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Photo: 20th Century Studios

If You Put The Word ‘Productivity’ In The Title They Will Click

ow that I have your attention: watch more TV. Take a nap. I know everyone is desperate to know how to be better — richer, smarter, fitter — but guess what? If you’re on the internet looking up ways to be better you’re probably doing pretty well so cut yourself a little slack.

The social pressure to fill your days with work was intense before the Great Tactical Retreat Indoors. Self-isolating is productivity. You’re doing something brave. You’re staying inside to blunt the creeping spread of a terrible virus. It’s a sacrifice and not an easy one.

The internet constantly whispers “go, go, go.” A high school friend posts a pic of freshly baked bread on Instagram, his fourth perfect loaf of the week. A former co-worker humbly admits she gets up and logs on at dawn in a LinkedIn post. I keep reading the same Tweet: Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine.

You don’t have to be productive if you don’t want to. You can sit on the couch and stare at the wall. You don’t have to hustle or grind or write a play or come up with the next big idea (the next big idea is personal spacesuits, anyway.)

You have my permission to ignore the thought leaders and self-help preachers and life coaches. By all means, seek out support from mental health professionals. I regularly attend 12-step meetings via Zoom. But I encourage you to mute the gurus. There is only one lifehack guaranteed to work and its drink water.

You are doing enough, even if it seems like nothing. You are alive and full of blood and electricity and nothing is nothing. Breathe. Blink. Pray. Stretch. Watch the new fashion design competition reality show Making the Cut on Amazon Prime. It reunites Project Runway OGs Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.

Getting out of bed is productive. Making toast is productive. Wearing your skin is productive. Color in a coloring book. Post your work on LinkedIn.

I was very busy the other day, for example. I had a long, sudden, sobbing cry. It came and went like a thunderstorm. I don’t know how a shammy feels after it’s wrung out but that was me. I also don’t know why I cried but it happened. I felt sad for a little while. That happens.

This pandemic has taught me that admitting I’m scared isn’t a weakness. That crying isn’t unmanly. I am trying to survive this thing with my friends and family and learning how to let the emotion out is important work. My point: having feels is productivity.

Here’s a shortlist of recent productivity victories: I did ten jumping jacks in my kitchen. I watched all of Devs on Hulu, the haunting new sci-fi miniseries about tech and reality from the director of Annihilation. I talked to two friends on the phone, both dudes, and we all promised that we’d all get through this.

Those guys have my back and vice versa. Or as much as I can from the confines of my small room. That was enough for me.

There’s a scene in the sci-fi movie Predator that I recently rewatched. It’s one of my favorite movies. I even love the sequels. If I were more educated I’d try to find comfort in philosophers and poets but Predator is what I turn too.

Anyway, one of the mercenaries sacrifices himself by fighting the Predator mano-a-crabfaced lizard monster.

I use to think this was Native American tracker Billy dying a warrior’s death but the truth is he wanted to buy his friends time to get to da choppa. Played by movie tough guy Sonny Landham, the heroic solider-of-fortune throws away his rifle, unsheathes a giant knife, and flexes his muscles in the face of danger. He dies quickly.

Is that manly? I suppose self-sacrifice use to be a masculine virtue. At this moment in history, American men seem pretty self-absorbed but please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Get ready for a shock: I am not a special forces badass. I’m a recovering alcoholic with anxiety issues trying to have a sense of humor. I try to keep a positive attitude when I talk to my mom in Texas. I also try to be as open as I can with my girlfriend, who is stuck in quarantine with me.

But most of all, I tell myself I am productive. Today, I took a long hot shower. I ate a cup o’ noodles. I continued my quarantine. Yes, I am cooped up and worried about my bills but I could be contagious. I am staying inside because it’s a small sacrifice to make for others.

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John DeVore

I created Humungus, a blog about pop culture, politics, and feelings. Support the madness: