GLORIOUS SUNSHINE all week
Sunrise yoga — my morning exercise routine to the sound of blissful music in pink and light yellow, crisp, glorious morning light. Cleanse my face and brush my teeth thoroughly, thinking that this week is all about self-care and care about the people around me. I want to eat and exercise healthily, work focused, check in with friends and family, and support my surroundings the best I can. Go for a delicious, glorious run on the Heath, the vast expanse of wild meadow, where social distancing is so easy, for which I’m grateful, every single day, which is why I may end up repeating it. I hope everyone finds bliss in something this week. Work from one end of the dining table; a big bouquet of freesia at the centre of the table marks the border between work and home, ‘home’ being dining and chatting about non-work-related stuff. My work meetings are many and great today; and I also have two coffee calls with friends, one working from home in Bermondsey (morning coffee), the other working from home in San Francisco (late afternoon coffee). At 7pm, in the last fragments of golden hour light, Sanoop and I both stop working, drink a small glass of wine, left over from yesterday, while preparing a big bowl of quinoa salad, he with a chunk of lamb on the side, me with a slice of smoked salmon. Reading, writing, tea-drinking, news-binging for the rest of the evening.
- At work: Email from someone on my global UX team to everyone else: “anyone interested in starting an International / “Expats” support group chat and group email?” Email from our CEO — the company has donated a large amount of money and resources to tackling the situation, and they’re encouraging employees to donate to charities that take initiatives to respond to virus and all of its dire consequences as well; the amount we donate will be matched 100%.
- In the news: Full-on luck-down in the UK, announced late this evening: for 3 weeks, starting now, we’re only allowed to leave our home to do essential grocery and medicine shopping, take one form of exercise a day (does this mean you can go for three runs, as long as you keep on running? No. One round of exercise a day!), travel to work if it can’t be avoided, and help vulnerable people. All shops selling non-essential items (imagine being the ones to decide what’s essential?!), playgrounds, libraries, and places of worship will be closed; weddings are banned (funerals are not, but there’s a strict limit to how many people can congregate). Listening to Boris Johnson saying this feels almost surreal … it is very real, though.
- In our community: A member of hampsteadvolunteers.co.uk left a note on our doorstep encouraging us to either sign up to their initiative or take advantage of it — for young healthy people to help older and/or vulnerable people: food and medicine shopping and delivery, dog-walking, and phone calls to check in
6am: morning run on the most beautiful morning of the year. Baby blue sky, bright yellow light, smell of freshness and excitement, glittery frost on the leaves, dog-walkers and runners taking social distancing seriously and creating diverging semi-circles when passing each other. My precious exercise outing for the day. Coming home, drinking lots of water, and then cleaning the flat with Sanoop: the second time in our lives that we embark on this task this together (first time was last Tuesday). It feels good and wholesome. Last Tuesday we still paid our cleaner, even though we asked her to not come. Should we do that today as well? We probably will. Chai in the sun, and then coffee. Coconut yoghurt drizzled with quinoa-beetroot muesli, slices of banana, and blueberries.
