Tom Hodgkinson says the constant pressure to have a full diary has gone, leaving more time to enjoy doing nothing at all.
For many people having more free time and no pressure to go out has been an unexpected benefit of lockdown.
Tom Hodgkinson, Editor of The Idler magazine, says a temporary retreat from the hustle and bustle of the world may be just what the doctor ordered.
When lockdown was announced, many of us worried.
What would we do without our beloved pubs, cinemas, holidays, office, mini-breaks, trips in the car to see relatives, school, football matches, parties, dinners, gigs, talks, parent-teacher evenings and all the other activities that keep us busy? We’d surely go crazy?
Well, in fact some people have been rather enjoying this period of extended sabbatical. It has given us a lot of free time.
We all used to complain about being too busy – there just aren’t enough hours in the day, we’d moan.
Now it looked like we’d have the opposite problem – far too many hours to fill.
But we’ve filled those hours fairly easily.
Introverts in particular have reported rising levels of contentment.
This is because that constant pressure they used to feel to do things, to achieve, to compete, to turn up to everything, to have a full diary – has been removed.
Now by contrast, it has become your patriotic duty to do nothing.
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And we’ve rediscovered the simple things.
People have been getting out into the garden and nurturing plants. They’ve been catching up on DIY jobs around the house. They’ve been reading novels. Baking bread. Learning the old fashioned arts of self sufficiency.
I’ve even been writing poetry (don’t worry, it will never be published).
I’ve also found the time to start reading Dickens and have been thoroughly enjoying immersing myself in his exuberant world. I never seemed to have the time before – those novels are long.
And I’ve been getting loads of jobs done – I even cleaned out the kitchen drawer the other day. That’s been hanging over me for years.
In my household, there have been a few family meltdowns, but overall I feel we’re getting to know each other better.
I’ve been thanking the lord for that marvellous invention – the bicycle. We’ve been going out on long family bike rides along the river in west London where I live. Just being together all day may be leading to stronger bonds.
Some days have just been spent pottering about, doing nothing. Why should we have to be doing something all the time, anyway? What’s wrong with idling?
I’ve hardly been spending any money, either. It’s been a quieter, more contemplative life. Something like being a monk.
I may not want to be a monk forever, but a temporary retreat from the everyday world of bustle may be just what the doctor ordered.
I suspect that many of us might look back on this time with some fondness, despite the obvious horrors.
I’m well aware that millions are suffering from boredom, loneliness and anxiety, not to mention an unfamiliar feeling of not being able to do what you want.
My mother and several oldies I know have been really depressed by their loss of liberty. And the statistics indicate that levels of well being are basically way down.
And of course the poor suffer far worse than the middle classes.
But maybe the sabbatical we’re experiencing will lead to greater resilience in the future. Maybe we will emerge stronger after this crisis, and with a renewed appreciation of the simple pleasures of doing nothing in particular.