Listlessness in a Time of Excess, Whatever it May Be

With the pandemic closing possibilities, it opens others. Most, for many, those open, unusual possibilities suck: bankruptcy, hospital debt, cancelled plans abroad, moving back home with Mom and Dad, straight up dying. While these are not Good, others have re-evaluated their lives. Children and time mean more, self-care means more, politics mean more. Some are getting creative with their outlets, while others are letting the loss of this freedom ruin the happiness of others. I, in particular, have re-evaluated my life as well. For the first time ever, I have space and time, if not money on occasion. I have a computer thirsty for words and a canvas blank and waiting. What I lack is impulse and inspiration and true direction. What I lack is something that makes me wonder.

Time moves slowly some days and too quickly for others, but it all passes me by all the same. I attend class online, like so many other summer school college students, but I cannot breach the trench of thought I get stuck in during the larger, flatter plains of the day. At night, the bed — the most comfortable bed I’ve ever had the pleasure to sit upon — calls to me and I roll around listening to the best ASMR videos where pretty hands squish balls of sand or someone acts in the vein of science fiction POV roleplaying. Usually, I’m an android under maintenance. I don’t need to figure out what next to draw if I’m a forgotten android or an alien or just a fly on the wall. I’ve come to prefer it that way, and it makes me strung out on that particular flavor of millennial anxiety; I’ll be 26 next month and that’s too old to not have changed the world.

This trip of “IhavetodosomethingrightnoworI’llneverdoanythingeverI’mafailure,” has come in the form of my desktop computer. I’ve been wanting one forever as I always want something I can’t have — I’ve been in the purgatory of constantly carrying a small laptop between bed-shares and halfway houses since 2009 — and now that I have the screen space, the memory, and the desk , I’m stalling. The blank face of the 21″ screen stares at me and sits in the corner like a massive cavity of color and light and space that just watches me and wait for what I expect to be a Pulitzer-winning book. Instead! I play those dumb farming games and Facebook Scrabble with my brother, and suddenly I’m tired. Immediately. Nothing gets done. I barely took the trash out yesterday. The laundry starts to smell, so I have to run it again. I’m stuck in my own self-made destruction of constantly consuming true crime shows in-between naps and guilting myself into chores. I have no pattern. I have no discipline and it sickens me.

By the end of the day, when I have to look myself in the face with my toothbrush buzzing in my mouth and wonder what I did that day and ask myself why I pissed it away, I have no answer. I want to pull my hair out in frustration, but I haven’t the energy for that. Some days I have a bit more fortitude. Some days I start writing a chapter, but it doesn’t look good, so I delete it. Repeat. I reread and delete and repeat. I think, “I’ve never written a word I’ve ever liked before, what’s wrong with me,” and decide to read a book nearer to my genre and style to witness a professional at work, in the hopes of inspiring some latent ability in my fingertips, and then never read the book. I have so many books. They seem like the keys to my happiness, my success, and yet they’re stacked and dusty. I am stacked and dusty. Gross.

So, what’s the point of this? Of all this, or the blog post specifically, or the world or my view of it? I don’t know. I don’t know how to think of something so creative and inspiring that I win a grant. I don’t know how to be anything else but an A grade student who can sit in front of a computer and not look at the keyboard as she types. I don’t know how to knock myself out of this fugu, but I want to. Desperately. I should just use my tomato timer. It’s right there on my desk, waiting to slice my life into consumable, 25-minute portions. It’s right there. But so are the books. Why don’t I touch any of it? Why do I embrace inaction, knowing it’s slowly killing me?

I Am Not Sleeping at Night

And I Hate Myself Just A Little For It

Who sleeps at night? People with schedules. When we are without schedules, what do we have then? I don’t know about other people, but I revert to a nocturnal system. Even before the stay-at-home orders of March, even before the record unemployment rate, even before the online transitions, I have always preferred night.

But now, I live with people I actually spend time with. Now? I can’t sleep the day away so much. Granted, there’s not that much I need to be doing, but there are still the chores of grocery shopping and the occasional eye appointment or dental cleaning or, God forbid, visitors when the waking hours are preferred, if not required. I’ve never liked it. I’ve said for years now that I’m training for my future life as a hermit, but I’m still in my twenties and I feel the dread of regret in the back of my mind like a dead tooth. I want something to look back on, something maybe resembling fun, but have yet to find my people. I truly believes that the TV show Friends set unholy expectations of both metropolitan living and friend groups. Who has six friends? It’s pulling teeth to name six people!

