The days blur and time feels like it’s going too slow and too fast at the same time. Moving from bed to desk to bed has been a lot of what my life looks like right now. So, it’s no surprise that I find myself struggling to be happy during these blurry days.
Feeling a shroud of negativity over me, my friends’ innocent ‘How are you?’ texts are adulterated by responses like ‘‘My parents are driving me crazy’, or ‘I hate being stuck at home.’
Not only do I feel trapped in the confines of four bare walls, but the constant flashing of my phone with COVID updates does not do my mood any favors.
Realizing that I didn’t want to feel like this — I challenged myself to follow a tip recommended by Neil Pasricha in his book The Happiness Equation: to do a 20 minute replay. He suggested that by writing about one thing that made you happy everyday, you relive that moment which makes you happier.
During this COVID time, I know that I have a privileged position and there is a lot to be happy about — my health, my family and friends health and well being, the access to the internet to connect with people, and my job.
But when I had to take pen to paper, despite being truly grateful, it was difficult to pinpoint a moment in my day that made me happy.
So I began to look beyond the surface to find things that gave me joy. Soon my pages were filled, with small, seemingly mundane things in my day that made me happy. The following are just three examples from my journal.
- The toppling of jenga.
I know what you must be thinking — Dips, you are supposed to avoid letting the tower fall. Trust me my competitive self makes sure that I am not the one responsible for the tower’s collapse.
There is not a lot that my family does together. I am usually busy with work, my mom makes herself busy by over-zealously cleaning the house and making food, my sister has her classes, and my dad always manages to find some paperwork to engage in.
The little overlap in our day to day activities, makes it feel like we live in silos.
I never expected Jenga to be the bridge to our silos as we round up around our living room table and play together. But there are different moments in jenga and those moments are not created equal.
There is the set up — easily my least favorite part, so I exercise my ‘big sister card’ and leave it to my younger sister to build. There are the ‘strategic’ components of the game that bring silence in our house — where everyone intently watches as we take blocks out and carefully stack them on each other.
But my favorite part is the topping of pieces. When the tower collapses, the sudden sound of the blocks crashing on our living room table and the roar of everyone screaming ‘oh no’ fills the room. And we all break into laughter (and shaming the person that brought it down).
It’s fun and the tumbling of the pieces has brought laughter to our house even during these awful times.
2. My morning cup of chai:
Chai (No, not chai tea!), is a delicacy that I really enjoy. But making chai is an endeavor that leaves you with a great brew but takes a lot of time to make, a couple of dishes that are difficult to wash, and most importantly takes a lot of time to fully savor.
Therefore, in the pre-COVID world, the ‘chai process’ could only be embarked on the weekends because I decided to sacrifice my chai for some more sleep during my busy weekday mornings — a trade-off I still think long and hard about.
But during the COVID period, I get to indulge in chai every morning.
Writing and thinking more holistically (and trying hard to take up the full 20 minutes of my replay) — has made me realize that I am not just in love with the taste of chai (because have I mentioned- how delicious it is), but the process of making chai. Making chai is a form of art I engage in every morning. It’s an evolving and disappearing form of art — where the water, dash of milk, and spices are combined in such a way that it produces chai. And then fully consumed to the point where it has vanished from my mug.
The process brings me a sense of accomplishment. But during this time it also gives me something to rely on. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I will have this cup of chai at 8am the next morning.
3. Refusing that piece of chocolate.
Specifically, the beautifully gold wrapped ferrero rocher chocolate that keeps calling my name.
I love chocolates. If given the opportunity (and if I were blessed with a better metabolism), I would eat chocolate with every meal. During this time, I, like a lot of others, am baking a lot. (Yes- I found some baking powder during my last grocery run).
But I am also given the power of self control. Self control to say no to things I know just won’t serve me today. Today it was saying no to a piece of chocolate, tomorrow it will be no to the negative thoughts that creep into my head.
All these moments have shown me that the way I perceive a situation is on me. I may not have control over the circumstances or the specifics of what was happening, but I do have control over the way I perceive that situation. There is a lot of beauty around me, I just need to control my mind to fully appreciate it. And the first step for me, is saying no to the piece of chocolate, or to find beauty in chai, or to find laughter in not so laughable moments.
My experience is likely not unique. I think we are all finding solace in the mundane during this troubling period. But it is the small moments that matter especially during this time when big moments have no option but to be celebrated in small ways.