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The pandemic left me feeling confused and isolated; I watched my life go by in a surreal manner.
Every day was the same repetitive routine—waking up, doing household chores, taking a late shower, eating, sleeping, tea time, reading, watching television, dinner, and sleeping to repeat again.
Let’s not forget procrastination in between wasting time online shopping, googling, or idling away on social media. Furthermore, the endless, pointless, and frustrating arguments within the household in which we feel imprisoned.
This mundane timetable left me thinking—maybe overthinking. I became a recluse. I did not want to speak with people because I had nothing to say to them. I would think their lives must be exciting compared to my boring one. They must be busy with their online work, or their children, or their household chores, they may be resting. I couldn’t phone them. And anyway, if they wanted to speak with me, they could phone me. These became my daily excuses to avoid calling people I could generally talk to.
The more I dived into isolation, the more I was unable to connect with people, and the increase in effort to do so became obvious as each day passed. Until one day, I realised I didn’t really need to connect with anybody.
Although, I was alone and started to feel lonely, I decided to fill my time with various aspects. I had to inculcate certain traits before I could move on. It was a self-coping mechanism, which I encapsulated in order to survive the loneliness. I had to become stronger to encounter the bitter situation.
Here are seven things I learned and embraced to connect with myself:
1. We learn to become our own best friend:
When we appreciate the time we spend with ourselves, it helps us to know ourselves better. Most of our lives, we spend time adjusting to other people’s demands or way of living so we do not become a burden to their lives. We tend to get lost in the demands—requests at home and work—and we end up losing ourselves. Time spent alone allows introspection and space to reflect on our lives.
>> I began to spend oodles of time with myself making natural, homemade beauty remedies for skin and hair, cooking, screen shopping, deep cleaning the house, and reading (not the newspaper due to its negative news of Covid every day).
>> There were days when I just wanted to Netflix, and that was okay too. All the reading made me realise that I had to be kind to myself and put myself first. I was slowly becoming comfortable in my little cocoon I had created. I didn’t need anyone.
>> I read every day and from all genres of authors because I want to become an author one day. So, in a way, I was fulfilling my ambition or working toward it by reading as much as I could because I wasn’t writing yet. I wasn’t writing because I didn’t have any ideas yet. In a way, I was deferring the writing but also honing my skills as a writer.
Two famous people confirmed how I was feeling:
“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” ~Ernest Hemingway
“If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot write a lot.” ~ Stephen King
2. We learn how to encourage ourselves:
We need others to encourage, guide, reassure, and motivate us. In a household environment or at the workplace amongst friends and colleagues, we chat over our life or work-related issues. Sharing problems with others helps to ebb away our insecurities and makes life easier. However, it was hard to do this during the pandemic.
>> There were days I didn’t feel like doing anything. If I wasn’t in the mood to do a particular household chore—like changing the bedsheets and washing the old ones—I would motivate myself by putting on some music. Other times, I would reason with myself that if the sheets are changed, I would be lying in pristine clean, fresh sheets. There’s nothing like that clean feeling!
>> I would think of the positives and do the work. I would also say to myself that I needed to keep doing something or else I would get bored and lethargic and depressed. Setting targets worked for me. Each day, I thought of something to do for the next day. And on most days, I would end up doing more than I thought I would. I think this was because I got carried away. Mostly, if one is productive in the early hours of the day, it usually continues until the evening. However, I would reach burnout by 9 p.m. By this time, I could only read, write, or simply watch something.
3. We learn to counsel ourselves:
If anything goes wrong in life, we usually turn to our best friend, sibling, parents, or a partner. We reach out. We need human interaction to keep us sane and healthy, a human touch to make sure that whatever it is that we are doing, it is okay to do so. It helps to talk and lightens our mood, enabling us to carry on with life and its challenges.
>> When things would go astray, I would counsel myself. For example, I had written a story for a website, but they edited the essence of the story and changed the plot completely. It devastated me and totally deflated my confidence. But once again, I talked to myself, read good, positive quotes about the hardships of successful people during their early days of struggle. It prepped me up again to keep on writing and reading.
4. We learn to console ourselves:
We all remember and crave the pre-pandemic days to return. Remember when we used to pick up the phone or message a friend to meet us for a coffee so we could pour out all our sorrows to each other? Those comforting, positive words of a loved one, which gave us the courage to move on, was missing during the pandemic. I had to find other ways.
>> Since I had become my own best friend, I had to do this too. Anything that put me down—bad news concerning family, friends, relatives—was looming around me all the time. I would try and distract myself by keeping busy as much as I could. Consoling myself became a habit. It further reinstated the fact that I was okay by myself and did not need anyone else’s advice on anything. I didn’t want to share my innermost thoughts with anybody. I didn’t want to feel vulnerable or weak or seem unable to handle my feelings. I was okay doing it by myself.
5. We learn to talk to ourselves in a kind way:
Whenever we are with others or even alone, we talk to ourselves in our head. However, we do this more often when alone. It happens by default. We reassure, guide, question, and seek our own opinion whatever we may be doing, constantly.
>> I was living life in my head. I was comforting myself, pushing myself to do things, and I was motivating myself—and it seemed fine. Nobody seemed bothered by this because they were busy with their own daily routine to overlook my thoughts and behaviour. I was busy and distanced myself from everybody, as I did not want to be a hindrance in his or her progress. I was comfortable being my own buddy.
6. We learn to be brave:
We often play it safe in life, and we miss out on adventure, learning new things and different opportunities. We may avoid the unknown due to fear, and hold ourselves back from exploring our potential.
>> As I spoke to myself, I healed too. I wanted to do more of the unknown. I began to explore. I started to feel the need to get out of the comfort zone.
>> I started to read books in a different language (I managed to read three) as a challenge to myself.
>> I wanted to learn two things in the lockdown (or pandemic days): how to ride a bike, and how to play chess. Although, I have not been brave enough to learn how to ride a bike (and there is nobody to help or teach me), I am regular at playing chess. I taught myself by reading all the rules. A game or two daily keeps me abreast with the rules.
>> I did something, which I haven’t done in years. I applied for a job (online teaching for the underprivileged). It took three days of umpteen times of adding, deleting, and editing multiple slides. I revised how to go on Zoom, which took a few hours to get used to. I didn’t want the job; I just wanted to do something challenging; to prove to myself that I could still do it; that I was still capable. I wanted to feel uncomfortable, tense, and nervous because that would mean that I was still alive. I wasn’t anxious about approaching the interview but more so of getting out of my comfort zone of living an easy, predictable life. Praising, admiring, and inspiring myself that I had done this; I patted myself on my back.
7. We learn to rise above our circumstances:
The elation one feels when one has learned the unfamiliar is huge.
It’s as if we have discovered a hidden treasure from a deep cave. The confidence is at its peak and we feel we can conquer anything. It’s therapeutic, and even better, we find ourselves owning our own feelings.
After all I have gone through alone, during and after the pandemic, I feel I haven’t done too badly. I have tried my best to keep going, to rise above the odds.
Reading positive quotes, meditation, reading books and keeping busy have helped a great deal. Loving myself, trying not to please others all the time, doing only the maximum of what is possible and putting myself first (still need to work on this) have also helped.
Being by myself, not disturbing others, or invading their space has worked for me because I am an ambivert, more inclined toward an introvert. I am not scared to be by myself; I enjoy my own company, but yes, being a human, at times, I do long to share my feelings, but I seem to be quite at ease being in my own thoughts too.
One could go as far as to say, I am becoming a stronger person because I don’t need approval of others and happy making my own choices and decisions without anyone’s influence.
A sense of empowerment has engulfed me, and this liberation demands respect from others.