All of these people crowing about finally having the time to do X, Y and Z are bewildering to me.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands. Not even just during this pandemic. No, I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands since the divorce.
The reason for all my free time
I have no commute, so unlike many people, my work takes up only eight hours a day. And not even that much, really.
See, I have a lot of downtime at work, allowing me to blog and even work out during my workday. On exercise rest days, I can even run a quick errand as long as I’m not away from the computer for too long.
Beyond that, I sleep eight to nine hours (yay chronic fatigue), which leaves seven to eight hours a day to fill — not including all that downtime at work.
And other than occasional loneliness — it can be isolating being home alone all day and then still alone in the evening — I like having all that free time. Before the coronavirus, it allowed me to see friends, do MeetUp events or otherwise live the life I wanted.
Which is to say, I mainly watched a lot of Netflix. But that’s okay too.
So I’m puzzled by the people tweeting about how this pandemic has finally given them the time to start a long put-off project or concentrate on a hobby. Because I’ve always had plenty of time to do what I like.
The thing is… What I really don’t get is the obsession with keeping busy. See, I don’t like to do that much. Or perhaps it’s better stated as: I just don’t want to do anything terribly constructive.
I’m not sure why I’m not aiming for loftier goals like most people. Maybe because I went on disability? During the 1.5 year application process and then the three years before I found my current job, I had oodles of time to fill. So I’ve tried just about every hobby I might be interested in/good at/willing to invest the money in to find out.
But also I guess I just don’t understand why people feel they need to be productive all of the time. My chronic fatigue long ago taught me that you don’t have to be producing anything to be a worthwhile person.
I worry that we as a society fail to understand that. That we look down on people who aren’t constantly busy, let alone ones who aren’t making something tangible.
But we need to remember that sometimes in life it’s all you can do to just get by — or, like me, all you want to do.
And why isn’t that okay? Why do we constantly have to be seeking out a new hobby or side hustle? Why can’t just leading a happy, uncluttered life be enough?
Yet most people would probably think it’s weird that I do so little. Until they find out I have chronic fatigue, I feel like most people judge how little else I do besides work and chill out.
And hey, maybe that’s just me being defensive, but hearing the slew of activities in other people’s lives… Yeah, I don’t think so.
What I do do
Looking at my life, I realized I have two (maybe three) hobbies: blogging and going out/spending time with friends. Plus maybe dating, I guess? Those last two are unfortunate hobbies during a pandemic.
But in non-end-of-the-world times, I think it’s totally okay to have such low-key activities as your main focus — even if they don’t produce anything tangible.
No, there won’t be more-organized closets, feng-shui-ed houses, new furniture, delicious foods, more money, etc. But I think it’s okay to have your main activities just be… Well, being. Or at least being present with people you care about. (And maybe some hot young guys too — at least when you’re not risking your life just by being around people.)
Examining our lives
So yes, just being present is, I think, a good thing to practice. I worry that some — though certainly not all — people distract themselves with side hustles and hobbies to avoid thinking too hard about having a fulfilling life. To ask whether they’re really happy.
And I think that this pandemic is highlighting some people’s inherent dissatisfaction with where their lives stand. Not just because calls to divorce attorneys have gone up either.
Many normally-so-busy folks now have nothing to do but sit around and think. And since they’re trying desperately not to think about the scary virus on the loose, that’s a lot of time to think about their lives in general. (Or at least what those lives used to be.)
So they start to examine their existences, and frankly some people may not like what they find.
It’s not just spouses and kids driving them crazy, and it’s not just the exhausting anxiety and depression of the pandemic. I think that a lot of people just finally have time to look out their usually-chaotic lives and seeing how some of their keeping so busy may simply have been a coping mechanism.
Some people may be starting to realize that they’re staying busy to distract themselves rather than purely for enjoyment or a financial boost.
To be clear
This isn’t to say that everyone who lives an activity-packed life is unhappy.
Some people are busy because of family. Kids require a lot of time, energy, focus and yeah, activity. Meanwhile, they have to make time for any partners and hopefully find something that’s just for them too.
Other folks just genuinely like to keep busy. They may like to do good by volunteering or just have hobbies that they find fulfilling. Or maybe they have side hustles that they find fun or at least very financially rewarding.
So yes, there are definitely folks who genuinely enjoy their pastimes or find their side hustles necessary/rewarding. And if that makes their lives fuller (not just busier) that’s awesome.
It’s great to volunteer for the PTA or to help others or even to just drive for Uber. Just make sure you’re not doing it to avoid examining your life and your happiness level.
Staying busy is OK (especially now)
Don’t get me wrong, a pandemic probably isn’t the best time to declutter your activities list — unless you want to do (or are only able to do) the bare minimum, which is totally okay.
But mainly, it’s fine — logical, even — to do things to distract yourself during all this awfulness. If that includes the ubiquitous bread baking or gardening or even taking up whittling… Sure, go for it.
