Let’s continue the tour of 70s and 80s-inspired post titles, shall we?
Today’s selection: the Eagles.
There’s a sentiment I’ve been seeing around the interwebs about how important it is to for us to use the indoor time of these COVID days. At it most obnoxious, the phrasing goes something like this:
If you don’t come out of quarantine with a new skill, you just wasted your time.
I’m reassured to note, as I’m Googling to find links expressing that sentiment for this post, that I’m not finding the idea phrased quite that aggressively. And what occurrences I am seeing are mostly in more fringe-y sites. I mean, there’s the Minnesota news site that has a business op-ed advocating for lifelong learning under the title “Don’t let your quarantine time go to waste.” The closest phrasing I’ve found is on a London lifestyle blog. Their post encouraging lifelong learning opens with this pithy observation:
[I]f you’re stuck at home in self-isolation or lockdown, then three weeks is definitely a long time. It will also seem like time wasted if you come out the other side with no discernible life lesson or skill to show for the time you spent doing “stuff”.
I, myself, have one main thing to say in response.
Let’s leave aside the question of misusing the term “quarantine” and the punctuational sin of placing the period outside of one’s quotation mark. (At least for now.*) And don’t get me wrong, because I have all kinds of affection for lifelong learning—after all, one of my own bits of brain-comfort-food during this pandemic is a daily dose of Shakespeare.
I can even see the value in finding places to focus your energy and attention beyond the rabbit hole of endless news updates and obsessive worrying. I am still choosing to review news from White House briefings in a summarized after-the-fact way, and I’m more than grateful to have a job that I can focus my attention on for a stretch of each weekday.
Where I take issue is with this whole bullshit notion of “wasted time”—the pressure that if you don’t hit some personal productivity bar during this pandemic that you’re somehow a failure.
For one thing, you may not actually be having that much more time in your day now than you did pre-COVID. Your job may not have slowed down, or even if it did, those tasks have been replaced by childcare and the responsibility of aiding your kids with the shift to remote learning.
Or, as Ella Dawson puts it:
We still get to live with all the bullshit we dealt with before, only now there are more layoffs, fewer healthcare benefits, more push notifications, less safety for our loved ones. Rent still needs to be paid. Debt payments still need to be paid. Groceries still need to be bought. We live with more uncertainty, more danger, more grief. This is not a #coronacation, it’s a psychological onslaught.
In Rutgers University’s daily newspaper, Ashley Robinson makes a similar observation:
Pushing yourself to be productive every day during a whole global crisis is exhausting. Why do I need to fill my day with tons of things just to feel like I deserve to relax at the end of it?. . . Besides completing necessary assignments and making sure I eat for the day, there isn’t much on my schedule. I want to change the way I live my life to promote the best version of myself. The productive mentality is harmful especially in times like now. During this time, instead of focusing on productivity, I’ve focused on things that bring me joy and help me stay at peace. Netflix created Netflix Party, a feature that allows you to watch movies with friends and family. I’ve painted my nails, gone for walks, played UNO! with my family and read books for leisure.
I love the emphasis Ashley places on finding pleasure rather than productivity in her daily activities.
This is also something my mentor, Kristin Sweeting Morelli is up to in the midst of this all. She’s been leading daily rests on Facebook live, as a way for folks to put joy and pleasure and good energy into our internal bank account. Not as a way of ignoring the pandemic, but as a way to foster self-care and resilience during it.
Fostering self-care and resilience. Worthy goals for sure.
So this weekend, I took the time to paint my nails, just like Ashley wrote about. And I did a bit of cleaning and decluttering in my home office.**
Now, that latter activity looks an awful lot like falling into the productivity trap. But here’s the thing: it’s all about the energy that led me to do that cleaning. I wasn’t pressuring myself to be productive. I wasn’t lecturing myself about how being stuck at home meant that it’s the perfect time for me to Kondo all my shit.
It was all much more self-serving than that. I’m spending a lot more hours in this room than I usually do, and so I wanted to make it a brighter, more pleasurable place to be. It’s not all-the-way clean (not by a long shot), but it is a more pleasurable room to be in. Call that a win for self-care.
As long as it feels nurturing in that way, I’ll keep on doing bits of cleaning/decluttering here and there. But if a day rolls around where I need to lie on the couch and watch lots of TV, I am more than good with that.
Like author Chuck Wendig says, none of this is normal. You can take it easy on yourself.
We all can.
* At least one of those topics might warrant its own post down the line….
** AKA our guest room and junk room.