Doing Nothing Is a Lot of Work

“I’ve got nothin’ to do and all day to do it.”

I smiled when I heard that old phrase recently when the song “Too Much Time on My Hands” by rock band Styx was playing on the radio. How true it is today for a lot of people.

It’s especially true for retired people like Catherine and me right now. We appreciate not having to deal with work anymore. And we’ve kept busy.

But, here we are basically stuck at home avoiding exposure to the Coronavirus. It seems like everyone you talk to asks, “Did you get your shot yet?” We haven’t received even the first dose. Last I heard, Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing was vaccinating people in their 80s. So it might be awhile before they get to us in our 60s.

We both signed up for the state’s vaccine lottery. It’s come to that now. Winning that lottery might mean four trips to somewhere like Rochester for both of us to get fully immunized. That does not sound very efficient on a large scale, does it?

It’s also winter in Minnesota and we’re used to spending months indoors. I’m one of those people that likes to keep busy. I read a lot, nodding off only when necessary. I don’t take scheduled naps. On the other hand, I don’t like taking on projects that require a lot of time. A good day for me is discovering a clock that needs its battery replaced. Refilling the humidifier and checking the furnace filter are also good. Even clearing a one-inch snowfall and refilling the bird feeder is an accomplishment.

Maybe I got this way from being really busy in my previous jobs. For a lot of years I commuted to either the Twin Cities or Rochester. That required a tight schedule or my chores at home would not get done. There was no time for extended projects like refinishing furniture. I’m not patient enough anyhow.

That’s also why I’m not inclined to assemble a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. That’s what nursing homes are for, right? I did see that you can buy a five-compartment sorting tray where you can separate like-colored pieces. But isn’t that cheating? Even looking at the picture on the box is cheating. Just ask Catherine.

No, if I start putting puzzles together I would just be thinking of more productive uses for my time as I start forcing pieces together. My brother Dave proudly sent a photo of a 200-piece puzzle of birds he recently completed. He says he now hates birds. His son asked if it was a “three and up” puzzle. But maybe that’s the key – start small and build on your successes. Dave’s next puzzle attempt is a whopping 300 pieces.

I bought a program that looks through all your digital photos and shows you which ones are duplicates, similar, blurred, etc. to help you decide what to delete. It found 1,362 photos to review. But before I do that I should scan in the hundreds of photo prints taken in the old film days. Then I can run them through the photo sorting program and add to that list. More fun.

When I was working I dreamed of having days of full freedom to do the things I always wanted to do. Now that I have time, it’s difficult for me to get excited about getting creative. I’m more into discovery now. I want to study things like quarks, string theory and how electricity really works.

When you’re into the last third of your life, spending a lot of time developing new skills seems ineffectual. It can help keep your mind sharp, but we have Prevagen for that. And don’t get me started on hobbies. For some people, sorting their closets by color is a hobby.

Next summer things should be better. COVID should be retreating and we can get outdoors more. I can ride my bike and mow my lawn. But that’s then and this is now. With COVID and winter at the same time, it’s difficult to want to do much more than shop for provisions and hibernate at home.

And that can become a problem if you become too complacent, living a mostly unscheduled life. When something comes up that you didn’t plan for, it’s easy to get bitter about it. My experience has been realizing that something I need to prep for is suddenly tomorrow. That’s when my demeanor takes a turn for the worse.

Despite all this, a recent study shows that Minnesota has been more mentally stable during the pandemic than most other states. Makes you wonder just how bad it is elsewhere.

Maybe we just appear stable because we’ve learned not to complain much. That might be due to our weather. We’ve learned that it does no good to complain about it. This is as good as it gets here and we have come to accept it.

The song I mentioned earlier has another good line in it: “I’ve got nowhere to go and all night to get there.” That could change if I win the vaccine lottery.

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