Opinion: Why It's Okay To Achieve Nothing During Lockdown

If you’re struggling to answer the question: ‘What did you do in lockdown’?, then join Janetta Mackay in deciding it’s time to abandon Alert Level 4 performance anxiety and take it day by day

Illustration / Getty Images

For all the people who’ve taken up meditation, Kondo-ed their wardrobe, labelled their pantry goods, colour-coded their bookcase, washed their makeup brushes — and found time to post about it — there are people like me.

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People who’ve done sweet FA during Alert Level 4 lockdown at home. With the prospect of trawling the neighbourhood for a flat-white now looming large, time is running out to learn how to knit and virtually tour the great galleries of the world. Can’t say I much care, though I probably should.

For some reason when I sat down to write this sorry excuse for my own inactivity, a phrase came to mind. Thanks to Google my half-hearted snatch of self-reproach revealed itself as the apt words Frank Sinatra made his own in 'My Way'.

Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

For each of us, that adds up to a different lockdown scenario. Our shared experiences delineated by our different approaches and circumstances. For me, it has been a lethargic effort. Waves of feeling sad, yet fortunate, but fearful, eddying away at everyday assumptions and good intentions. Some people are busy saving lives and trying to rekindle the economy, the rest of us remain quarantined in the waiting room of uncertainty.

I see no good reason to go catch-up-crazy on chores before lockdown relents its grip a little. With “Be Kind” having become a national mission statement, I’m not going to beat myself up about a stack of unsorted photographs in an old chest. Making sense of decades of family history is beyond an afternoon’s ambition. Plus I like holding onto the luggage of random memories.

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It’s obvious anyway that Alert Level 3 will offer many of us plenty more downtime. This and moveable deadlines are a procrastinator’s out clause. I’m not an essential worker and I’m not left with much work to do, so in my head urgency has become elastic.

At least I’ve tidied a few cupboards, but making conversation and retreating in reading offers more satisfaction. As something of a hoarder, sort outs are no easy mission and there seems little point in adding to the clutter around the house with bags of donations I can’t drop anywhere for awhile.

Excuses, excuses, I know, but these days self-acceptance is meant to be something to aspire to. That said, my inertia doesn’t preclude admiring those who have conducted themselves with considerably more energy over the last month.

Maybe I’ll get a late burst of enthusiasm for something achievable like polishing my boots ready for winter walks. More likely, it will be more of the morose same. Late starts, followed by dabbling with pulling weeds from the garden or finding the bottom of the ironing basket.

Food of course, has to be factored in, the getting, preparing and eating thereof, taking almost as much time as our ancestors spent hunting before they took up cave drawing competitions.

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I’ve never had much skill or patience for crafts or cards or dallying digitally, but due to friend group pressure I did divert from scouring my previously under-thumbed recipe books for inspiration to briefly play dress-up like a movie poster.

One and done, because compared with the elaborate re-creations of more creative types it was readily apparent my efforts weren’t going to be winners — or as worthwhile in my bubble as time spent craving and then creating comfort food.

We’ve flirted with cocktail hours and high teas, but taking turns to cook simple meals has become the most satisfying time drawing us together, before we each head off to our private contemplations in separate corners of the house.

Luckily I quite like my own company. My dog likes it too and her supplicant nature (along with all the eating) helps gives structure to the days.

I may be lackadaisical, but for now there’s nothing like a walk around the block, listening for the tui and nodding to the neighbours in step with an eager companion who lives not with regret, but always in hope, in the moment.

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New Zealand Herald

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