Internal motivation

Our society is geared from the outside in. What I mean by that is that we are all supposed to draw our happiness from exterior stimulus. “Buy this product, you deserve it!” “Drink this to feel better!”, “Eat this and you’ll be happy!”. With those slogan they shovel pictures of happy people. Big smiles! Clear lights, bright soft colors. I’m sure you’ve seen the commercial.

But then there is a pandemic where the whole planet has to stay at home. All of the sudden the shops are not open, social gatherings are prohibited and we are all stuck at home with a TV, a computer, a phone: a screen. So, what do we do? We watch the screen. The whole series of Breaking bad/Orphan Black/Downton Abbey/Game of thrones goes down in a week. Oh, I am not making fun, I did the same until I got fed up of waiting for my life to pass. Then I grabbed the remote and did the strangest thing I’ve ever done in probably 30 years: I turned off the TV and faced myself. It came brutally for me: TV off, Sol in.

I discovered that I was living in a different time than the one I used to be in when I didn’t own a computer, a TV, a smart phone. It was a time when I read a lot, when I had more time for my friends and my family, when  I was not distracted constantly by a Meme here, a GIF there, when my interaction with the world didn’t have to be quick, entertaining or informative, when it could be just an interaction with no real purpose, when I could be watching a magnificent scenery without taking my phone out to “capture the moment”. No, at the time, watching the sun disintegrating in slow red and lazy purples was an experience in itself. I used to do that.

I have talked with many people since the beginning of this pandemic. We all experience the same thing: the void inside. We all discover that without the possibility of traveling, of going out, of shopping, of getting our stimuli from the outside world without all that we are lost. We feel empty inside. We could buy this, or drink that to feel better, but the economy has slowed down for a lot of us, and, besides, there is less to buy when you’re trapped at home, most shops are closed and we got an economic downturn roaring at our windows.

This is a very recent phenomenon. This need for constant external motivation, I mean. Up until the 50’s people were always busy, always active. My grand mother would be doing her regular work during the day and, in the evening, once every thing was done, she would be mending socks or knitting or peeling some green beans. Her fingers never stopped moving. My grand father would be also pulling his day like a boss then fix the radio, or sclean the sauce pans, or shine the shoes of the family. He never stopped either.

We have lost that state of mind. I am not saying it’s bad. I just see that it’s not pleasant when there’s a pandemic.

Should we go back to the days when people got lost on the road because they didn’t have GPS available at all time? The days when you took a picture and couldn’t tell right away if it was a good one? The days when you had to buy a book (or borrow one) to get a new recipe? The days when you couldn’t learn new skills online? Should we go back to those dark ages? Should we ditch all our modernity in order to understand ourselves better?

My answer is no. I used technology every day. It’s what has saved my business in these strange times when I cannot welcome a student in my home. It’s the reason I do not fear the time my children will leave the nest and go live in another state or another country. Technology is too interwoven in my life to be discarded. But I have been questioning the use of that technology. I have realized that I was addicted to it and that I need to be careful. My internal world also needs to be fed. I need to stop being distracted. I need to reconnect with the essential part of me in order to be connected with my life. It’s all internal. The motivation doesn’t have to be from my financial power but from what I grow in a patient and fun way inside. It could be a new piano piece, a difficult bass drum pattern, a rethink of the dynamics on both instrument, where to place the snare in a rock beat, how to mortise and tenon the legs of a table, reading a big fat book and finish it. Those activities feed me internally, these are things that not only keep me busy, they define me. I invite you to find your own activities, your own motivations. We are still stuck at home, and apparently, even if they let us out from time to time, it seems we are going to be inside for quite a while, we have nothing else to do but look in the mirror. It’s better if you like what you see.