From the Heart, Home

Start Somewhere

A few weeks ago, I delivered a speech at a local Toastmasters contest titled, “Enough”. The key takeaway from the speech was to enjoy one’s own company, to not miss out on things due to lack of company and believing that the best company worth spending time with, is one’s own.

It came up as a realization after a series of events in my life had pointed it out. That after all, the happiness that I was seeking elsewhere, was already within me, waiting to be found and nourished. However, despite the crucial realization, there was still not much I was doing to nurture the ‘me’ time. My Thursday eves and Fridays were hardly at home- I was meeting up friends, attending events, trying new restaurants, hitting the beach for late night discussions about life or simply heading out for a long drive with good music to set the mood. So, to balance the time spent outside, I’d let my Saturdays stay lazy wherein I’d catch up on the usual chores- cleaning, doing my laundry, and preparing a few meals for the week ahead to stop me from impulsively Zomato-fying my lunch and dinner.

I remember staying up late at my friend’s place and happened to come across a book lying there. The title seemed interesting. She was all praises about it.

“I love Sufi concepts and this book speaks about it in great detail. It’s not a typical love story”, she said while lending it to me.

I was so excited to discover the contents of the book. The following week, the Learning and Development Lead asked me if I preferred reading online.

“No, I have to have a physical book in my hand. I’m old school, I guess”, I jumped in to respond to her query. The most that I can read online is an article or, perhaps, a short story not more than 2000 words or so.

“Good for you, then. Here, take this”, she smiled while passing a self-development book to me.

“I could get your opinion and discuss about it sometime.”

“Sure, I’d love that. Thanks.”

That was about 2 months ago. I barely completed a quarter of the first one and the second one sits there as a lovely decoration in my room. So much for the excitement to read! I complained that there was not enough time, that I would definitely read it during the weekend but the weekend would pass in a blink and then hope that I would dedicate some time during the week, but the week would pass by too. This went on for a month until COVID-19 restrictions came into place. We were all working from home now. Yet, a month passed by and I couldn’t get myself to open the book. How hard could it be to make myself just sit down- with no cellphone beeping notifications in the background, no sudden urges to make a pilgrimage to the refrigerator, and no curiosity to know what happened after in the Netflix series I was watching? Pretty hard.

I’d be deceiving myself if I said that I didn’t have time now. As a matter of fact, I always had time. Just never enough to dedicate to reading. It wasn’t academic reading. There wasn’t an exam to take after the read. But I couldn’t do it.

The first few days at home, completely isolated, were not pleasant. The idea of an ideal weekend was totally screwed. I binged so much that weekend that it was over before I knew it.

I saw a post floating around social media that read, “If you don’t come out of this quarantine period with something productive, you never lacked time. You just lacked discipline.” Discipline has never been my strong suit anyway. And although that post had a lot of flaws attached to it, it hit me hard. On one hand, I am delivering a winning speech advocating the need to spend time with oneself and on the other, I haven’t actually done that yet. Living alone doesn’t count as me time. Bingeing on your favorite doesn’t count as me time. Scrolling through your Feed on social media doesn’t either. It gives you some disconnect from the world and provide a little entertainment, no doubt. But, that’s not what “Me time” is.

Nobody knew how long it would be until we went back to what we considered ‘normal’ lives.  And, I had to do something about it. I grabbed a pen and paper and began to scribble down a list. I wrote down a list of things that I had always wanted to do on it. I set a target of doing at least two of the activities from the list every week. Knowing the undisciplined person that I am, I’d be happy if I completed even one. It wasn’t about achieving something big. It was all about starting somewhere, starting small.

The first week, after I had procrastinated for 3 days already, I was able to begin learning to paint with Acrylics. I had never done that before. So, it was a big deal for me. As expected, that was the only thing that I could achieve that week. But it felt great! I was still Flixing but much less frequently as I hardly had any time left from working from home and working on the painting.

But the moment the painting was completed, I knew I would end up rewarding myself for the great work and slip into my old routine of scrolling through social media. This time, I set timers on my most used apps and allowed it to lock itself for the day, so I am conscious of the time that I let slide by. I would still go to settings and, each time, increase the number of minutes by a multiple of 5 just to be able to watch another video, read another post, or check out another story. But it was still working.

So far, I had two small goals achieved:

  1. Learn a new skill
  2. Limit social media

Before I knew, the entire month passed by and it felt amazing being able to do something productive. It was the first time in my life that I had gone so long without socializing and been by myself. And it wouldn’t be wrong to say that I happen to enjoy it. It sounded like my worst nightmare coming true when the lock down was initially declared. For an extrovert like me who thrived on events, hangouts and dinners with friends, this was a terrible thing to happen. But, there’s always a silver lining, they say.

I have almost completed my 5th item of my list- writing my thoughts down. Still haven’t gotten to reading those books, but I am getting there. It doesn’t sound that overwhelming now. I don’t have to complete it in a week. I just have to begin. And continue doing it, consistently.

Start somewhere. Start small. Enjoy the me time. A little discipline will make it happen. (Did I say discipline? 😉)

What does me- time mean to you? And are you really spending it qualitatively?


-28th April, 2020


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