choose a form of art as a career-path despite the high likelihood of always being a “starving artist” stereotype, and more appreciation and encouragement for amateur artists who dare to share their art with us.
Third thing brightening up my life now: While eco-fascism (a term I recently learned through another blogger – it refers to concepts such as nature getting a break from humans because of this virus being a positive thing i.e. what our “the earth is healing, humans were the virus” folks believe) isn’t something I can support, I am grateful for this odd and sudden reconnection some of us are having with the natural world. I have watched more sunsets in the past couple weeks than I did in the few months before. I don’t know whether London’s skies have cleared out in this time, but I did notice brighter stars in the night sky and actually spent some time looking at them. My brother reported seeing the same in Dhaka – it’s entirely possible these stars were there all along and we just hadn’t ever slowed down enough to look. My mom keeps saying the birds around our house are louder than ever – but maybe they just had been drowned out by all the city noises before.
When life goes back to normal, our streets are jammed with vehicles and long commutes become part of the routine again, maybe we’ll remember this time and know that even in big urban cities, it was possible to experience nature, it was there all along. I hope we’ll learn to dial down our busy lives even without a horrible virus at loose and enjoy what the natural world has to offer us.
Looking for hopeful moments during a global pandemic is hard. But if any good is coming out of this terrible situation at all, in terms of learnings, lessons, and experiences, it would be a pity not to notice it. If you’ve noticed anything good in your life lately, let me know. Let the other people in your life know. We could all do with some good news these days.