I remember being in Seoul for a work trip in mid-January (just a week or so before the virus outbreak in South Korea), and my colleague and I were discussing how things were quite bad in Wuhan and we hoped that it would be contained to just a few places and not disrupt lives overall. Little did we know.
I mean, if you’d told me then that we would be spending two, three, maybe four, months effectively “locked-in” at home, I would have laughed straight up. The spread of the virus, and the unprecedented actions that governments have had to take to combat its spread was not something any of us could have even wildly imagined.
So here we are. A little over 2 months into lock-down/quarantine season. It’s a chapter of our lives no one saw coming but speaking for myself here, I am learning to savor this period for whatever it’s worth. I do realize that I am unbelievably lucky – my family and I are able to stay at home without lacking much, and I know that to be even to say that is a blessing that I really do not take for granted.
The first few days were a real struggle, to be honest. From being out of the house for pretty much most of the day during weekdays to suddenly spending all the time at home, with everyone else also around, was a massive challenge for me (and I am guessing most people too). But within a couple of weeks, I think everyone found their own groove and we established a semblance of a routine which was a huge sanity savior.
Over these last two months, I have had some good days, and also a few really bad days, where my mind was just a bucketful of negative thoughts and emotions, and I had to work really hard to snap out of those phases. But on the whole, I am super thankful for this time, and for all that I have been blessed with.
Apart from all of the family time and especially time with my husband, these few things have been bringing me joy over the last 9-10 weeks, and I wanted to share them with you. And as always, I am super curious to know about what’s happening at your end, and what’s been bringing you joy of late? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!
I’ve never, ever been a podcast person. Barring that first season of Serial years ago, and before this quarantine season, I’d never much bothered with podcasts, because they were just one more form of “culture” to absorb, and I didn’t want to add one more item to the list of “pop culture” things to keep up with (keeping up with my reading and all the Netflix shows was hard enough as it was).
Anyway – fast forward to quarantine season, and I found myself actively seeking out podcast episodes to listen to on my walks and while I was cooking. They’ve been a total game-changer for me. I am now amazed at the world of information that is out there, literally free of cost, waiting to be just listened to. And seriously, kudos to so many incredible podcast hosts churning out such great content week after week after week. This is a list of my current favorite podcasts but a couple that I definitely want to mention here today are Self-Care Sunday, The Lavendair Lifestyle, Bad on Paper, and Second Life.
2| Zoom/Video-Call life
Again, this is totally something I did not expect to get into. I am such a typical introvert – I would rather text than call. Going into quarantine season, my preference was super clear:
Text/WhatsApp (but no read receipts!) >> Voice Call >> Video Call(nope, not gonna happen!)
And look at me now. I’ve got scheduled weekly calls with my parents & brother, a couple of friends groups, and I am also known to spontaneously do video calls with friends whenever the fancy strikes.
Who is this version of me? Spontaneous video calls? Seriously?
But all jokes apart, all these video calls are seriously giving me life. I’ve caught up with my closest girlfriends from school, some cousins, office friends, and even played quizzes with another group of friends. These video calls have become happy markers in my week and it really does feel good to connect with all these people who mean a lot to me.
In the pre-quarantine world, most of my cooking was restricted to the weekends and I had a bunch of recipes that were pretty much in constant rotation. Now that I am cooking a lot more, I’ve really busted out some new recipes, and I’ve been loving all this newness.
My absolute favorite so far has been making pizza from scratch. I’ve made it twice now and I seriously love it so much (and the rest of the family agrees). This recipe was absolutely perfect. Unlike what I thought, making the base is not a crazy amount of work, but I’d love to find a slightly healthier base version.
I’ve also been pouring over my cookbooks, and have tried out a few recipes from the Fresh India cookbook, as well as the Modern Lunch cookbook. I’ve bookmarked a few recipes from Ottenghi’s Simple cookbook that I am really eager to try out.
