Modern culture insists that a good, successful and fulfilling life is one of continuous activity and application where we strive relentlessly to fulfil every ambition, every hour of the day and the evening must be filled with intense activity.
In many ways, lockdown forced us to reevaluate this incentive as many of us found peace – and even productivity – in the quieter moments. Evenings with our mother, sister, brother, partner or chosen family sitting quietly in front of a movie or even nights alone journaling in bed became just as ‘nourishing’ as organising events and socialising with a multitude of friends.
However, these habits were formed through necessity and force rather than natural adoption which may explain their inability to remain at least semi permanent as we dance out of covid restrictions in 2022.
The dream life is one of immense activity and attention. We dream of our name on a billboard or in the Sunday times. Our song has a million streams on Spotify or our graphic design is for only high flying, iconic clients such as Nike or Coca Cola. Our days are filled with international meetings, we rise at the crack of dawn, exercise, make as much money and generate as many leads as possible. If we aren’t at this level – or its equivalent – then we haven’t yet ‘made it’ and that’s because we haven’t tried hard enough; the only thing for it is to push ourselves harder and cram more into each day.
However, what many will find is that the closer we come to the goal, peace isn’t promised. Instead of flying on cloud nine as we imagined, our stress often increases despite the financial benefits that come with this new chapter.
School of Life’s Alain de Boton speaks of a need to self-care in the way our parental instincts would care for an out of control toddler. “It’s moving to think of the attentive parent who settles their child down for an afternoon nap after an exciting morning. The child doesn’t know it’s worn out, but the parent is aware of the need for tranquillity and rest. If the child had its way it would be zooming around the garden, going to another birthday party or watching a frenetic video – before having a tantrum. The parental function, so to speak, is to calm the child’s days, when the child itself is unable or unwilling to recognise its own overwrought state. As adults, we need the parental part of ourselves to step in and prescribe slower, quieter days and to rescue us from the oppressive ideal of the busy life, which is slowly destroying us.”
So, what’s the solution? The answer; more quiet days. For us at Wishu, quiet days also coincide with minimum screen time days. We schedule the content, text who we need to and for the most part leave our phones in another room. A quiet day is one where we take pleasure in necessary and domestic activities, we allow ourselves to stare at a space in the wall and daydream. We may rise early, or lie in. We play our favourite music, indulge in a second cup of coffee and do what needs to be done around the house – not frantically, perhaps with efficiency, but with silence and calm.
As de Boton states; “as we’re going about our simple tasks we can untangle our thoughts and feelings. When we’re proccupied we don’t properly notice the details of our emotional states or what’s going on at the back of our minds. Now we start to pay closer attention: why did we fall out with that friend last year? Was it, perhaps, that we never particularly liked each other anyway? What did we really feel in their company? Who, ideally, would we like to be friends with? And what is it about them that appeals to us?”
We pause to look carefully at a tree; the branches look bare, but close up we can see the first, tiny tips of green starting to emerge from some of the brown buds. In the past we only ever noted the big changes, now we’re registering the beautiful, minute steps, accomplished day by day that take it from one season to another.
On quiet days, longer baths and home cooked flavourful food and wine are encouraged. Nostalgia and romance is encouraged. “In the minutes before we sleep we go over the memories of a trip from years ago: recapturing the charming manners of a particular waiter or the pleasure of opening the shutters in the morning and looking down a narrow street towards the sea; we’re planning to stay quietly put for a while but we don’t need to go anywhere – our lives are rich and large already.”