Being Unproductive is Underrated

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“Kryptonite” by Three Doors Down was playing as a crowd pleaser in-between sets at a Maui music venue. It was 2011—too many years since Kryptonite had been popular. But that’s typical of time-lagging-feet-dragging island life. I rolled my eyes because I was an artsy snob from New York City,  but secretly I loved the song.  If I go crazy then would you still call me Superman? If I’m a blah blah blah (I don’t know what they’re saying here) would you still be there holding my hand? In my hidden, honest depths, I sang along nostalgic for high school.

In a moment of courage, I blurted, “I know this song is awful, but I kind of love it.”

An older—but more importantly, wiser— woman nearby said, “why is this a terrible song?” I stumbled. I didn’t have an answer. I guess I was parroting my brother and his spectacular and snobby taste in music? Three Doors Down—they’re not Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, The Stones, Roberta Flack, The Jackson 5, or something offbeat and unknown and therefore “good.” They’re pop-radio-playing-crack. The truth: They were a band—amongst many others— I refused to let myself enjoy because I deprived myself of enjoying my life in an effort to constantly “accomplish” and “learn.” In order to obsessively “better myself” I couldn’t give in to futile art like “Kryptonite,”  I  had to restrict myself from dumb and simple pleasures.

For most of my late teens and twenties, everything I did for “fun” or in my “downtime” had to have an accomplishment attached to it. In all of my time off I was essentially doing “homework” or “bettering myself” in some way, and that included the music I listened to and the movies I watched.

Before I got sick, a friend asked me to make a list of the things I did for fun and here’s what I came up with:

Hiking, rollerblading, gymnastics, skydiving, bike riding, writing, reading, trivia games

She was quiet, “Soooo…do you enjoy anything that isn’t about exercise or learning? Like how about going to the movies? Or going to Disney World”

My mind drew a blank. “No. Not really. Sure, I go to the movies but is it fun? Not really. It’s a discussion topic, it’s for my records. It’s for research into good writing and good acting.” My idea of fun was mostly caffeine induced manic hiking, and/or an adrenaline rush. Everything else I did was an exhausting effort to better myself OR escape. AKA fix myself. AKA I am not enough as I am. AKA power through my PTSD (it has been mentioned that people with PTSD are adrenaline junkies as a way to constantly distract from the painful sensations).

While I am fully aware that I got bit by a tick and that’s something I’m powerless over, that I did not “attract” Lyme disease, I also believe that my lifestyle leading up to that point and after I got sick was of no benefit to my immune system, my adrenal glands, or my mental/emotional health.

When I first got sick, I could not chill. I didn’t know how. Again, I made my downtime about learning— I picked up my camera and started taking a photo everyday and studying photography.  It was a brilliant move for sure, but why was it so hard for me to just rest, to do nothing? I still felt I wasn’t worthy just because. I had to DO more, earn my space here. Good news: Slowly, thanks to illness, I’ve learned about the art of fucking off,  how healing it is, and how I don’t need to do or learn shit to be worthy of my life or of love.

I went to Disney World a couple of times and got wheeled around in a wheelchair, I watched A LOT of cartoons, I read some popcorn novels, I colored, I fucked around on silly Pinterest, I danced to silly music in my room, I painted pottery, and sometimes I did nothing AT ALL. But a few weeks ago, I really went full throttle.

I was sick with this crazy upper respiratory infection that lasted like 35 days. It sucked. It’s not Lyme related and was nothing like my torturous Lyme symptoms but still…it sucked. Day 5 or 6, exhausted and fighting a fever and hacking up a lung, I was like, “I think I want to stay in bed and watch a bad movie.” I texted my wellness-gal-pal, Eva, and she was like “watching bad movies will heal you.” Both of us have had to learn the hard way. We are both hard-working, goal-oriented, inspired, and passionate individuals so the idea of not accomplishing and letting ourselves rest remains very much a practice.

And so I began my journey into dumb Blockbuster hits that cost too much money to make and pay actors too much and usually insist on a value system that doesn’t line up with my own and definitely teaches me nothing….but they are entertaining as fuck. And they make me smile. Isn’t that the point?

It was just supposed to be one movie.I watched “Just Married” with Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy (RIP).  I had SO MUCH FUN cocooned in my bed with a nightstand full of nutrients and natural soothers— ginger tea, lemon water, sautéed veggies, fruit, zinc lozenges and essential oils— that I thought why not just keep this up, what’s another movie?  I have a weakness for Jennifer Aniston so when I saw that “Mother’s Day” was streaming, I jumped right on it. It was truly NOT GOOD, but I had a GREAT time watching it.

I took a break from movie watching to move my body a bit, do some stretches, refill my big mug of ginger tea, and do a manageable hour of writing. For me, the hour-or-so break is a key component to a day of “fucking off.” Self-care has many layers, it’s important that I give my brain a small amount of exercise and it’s super important that my body doesn’t stay in one position all day as I will end up with more pain later on. Whether I get out of bed to get some sun or I write or I do some meditation and yoga, it helps to break up the “nothingness” and leaves me feeling nourished by the night rather than cagey, sluggish, and depressed.

I put my computer away after an hour of work and started scrolling through the streaming services again. I went for “Bad Moms.” That shit was good. I always love a pretty, overworked woman who is a little sad and frustrated in her life.

I thought I had had enough. I really did. But it was getting late, and I wondered why, if I was having such a good time, I was even considering stopping there? I had nothing to do. I mean, I had a fever—why did I feel pressure to “do” something. I hadn’t enjoyed a day at home sick maybe ever, but I was deeply enjoying myself and I was enjoying my own silly company, too.  So, I dove in to “Americas Sweethearts.” Because Catherine Zeta Jones being a world-class bitch and not getting her way is fun to watch. I mean, c’mon. The irony is that after four bad movies in a row, nothing learned or earned,  I felt so accomplished. Because I had given myself a break. Because I love myself. Because I wasn’t pushing my suffering body to do shit it couldn’t do. The need to be productive is just a symptom of low self-worth. Or certainly, a lack of self-compassion. So, for me, the accomplishment I felt in allowing myself to watch dumb movies all day was greater or deeper than my 365 photo project or the acting job or the writing job or etc etc..

I’m (mostly) done trying to prove something to the world. And I’m not so sure of this trying SO HARD to better myself thing I do.  That being said, interestingly enough, I know more than I ever have. I am currently sitting on set and I handed my copy of The New Yorker to another actor who had nothing to do. I said, “the fiction is good this month. It’s depressing as all fuck but it’s good. It’s on page 64.”  And all of the actors laughed cause I’m a freak who is writing a blog post and reading The New Yorker and taking a holistic medicine certification course online all while in-between shots of this commercial. It might be a lot or too much even, but I’m doing it BECAUSE I enjoy it all. I’m not doing it for notches in my belt or discussion topics. I just really love that magazine and I love to write a couple of things here and there and I LOVE learning about all of these different herbal remedies. I do what I enjoy, I do what excites me. And SOMETIMES, what excites me is a day in bed watching a bunch of futile movies.

Do your version. Fuck around. Stop trying so hard. You might just have a spiritual experience.

REPORT BACK!

With fun and love,

Jackie

WARNING: THIS IS NOT ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE OPPOSITE ISSUE. SOME OF YOU MIGHT NEED TO THROW AWAY THE TELEVISION.

PS: Check out Noelle Janka, health coach extraordinaire. Noelle has many affordable or free resources for those who are healing. Check her out, write to her, get your healing on.

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