On Jobs, Inactivity, & Motivation

I’ve never had a normal 9-5 job. I once had a desk job that was more like 8-8 (not for long). I did once work on a farm from 9 to 5. I’ve had multiple jobs at once more than once, and I’ve had no job at all more than once. I’ve had jobs where I go to work for a few hours a few times a week, and jobs where I work all day every day and there’s still work left to do when I leave. 

These past few weeks since the CSA ended, I’ve been transitioning from working 40+ hours on the farm every week to stopping in to help once or twice a week as needed. I’m otherwise employed, but in such an unstructured way that I may as well not be. Sure, I have to cook dinner most nights, keep the fridge stocked, occasionally chauffeur teenagers around, and provide some semblance of house-parental authority, but my weekdays are my own at this point. I’d been looking forward to this! I’ll get so much writing done, I thought! And I’ll finally get around to those sewing projects I’ve been planning on! I’ll finally finish assembling and send the wedding present I’ve been working on for months! I’ll read all these books on my shelf! I’ll really get down to the nitty gritty planning my farm! I’ll start doing yoga again! I’ll buy new tires for my truck! I’ll … I’ll… I’ll…

Three weeks into my newfound housewife’s existence, I have not begun to accomplish even one of these things. I find myself with too much unstructured time on my hands, and the very best of intentions. I continue to wake up around sunrise, but after an initial burst of aspirational list-making I find myself pulled back to the rumpled comfort of bed, a screen winking me to a waking trance. I queue up some podcasts with every intention of getting things done, but end up horizontal, refreshing Twitter, playing endless sudoku while voices that have become uncannily familiar hum in my ears. Hours pass. I’ll manage a flurry or two of activity - wash the dishes, do a load of laundry, go grocery shopping. Inevitably, I end up prostrate, down a YouTube rabbit-hole, plowing through a whole novel in an evening, watching a movie I suspect I’ve seen before. 

At first, I gave myself a break. After all, I’d been working hard all summer, then been pulling double duty for the last two months. I deserved a break! What’s the harm of a few days where you don’t get out of bed, much less leave the house? Week two, the guilt set in. My habits remained unchanged, I just felt worse about myself. Week three was a slight improvement. I signed up for the gym two doors down and actually went three out of five times that I meant to go. I did some of the things I said I would do. I successfully enrolled in both health and dental insurance. I beat the rugs and swept the floor and had friends over. I at times resembled a human being.

And so here I am, hoping that a monster named loses its might. I sit wrangling an essay from my fingers through sheer force of will, hoping that by doing something that I’ve been putting off for a month will open the floodgates of usefulness and productivity. I do, after all, love the feeling of getting things done. I love to cross things off a list, to look up at rows weeded or crates harvested or trays seeded, to lay down at the end of the day limp with hard-won exhaustion. I love having lots to do and moving quickly and efficiently through my tasks. I expected these traits would lead to relatively smooth self-employment, that I would continue to be the self-starter that everyone (including myself) always assumed me to be. 

These past three weeks have planted (and watered and weeded) a seed of doubt. As I stare down a one year countdown to launching my own enterprise, I have been forced to look myself square in the eye (or the navel, as the case may be) and really make sure I’m being honest about my desire and ability to take on this gargantuan task. Upon reflection, I realized that there are a few key differences to take into account. For one, having animals imparts a certain structure on a daily basis - pigs don’t feed themselves, and an open chicken coop invites trouble at night. Additionally, growing vegetables for CSA and/or market imposes a certain weekly structure. The need to pay the bills and support myself adds a certain burden of obligation, as does sunrise, sunset, rain, frost, snow, etc. Farming means always having more to do than time to do it. It’s a combination to-do list, obstacle course, and hedonistic assault on the senses. The endeavor is great, as is the reward. I think I’m up for it. This week, I’m getting shit done. Break’s over.