If I were to describe the first weeks of the quarantine, I would have to include this acronym—FOMO.
Before the pandemic, I was quite the busy guy and I’m in a social circle where being busy is, somehow, a bragging right.
But once the quarantine started, I was left with plenty of extra time. It turns out that most of my time to begin with was spent commuting or other small stuff that continuously adds up. So, what did I do with that extra time in my hand? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And I regret nothing.
At first, everyone around me started to work on their quarantine bodies, enrolled in more online courses than they could possibly finish, and started their “journey to improve themselves.” Initially, I was feeling a lot of FOMO because everyone was probably going to lose weight, learn new skills, and come out of the quarantine as brand new people.
Turns out, there was nothing to be afraid of. I’m really glad that I decided to lay back for a bit.
Of course, I kept my daily routine. I never skipped a sun salutation (surya namaskar) and kept writing on various online mediums, got a few side-gigs, and continued to attend online music therapy sessions that my close friend was hosting. But I didn’t do anything extra, and willfully wasted all the extra time I had on my hands.
There’s a story I’d like to share that I only was able to totally make sense of during quarantine. It’s called “The Tale of Two Lumberjacks” and while there are a lot of different takes on the story, this version is closest to the one my mother told me when I was much younger.
The tale talks about two strong, hardworking lumberjacks who lived in the woods. The first would get up early and get right to work. He’d work for hours without ever stopping and return to his home with bloody hands, 10 logs, and a feeling of accomplishment.
The second lumberjack would wake up early in the morning as well, but he’d take his time to sharpen his ax, have a good breakfast, and take frequent breaks to listen to the forest when necessary. This second lumberjack would return to his home without bloody hands, 15 logs, and a feeling of accomplishment.
The second lumberjack got more done in less time and he didn’t exert himself whilst doing it.
I always believed I understood the message behind this short story, and I thought of myself as someone who did take the time to sharpen my blade. But, as it turns out, I was just focusing on other things instead of stopping, taking a step back, and enjoying things.
In other words, sharpening my ax may not necessarily mean going on holidays or multitasking other activities.
Because if my mind is still on all the work I am doing, and if I don’t give myself enough time to breathe, appreciate the present, and just get away from the “to-dos” in my life, I’m not truly sharpening my ax—I’m just exerting myself and probably dulling another tool I might use for another task.
When we’re drowned in our routines it’s easy to be pulled away from the present moment. This quarantine has helped me see myself from the outside without constantly focusing on what I’m doing and what will I be doing next.
So, while I was doing absolutely nothing in order to be more productive in my spare time, I found that when I was working I was more productive than ever. I was able to appreciate a good evening view from my balcony, the taste of a well-brewed coffee, or just a good song.
Since I started working remotely, I’ve enjoyed my work and work hours more than ever. I’ve even started to get things done faster.
I’ve become more mindful, even if I don’t meditate as much as I used to.
I feel much healthier even though I don’t work out as much as I used to—and I might have even gained a few pounds.
Most importantly, I am able to appreciate myself even if I don’t put as much effort into how I look as I used to.
But who cares? Life is all about enjoying it. And that’s why I wrote this article. I think I’m not the only one who feels bad when hearing about how people have lost weight, learned a new hobby, or improved themselves. Let’s lay back, sharpen our axes, appreciate the forest surrounding us, and we will emerge as better versions of ourselves.