What to Do With Nothing to Do
By Matthew Hussey
As I was about to write this piece, I instinctively reached for my shoes. I would normally walk to grab a coffee from my local before starting. I promptly remembered it’s closed for the next 2 weeks.
It’s particularly strange, this global crisis. Not just because most – if not all of us – have no way of relating to it from any other period in our lives, but because we don’t actually know when it will end. That’s just weird.
I live in Los Angeles, where everything has pretty much shut down. I won’t pretend this means wholesale changes to my entire routine. It doesn’t. I’m a homebody. I work from home. I regularly refuse invitations to go out – so it would be pretty childish of me to mourn the loss of these events now – and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mildly excited by having a cosmological excuse for staying in my underpants all day.
I currently get to say no to things with complete impunity whilst taking zero responsibility for being the recluse that I sort of am anyway. I can hear the quiet war cry from my introverted brothers and sisters already: “This is it brothers and sisters! We’ve trained for this! This is our time!”
My normal routines that take place outside the house mostly involve driving to Jiu jitsu, running to the gym, and walking to coffee. The occasional visit to the movies. This may not sound like a lot, but they are still my routines. And when our routines get taken from us, we get a bit, well, strange. We find ourselves doing laps around the house, looking out of windows for a bit longer than normal, investigating drawers and cupboards we haven’t had the time nor the boredom to look inside for a very long time (so that’s where I left that iPhone charger).
And then we realize it’s only day 2, and we’ve been told we have at least 2 more weeks like this. Maybe more. Likely more. That’s when we begin to extrapolate just how weird we might get by the end of the month.
I also appreciate how extraordinarily hard this must all be for people who are finding themselves adjusting to working from home for the first time (or no longer working, as the case may be), many of whom have children who are also ‘working’ from home for the first time.
The great irony of all this unexpected time we are finding ourselves with, is that it seems disproportionately difficult to concentrate for long enough to get anything done with it. Some of this is simply our coming to terms with how badly our phone addictions have eroded our ability to focus for longer than 5 minutes. We are functioning novelty-addicts.
But there’s also the low level anxiety many are feeling right now. We are scared, and completely in the dark as to when this will end. We feed our fears by being glued to a news cycle that looks more like a post-apocalyptic movie everyday. Is that an empty WholeFoods I see on CNN or did I accidentally switch the channel to The Walking Dead? I’m really not sure.
Not to mention the ‘high’-level anxiety that so many people are experiencing from the imminent loss of jobs, worrying about their parents, providing for their children (who are now swinging from the rafters) and even from having a family member or friend suffering with the virus.
The loneliness compounds it. We turn to social media for connection, but ah, there it is again, the news. Or at the very least, our friends opinions about the news. These factors combined are a winning combination for wasting time, and ignoring the very actions that might help us feel better in this situation.
It’s as if some ingenious little procrastination demon tried to think of the most vile combination he possibly could: “Ok my little cherub…you been complaining all this time you haven’t had enough time for the things you really want to do…well here…have as much time as you want. When will it end? Who knows! Will you get horribly sick at some point along the way? Maybe! So you better not get too close to anyone. Good luuuuuuck.”
It’s a horrible feeling to have something you’ve been telling yourself you wish you had the time for, only to find you now have oodles of time but the wrong state of mind to do it.
Then there’s these inspirational Instagram quotes going around politely reminding us what the brilliant people that preceded us did in their isolated time. Did you know that Isaac Newton invented Calculus while he was forced to stay home during the Great Plague of London? Well? Did you?
But we must remember, Sir Isaac didn’t face the challenges we face. Take me for example. I’ve been distracted by at least 5 hilarious memes just in the last two hours. He never knew such struggle. And if there is a modern day Isaac Newton, I have a feeling he or she is the one creating all these memes. I mean some of them really are brilliant. Didn’t you ever stop to wonder what genius is making them?
We may not be about to do anything as ground breaking as inventing calculus. At least I’m not. But we may want to consider the possibility that there is an alternative to spending several weeks merely forwarding the funniest corona-memes to our friends. Or panicking.
And before you think I’m preaching, I’m not. This is really a letter to myself. While my self-development peers have been posting about controlling your focus and sticking to your positive habits, I just spent the entire weekend eating chocolate, cheeseburgers, and binge-watching the amazon series Hunters. Everyone has their process.
And yet if, like me, you’d like to adapt to occasionally using this time for something meaningful – in spite of yourself – I have an idea brewing that I’ll tell you about later today.
(That’s a corona cliffhanger right there.)
Love you all
P.S. Speaking of brewing, my tea tutorial is a must watch for anyone with way too much time on their hands. And for everyone who saw it, stop looking for the deeper meaning. It’s about tea.
P.P.S. Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.