So, What Is My Plan?

I don’t know. I want to travel, but I would be alone, isolated, and forbidden from museums and operas in this time of crisis, not that I could afford it any more than I could when places were open. Granted, the world is slowly opening, moving on to what America has called Phase 2 or 3, but Europe has grown keen to our negligence and will eventually close borders to Americans because it’s impossible to hold them accountable for public health. It’s despicable, but I agree with Europe.

Now, I’m biding my time. I’m working on a home career, on freelancing, on saving and crossing off my adulting to-do list, like learning to drive and buying a car. I think in waves of “I should probably do this” and “who gives a shit,” about my weight and learning German and French, and reading the books I’ve accumulated over the years for this very excess of time. These are all things I’ll be glad to have done as an old woman, but I don’t do them! My self-discipline is in shambles, and I need to remedy it all. I’ve worked among people, very dedicated people, who are jealous of my eloquence and pointless body of knowledge who can get up, easily, at 5 AM and go running. I’m the jealous one!

Step One: Find a Method

So without work and meetings and classes to kick my sleep schedule back to rights, I need some way to regulate my waking hours to best benefit me. There are so many time-management methods out there, just look at Pinterest, but I’ve found one that requires a little gadget: the Pomodoro Technique. The “core” of this technique is 25-minute increments with 5-minute breaks, all based on the efficiency and simplicity of the Pomodoro, or a tomato timer. I LOVE gadgets. I love little stupid things that have a particular purpose and functionality, and this seems like a good way for me to get hooked. I can’t even begin to express how pointless timer apps and smartphone calendars are at keeping me on task and on schedule, you can consult my two wall calendars and stacks of post-it notes about my inability to care about Google Calendar or the Notes app. I’m an analog girl! I have a wristwatch for Christ’s sake! And now, at this very moment, I’m typing on a classic keyboard connected to my little tiny MacBook Air. I could make a whole new post on my analog lifestyle (and I probably will) but that’s not the point. The little timer is perfectly sensible.

Step Two: Test the Method

Next, of course, you test it out. As I don’t have the little tomato timer yet I will have to test it at a later time, but this is when you try for a day or two to measure your life in 25-minute increments. Don’t want to try it right now? Read this article in the New York Times, which is where I learned of the technique myself for the first time. There are other articles about the Pomodoro Technique from Forbes, The Muse, Lifehack, and Business Insider.

It might take some time to get into the groove, but don’t give up just yet.

Step Three: Is It Successful?

Do you wake up with a task in mind? Are there more hours in the day? Is the anxiety still there, but, like, less and not so much about your life but for the world in general? Mood. Whichever technique you’ve chosen, just might be working! Self-discipline is a suspicious word as it means different things to different people (everything from dieting to exercise to studying to rehabilitation) but whatever your definition is, just know that getting out of bed is so, so, so important. Don’t get me wrong, being in bed is fantastic. Take a nap, why the hell not? Just remember that the world is still turning. It’s still waiting for you to succeed, whatever that means to you, and you’ll thank yourself later.

How Coronavirus Might Have Saved My Life

It sounds ridiculous, I know. As I’m writing this, there have been 120,000 and counting COVID-19 related deaths in the United States, there is no sign of relief, and I’ve been stuck in the house for near four months. How, you must ask, has my life been saved? 


Remember the panic of March? Do you recall the closures and the fear and the purgatory of “will I lose my job?” and “how soon will I get unemployment?” For those whose mentalities have not been scratched by this classic worry, congratulations, but for the millions who are still currently out of work, I stand in solidarity. I lost my job in March as an intern at a production company with duties like “go mail this” and “take notes there,” I didn’t have a lot of hope that I would ride out this wave of firing, but it was an unfortunate blow. It was the first time I have ever been fired, and while I wasn’t truly fired (my position was eliminated) I felt more disposable and unnecessary than ever before. Just days previously, my school campus closed and all classes were held online for the rest of the Spring semester, and that same day I’d been told officially to work for my boss at home. It seemed simple enough: classes met on Zoom every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and I could read for work in between. I wasn’t thinking of my living situation, which was most unsuited to this transition. 