9am: sitting down to check my email, and responding to one from a friend in Sydney, asking how we’re doing: “last night, a 3-week lockdown was announced in London. It’s obviously for the greater good, and I admire people brave enough to make such vast decisions right now, even if some folks seem to think it’s too late or, reversely, not the right thing to do. I know nothing, only what I read and what my instincts tell me, so I think it’s best to just try to react with as much calm and compassion as possible. The whole situation is just nuts, huh? We try to take one day at a time, and one worry at a time, and to consider the silver linings. My thoughts spin in constant circles. If I catch myself thinking, ‘aw, it’s nice to be home for several weeks on end, to spend so much time with Sanoop, and to go for runs and sense the budding and blossoming spring in remote corners of the Heath,’ the train is immediately followed by a hailstorm of speculations on the serious and sad aspects of this whole business, all of those who are infected, all of those who’ve lost and will lose loved ones to the virus, all of those working hard to save lives, as well as the brutal consequences of the lockdown: the kids who can’t go to school and hang out with their pals in their usual carefree way, lonely people who’ll become even lonelier, mentally vulnerable people and those who live in abusive homes, who’ve now lost their daily respites outside of the homes, all of those who don’t like working from home and lack good WFH conditions, or those who simply can’t, those who’ve lost or will lose their jobs as a result of all of this, which leads me to then worry about the world economy and world peace, and when I’ll see my family again, which brings me to wondering whether my grandmother will make sure to stay indoors and refrain from visiting her friends … she’s taking all of this in strides: cleaning and cooking as the carers who usually drop by to do this can’t do so now, and getting her balcony ready for spring, and reading, and going for daily walks, and thinking her usual positive, optimistic thoughts. I then circle back to thinking about the greater purpose of shutting everything down, and the positive ripple effects it might bring along .. in some ways, it’s probably good for a lot of us (and the environment around us) that most man-made movements have come to a halt for a few weeks, allowing us to really be present, here and now, and listen and think. And then I think it’s super cool to see so many local yoga studios and cafes quickly adjusting to live streams of classes (the studios) and takeaway/delivery/gift voucher services (cafes) and other neat contingency plans. The consequences are many and contrasting … and every day I’m learning of more. It’s terrifying and fascinating. My days are blissful: early sunny runs, yoga and pilates at home, super focused work, and then hugging Sanoop often, and spending the evenings cooking, chatting and drinking wine and tea with him or with friends on FaceTime — I find myself doing video calls with friends in other countries so much more than before. Perhaps social media will finally serve the purpose they were always meant to serve — bring people closer together. And my colleagues are super sweet and good at creating an atmosphere where everyone is helping and supporting each other in kind and creative ways. I do my best to contribute. I’m clinging onto these little things, and they give me faith and hope. The calm, the pace that’s slowing down, being together, creativity, alternatives, being thankful for little things that were always there, right in front of us, but which we neglected in a busy everyday life. Love and helpfulness. The fact that we’re healthy, have our jobs (still), our wonderful flat, reinventing date nights, precious time together, Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, and an endless supply of organic red wine. And the fact that we already travelled more this year (India (Indian family), Singapore (friends), Düsseldorf (Danish family), New York (work, followed by family visit; Sanoop came with me, and we stayed at the Standard during the week, and with his brother in Hastings over the weekend), Philadelphia (work offsite — highlights: Barnes Foundation, Reading Terminal Market, Liberty Bell, Elfreth’s Alley), Zurich twice (work; Sanoop came with me), the Alps (one day of dreamy powder skiing in gorgeous Laax, alone, in extension of the last work trip to Zurich before my company banned all international travel) than lots of people get to do in a lifetime. Yes, we can’t go to Denmark for Easter.. but then we’ll go a few weeks later. Until then… patience and tea. How about you? What are your tricks? How’s your family doing? And what’s the situation like in Australia? Are you working from home? Are you self-isolating? Are you allowed to leave home more than once a day?
10am-5pm: work. With some breaks to breathe in fresh air through the window, do a quick, essential run to M&S, reflect and jot down journal notes, check in on friends, have last night’s leftovers for lunch.
7pm: dancing around the kitchen while cooking with Sanoop to a Mexican playlist on Spotify. Dinner. WhatsApp video call with a friend in Barcelona, who’s been working from home for three weeks now, feeling fine for herself but worried about her sister, who is a doctor in Madrid, her parents, who are all alone in a small village, and the rest of Spain, which is going through a tough, tough time as one of the worst affected countries in the world right now.
Starting the day with another gorgeously sunny and fragrant run on the Heath, followed by Sanoop’s chai and my mum’s friend’s soothing yoga class. A minor meltdown upon receiving a cancellation email from the airline that was going to bring me and Sanoop home for Easter, but in the grand scheme of things, I remind myself, it’s really not that big of a deal. I call my parents, and then my grandmother, and then everything is ok again. For us. Meanwhile, thousands of people are suffering around us. That was already the case a few weeks ago, before COVID-19, but a pandemic adds a few layers of conscious gravity and despair globally. Sanoop makes chai, while I make breakfast — a smoothie consisting of frozen organic peas, banana, tiger nut milk, ground turmeric/ginger/pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Sprinkle of beetroot quinoa muesli. We enjoy it in the morning sun cascading into our cosy living room. Shower. Coffee. Work calls all day. Going out to buy water at dusk. Cooking together — quinoa salad with smoked salmon. Watching a bitter sweet Elle Fanning film, Teen Spirit.
