Adventures with the Marmoset of Mischief

An extroverts guide to surviving COVID-19.

As a card-carrying member of the extrovert club, I’m not really loving the lockdown.

I’m not suggesting that many of us are but I’m guessing that my more introverted colleagues are having a little less of a challenge coming to terms with the new normal…

When this began there was distraction in the challenge of decamping a function to a multitude of homes, ensuring the tech worked and overcoming all the initial problems COVID19 was throwing at us.

This very quickly gave way to an overindulgence in Doritos – apparently, they aren’t one of my five a day – and a propensity for a little too much alcohol despite the mantra/justification of “well it’s five o’clock somewhere”.

By about week three my motivation was all over the place, as were my moods, and I wasn’t breaking any productivity records either. I’d put on weight, so the self-loathing had begun, and we were facing the prospect of another two months of virus inflicted groundhog days. I can’t say I fancied my chances…

So, what to do? Well, there’s an old Buddhist maxim that “the path to true enlightenment begins by returning to the place you never left”. So, that’s what I did. I sat, with me, and tried to figure out what I needed to get through this and how that might look.

Here’s what I found when I got there…

Structure is important:

I think of myself as being a bit of a free spirit. A blue-sky thinker. So, this was quite a shock – I need, and quite like, routine! Who knew…? It gives me focus and helps keep my extroverts Monkey Mind at bay, or at least pulls it out of the trees before it goes completely native!

My weekly and daily to-do list is an anchor. It’s the rock I tether myself to at the start of the week and the anchor that keeps the monkey out of the trees. It’s also giving me a sense of achievement, of momentum, as each day passes.

Energy needs to be channelled:

At the best of times I’m like a wasp on Redbull and being in lockdown limits my opportunities to burn of my excess of energy – at which point the Marmoset of Mischief typically makes an appearance…productivity takes a massive nosedive and I can lose hours exploring some very odd corners of the internet – did you know that Turkmenistan is among the top ten cotton producers on the globe? Of course, you didn’t!

Cycling has saved me. I have road, mountain and static bikes and according to my Strava feed I’m averaging between 100-150km a week. I’m sleeping better, feeling more focussed and the marmoset is in check – mostly…

Variety is the spice of life:

One of my main challenges during lockdown is coping with the lack of variety from one day to the next. I’m used to being on the move, meeting lots of people and having lots to stimulate my noodle. Clearly, that’s a thing of the past and, quite frankly, vanilla living is making my brain atrophy – writing this blog has taken an age, sorry Trevor.

So, mis amigos, I’ve started to learn Spanish and I’m using YouTube to improve my bike maintenance skills. Trust me, I’m neither fluent nor competent but the challenge, mild stress and frustrations involved in trying to master a couple of things that are really out of my comfort zone seem to be helping. And they provide a welcome distraction and diversion when I need one.

Not being alright, is alright:

I guess like most of us, the current situation brings with it a huge sense of helplessness, frustration and sometimes, just plain anger. There’s more that we don’t know, than we do – and in a lot of ways that’s just plain terrifying.

Let’s face it, how many of us ever thought we’d be living through a global pandemic? That’s pure Hollywood.

So, I meditate. Now, this isn’t new, I’ve been meditating for the better part of 20 years but at the minute the benefit it brings, not just to me, but those around me are important.

And, when returning to the place I never left, just sitting with my fear, my anxiety, my frustrations and my anger somehow make them all just a little bit more manageable.
It’s also taught me the value of recognising when they’re not and that sometimes, if you feel like crying, that’s the best thing to do.

So, as the lockdown, or some version of it, stretches of into the distance. I’ll be the guy meditating, cycling, writing lists and occasionally having a little cry.

Somebody once told me that everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, its just not the end. So, here’s to the end.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I seem to have misplaced a marmoset!

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