Nothing Better To Do

I’m still working from home every day. All my 2020 travel plans are postponed, cancelled, or otherwise not yet booked. Local events, with the exception of the extremely popular weekly farmer’s market, are cancelled or held online. I’ve chosen to do some things during the COVID-19 pandemic because I literally have nothing better to do.

Washington’s daily confirmed case count, after plateauing for about two months, has been rising steadily, although fortunately our daily death count remains at low levels for now. Closer to home, King County as of July 23 shows 13,834 confirmed cases and 636 deaths from COVID-19 on the Public Health — Seattle & King County dashboard.

I’ve been setting little domestic tasks for myself. Some, like re-caulking my shower and cleaning the filters on my mini-split units, are useful. Others are less so, like inventorying all the clothes I own — and discovering in the process that I own 100 pairs of socks, including 6 pairs still in their original packaging. I later got rid of clothing that I don’t wear anymore, including 7 of my 29 Tableau-branded T-shirts. I also took an inventory of all the alcoholic beverages I own, including a bottle of peach schnapps that probably dates to 2003, which serves as a useful reminder that I don’t need any more bottles anytime soon. At some point I should do the same with my many kitchenware items, as I feel like I have too many of them even after purging two large boxes full of them during and after my move last year. Speaking of kitchenware, I used my time working from home to prepare some strawberry banana bread muffins, the first time I’ve used my oven for any purpose other than testing that it works. Almost all of my home cooking has been on my stovetop.

In addition, I’ve been maintaining a few streaks. My Duolingo streak just hit 900 consecutive days with a foreign language lesson. (Currently I’m trying to learn Danish, but during the streak I’ve also filled up skill trees in German and French.) In addition, I just crossed 100 consecutive days with a bike ride. My intention was to do a “fake commute” to simulate the rides I’d take to and from the office, but with the weather generally good on the weekends, I decided to add Saturday and Sunday to the schedule as well. I also installed the Calm app on my phone for daily meditations, which have been vital as an antidote to traumas at the national and personal level. My streak of days with a Calm session just crossed 30. With an American Express card, I got a year of Calm for free; my employer will reimburse me when it comes time to renew. The app also includes ambient music tracks, sleep stories, and a surprising amount of star power; I’ve relaxed with the sounds of rain in the forest curated by LeBron James.

Surprisingly, I haven’t been using my lockdown time to consume much media. Until Major League Baseball started its season, I hadn’t been watching any sports, but I’m glad to have them back for now. I still have my Disney+ and Prime Video subscriptions, but the #1 thing I’ve been using Disney+ for is background playback of the same classic Simpsons episodes that I’ve owned on DVD for years. My backlog of unfinished video games remains largely untouched since the pandemic started, and the closest I’ve come to starting anything new is enrolling in Grand Theft Auto Online, ironically as a way to get myself to stop watching footage of anti-police-brutality protests. I’ve even broadcast a few streams on Twitch because, as you might guess, I have nothing better to do. I haven’t been reading any library books, but I recently bought and started reading Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, and I’m finding it fascinating.

Giving myself new routines is a good way to avoid “doomscrolling” through terrible news. It’s also been a way to keep up on constructive habits at a time when there’s so much destructiveness going on. Thank you all, by the way, for your support and condolences after the bad news I received about my old friend Andrea early this month. I plan to keep doing what I can during this time when I have nothing better to do.