For as long as I can remember, I have been writing 'to-do'-lists. And a good day, in my mind, meant a 'productive' day. A day when 'I got a lot done.' Especially high ranking on that list was creative endeavours. Such as writing.
I've never been able to spend a whole day in bed. Not even when freshly in love. Barely even when sick. In order to do so, I've got to be really sick, like being puke hungover. I suspect that the main reason for my binge-drinking (when I used to binge drink) was so that I could be hungover and out of commission for a whole day. And get some rest.
My mind is filled with shoulds. Inside my mind there's a voice who says: You should. That voice is so prevalent, that my journal echoes this voice, and I find myself writing, nearly every day; I should do this and that.
What would it be like if I instead did what I wanted to do?
Would I just day-drink, masturbate and watch YouTube? Or would I sit by the ocean, allowing everything, including myself, just to be the way it is? Perfect in its imperfection.
We are in the midst of a pandemic. It's not the first, and at the rate humanity is going, it surely won't be the last. Covid-19 could (and SHOULD) be a game-changer. It has exposed the absurdity of our culture. Racism and sexism is the water we swim in. And underpinning all of that structural inequality. We are obsessed with productivity. All the shoulds in my head haven't been authored by myself. As Indian philosopher Krishnamurti said: 'You think you are thinking your own thoughts, but you are thinking your culture's thoughts'
I wonder if my grandmother was equally disturbed by the finding of a grey hair, the sagging of the skin, as I am? I wonder, did she have as much FOMO as I do?
The other week, while on retreat at Italy's Amalfi Coast, I volunteered to help with cleaning up the beach. There had been a crazy storm. The fierceness of the winds had made the sea furious. And it wasn't hard to imagine that fury somehow also directed at us. The sea carried all the sun beds and umbrellas out to sea. And then the waves smashed them against the rocks and spit them back up onto the shores in pieces.
After the storm had passed and the sun had finally managed to shove the clouds out of the way, I went down to the beach, and found it full of garbage. I was chocked! It was my fourth time at this stunning place, and never before had I seen the beach anything but pristine. Little did I know that someone would clean the beach each morning. Because all kinds of garbage is carried onto the beach from the sea.
I spent about an hour picking up garbage, along with two lovely yogis. It was absolutely heart-breaking, but also eye-opening. I probably picked up twenty plus cigarette lighters, hundreds of plastic bottles, cans, Prosecco corks. We found flip-flops, toy parts, un-identifiable plastic -- even a syringe. But maybe worst of all, just shitloads of styrofoam. Usually broken into tiny little pieces, making it incredibly hard to pick up, and also deadly for the fish and birds who eat it, mistaking it for food.
This is where our obsession with productivity has gotten us! Oceans filled with plastic, the extinction of species, climate collapse. Anxiety, depression, burnout.
Why produce if it doesn't create value for humanity? Do we really need more stuff? More social media posts? More blog posts even?
As I was bending over on the beach, trying to pick those tiny styrofoam pellets nestled in between rocks and sand, I couldn't help but feel that we (humanity) deserve covid-19. We deserve climate change. We deserve our polluted sea. This could be a powerful wake-up call!
BUT, seeing the lines outside fast fashion purveyors such as Primark, Uniqlo and H&M just as the shops were allowed to open up after the coronavirus lockdown, somehow makes me doubt that we'll heed the seriousness of this message ...
But my plan, at least, for the foreseeable future is to find out who I am without all the shoulds, and also without a lot of the doing.