It’s raining for the first time in weeks. The clouds outside my window are dark and heavy with built up water droplets, and the drizzle has not subsided after several hours of ongoing rainfall. And whilst before a rainy day would have annoyed me slightly, and would have made me change my plans, today I welcome it with a sense of relief. Finally the weather matches the lockdown situation.
Rain always brings me a sense of stillness and focus, because this is the time when most people retreat to the warm and dry indoors, when parks clear out, and when the sounds of human life are drowned out by those of the sky – the distant rumbles of thunder, the splashing of puddles, and the pitter-patter of droplets. As I follow the course of the raindrops sliding down the window, I realise that my thoughts have quietened down for the first time in a while.
Ever since quarantine began, my inbox is bombarded daily with ‘Tips on How to Stay Productive at Home’ and ‘Beating Boredom in Home-bound times’, as well as endless online events and courses aimed to ‘make the most’ out of all the ‘extra time’ we have. And I have to admit, I was caught up in it all, signing up to all kinds of webinars and taking numerous courses all at once, desperate to fill up all this time at home with ‘productive’ and ‘beneficial’ activities.
Even when I went for walks I would listen to ‘educational’ podcasts, and from the moment I woke up till the moment I went to bed I would put on music because I had become accustomed to hearing people around me most of the time. Whilst the first couple of weeks went well and I got a lot done, by the third week I started to feel like my focus was waning, no matter how much caffeine, sugar, or stretching/exercise breaks I took. Sometimes my mind would just be elsewhere, even though physically I was not tired as I was getting more rest than I have had in a while.
I had forgotten to make time and space for boredom and quiet.
Before lockdown these seemingly insignificant moments where I let myself daydream were scattered throughout the day, usually when commuting to work, or on the way to see a friend, or when waiting for a bus, or walking to the gym. Now, with everyone at home and most people (at least in London) with access to a wifi connection, it seems as though everyone is perpetually ‘available’, and that it can be more difficult than ever to have moments of simply doing nothing.
In our capitalistic society, being ‘busy’ is already used as a status symbol, and now that we do not ‘waste’ time on commuting and seeing friends as much as before, I feel as though life has become chaotically hyper-productive, to a point where whenever we feel like we are not performing as well as we could and when we are not as focused as usual, feelings of guilt creep in. After speaking to family and friends I understood that such sentiments are not exclusive to me.
Being at home is more confronting than I imagined. It takes a lot more conscious effort to take time out in the day to let my mind have a break, to actively invite rest and boredom into my life. A cluttered mind is a chaotic one, and my habit of multitasking and constantly switching my attention between different tasks prevents me from getting into a focused state of flow I so enjoy.
Sometimes I remind myself to take walks without external stimulation and just be present with nature, or to take out a couple of minutes in the day to daydream. The value of boredom and nothingness can easily be forgotten, but whenever these are absent from my life I feel the effects profoundly.