And then there’s the baking. These brownies are nearly foolproof and I’ve used this recipe so many times now. Oh, and of course, banana bread. I tried out the Bon Appétit recipe and while it turned out less bread-y and more cake-like, I loved it nonetheless and it was an absolute winner in my book. I’ve also baked lemon cake a bunch of times, and for my husband’s birthday, I tried out Molly Yeh’s tahini chocolate cake, and it was divine!
I’ve still got making fresh pasta on the agenda as well as bread. The lock-down here in Mumbai isn’t ending anytime soon, so I am sure I have a couple more weekends to try this out.
4| My newly-minted morning routine
Admittedly, it’s only been a couple of weeks since I’ve started this but it has seriously made so much of a difference to my mental health.
For the last two weeks, I’ve gotten up by 6.30/45am (that’s realllllllyyyyy early for me), then poured myself a big cup of hot water, lit up an incense stick, then taken my journal out to the balcony, and spent about 10-15 minutes journaling.
I also have a manifestation journal, which I am slowly filling out as well. Then I get in some kind of “morning movement”. Some days that looks like a walk within our building compound. Other days, it looks like a Melissa Wood Health flow or even a BBG workout.
I’ve loved incorporating this slow morning routine into my days, and I love getting this absolutely peaceful morning time to myself before I start off my day.
When the lock-down was announced in mid-March here in India, I secretly thought to myself that now I’ll have so much time to read all of the books that I have piled up around the house. But for some weird reason, I really couldn’t get into any book till about the end of April. I was unable to concentrate or focus on the story, no matter which book I picked up.
The floodgates opened with Chanel Miller’s Know My Name. Such a powerful read. I am amazed at the kind of grace she shows throughout, despite her ordeal. And her writing is beautiful. So much depth. She’s taken a difficult situation from her life and managed to come out on the other side with such beauty. I’ve been recommending the book to just about everyone I know.
Since then I’ve read a few more books, and I am glad to have my reading mojo back. Books are truly my happy place, and being disconnected from them makes me feel weirdly off.
6| Sunday dinners prepared by the husband
Till before this whole lock-down situation, my husband’s cooking skills were limited to making Maggi, and maybe, make coffee for himself. That’s about it. But now? Well, he’s been cooking up some amazing stuff for Sunday dinners and I could not love it more.
I actually love the whole process around the Sunday dinners even more. He looks up the recipe and does every little thing by himself. I stand around to give him company and also just point him to the ingredients around the kitchen. It makes my heart so very happy to see him put so much effort into making something for the family.
He’s tackled some really heavy-duty dishes: samosas, vada pav, and even chole bhature. If I am being honest, I’ve never even made these things myself! :P So needless to say, we’ve all been mightily impressed with the dishes that he’s cooked and they’ve come out perfect every time.
7| Digging deep/inner work
This somewhat takes off from the journaling I mentioned earlier, but truly, I’ve been working my way through some serious self-reflection.
There is one question I keep coming back to – what kind of person do I want to be – and trying to answer that for myself has been a revelation. A lot of my current habits are not in congruence with my vision of the person I want to be, so I know I have a lot of work to do, but this lock-down life has allowed me the time to slow down and do some meaningful self-reflection.
I am not being too harsh on myself. There are still things I am doing that I am not proud of but I know I can do better, be better. So I am trying to create habits and manners that are more aligned with my vision for myself. Of course, things will not change overnight, but little by little, I am making progress.
Like I said earlier, every day is not fun and light and happy, but I have consciously tried to create some happy habits for myself – especially in the last 3-4 weeks so that the dark clouds don’t linger around for too long. And these few things have truly been bringing me joy over this quarantine season! I’ve also been tackling some of the things from this list that I shared a few weeks back, so I am trying to keep busy in my own way.
If you’re finding yourself stuck in a bad rut, remember, it’s just a phase. Allow yourself some grace and kindness. This too shall pass. And all of you parents out there, with really young kids at home, I seriously have a whole lot of respect for you.
So tell me, what’s bringing you joy these days? What have been your happy markers along this journey? And how is the situation in your part of the world? Let me know in the comments below! :)