What is it about planes and altitude and perspective ? What is it about long haul flights, and seven uninterrupted hours to oneself ? What is it about not having recourse to a 24/7 feed of social media, be it Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, What’s App or Twitter, just to name a few ?
As the plane takes off, the world shrinks away, the tyres fold in, the horizon blurs, the skies still, I realise that with a handful of captivating new Hollywood and Bollywood releases to choose from, glossy magazines to skim through, emails to wade through, a riveting thriller to finish, I also have the option to just be by myself. It is a lovely thought, I fasten my seat belt, I order a coffee and sit down to a date with me.
Right there, ensconed at 40,000 feet and surrounded by baby blue skies, it feels okay to switch off. It’s rare in this day and age to stay still for a while. There is something life affirming about being in the moment. I notice that more and more, every time I teach a yoga class. I am always fascinated by how the level of stillness and calm in a group in the room increases as one just breathes deeply, in the moment and meditates on one point of focus. Yet, ever since social media found its way into our lives, our homes and then our relationships, the minutiae of life is being captured and then lived online and the points of focus are now many and fast moving.
Now we can check-in to let our friends know where we are at, in the world. Finished a book, check in on Scribd and let everyone know what we are reading. New outfit, Instagram it. A mood board, Pinterest it. Reached a party, Facebook it and then sit back, and enjoy the likes and online validation. Starting a new business, create an Instagram account tied into a Facebook account or a Linked In account. Then consolidate all these social media into a blog. The whole landscape of how we live, of how we capture and define ourselves is rapidly changing.
At one end of the spectrum, maintaining a social media presence is hard work and at the other end of the spectrum trawling through the reams of information and news feeds, is in itself a part time to a full time job depending on how earnestly one throws oneself into the task. Very few people don’t have a social media presence, and they may as well be as extinct as the last mammoths of the Ice Age. Yet, time and again studies are beginning to show that this online world, while having its own merits, is in no way a substitute for the real world. That is something, we all intuitively know and understand.
With that thought, I find myself going back to my New Year’s Resolutions.
Is it something about the promise of the New Year, the chance to reset the clock to zero that appeals to us ? The ability to start afresh, wipe away the old slate and bring in the new ? It is a symbolic moment, 1st of January, even though one wakes up, very much, the very same person as the night before. Still, it is an important milestone in the calendar of life’s journey. A new year does somehow bring in the promise of a fresh start.
But what are the top three resolutions we would all vote for ? They differ according to where we stand in our journey in life. For my friends and I, in the fourth decade of our lives, we are told that forty is the new thirty, just like every season red is the new black or grey is the new black or sometimes, black is simply the new black.
Every New Year starts with a surge in gym memberships, a plethora of detox diets to choose from, 21 day bootcamps, a host of new fitness classes to pick from, a flurry of emails usually entitled something to the tune of “New Year, New You”, “Mindful Me”, books that promise “Lean in 15”, diets that promise the pounds will simply slip off and last but not least, juicing recipes that promise they will leave one energised and revitalised.
But the way I see it, the question we are asking of ourself is, what do I really want to commit to, for 365 days a year ? A straw poll suggests that we all want to focus on what matters most to us.
Health usually comes out at the top. We all want to feel better and fitter, radiant and energised. Fitness comes in many forms, but the holistic triad seems to centre on physical well-being, emotional fitness and mental strength.
How often have I cut out the carbs, only to sneak in a slice of cheesecake (arguing that it’s not really a carb but a form of protein by focusing on the word cheese and ignoring the “cake” part). How often have I gone to the gym but decided to do my emails while waiting for a treadmill. So, really, while it is easy to making a resolution, it’s only effective if one truly resolves to adhere to it. Therein comes the consistency. Showing up everyday to one’s resolution and then sticking with it and ticking it off, every single day.
It is the sum of these small steps that will add up to the transformative changes one wants to see at the end of the year.
Family also always comes out at the top. Making time for and spending time with those we love, those who are “our tribe”. We spend so much time with our devices and our screens. But perhaps the scourge of the devices needs to be replaced and it is time to power down the phones and tune in to real conversations. To listen and to be listened to, is more powerful than one can even imagine.
A lot of us want to find our long lost passion, or kindle a new one and then consistently work at it. Scheduling a new hobby into the diary, at the same time every week, is a good place to start. Be it that “once a week fitness class’, or drawing up a timetable to train for a marathon, starting a book club, or signing up to an art class, putting on one’s gloves and doing the gardening, picking up a tennis racket and getting back on the courts. There is no better time to get started than now.
Perspective puts things into context. As the plane slowly begins its descent to landing and the seat belt signs come back on, I make a mental list of all the things to do once I arrive. There will be countless unanswered emails, missed calls and what’s apps to sift through. But there is also the realisation that in the busy-ness that characterises day to day life, one has to carve time to look after oneself, to connect with one’s world and to grow and contribute in a positive way. Thinking calmly and intelligently, effective planning and preparing will go a long way in creating that time where we evolve into the person we resolved to be on the 1st January !
If one knows where one wants to go, the human spirit will find a way to get there.