How To Do Nothing

I’m enjoying not doing much of anything.

This is not as easy as it sounds.  In fact, it’s taken me a lifetime to get to this point.  I’m not sure how long it will last but, boy, I’m hoping it doesn’t end any time soon.

And if I work real hard and am real lucky, it won’t.

At the height of self-quarantine in early April I had a routine appointment with a doctor whose office is located in a hospital.

Admittance into the hospital required a temperature check at the door and when I was told mine was a little over 101 degrees, well, imagine my surprise.

Definitely channelled my inner Maya

I had a headache, which is not unusual for someone with severe seasonal allergies such as mine, and that was about it.  But after several more temp checks and a call to my doctor on the inside I was told a COVID-19 test was ordered and I was to return later that afternoon.

Some hours later I was driving down to the hospital’s lower level parking lot where about 20 hospital workers, dipped in what looked liked head to toe HAZ-MAT suits, with long plexiglass shields around their upper torsos, stood at tables on either side of me in my car.

Their hands were weaponized with small plastic test tubes, synthetic clipboards with official looking paper lists and Q Tips the size of the twelve-foot ruler I hadn’t seen since my elementary school days,

It looked sort of like a scene from Alien or Star Trek crossed with a yet to be filmed Tim Burton movie about mass corruption in the medical establishment.

Roughly what I saw from my car

Nevertheless, I soldiered through, weathered the teacher’s measuring stick far up my nose, was told the next day I was negative and then soon after was diagnosed with a bad sinus infection.

It took a while to get better, both physically and psychologically.  I mean, there was something about the Q-Tip ruler up my nose that still gives me the willies despite NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s very apt demonstration last week on TV that it was nothing to be afraid of.  (Note: Good for him.  And notice they didn’t show his face in close-up).

Notice he’s smiling… BEFORE the swab goes in #notpleasant

I also had a lot to preoccupy me while I was healing.  There were four 2-3 hour Zoom sessions per week with college writing students now dispersed all over the country I was supposed to be teaching meaningful skills to as well as reassuring.  Not to mention, dozens and dozens, and still dozens of their pages to read and type feedback to.  On the more personal side, there was also an endless loop of food prep/food buying that included literally HOURS of wipe downs with chemically smelly products that can’t, in the long run, be good for your you OR your food.

In addition to ….well, a  TON more.  I mean, it’s only been this last week that I began to master the art of mentally measuring what it means to really be six feet apart from anyone while walking my dog.

Of course, I still haven’t mastered the art of wearing a mask with glasses.  For a while I thought the advice of washing your specs in soap and water before going outside would prevent the mask from fogging up but that proved to be as effective as stopping the hiccups by having someone scaring the life out of you.

I’m going to have to look this stupid, huh? #signmeup

Yet since I handed in my grades earlier this week after reading 352 screenplays and TV pilots in 14 days (Note:  Okay, not really, but still A LOT), and having increased my speed in disinfecting, distancing, zooming, prepping and cleaning, I do find myself with…..idle time.

Yes, I’m one of the fortunate ones to not be working on the front lines, not have any friends or loved ones fighting for their lives against COVID, and not in immediate danger of being thrown out of my apartment or deprived of my next meal because I can’t meet the rent or afford the grocery bill.

And so are many of you.

Also known as Twitter

Yet there is this strange restlessness, anger and resentment in the air I can feel amid the aforementioned MANY I am lucky to be a part of.  People are climbing the walls, screaming at the TV and complaining endlessly about being sentenced to life at home with their computers, televisions, phones and loved ones by their side or a zoom chat away.

Boo-hoo.  Boo, boo, boo, boo, HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!

Adopt the ruthlessness of Sally Draper

Believe me, I get it.  I don’t like to be trapped or idle either.  And before you go ballistic, I’m not speaking about people who are freaked out because they can’t work and fear they’ll lose everything, or whose very small children are driving them up the walls they probably wish were padded by now.

Instead, I’m speaking of the millions of the rest of you in MY group who, really, just need to hang out for a little while longer and calm the f-k down.

I’ve NEVER been good at not having a plan to give me control over a situation.  I’ve also been the ambitious type, spending my life plotting the next project that will move me forward in my life, my career or in my relentless search for the answers to all the nagging existential questions I’ve had about life and human existence since I was a wee child.

Me, in third grade

The latter might seem silly to you but it’s been both a motivation and an anxiety-ridden plague to me on and off for decades.  So if you can’t relate to it as an example simply substitute anything you try to balance away by activity that you know can easily grind you into the ground if you let yourself get too carried away with it.  These could include love, alcohol, food, work, shopping, crime, sex, gaming or your undying love of all things cyber.

Now that you’ve been ordered to endure some additional self-isolation for a few more months (Note: At least by those who know best) those of you in my very privileged group this summer can start to deal with this by simply saying to yourself and your over active minds/egos….

STOP.  Like, full stop.   You have ZERO reason to be freaking out over what you’re NOT DOING and instead take the time to enjoy NOT DOING anything.

Don’t let those “somethings” tempt you

Human nature being what it is, you have nothing to worry about because pretty soon, you will do something.  Maybe it’s checking in with a friend, being of service to someone less fortunate than you at the spur of the moment or, I don’t know, baking your first loaf of bread.

These activities, none of them, need be IMPORTANT or building towards ANYTHING at all.  They only need to keep you in the moment of just how freaking fortunate you are to be stuck at home with no end in sight without any PLAN or PROJECT for the immediate future.

Oh, something will occur for you to do everyday – many things and many of them mundane – until they’re not and then they are again.

Enjoy it, and then REALLY enjoy it, while you can.

Bruno Mars – “The Lazy Song”

3 thoughts on “How To Do Nothing

  1. Steven, you and I are having exactly the same quarantine experience. It’s kind of a weirdly pleasant break. I’m still working, too, but not plotting much of anything other than dinner. Kind of nice. Hope the other Steve is doing well, too! And hope I get to see you again someday! XOXOXO!

  2. Hi Professor! Former student Bronwyn here! I decided to check on this blog to get your perspective since you always have a good outlook (I remember you had some good words to stem the panic when I messaged you desperately seeking words of wisdom on the night of the election!) I am definitely one of the restless angry ones. This has been very hard partially because I was working on a musical that I was VERY excited about and now I am terrified no one will ever see it because live theatre will be dead forever. But I have to remind myself that it is completely against nature for there to never be a live theatre performance anywhere ever again.

    Anyway I appreciate the reminder that I have no reason to freak out. I am lucky enough to have a great job and an apartment in NYC. I should stop worrying and actually finish my musical (I haven’t made any progress on it this entire time because I have been panicking about the virus!!! For 10 weeks!!!!!!)

    Thanks for having a good perspective. PS I hope all 352 screenplays were as good as ours in our little class of six in spring of ’16 😉

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