“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it is over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” — Mary Oliver
How are you doing, my lovelies?
I hope you are safe. I hope you are staying indoors. I hope you and your loved ones are feeling well and healthy.
I spent some of the past few weeks in limbo. As work plans got pushed then cancelled, travel plans went awry, and schedules got put on hold, I went into a mode of Waiting.
Now, I can certainly excuse myself for being anxious, stressed and distracted at a time like this. It’s natural to want to switch off from all responsibilities (including and perhaps especially when they suddenly feel overwhelming). It feels perfectly legitimate to keep myself numb with excess screen time, constantly hitting update on the news, and just generally wiling away the time until Something Changes.
We are under strict lockdown where I am, and it is entirely unpredictable how long for. Three weeks? Three months? A year? Longer?
While a curfew may not be tenable for that long, there’s no doubt we will need to remain indoors in various forms of lockdown for the foreseeable future wherever we live in the world. (Also: now is a perfect time to take the money we’re not spending, and donate it to those who lack access to shelter, food and medical help. Try these lists for USA, UK, Italy, or donate directly for Iran, India (here or here) or try this for worldwide, plus MSF and WHO.)
I’m actually used to working on my own from home. Yet I too had to reconfigure everything. I hadn’t realised just how much I relied on my outside appointments to shape my day. Now there are no more meetings, no gym, no (face to face) friends, no dinners. And there’s anxiety filling up the vacuum.
The traffic outside ceased. And though it feels anything but peaceful, nobody told the birds, and their melodious chirps and calls have become comfortingly louder.
As I tried to slow my anxiety down, a space opened up. A space to ask myself some questions I had been avoiding for quite some time now.
If my ego doesn’t get a vote, what exactly does my heart want?
Thinking that one day the time will be right, how much of my life have I postponed?
Why am I acting as if I’m waiting for permission to move forward?
Some months back, my cousin had sent me this terrific article by Kabir Sehgal in the Harvard Business Review titled Why You Should Have (at Least) Two Careers.
Reading it helped reframe the perpetual tug-of-war inside me that wants to chase so many things, while also thinking I could or should put my energy towards only one thing at a time. Even though I have plenty of friends who thrive on having multiple simultaneous careers, partly to make ends meet but in large part to fulfil their own desires and curiosities.
On my end, for many years now, I’ve had my own little quiet but persistent dream. I wanted to build a place somewhere a bit rural that offers residential classes to adults for all kinds of things we were never taught in school but that to me feel vital for successful living: managing relationships, emphasising output (creativity) instead of input (consumerism), learning about our bodies and true health, and living sustainably, to name a few. The very thought of it made me beam.
There I’d be, walking around barefoot in the grass, bringing experts and educators to share their knowledge, meeting fellow students from all over the world. I’d have an organic garden that would provide fresh produce for everyone, and we’d sit around a very long wooden table on an open terrace, under chandeliers hanging from the surrounding trees, all breaking bread together for dinner each evening. There would be a higgledy-piggledy wild garden with cosy nooks to read a book under the shade for the afternoon, an open-air yoga and meditation studio, and a pottery wheel in a large shed too. I mean, bliss.
To do this would mean upending my life in the city, and I’ve only ever lived in cities. And honestly, I’ve always loved the bustle – the ease of stepping out and hailing a cab to take me anywhere I want, movie theatres, bookshops, restaurants and cafés, and tons of friends.
So if I wanted to do that then I’d have to give up this, surely?
Last month, I thought – well, what’s a lo-fi way of starting this? I thought of staying exactly where I am, and instead renting premises for a day. I could invite wonderful speakers and have guests attend the event.
Given the 25 years of film production experience under my belt (juggling multiple locations, hundreds of crew and cast members, staggering logistics, millions of $$$), this felt infinitely doable. Yet, still I stalled.
Then this month happened. And everything changed.
Nobody was going to fly to speak anywhere. Nobody would walk into a roomful of people. Nobody would be even going outside for a long time. My parallel dream would just have to wait.
The thing is, there is no time but now. There really isn’t.
This is the only time we have to love and laugh, to share and comfort, to inspire and enlighten, to be brave and vulnerable.
As we witness how the world around us can change in a breath, there’s no such thing as “one day”.
Enough postponing. Enough fear-cloaked-as-prudence. Enough bullshit-to-self.
This is all we have.
It’s now or never.
When I started this blog seven years ago, my original intention was to create a platform for unnervingly frank writing. And then, well, I lost my nerve. It would be at odds with the image I hoped to cultivate, of being sophisticated, cultured, intellectual, and worldly.
I’m not a fan of confessional writing, so I don’t mean that, but I hesitated to let the ugly tears fall where they may. It felt too vulnerable. And my interests seemed a little niche. So I stayed more general.
I wanted over the years to Go There. But I thought subscribers here would feel it was a departure from what they’d signed up for. So I held myself back.
But, well, there is no time like now. I may not have my little chic rustic adulting school with its pottery studio and open-air dining. I may not have a rented hall of like-minded folks who want to listen to interesting people.
But I do have my laptop and an internet connection. So I’m starting where I can.
I’m beginning a new blog called The Tin Life. It’s about holistic living for curious minds.
Having learnt so much from writing this blog for these years, the style and form will be similar. However, the content will be more focused, and the output more consistent.
It will cover three themes: self (emotional, mental and physical health), sustainability (simplicity and green living), as well as creativity.
Though these topics are dear to my heart, I have spoken of only some of them publicly, and that too with caution, for fear of judgment. I also hesitated in case my deep curiosity and own exploration of these subjects were too slight to offer anything of substance.
But I’ve decided to use that as my starting place instead: this is what I’m interested in, and I want to know more. I hope you will join me.
My first post is an interview with meditation instructor and holistic therapist, Toby Maguire. I hope you’ll find it massively helpful for these tense times. Please take a look!
This blog will continue as is, but I won’t double post, so if the topics interest you, please do subscribe separately for the new site here. A giant social-distancing-appropriate virtual hug of thanks from me!
I truly hope, in whatever way possible, under these extraordinary circumstances, that you too are thinking of all that is possible, and are getting closer to what you really want.
Because if not you, then who?
If not now, then when?
“You’ve got to jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.” — Ray Bradbury
I was profoundly moved hearing Oprah Winfrey tell her own life story in these two episodes of her podcast, Master Class (one and two). If anyone needs top-level inspiration, here it is in under two hours.
My favourite newsletter, Broadsheet, which succinctly gave me all the news I needed every day (no small feat), is sadly folding tomorrow. At the end of each newsletter was a section of light-hearted links. Here is a collection of funny animal videolinks I’d saved for a rainy day which, well, is now here. Enjoy!
Go get your brother for a picture! Whether he wants it or not.
Okay, who did it? Dogs on trial.
An elephant shows his moves.
Exercising pandas get you motivated for your home workout routine.
Penguins going down stairs.
An Italian dog does yoga (this one’s from the Guardian but I snuck it in here).
Animals hugging (your blood pressure will go down just viewing this).
I first shared this some years ago, but I think it feels particularly apt to remember it again now. It remains one of the most powerful speeches of all time to me.
In 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 to study the solar system. In 1990, its probe took a photograph of planet Earth, showing it as the tiniest speck in a vast expanse of space. Astronomer Carl Sagan called it the Pale Blue Dot. He discussed it in his lecture at Cornell University in 1994:
“We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilisations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there – on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. [...] To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”
Grow with me!