Good evening, friends and neighbors!
It’s good to be writing for you all again. I only wrote a little bit on my vacation, but it feels better to actually have a deadline again- even a self-applied weekly one.
So, what’s been going on while I’ve been at gone?
Still Life in Isolation
Disney World may be a magical place, but reality always has a way of seeping in.
This is likely to be my first extended weekend of many. After coming back from vacation, my first order of business at work was to prep for a couple days production- then to streamline everything so that one person could manage the shift for the foreseeable future.
I’m aware of how lucky I am to not have been laid off outright, having only to deal with reduced hours. Most of the restaurant and hospitality industry- including several friends- have not been as lucky, and now find themselves with more free time than they might want. Believe me, the irony is not lost on us- the folks who can never get quite enough time to relax now have “time enough at last.”
In addition to anxiety over their employment and financial stability, the current pandemic has everyone practicing “social distancing”- no large gatherings of people, no places where people might congregate (like bars and restaurants) are open, and most social activities are cancelled in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
There’s no work, and nothing to do out there that’s NOT work. If you live with the kind of “high-functioning anxiety” and work ethic common for chefs, having nothing to do with your time feels like a circle of Hell.
Fortunately, homebodyness is something I have a special knack for. Seriously, my wife and I have been rocking the Hobbit-esque, “cozy at home” lifestyle for a while- so this blog goes out to my service industry friends who need help staying sane with their spare time (or in-between job hunting binges.)
Grab a pen and paper, put your feet up, and tap into your inner Hobbit- because it’s time to “go to ground.”
1. Maintain Your Routines
You’ve just had a shock, and a big part of your life has been disrupted. Step One is remind yourself of what isn’t. Get up for your alarm. Brush your teeth. Eat regularly, exercise, and go through every other part of your day. Having a routine and maintaining it will keep you from feeling more adrift than you actually are.
My morning routine is inspired by my DnD character, and involves daily exercise, reading time, and meditation time after breakfast. Following that is showering and dressing- all of which helps me get a good grip on my day, whatever happens next.
2. Schedule Your Days
You’ve got a big chunk of free time now. A big hole in your day. So what do you do? Start filling that hole in your day. Sacking out in your robe and binging Netflix is fun, and you might even do that first- enjoy the time to relax while you have it.
But making plans and to-do lists will fill your days and give them meaning. Come up with household projects, and do chores. If they happen regularly, make them part of your routine. Task lists are best made the night before, as you’re going to bed (after your usual routine, of course.)
”What about work? And finding a job?” Put that in your schedule too. Set aside a certain amount of time each day for job hunting or whatever at-home work you do. Even better, set aside a specific place where you’ll do it too.
What else should go in that schedule?
3. Include Time for Hobbies
If there was ever a time I was wondering why I have so many activities and interests… this is when I am glad. Everything may be in flux outside your home, so having a bunch of stuff to distract me and keep me busy is huge. I tweak my meads, turn on some old games, tune up my guitar… or, you know, write. That too.
The circumstances of getting this much time at home may not be great- but it’s still time that’s all yours again. What activities or hobbies have you let fall by the wayside lately? Got a creative project you’ve been sitting on? Now’s the time to do it! If one of your “hobbies” just happens to be a side hustle of some kind… even better- now you’ve got time to build it! Personally, I’ve finally got time to pursue a bit of freelance food writing, and work on those books at long last!
Don’t feel bad if you can’t crank out much, though. We’re all dealing with a serious situation out here, and you don’t need to berate yourself for not being as productive as possible with your hobbies. They are meant to be enjoyed, not just be busy work.
Having projects to work on and a schedule is great. You know what makes it even better? Goals and accountability. Maybe you’ve got a stack of books you’ve been meaning to go through. Or you wanted to learn a new language, master a musical instrument, or just learn something new.
Kids aren’t the only ones that need to learn while at home now- use this time to build new skills and improve old ones. There’s tons of cheap/free resources available to make the most of your time! One of the coolest things I’ve seen is some online chef groups doing “Covid Cookout”, where cooks show off what they’re working on at home to keep their skills sharp. Personally, I’ve got a pile of books I’ve been meaning to read, and I really want to learn Spanish and German. Duolingo is making that (almost annoyingly) easy.
5. Mindfulness/ Reality Check
The mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal famously said “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Well now you’ve got plenty of time to practice.
I’m not even kidding. Being able to just sit quietly without a screen, music, or something else yelling at you is incredible. Meditating especially helps clear your mind and thought processes, and teaches you to enjoy your own company. Schedule some time to get to know yourself again, with nothing to distract you.
For me, this is best done on the deck, in the late afternoon, with a short pour of whiskey. I can just soak in the sounds of the day and mull over tomorrow.
Once you find work again, moments like this will be rare and priceless.
6. Comfort in the Comforts of Home
Last but not least, you may be looking for work right now- but remember to enjoy everything you’ve already worked for. Read your books and spend time on your deck. Game and enjoy some good whiskey. Go to the park with your kids, play with your pets, and cuddle with your partner. This is your home- where you are meant to be comfortable… so enjoy being comfortable!
Check in on your friends too- they’re in the same boat, and might like to see/hear a friendly face. Skype, FaceTime, or just call in and see how everyone’s doing. Miss those Friday nights with the guys? Get a six pack, put on a webcam, and have a virtual night out!
What’s filling your time?
It’s a crazy world out there right now. Everyone’s nervous, and those that act like they aren’t probably should be. Humans are social creatures- but for our own safety, we’re being asked to be less social.
It’s possible. It’ll be hard, but we can do it. We have the tools, and we can support each other with them.
What are you doing to keep sane? How are you rocking that Big Hobbit Energy (and ideally getting some exercise if you choose to follow the Hobbit Diet Plan?)
Drop it in the comments, or share it on my Facebook page!
Stay safe, and