I wake up realising that this is the first time in literally three years that I’m spending more than two weeks consecutively in one place. The last time, three years ago, was when I’d had ACL surgery in Singapore, and my parents came over to take care of me because Sanoop had to go to Australia for work. This will take a lot more than two weeks — and as was confirmed yesterday, we can’t go to Denmark for Easter, BUT all things considered, it’s really quite nice. It’s nice to feel that this place we chose as a base actually really is a wonderful place to be. My morning run, following the 5 Tibetans and other stretches in a beam of sunlight in our living room, is as sweet and fresh as it’s been all week — it’s soothing to see, feel, smell, and hear all of this natural energy and vibrancy, and all of the runners, full of health and speed, smiling to each other more than ever, as they keep respectful distance, something their dogs sweetly ignore. It’s all well and good, and then, as I come back from my run and make myself a pot of freshly ground Allpress coffee, I read articles like this, and go back to feeling scared and worried. There’s a small voice inside of me that goes, ‘but surely everyone must realise this logic and then the world will go back to normal, right?‘ But who knows? Who knows anything? All I know is that I don’t want to be the one to judge anyone — not the ones picnicking on the Heath against the government-imposed rules (it sounds so absurd, doesn’t it?), nor anyone else who believes in one or another logic: I want to believe that everyone acts with the best intentions, and other than that, I just want to work, read, connect, breathe, and relax. I’m grateful for how amazing my workplace is dealing with this — helping each other and the world around us, and I find comfort in working focused all day, with occasional breaks to 1) hug Sanoop, and 2) have a video call with a friend in Munich. After work, I drink a glass of wine on another video call, this time with a friend in Athens. I haven’t caught up with either of these two dear girls for months and months, and even if the situation is strange and worrying, it’s also kind of fascinating that we’re all going through the same experience right now. The sunset sky is pink and beautiful over the pond on the Heath, and after the call, Sanoop and I cook shrimp tacos with homemade guac and salsa while dancing around the kitchen and cheering in margaritas. Haha. My parents send pictures of my sweet grandmother dressed in the sleek and dapper fashionable (whilst also extraordinarily wearable and durable, they promise) Henri Lloyd sailor outfit, which they got her; big, bright smile on her face, hoodie drawn up over her thick grey locks, and straight, proud posture … the most social of social butterflies, she’s taking self-isolation in strides. I call her every day, her voice is consistently calm and optimistic, she’s cooking, baking, cleaning, going for daily walks, dropping off food and flowers at her friends’ places, and not nervous at all. My parents thought they’d bring her some food and the new outfit — “your parents are SO cautious; they made sure to not hug me or come within a distance of two metres of me, and they washed their hands constantly throughout their short visit, but it was so cosy, so good to see them.” It makes me feel good, but I’m still concerned. What’s the best approach when it comes to elderly folks during COVID-19? What’s worse — a deadly virus or loneliness? She’s good for now, and that’s comforting. And if not in a few weeks then at least in a few months we’ll all be sailing. Sanoop and I can’t be there to bring our new family member home from the shipyard over Easter as planned, but we’ll be there to enjoy her over the summer. We will.
My morning run is spiced up with NPR’s coronavirus daily podcast (at first I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring any of that onto the idyllic Heath, but … I did… and it was OK), which is informed by pretty sound sources, I think, and informing, and actually not that depressing. And the episodes are short. Short enough that they don’t consume an entire run — I’ve got time for Daniel Radcliffe on Desert Island Discs as well, the perfect escapism podcast for this situation or any. I’ll stick to NPR, the FT, the Atlantic, small doses of the NYT, Berlingske Tidende, and Handelsblatt for all coronavirus-related news. And other than that, focus on what I can to find what feels good. Work is a pleasure, all day. My colleagues, our leadership, our projects; everyone is considerate and lovely, and everything feels meaningful. After work, we take a break to breathe and drink a delicious glass of organic French red wine. We practice our, by now, cooking routine of dimming the electric lights in the kitchen, lighting candles, putting on happy music, and then dancing around while washing, chopping, cutting, sprinkling, stirring, heating, stirring, and serving a concoction of organic whole foods, relishing the fact that we now, for a whole week, have known exactly what goes into every single bite of food that goes into our bodies. We’ll support local restaurants by getting their takeout, occasionally, but other than that, it feels wonderful to make everything we put into our bodies from scratch. We make tea. We watch Unorthodox. We thank our lucky stars that we’re able to enjoy the privilege of social distancing — from a place where there’s focus on, awareness around, and action taken against the strains that self-isolation is putting on people’s mental and physical health.
