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Humour: Less than perfect

The slacker’s guide to self-care in the Covid era

brunch Updated: Sep 27, 2020, 08:49 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
A sleepy conscience can be just the thing to encourage that muffled inner voice to sing out loud against the world outside
A sleepy conscience can be just the thing to encourage that muffled inner voice to sing out loud against the world outside(Photo Imaging: Parth Garg)

I’m writing this staring out of a picture window in the hills, hearing the evening choir of excitable birds. I should be beside myself with joy, but instead all I can think of is how difficult it is to spell the word “squawk”. No, seriously. Try it yourself. Shut your eyes and imagine a persistent magpie, splashing about in a birdbath. Now give the spelling a shot. A simple “squawk” tests not just your spelling skills but also your much vaunted confidence. There are dozens of other apparently simple tasks that so many of us no doubt find challenging, but are afraid to confess to. If you just can’t figure how to use cling film, or always say “thrash” when you mean “trash”, you’ve stumbled upon the right column.

Ext. Tree-lined path. Day.

The Chosen Ones just don’t get it. The overachievers who tell you: “If you know how to ride a bicycle, you’ll figure out a scooter in minutes.” Propelled by their confidence, you sit in the driver’s seat, helmet in place, peppy ballad in your head. You’ll soon be driving along a tree-lined Goan path with the excessive cheer of a girl in a sanitary napkin ad unafraid of wearing white pants. A few seconds into the attempt, you do exactly as you’ve been instructed not to: pressing the accelerator and brake together. The soundtrack in your head changes to the comic crashing riff reserved for geeky boys in commercials being rejected by glamorous divas. You rub your wounds with salty seawater and decide never to take the word of the naturally gifted at face value.

At a time when everyone’s trying to hold on to meaning in jobs and relationships, it’s more important than ever to be kind to oneself

The same goes for playing guitar, baking a cake or draping a sari: they’re not the supremely simple skills they’re often made out to be. And still, one is made to feel inadequate for not possessing them. By whom, you ask? Yourself, mostly. That choir of doom squaking… sqwaking… squawking!!! in your guilt-wracked head.

To be and not to do

It’s tough being a be-er in a world of do-ers. The be-er is completely uninterested in mulling wine; mulling over one’s own thoughts is so much more rewarding. Why watch that highly- rated documentary when you can watch the endless drama of shadows on a wall? And butter melts over store-bought bread just as it would over a homemade loaf – but with less pressure to enjoy it. In the Covid era, self-actualisation via the productivity route has turned into a stressful, full-time job for a Dickensian master: the unpleasable self. In this “be all you can” scenario, there’s something radical about not wanting to excel.

The pragmatists might sneer at this kind of slacker talk, but to them I suggest the underrated pleasure of spending an entire weekend doing nothing more than reading for pleasure. Leave the cycle in the shed, the recipe unopened, the wardrobe untidy. Let the kids run wild. Let the pet stay ungroomed and the iron unrepaired. A sleepy conscience can sometimes be just the thing to encourage that poor, muffled inner voice to sing out loud against the squwacking… scquawking… squawking!!! world outside.

Perfect vs good

Lest I be likened to a slightly less hairy Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski – the dude of dudes – let me acquit myself with a shameful confession: I’ve never missed a work deadline. Which brings me to my liberating philosophy: letting yourself go is not (always) the road to hell it’s made out to be. At a time when everyone’s trying to hold on to meaning – in the form of jobs, relationships and leisure activities – it’s more important than ever to be kind to oneself. I hereby take the lead in this noble endeavour. Just this last fortnight, I’ve forgiven myself for a clumpy poha in the kitchen and a withdrawal from a demanding project. I think I’m now ready to write The Slacker’s Guide to Self-Care in the Covid Era.

Like all writers referencing long-dead heroes to reinforce their fledgling arguments, it’s time for me to turn to a revolutionary French philosopher. ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good’, Voltaire, one of the shining lights of the Age of Enlightenment, is believed to have said. What a perfectly-liberating thought to slip into Sunday with, as the unfettered birds squawk (!!!) on.

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From HT Brunch, September 27, 2020

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