I recently watched The Jungle Book (Disney movie) with my children and enjoyed singing along to this song many of us will remember from our childhood:
“Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities…”
It made me think of how lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to learn to live without some things we used to think were essential to life. Who would have thought women like me would be able to cope without having their hair, nails and eyebrows done for so long? But we have! It has been interesting to see some people discover hidden DIY talents for hair-dressing, cleaning, home-schooling, IT and even home repairs. With so many businesses closed, we can choose to either do it ourselves or live without the service until shops reopen. I am not sure how much longer I can cope without washing my car, but with this winter cold, I just might wait and be the first customer at our local carwash when it reopens.
It has been good to spend more time with our nuclear families, but now it just feels a bit like an overdose of indoors and starvation from extended family. We miss being able to have meals with other people and visit friends wherever and whenever we want. I am now even beginning to miss people I never thought I could miss! Our phones and the internet have become so much more important as a means to stay connected to the outside world. You can imagine my annoyance when my phone fell and died last week. I started to notice all the things I needed my smartphone for - telling the time, checking emails, Amazon shopping, internet banking, google information, satellite navigation, Whatsapp chats, social media activity and good old phone calls, which I’m sure phones were originally made for. I used my laptop for some of these things for a while, but had to order a new phone online, because I could not imagine waiting until after lockdown to find out if my old phone could be resurrected.
Little things like this make us realise that the bare necessities of life change depending on our stage of life and circumstances. There was a time when I would have been happy to have a landline phone and a normal television without Netflix to watch with my parents and siblings at home. Nowadays, children wonder why you can’t rewind when you make them watch programmes on terrestrial TV, instead of Netflix etc. We recently watched a Nigerian movie called Poor-ish, which was about a teenage girl who learned a lot about life when her father lost his wealth and they had to move into her grandmother’s house in a less fancy part of town. She was complaining about having to wash her own clothes and having to share a bathroom with her sister, when a boy from the neighbourhood showed her the dirty shed he lived in for months with his mother after his father died. It was a picture of real poverty, which made her suddenly more grateful for all she had, and more generous when their wealth was restored.
I have had some time in lockdown to think about what really are the bare necessities of life for me, and why that is so. It is good to appreciate the blessing of the lives we normally live, but it is also good to understand that some of it is actually luxury we do not really need. When we look past what we can’t do and focus on what’s still available, do we have all we really need in lockdown? We can choose to have a good attitude and encourage others who might be struggling more than we are, instead of focusing on the lack. We might feel lost without certain things in lockdown, but very few of those things are truly necessary for a good life. Let us not make mountains out of molehills. Decide what exactly is making you unhappy in lockdown and do something about it, if you can, for the sake of your mental health. If it is not possible, safe or legal to solve the problem, we can try to change our attitude to it or the lack of it. Some people have finally overcome some addictions in lockdown and formed better, helpful habits instead.
When there are less Covid-19 restrictions - hopefully soon, I hope that we remember that what really matters is the love and not the presents, the hugs and not the clothes, the family and not the house, the fact that we have food to eat and not the fanciness of the restaurants. Until then, figure out your own lockdown bare necessities, be grateful for them and take one day at a time. Don’t sweat the small stuff - we are all just doing what we can. Remember that there is someone, somewhere who would trade places with you in a heartbeat if given the chance. You have done well to still be standing in February 2021. Stay strong. Stay safe. This too shall pass.