I miss people. And people watching.

I miss parties. And observing partners twirl on the dance floor.

I miss sounds…of singing in the streets, and squeals of laughter.

I miss hugs. And handshakes.

Browsing knickknacks in a neighbourhood store,

Jostling with strangers on a train,

Bustling theatre crowds competing for popcorn at intermission, 

Stumbling unexpectedly upon new spots, while strolling among familiar alleyways…

So! Having acknowledged a few of the things we miss from a life we previously deemed ordinary,

Shall we try to make a few moments of magic—with the ingredients we have handy?

1. Get Personal 

As we work from home, it is not uncommon to see your colleague’s cat jump on the keyboard and peer curiously into the camera—such intrusions are totally acceptable. These exceptional times have also made rules of engagement less formal and a lot more fluid. And where exchanges would have been more transactional, a pandemic calls for more meaningful conversations. It’s a perfect excuse to pick back up with a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while, or a more intimate tête-à-tête with someone you care about. (Social) distance need not sever connections, in fact, it can strengthen them.

2. Press Play

Many of our usual methods of “fun” are no longer accessible. Social gatherings, bars, tennis-courts, parks, playgrounds and even streets are out of bounds. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. A dining table is perfect for a game of table-tennis, and skipping requires but a few square feet. Develop a fitness routine with your partner, or indulge in (not so soulful) karaoke with your kids. Love to dance? Plaster a few pieces of colored cellophane over a lamp or lights, and tune into one of the many live DJ channels on Saturday night. And in the sanctity of your living-room, you can truly dance like nobody’s watching. Whatever you do, just have some fun.

3. Procrastination be Damned 

Many of us have a pet project that we’ve just never been able to get to. The book that had to be written, the language one wanted to learn. A friend recently completed a painting of Venice she had intended to for years. Another friend in Florida is using the isolation to learn gardening skills. No longer bound by usual routines, you can also use the time to make (or break) a pattern/ practise. The pleasure and sense of accomplishment from driving that idea / project to completion IS happiness. 

Photo by Surbhee Grover

4. Pick Your Battles

Remember weekends? Well, with the merging of days, and break-down in usual routines, simple signals that hinted at beginnings and endings of tasks/ activities (for example you had to get the kids dressed and fed before the school bus arrived) have become hazy. A real danger in the blurring of all the lines could be either burnout (too much work) or not getting anything (productive) done. Structure and schedules give a semblance of much-needed order in the midst of this COVID-chaos. And at the same time, as wiping-down grocery items, homeschooling, and other such tasks take up additional capacity—it might require an acknowledgement/ adjustment that not everything you managed in an ordinary day might now be possible. So prioritise—focus on what matters and what you want to accomplish. Let everything else go.

5. Give Presents 

Recently, someone shared an anecdote where the 12-year old daughter of a daily wage earner, a family struggling to make ends meet, was volunteering with an NGO helping distribute food packets. What stayed with me is the largesse of those who have so little. In these lockdown days, where she could no longer attend school, or play with her friends, helping other families made this kid happy. Whether it is money, the investment of time, a kind word, adopting a stray/ rescue dog, or a surprise (virtual) party for someone who needs a pick-me-up, generosity will make you feel good.

6. Pamper Yourself 

Despite (varying degrees) of adverse impact on financial stability and an environment of scarcity, it is important (I’d argue, even critical) to be a little bit irresponsible, and spoil yourself every once in a while. It might involve locking yourself in the bathroom and taking a (20+ min) soak, or an extra scoop of (full-fat) ice-cream, or a two hour session with your BFF (with a bottle of wine). When it all seems a bit unbearable, the incessant news headlines or the humdrum of everyday responsibilities—and there will be such moments—just give yourself permission to be blue for a bit, and then indulge in something that gives you comfort or joy.

It might require a bit of practise, but it is certainly possible, even in a pandemic, to create your own playlist for happiness.