In this current stillness, we have a unique opportunity to see things differently and maybe see ourselves a little more clearly. The pandemic has drowned out a lot of that day-to-day noise that tells us who we should be and what we should want, the things that distract us from what we really value.
Here’s a reflective experiment. Clear your mind, close your eyes, and simply ask yourself: What do I miss most right now? Capture the first thing that comes to mind. Not the second thing, which will be what you think you should miss most. The first, automatic thing. And to be clear, I mean a specific thing in your own life, something you can control. Let’s assume that we all miss the world as we knew it, but that’s not in our circle of influence, is it?
I was surprised by how this experiment went for me: When I asked myself what I miss most right now, the first thing I pictured was walking in my local park without a mask on. Huh? This is not what my logical, planning, sensible thinking brain would have said. My thinking brain would have told you: Surely, I miss the city: the subway, meeting friends in restaurants, streets being crowded and full of life. It’s interesting to note that my gut reaction is just to want a walk in the park a walk among trees and fresh air, a walk without planning, a walk full of possibility, a walk that might veer into the market or lead me to cross paths with a friend.
How can I use this piece of information to help me keep in touch with myself once the world becomes noisier again? On a practical level, maybe I remind myself that I don’t actually need to spend so much money and time on big experiences. Maybe I’m a simpler person than I’d convinced myself I was.
On a bigger level, maybe it affects decisions I make down the line about how I shape my life and take care of myself. When we can travel again, maybe I’ll prioritize places of natural beauty, and maybe I’ll come home from those forest-bathing trips feeling rejuvenated. Maybe I’ll be able to remember that energy-wise, I’m actually kind of a naturophile.
So what is it for you? Pay special attention if something comes up that runs really contrary to how you think of yourself: Maybe you tend to beat yourself up for not being super minimalist, but what you miss is the feeling of wearing a new outfit. Why fight that? Maybe you find that even though you’d been feeling burned out at your job before, you actually miss being in the office with your colleagues and that a renewed focus on your career might feel really satisfying.
The key is not to judge whatever comes up. And don’t feel guilty if it’s not what you think it should be. Accepting your true self is always going to get you closer to happiness than anything else will. Because what you actually miss most might not be entirely in line with the persona you’ve constructed for yourself.
Write down what you come up with. Save it somewhere you can return to once you’re out and about in the world again, when your pseudo-self reawakens. And when the bustle of life is once more so noisy you can’t hear your own thoughts, take a peek. It just may help you stay grounded, make an important decision, or steer your ship on a bold new course.