Well, I haven’t left our house in 16 days, and the last time I did, it was to drive to CarSense so that I could give Berta a ride home from dropping off Abby’s car for inspection. Before that, who knows how long it’s been. It’s both disconcerting and comforting that this has been going on too long to count the days.
It turns out that there is a back side to the bell curve of new “be at home all the time”-ness. At the beginning, you think things will be ok, since you won’t be doing some of the things you usually do, there will be more time for those things you’ve always wanted to get done. But on the back side of the curve, it turns out that “free time” was never the reason you didn’t do those things. With all of that “free time” available, you’re doing different things with that time, and just don’t prioritize that other stuff. Or maybe you plain don’t want to do it.
Sure, there’s space for new things. What was formerly an hour of driving time to/from scout meetings (and the hour scout meeting itself) has now become staring at the wall, wondering what to do with that hour. I’m getting really good at staring at walls; maybe an expert by the time this is all over. And although it is possible to use this time “productively”, sometimes - especially these days - I just need to stare at a wall. I need it. I find that you either get this, or you do not, so I won’t try to explain.
Here’s a weird side-effect of everyone being in lockdown: Everyone’s learning how to use the internet to do stuff that they’d normally do in person. And where I have longed for people to come around to this way of thinking, now everyone wants to do it all of the time. It’s bothersome for two reasons. First, not just because it’s novel to them, but because it’s novel to all of them at the same time. The other bother is that, because I’ve been doing this and hoping others would for so long, I’m now frequently the target of the ask to do it, but by all parties at all times. This is to say, even though I now have fewer out-of-house obligations, it seems like there is a new, constant expectation that I’m available to everyone at all times for their internet-based replacements. It sounds like whining, and maybe it is, but it is definitely a case of “be careful what you wish for”, since I now most certainly have been granted my wish in spades.
Looking at the above together, one of the most insidious downsides is not those actual things themselves. It’s that I feel bad about those things. Like, I feel a bit guilty that I don’t play online games with distant (and local) friends all of the time. I feel guilty that I’m squandering good “free” time needfully staring at walls instead of doing some online training, writing some code for a personal project, or cleaning my office. Yeah, I feel like I should be productive. It doesn’t really matter that there are plenty of people on Twitter retweeting photos of sunsets with superimposed statements saying it’s ok to do nothing if that’s what you need at this time. I already get it; The only person judging me is me. It doesn’t stop the feeling bad about it.
The monotony is a problem. Before, things were monotonous, but at least had some regular mileposts to mark the days, and there was enough variety injected from the outside to have things to look forward to in the distance. Now, it’s wake up, work, dinner, struggle with free time, go to bed. For five days straight. The weekends don’t register anymore, because, again, staring at walls. Perhaps the solution here is to set some goals for myself, and stop flowing with the go. Part of the issue is that the fam is also feeling this monotony, and I would need their help (as they might need mine?) to break the cycle.
I find myself asking how this lockdown is affecting me differently from others, and what I might need to get through another 3 months of this. I can certainly imagine it’s possible, and I suspect the above would even all level out on its own, but I may have to nudge some things to keep sane in the short-term.