I myself just don’t feel the need to produce anything in general — at least, other than two blog posts and a spending diary every week. Personally, I think that that’s perfectly healthy, but by American standards (even outside of a pandemic) it’s considered bizarre.
And yes, I’ve scaled down my expectations of myself because of chronic fatigue. But I think a lot of people could stand to take a page out of my playbook and just relax.
It’s inherited, I guess
I’m not the only one in the family like this. I think I get these values from my mom.
Of course, she works diligently, but she doesn’t like staying as maniacally busy as some freelancers. Why? She values her free time. And do you know what she does with it? She visits friends and family, she reads a fair amount and she spends time with her DF.
That sounds like a pretty fulfilling life to me. But it’s downright slothful compared to many folks’ activity lists.
It didn’t used to always be this way. When I was a kid, she was working a full-time job, raising me (Dad worked nights and weekends, so he was rarely around/awake when I was out of school) and still freelancing a fair amount. She was frequently hectically busy. And I maintain that a lot of it was to avoid thinking too hard about how desperately unhappy she was thanks to an emotionally abusive marriage.
Now? Now she’s floating-on-air happy in her relationship with DF. She has great friends and is very close with my cousin and my cousin’s kids. So now Mom can relax and actually enjoy her life by being present for those she loves (including books).
And I think that’s a pretty good role model right there. So that’s probably why I just don’t feel the need to stay that busy.
A list of things I won’t do
Yarn work: I’m a terrible crocheter and not a fabulous knitter either. Besides, knits aren’t great in Arizona. Also, even halfway decent yarn makes any substantial project kind of pricey.
Beading: I’m okay at it but not great and ye gods those beads add up quickly!
Sewing: Mom never taught me anything (not that she’s an avid sewer), so I can only do a very basic, very poor chain stitch, and I can sew buttons back on.
Besides, beyond not wanting to invest in a sewing machine, I just generally have no interest in making my own clothing. And given that I live in Arizona, I definitely don’t need any quilts. (Also, I’m terrified of jamming my hand under the needle accidentally.)
Finally, I’m simply not great at detail work, which is a problem for sewing. So I’ll keep a needle and thread for repairs and nothing more.
Chickens: A reader suggested this once. Though I’m not sure it’s actually a “hobby” it certainly would take up some of my time. But the thing is, I rarely eat eggs. And I have no desire to hawk them to other people. And I feel like I have enough responsibility just keeping the cat alive and healthy. Besides, my tenant has a dog that already hassles the occasional gophers we get in the yard. I’d hate to see what she’d do to chickens.
Rehabbing furniture: Once upon a time, I thought I’d rehab and sell furniture. I have a decent eye for color and making things look funky/new. But again, I’m not great at detail work.
Small imperfections are fine (if not great) when you’re making something for yourself. But they’re a big deal when you’re selling the item to someone else.
Also, it’s just difficult to find pieces you can redo at prices that still allow for a reasonable profit — especially considering the time you put in painting or otherwise rehabbing.
Also also: having Josie means I can’t work in the house.She’d probably lick the paint (either in the can or on the furniture) or rub up against the furniture while the paint was still wet. So I’d have to work outside or in the garage. In Arizona summers. No thanks.
Gardening: I don’t like vegetables all that much. And food-producing plants are the only non-native species I’d be willing to spend water on, given that Arizona is already probably facing a water crisis in the next five-ish years. Besides, my yard has terrible, hard-packed soil. So I’d have to build raised beds and buy dirt and just… No.
Cooking/baking: Well, we already know I don’t enjoy cooking. In theory, baking might be more fun. Except then I’d have calorie-laden treats that I shouldn’t — but totally would — eat.
Wordworking: While cool in theory, I don’t need any furniture and again I’m guessing that my issues with small details would make it hard to sell my stuff. Also, I don’t want to invest in the tools necessary for building things.
Not to mention that historically I’m not the best at hammering a nail in straight. Besides, once again I’d have to work outside, as I foresee Josie licking any sawdust and/or climbing on furniture that’s setting.
A list of things I might do
Puzzles: Okay, I might take up puzzles. The first 1,000-piece one Mom and I did was maddening. I was actually close to tears in frustration at a couple of points. But we got a second 1,000-piece puzzle and it’s a lot better so far. So I’ll try to give puzzles a fair shake when she’s gone.
Logic puzzles: Once upon a time, I had a subscription to a logic puzzles magazine. But I quickly fell behind on actually filling out the booklets. So I’m trying to do some of those to keep my brain working. If I get close to filling all those out, I’ll consider resubscribing to the magazine.
Reading: I need to start doing this again. I barely read anymore. But it’s hard for me to sit still with a book for some reason. I need to put my phone away and try to concentrate. Maybe the logic puzzles will bolster my concentration again?
Blogging: Of course. But sometimes I forget to count this one because it’s just doesn’t take up much of my free time, since I work on it during the downtime at my job.
Under normal circumstances, do you prefer to keep busy or are you okay with a quieter life? What hobbies do you have?