I moved to Los Angeles as a college drop out and dreamer with big plans to be a casual actor and screenwriter. I even got on stage at the Comedy Store once. My living space was a shared room — shared between four or five people at a time — with four other rooms divided between just as many. There could be, maybe, fifteen people living in the house at one time, but I was never the wiser. I, also, didn’t really find it that strange or upsetting. My mother was a transient, a mentally ill woman who was always on the move — from what, I don’t know — and all my childhood I’d been living with strangers. Either it was the other down-and-out families in the homeless shelter, or the losers my mom befriended and housed when we, ourselves, had a home, or my grandparents who intervened sometime in my teenage years. Bottom line: I had low standards of living. A twin-sized bunkbed, a third of the closet, and a communal bathroom for $450 a month was how I lived in Los Angeles, and honestly I didn’t hate it. 


But, with the oncoming of Covid, I realized the shortcomings of my situation. I couldn’t go to the library, or campus, or work. I had no desk space, no privacy, and, above all, I didn’t use the kitchen. There wasn’t any room, honestly, and it either had rats or human thieves in the cupboards. My diet consisted of street food, Denny’s, Postmates, and the occasional non-perishables I could stash in my bed for a long weekend in bed. Suddenly, with the stay-at-home order, everyone became a cook, and I was stranded in the hoopla of stockpiling where I was unable to hoard or cook anything. Luckily, I called my grandmother to update her on my conformation to the local mandates. 


The fear of death had gotten to her quickly, and it had a lot to do with living in Hawaii. The islands were hypervigilant about invasive species and diseases — and for good reason considering smallpox, leprosy, and colonization of the late 19th century — and were quarantining anyone traveling from the Mainland. She, herself, was a news buff and loved her New York Times and CNN morning reports, so it wasn’t surprising that she cancelled travel plans to my Aunt’s house in southern California in fear of contracting the disease and dying. It was a surprise, but when I told her about my classes going online and my work-from-home order, she suggested (I would never say plead, and you wouldn’t either if you met my grandmother, but it was close) that I ride out the virus with my Aunt and cousins, move into her guest room, and help them adjust to a new norm that none of us could have imagined. Also surprisingly, I agreed.


I normally distance myself from people not so much because I don’t enjoy company (that’s definitely a reason, but it’s not the reason), but because I prefer alone time so much I prioritize it. And being alone in Los Angeles is quite a trip — so it surprised me how readily I packed up (horribly, I’ll add, because I took a carry on bag of clothes, a pair of rain boots, my computer, and nothing else) and took the train down to San Diego county. There, my Aunt was finishing up her last few shifts as a waitress and faintly wondering if her 13-year-old son would have to participate in online classes. In the end, he did need to and, just as we expected, he didn’t do a very good job at all. Regardless, he’s filled to the brim with the ego of an eighth-grader already. 


Back to the point, I suppose, of how Coronavirus saved my life. Simply, I moved out. My lifestyle could not handle the remote working and eventual job loss, nor could it facilitate my needs as someone who never cooked or needed space to breath and study. Now, in my Aunt’s kitchen with a fridge and a stove and pantry and counter top, I cook almost every day and I’ve gotten rather good at over-easy eggs, although they aren’t as good as the ones made at Denny’s, while finishing the Spring semester with a flourish of A grades. Some days, when I roll out of the guest room’s queen-sized bed that I still believe is too large for a single person, and shuffle to the kitchen, I wonder what would have become of me in Los Angeles. I took the bus and lived shoulder-to-shoulder with lackadaisical actors and musicians who were reckless with their health, I starved between meals I couldn’t really afford at McDonalds or Dennys, and I was, at the core, miserable with my situation when I got a chance to stop and breath. Now, I have almost too much air. I don’t know what to do with the space, but as I look around the room, I see my art supplies, calendars with test and submission dates, and a desk I’ve made my own. I can conform to any space without much issue, but I have finally gotten a space I can make up to my needs. Behind me, there is a door that closes and I possess an inherent authority as the one who can close it. This, to me, is brand new. 


Rest in Power all who’ve lost their lives to Covid-19. I am sorry for your loss, but it might have been the best thing that’s happened to me. I was forced to make a decision I had no idea would affect me so dramatically, and I am pleased to say that despite the contentions within my Aunt’s house, I have a freedom I’ve never once experienced. I suppose now I understand Virginia Woolfe’s famous A Room of One’s Own