Monday, May 25, 2020

Life in Lockdown: Some Perspectives and Musings

As Singapore enters the final week of what has now been seven weeks of “circuit breaker” measures limiting people to the walls of their personal cocooned sanctuaries in order to curb the spread of Covid-19, I have put together some reflections on life during lockdown. 

Of course, I am acutely aware that my musings on the current situation may sound utterly mundane and reek of privilege. One doesn't need to drive a Bentley, be dripping with jewels, have holiday homes tucked away in picturesque corners or go jet-setting to exotic lands at the drop of a hat to recognize that they still have it better than many. This fact inadvertently disconnects people like us from the swarming millions of less fortunate around the world whose reflections will be focused on whether they will eat today or whether they will receive the medical care they need to live to see another day or what the future holds for their children as they have for several weeks now. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have not lost our livelihood or incomes substantially affected, to have escaped the physical and mental burden of being a "health hero", to have remained healthy and to have still retained the same quality of life (sans the excesses), are so far removed from the alternate reality, that we may as well be living in another world.

It is during unprecedented crises like these where we can witness, on one hand, people inconsiderately hoarding provisions, medical supplies and whining about restricted freedom of movement whilst riding out the pandemic in relative comfort versus the other, struggling to keep a roof over their heads, keep their kids in school and put food on the table. The pandemic not only has exposed but also exacerbated the grotesque inequalities of humankind. But having said that, my reality is what it is and for that, I can only be humbly grateful.

With that, here are some thoughts that have stemmed from these past few strange weeks,

  • I've realized the misconception of alone equals lonely. Indulging in 'mindful solitude' with a view to restore, rest and gain insight into our inner selves is liberating to say the least. Safely ensconced in our comfort zone away from the glare of public perception (both offline and online!) gives way to a life that is unspoiled, authentic and filter-free. I now understand that social distancing should not be viewed as a punishment but rather, a reward in the guise of much-needed social detox. 
  • I've realized that women truly are the backbone of every family. Unfortunately, the lockdown has only reinforced the inequalities between men and women the world over. It has highlighted the  obvious that mothers (particularly of young children) are some of the least appreciated and hardest-working people on earth. During times like these, even a household that "prides" itself on having man who is involved with domestic duties like cooking, housework and childcare will reveal that it is still the woman doing the lion's share of the work regardless of whether she has a career or not. I am not saying this so much from personal experience because we have been fortunate enough to have live-in domestic help so we only have had to fit in homeschooling and some voluntary cooking into our "new-normal" routine but I have observed that the domestic gender disparity has been a recurring theme in most households. In a majority of families, men can easily work remotely with lots of free time to spare but women often have to juggle both "working from home" and "working at home" thus disproportionately bearing the brunt of the physical and mental labor. 
  • I've realized that I can spend my free time so much more wisely. Instead of channeling precious minutes browsing trashy entertainment news, trawling social media platforms, engaging in pointless "communication" on chat groups and indulging in unnecessary online shopping, I can take an online educational course, complete a painting or two, finish a brain teasing jigsaw puzzle, watch illuminating documentaries on Netflix, read books, practice meditation and devote more time time to writing.
  • I've realized that starting a blog a decade ago and more importantly, sticking with it through the years is something that has added value to my life in more ways than I ever imagined. Not just as a treasure trove of favourite recipes that I have been turning to every now and then but as a virtual record of my personal growth and evolution as well as a timeless keeper of cherished memories. My blog is an extension of my personality, my thoughts and my journey. This time spent in isolation has served as a profound reminder to never give up on it. 
  • I've realized the ONLY obstacle to getting exercise is the lack of motivation. That exercise isn't limited to going to the gym, the stadium, the pool or fitness classes. Going for a walk or run in the neighborhood (while maintaining safe distancing!) and working out at home is indeed possible, the prerequisites being determination and a positive attitude. I have never been more appreciative or grateful for the lovely canal and walking trail that is located a stone's throw away from my home. It has brought me so much joy, peace and positivity during the past weeks. 
  • I've realized that my little ones don't need a roomful of expensive toys, endless electronic gadgets or a line-up of exhaustive art and craft projects to pass time. All it takes is a foldable mattress, a few cardboard boxes, soft toys, bedsheets, two flashlights and most importantly, a vivid imagination to keep them engaged for hours, day on end! 
  • I've realized that from a child's perspective, a tub filled with bubbles can be just as fun as splashing in a swimming pool. That playing a board game as a family can be just as fun as a trip to the park. That letting them attempt their own culinary creations while making a mess, leaving things imperfect and making mistakes can be not only be exciting but a learning experience. That having the undivided attention of a parent reading a storybook to them can turn into the highlight of their day.   
  • I've realized that education and exams are overrated. There are so many life skills and lessons that do not come out of a classroom. 
  • I've realized that a walk outside with the family can not only get those languid limbs in motion but is a wonderful opportunity for candid, insightful and funny conversations. 
  • I've realized that the process of creating, presenting and savouring food really can alleviate boredom and stress in a way that I had never contemplated before. Despite cooking and consuming a LOT of food during this time, I've learned more about smart ways of grocery shopping, minimizing food waste, re-purposing ingredients and cultivating sustainable kitchen practices in these few weeks than the whole of my pre-pandemic life combined.
  • I've realized that the people who take the time to check in on you and your family during trying times like these are the ones who really matter. It has also made me recognize and value authentic relationships - the ones based on openness, confidence, trust and integrity. 
  • I've realized that despite having black thumbs (there has been more than enough incriminating evidence accumulated over the years!), I will HAVE to master the skill of growing (at least some) fresh produce and make sure to pass this valuable skill to my kids.
  • I've realized that I have got to SLOW down. We often go through life in autopilot mode without even being aware of it. Stopping to smell the roses is largely bypassed. I have always placed importance on making memories but I needed a reminder to experience them wholeheartedly rather than merely using them as a glossy advertisement for social media.
  • But most importantly, I've realized how grateful I am for the things I so easily tend to take for granted - my job, financial security, my freedom, my friends and family and my health. This experience has emphasized the importance of cherishing the people that I love, taking care of my mental and physical health and living a life of purpose, contentment and gratitude. 

So far, 2020 has played out somewhat like a Stephen King horror novel. Life has changed in ways we never imagined and we are all still adapting. There are more questions than answers. I don't know how long this virus is going to be with us. I don't know how far we are from finding a cure or vaccine. I don't know how long the social and economic repercussions of this pandemic are going to play out. There is a lot of uncertainty in life right now but I do know that there is always a silver lining in the grander scheme of things. The world stands in solidarity against an invisible enemy and as is characteristic of the indomitable human spirit, we SHALL overcome.

Continue to stay safe folks. Much love! đź’–

What life lessons have you learned during this lockdown? Leave a message to let me know!


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