What do you do then? When you are used to being or acting busy, but you do not have to anymore? Do you lie that you are indeed busy? Do you pick your phone up and text away your idleness pretending like you just got a new IPhone? I mean, what do you really do under such circumstances. Do you even have to do anything in the first place? How would the “World” perceive you in that state of being still? Come to think of it, when did we start caring so much about public opinion? These questions kept popping up in my mind in the first days of the #StayHome/social-distancing campaign. Staring at my 5-year old computer, which stood tall on my reading table, I thought of the next steps, of my plan to adjust to the changes that life had wrath on us. On the first day, I barely got anything done. The second day, I tried reading a book, but I hardly made it past the first page.
How would the “World” perceive you in that state of being still?
For some strange reason I felt like I was supposed to do something bigger and better, you know. More like writing hundreds of lines of code, building a robot, reviewing some literature about energy systems. Nothing could work at all. I would start each of those activities but lose morale after a minute or two. Is it discipline that I lacked? I wondered; but I still woke up at 6am to the sound of my alarm, like nothing had changed. At this point, I realized it was an inner battle, an attempt to convince my mind to transition from one state to another and accept the new norm. The burden of guilt you feel when previously perceived productivity is turned around can be quite overwhelming. You may even find yourself cleaning the house twice or even thrice.
The burden of guilt you feel when previously perceived productivity is turned around can be quite overwhelming.
Well, I finally decided to do what I do in such times; I pressed pause on the whole movie, took my time to try and resolve my dilemma; why I had this restless feeling. Then it struck me like a lightning bolt; this probably dates back to my early years, the last decade of the 20th Century (don’t overthink it, it’s the years preceding 2000). My mother never let me stay in bed in the morning. This lady essentially woke me up to get ready for…. I honestly do not know what, but she just did it every day, unabated. She could grab that blanket like an eagle snatching a biddy. Unlike eagles, she’d drop off the beddings in the living room. A few years elapsed and I moved to my Uncle’s place; it was just the same; though without the blanket part – in this area of the world visitors are treated better until the 4th day of the visit.
She could grab that blanket like an eagle snatching a biddy.
I later asked him why he was so hellbent on making my sleep-experience a nightmare, to which he responded; with a calm voice as though he had examined my future already, “Tonie, there is no need to stay in bed when everyone[I am] is up. You have got to keep yourself busy as a man; otherwise, you might become a nuisance in the future.” In retrospect, this merely meant that staying in bed was a sign of passivity, unproductivity and could mean failure in life. Later, I started taking on tasks at home, doing unnecessary chores and all. At the end of these, I could go – let’s say sneak, and watch TV. Sneak because watching TV was part of the unproductive activities that had no place in my parents’ house.
Tonie, there is no need to stay in bed when everyone[I am] is up. You have got to keep yourself busy as a man; otherwise, you might become a nuisance…
Just a knock on the door would push me into some semblance to be doing something productive; there is this one time I grabbed a flat iron and went to the sink! My mother wondered why I was washing the flat iron. Fast forward to my first job; I noticed that every time the supervisor came by, everyone would rush to their desks and feign to be getting some work done. It was not dependent on the task they had at hand, or if they had just completed their assignments, they always wanted to stay busy. The dramatic playout reminded me a lot about my childhood and everything wrong with the system – I and you, my dear reader, are part of. How did we all get to this point? That even when there is nothing to do, we feel the urge to pretend to be busy?
How did we all get to this point? That even when there is nothing to do, we feel the urge to pretend to be busy?
Society set a tune, and we all danced! It didn’t matter whether it was good or bad. If you are not doing anything, you are not progressing, and hence you are on the road to nowhere; this is utterly wrong. What we are not told is that being busy does not equate to being productive, you are not told that you could do more in less time if you made room to rest creatively. What do firefighters do when there are no fires? How often do fires happen anyway? Not often. Imagine this, someone trains to be a firefighter for a significant part of their lifetime and then they get to work only once or twice a week! What do they do with the rest of the time? Probably write books, music and movies, lift weights, do sports; you would think. How many prominent writers, musicians or sportsmen do you know that are firefighters? Not many, right?
The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.Norman Schwarzkopf
The point is, you do not have to pretend to be busy, you should understand that it’s okay to pause, and you should not feel bad about it. But also understand that in this nothingness, you have an opportunity to prepare for the things you have always wanted to become; you can train your mind to perceive and be those things you want to be. It was Norman Schwarzkopf who said; The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. You want to be a leader, look for those characteristics leaders have; thoughtfulness, compassion, kindness, etc.; start with your family and practice those aspects. Do not beat yourself up for having too much time on your hands, whatever it is you want to be, just stay ready. Staying still and thinking about it in silence is part of the process.