The Belvedere Journal
Productivity is Overrated: Looking After Yourself In A Pandemic
I have not yet learned mandarin or how to bake a lemon meringue pie, nor have I painted my bedroom or even learned a TikTok dance. The truth is, dear reader, I am a massive slob.
Before I start, I must apologise. I have been an incredible hypocrite in writing a piece on productivity, because I, Margaret S, have not yet learned mandarin or how to bake a lemon meringue pie, nor have I painted my bedroom or even learned a TikTok dance. The truth is, dear reader, I am a massive slob.
I spend all day on my phone, for example. I need social media right now, as do the majority of people clinging onto sanity (including my grandmother, who, from a regal family of technophobes, stands as Duchess Viceroy of Not Understanding Facebook) , but the constant glow-ups and makeovers and redoes I scroll past and often watch does not aid my wellbeing or the calamity of oppressing emotions weighing down on me as my contact with friends and family is cut down to the last digital cord. These emotions, bad enough on their own, lead me to the sense that there has been an unrightful misconduct in my identity: what if I have always felt this way, and the Normal Life of Normal Times was just a distraction? What about me is real? I feel as though I have discovered the truth outside of the Platonic Cave and come back to the cave-dwellers of my own mind. Overall, I think it’s fair to say that I’m a bit confused right now.
I think deep down in each of us there is this hideous little monster who begs us to stay in bed for just ten minutes more, to just have one bottle or biscuit or just watch one more episode. ‘Just’, the little monster cries, and we obey him, because all he says is so very justified by us just wanting to listen to him. And then we have just one more and just another and just this, it will be the last, I promise, maybe just... And it’s not really our fault that we can’t stop because we were raised in a capitalist society in the age of binge-culture. Somehow, I don’t think “Are you still watching?” is a recognisable reference in North Korea.
But back to the little monster. At the moment, he tells us deadlines aren’t real, that a schedule isn’t needed because we have so much more time now and that everyone else is staying in bed all day, so why can’t we? He tells us to stop looking after ourselves as much, because who are we doing it for? There’s no point in doing anything for ourselves, because we don’t matter, not really. All we are is our place in other people’s worlds, and now we are nothing.
The monster is a very ugly bloke, but very charismatic, in the way the funnier politician is charismatic, so a lot of us listen to him. His manifesto is a poor one, and makes no sense for improving our lives, but he’s the option much more suited for our temporary wants and much easier to choose.
We have monsters for many different reasons. But it’s important to know that whilst we have our demons, and we have our joy. We have that day when we see our friends again, or the day when I get to hug my Facebook-hating granny. Yet that day is not now: now you have an opportunity to fight that ugly little guy.
Anytime not getting sick in a literal global pandemic is time well spent, but it’s definitely time bettered if you finally spend the time to be around yourself for a while. If I am blank, as I fear, it allows my mind to go blank, and that, ironically, can open up a realm of possibilities.
I like myself now. It’s an incredibly hard process, but without so much time alone, I wouldn’t have been able to. Right now, in Normal Times, I’d be sitting in an exam hall, calling myself stupid for not remembering the Sine Rule and then been revising until one in the morning because I just needed the best grades because I just needed to get into the good university because I just needed this perfect, just perfect, worldview of Margaret S. Yet I myself didn’t seem to know who that was.
I am terrified of my grades being bad in August. But, I have no power over them anymore, and can do no work. I wish I hadn’t stressed myself out so much. Maybe then I would have worked harder instead of crying as much.
And reading that back, I see, once again, that I’m a hypocrite for writing this. Some monsters work us too hard and then not at all, I guess. Mindfulness has helped me to like myself, though. Maybe tomorrow I’ll look up how to make a lemon meringue cake, not just because every else is baking right now, or just because I need something to fill my hours and distract me from myself, but because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I deserve to do it.
View this time not as a time of loneliness, but as a time of being alone. Because often moments of self-realization do not come in the midst of a party or move to the big city as so many coming of age films had lead me to believe, but in moments of sitting still and controlling one’s breathing whilst sitting in a comfortable armchair.
Knowing who we are allows us to do anything, including making the little monster a lot more small. I know that one day we will all be together, but until then, squash the little guy and finally take the time to like yourself.