Before 2020’s plot twist changed the course of most of our lives, I would try and do as much as I could with my phone and laptop. Tracking lists, finances, emails, notes, paying bills -everything. I found it convenient that wherever I go, I could do anything from the comfort of my phone and laptop. Now every aspect of my life has become virtual. From work, hobbies, entertainment and catching up with people. I was getting sick of staring at a screen all day for anything and everything. You think you’re doing a lot, but at the end of the day, it’s all a blur. So, for a few months now I’m doing the opposite. I’m investing my time in activities I can physically do. I craved the satisfaction of doing something where the output was something I could see and feel for myself.

It was challenging to think of activities that I could do consistently without depending on the screen. That’s how entwined our lives have become with technology. I came up with a few activities based on my areas of interest. While I cannot spend time on most of these activities daily, every once in a while it is so therapeutic.

Baking

The smell of a freshly baked cake. The taste of chocolate. The pleasure of whipping up a delectable goodie from scratch. That perfectly browned crust. Baking is a delightful experience as it appeals to all the senses. What more proof do you need of a work well done when you can have a delicious piece of cake with coffee every morning? While baking has always been a favourite hobby, I went overboard by baking something every week ever since we started working from home. So every morning enjoying my coffee with a cake served as a visual reminder that I made it with my hands. It is proof that I had spent my time on a worthwhile task and the output was beyond anything I could have imagined. (My husband agrees!). 

Cleaning

For someone who likes her surroundings to be clean and tidy, you would assume that I’d get annoyed by chaos. It’s the other way round. I get excited around a mess. Because it gives me the chance to clean them up. I take a mental picture of what the place looked like when it was messy and then compare it after I’m finished with them. The physical proof of a clean living room is proof that I spent my time and efforts to do a decent job. I love clearing up in the kitchen after I’m done with the cooking. I like arranging dishes in the dishwasher (It’s an art, I tell you). I like taking things out of the dishwasher and clearing them up. I like folding laundry. These tasks give me the satisfaction of doing something without having to think a lot. While I used to clean up reluctantly earlier, these days I look forward to any kind of organizing, arranging and cleaning. (OMG, I’ve become my Mom!)

Running

Stepping out for physical activity has always helped me. When things get overwhelming, I’ve found it calming if I step away, take a walk, clear my mind and get back. It makes me feel like I’m moving away from a place that is causing me pain and then getting back to deal with it when I’m ready. I also like how my workouts and gym sessions have been stress busters than anything else. So I make it a point to step out for a run every day. Moving from one place to another makes me feel good. It has the added benefit of reminding me to sign off work. When I’m back, I’m ready to switch on to my personal life. There is something so soothing about seeing the skies, trees and sunsets.

Gardening

I used to help out with my Grandfather in the garden back home. He had a green thumb and spent a lot of time tending to his plants. So when we moved into a place with a large balcony, I couldn’t wait to fill it up with plants. I looked up plants that were easy to grow, got 4 pots, some potting mix, seeds, a watering can and I was set. What started with tomatoes, coriander and alyssum have now bloomed into a lovely cosy balcony garden. It has seen marigolds, tomatoes, basil, mint, coriander, alyssum, verbena, snapdragon, a mix of white, chillies, cucumber flowers, capsicum, and now we’re waiting for strawberries. The joy of seeing a new flower or fruit there is beyond words. As always I like arranging and rearranging them, tending to them as much as I can. Every evening I step into my balcony serves as a reminder of a beautiful lesson in patience and the contentment of doing something that is insanely fulfilling. 

Playing the Piano

I should say this was more of an impulse decision. I was bored with my routine and eas desperate to do something new. I was watching the musical Glee on Netflix when one day I thought I should learn how to play the piano. Learning to play an instrument was something I always wanted to do, but couldn’t. So I found piano classes for adults near my place. I was learning something new for the first time in a long time. I was slightly nervous. I did my homework and practised diligently every day.  The first time I played a song from my coursebook, I was over the moon. My new found hobby turned out to be a fascinating experience. I’m learning the basics and can play a few songs. I want to continue these classes until I can learn to play on my own with sheet music. For now, listening to the songs I play from my course book is so so rewarding. I used to stare in awe at people who could effortlessly play the piano. Now I have newfound respect along with the admiration as I learn my way to play in a rhythm. I am so glad I took these classes.

Most of the activities involve creating something from nothing or having some proof of the work done as a reminder of my accomplishment. For someone who likes to keep reminders of the work done, recording these moments is immensely satisfying. Nothing comes close to admiring work for which you have physical proof. It makes you feel powerful that you can create something from scratch and witness with your eyes what your efforts have yielded. In a world where everything is moving online, I am keen on retaining those aspects of my life where I can still see my work and have the pleasure of doing something with my own hands. It is truly gratifying.

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