Running, walking, hugging, and climbing trees on the Heath with Sanoop, breathing the fragrant spring air deeply into our lungs. Followed by a scrumptious turmeric omelette served with lots of raw veggies and berries, at home. Chai and coffee. Curling up in the sofa and the window seat, rotating occasionally to mix things up, to read and watch news. I’m gulping down the absolute gem of a lyrical succession of stories, Girl, Woman, Other all afternoon, and discussing it with a friend in Islington over a glass of wine on Hangouts at 6pm. Only interruption is a round of virtual drawing games on Zoom with Sanoop’s two friends at 2-3pm, all four of us changing our green screen backgrounds to make it seem like we’re on a tropical beach (Sanoop and I), the African savannah (our friend in Seven Sisters), and immersed in a cat karaoke (our friend in Marylebone).
While we’re eating a late dinner of deliciously juicy cod with sides of dal and a raw salad, I mention to Sanoop how INCREDIBLY quickly these days at home seem to fly by: for the past two weeks, I’ve had the feeling that each day lasted for just a few minutes .. I get up in the morning, pull apart the curtains to let in the glorious 6-7am sunlight, and BAM!, with the blink of an eye, I’m standing in the same place and drawing them together against the close-to-midnight darkness (always wondering exactly why it is that we have curtains … I like looking up at the stars, and I like waking up with the sun?!). Without a daily commute, without wandering up and down the long stimuli-filled corridors of an office between meetings, without travelling to meet people … being able to potter around at home, something I’ve secretly been craving for years, and with moments of being on the super-focused-productive-and-creatively-buzzing end of the operating spectrum, intersected by dips into the opposite end, where my thoughts are spiralling and I’m losing myself in unproductive images of all of the things that I don’t know and can’t do, but mainly, fortunately, on the former, hours speed into seconds. There are so many sweet people to meet on VC, so many awesome articles to read, so much good outreach I want to do (I still haven’t heard back from the local volunteering group I signed up to join — it seems they’ve had an overwhelming surge of interest), not to mention all of the Heath runs, the online exercise classes, and the books, sketching, and cooking at hand … or the fact that there’s no one I’d rather be in quarantine with than my best friend, with whom there’s so much to talk about, laugh at, watch, feel. After cleaning the dishes and blowing out the candles, we watch Anne with an ‘E’ on Netflix, a new adaptation of my childhood’s number one escapism book.
10:30am qigong and yin yoga class on Zoom, taught by a friend in Amsterdam, co-owner of ‘my’ barre studio in Singapore, Barre2barre. The class is super blissful — I love her calm, high energy, high quality classes, and I highly recommend these Sunday morning live stream sessions.
The Stag’s yummy dairy-free nut roast with veggie gravy travelled really well — from the pub down on the corner, in a brown paper bag — to our home on Sunday night. We can’t wait for midsummer hang in the pub’s cosy courtyard, but for now, the fact that they do takeout Sunday roasts is comforting and amazing. We only noticed that they advertised it as we walked by in the evening, on our way to M&S for our essential shopping. And what a nice surprise!
Dessert: my mum’s interpretation of the fried bananas/plantains from my parents’ first trip to visit Sanoop’s parents in Kerala. Bananas grilled with coconut sugar and ground ginger/turmeric/pepper, shredded coconut and the juice of an orange and a lemon on top, served with a dollop of coconut yoghurt and your choice of crunch (we used almonds; my mum used pistachios).
Another episode of Unorthodox.