Looking for Motivation in My Free Time

My 10-year-old son has read more in the past six weeks than he had in the six months previous. My 12-year-old daughter has taken up cross stitch and has already finished three projects. They bake cookies, and they go for bike rides, and they draw and take on the world, one project at a time.

April 2020: Looking for Motivation in My Free Time

  • “Garden Song” — Phoebe Bridgers
  • “Cut Me” — Moses Sumney
  • “Gospel for a New Century” — Yves Tumor
  • “Persona Non Grata” — Bright Eyes
  • “Best Intentions” — Loss Leader
  • ”Going and Going. And Going (Instrumental Version)” – RJD2
  • “Looongawaited” — Invincible
  • “Black Cowboy” — Jeru the Damaja
  • “Cars in Space” — Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
  • “The Late John Garfield Blues” — Sara Watkins
  • “Salish Sea Orcas” — Erica Freas
  • “Lives” — Modest Mouse
  • “Canaveral” — Shellac
  • “Say It Ain’t So” — The Thrills
  • “To My Advantage” — Pete Rock
  • “Know That” — Mos Def & Talib Kweli
  • “You Can’t Lose a Broken Heart” — Louis Armstrong & Billie Holiday

I, on the other hand, am two chapters away from being done with what is, essentially, a second draft of a book, and I’m still not convinced it will ever get finished. I made this month’s playlist 21 days ago, and I still haven’t been able to string together even a few paragraphs. I just can’t write anymore.

For the first few weeks of pandemic living, we were bombarded with ways to fill our time. Our streaming services threw new releases at us, and every stay-at-home lifestyle brand began moving into some kind of “anxiety-as-a-service” model, where there was a sudden push to use our time for the better. Start a puzzle! Watch Sonic the Hedgehog! Learn a new language!


Between Kerrie and I, we have gained roughly a combined 10 hours in our day by working at home — all just by dropping our daily commute. Yet, our laundry seems to pile up more. Yet, we seem to fill the dishwasher eighteen times a day. Yet, we’re pulled every 20 minutes in a new direction.

I am not comfortable unless the house is clean, and the house … is no longer ever clean. Kerrie needs unfocused time to work and … there is no more unfocused time. We, like so many others, have become teachers and counselors; agents of truth and fervent germaphobes; curators and program directors. We have enhanced our day-to-day with more things and less … day.

And, I know. None of this is hard on its own, admittedly. I can do this. I actually enjoy some of these added tasks.


Altogether it’s demoralizing. Not because it’s horrible — on the contrary, this is all extremely doable, and weirdly rewarding. We live a charmed life in the middle of a pandemic; we still have jobs, we are healthy, we are relatively isolated and somewhat free to still enjoy the edges of our normal life. We are not dealing with a horrifying virus, or looking for our next paycheck, or struggling through abuse. I can’t even imagine what this is like for those who are dealing with real stress, in real danger.

Relatively, this is all pretty easy.

That’s why it’s demoralizing. Because it still feels really hard. Because we don’t even know what we could be dealing with.

Or, because we do know that. Because I am anxious and stressed, hoping to be the same person I need to be at work and at home and in the world, understanding that I’m skating through things without major issues, feeling — I don’t know, guilt? — at being okay. Anxiety for what might happen when it actually gets hard. Stress over change and change alone, feeling ashamed in my lack of toughness.

Understanding that these are all normal, sure. Recognizing it all as the stressful residue of a world that changed really quickly. A world with no dictated timeline or addressable conclusion.

Anyway, no. I haven’t learned a new language. Yet. But I feel a lot better for getting a mix tape to you before the month ended.

This was lovingly handwritten on April 30th, 2020