Week 10 of quarantine is winding down, and some things just hit different. At least, that’s according to social media. In a world turned upside down, we are constantly surprised: surprised by the things we miss, the things we don’t, the things that are hard, and those that are easy. Above all, we find ourselves surprised by the things that we notice.
I can’t tell you how many times over these past ten weeks that I have been walking down my street and seen, really seen, something for the first time. A flower box, the color of a front door, a sign. Each time, I’m amazed. Was I seriously moving so fast before that I never noticed that? Or was it routine-induced numbness?
And it’s not just my surroundings; I’ve also started to notice things about myself. I need more time alone to recharge than I thought I did. I love walking just to walk. I’ve been disappointed by some of my relationships that have faded with distance, and pleasantly surprised by some that have grown into great sources of strength. I’ve found that music is healing.
Above all, with all socializing stripped away, travel suspended, work slowed to a near halt and discretionary spending habits stifled, I have been forced to ask myself: What do I truly enjoy doing? What is the purpose of my free time, when I have finally caught up on my errands and obligations?
The lack of structure during this quarantine has exposed all the areas of my life I was living by default rather than design, and that’s terrifying. And while this may be the first time I’m experiencing this, the problem of routine-induced blindness is centuries old. Luckily, so is the solution.
“Quarantine has exposed all the areas of my life I was living by default rather than design.”
Beginner’s mindset is a term used often in meditation, and at the root of many mindfulness practices. If you aren’t into meditation, hear me out. Beginner’s mindset tells us to approach everything as if it was our first time. As if we’ve never done it before or seen it before. As if we aren’t jaded, don’t yet know the unspoken rules (real or perceived) that bog down so many of our decisions.
Approaching our daily routines with fresh eyes unleashes a world of possibility. And it doesn’t have to take a pandemic to get there. We can start with daily tasks, observing them from a child’s perspective. For example, if you are washing dishes, would your younger self have been amazed by the formation of the bubbles? If you are walking the dog, would your younger self have delighted in her playfulness & curiosity rather than reacting with frustration? It may seem simple, but this paradigm shift is exceptionally powerful.
As I returned to my tiny New York City apartment yesterday to collect my things, I fought off nostalgia for the life I led just 3 months ago. But as I stared out my window into the vacant street, I couldn’t help but see opportunity in the emptiness. Sometimes we need to wipe the slate clean to start over.