One of the features I read every day in the Washington Post is the advice column. Sometimes I just scan them because the questions aren’t of interest to me. Sometimes I find questions that I can relate to. Today I found one that compelled me to share it on Facebook and write about it here.
In the letter asking for advice, the guy is complaining that his wife did not follow through on their decision to fill the extra hours they had due to working from home to be productive in ways they couldn’t before.
He brags that he read 25 biographies while complaining that she “only’ read fantasy novels and calling them “books better suited for children”
He brags that he learned new languages, started a running program and is marathon-ready, and did volunteer work.
She said she was rejecting productivity culture and didn’t feel like improving herself right now. I can relate.
He does say that they share housework, cooking, and other practical matters and that she does exercise. So, she isn’t reading her ”kid” books while he does all of the work around the house.
Still, he says he is disgusted that she would “waste” this gift of free time “watching TV and reading books better suited for children”
He wants her to go to therapy and be evaluated for depression because she doesn’t want to run a marathon. learn new languages, and read “real” books.
When asking for suggestions he says “other than divorce” which means he has considered divorcing her because she doesn’t want to do what he considers productive. On the online version, she says there was an update and they did divorce after a couple of sessions of marriage counseling.
The problem here isn’t that he read biographies, learned languages, ran, and volunteered. It was that he found someone who didn’t disgusting and considered their activities a waste of time. That’s the problem with the cult of productivity. They aren’t satisfied with being busy themselves. they want everyone around them to stay busy as well.
When I left my job, one of the concerns of others was that I would spend too much time “sitting around doing nothing” The problem was, these people consider reading “doing nothing” I felt this pressure to the point that I feel guilty when I read in the afternoon.
When I see people when I leave the house most of them don’t ask how I’m doing. They ask what I’m doing. I feel like I’m expected to justify how I’m spending my life since I don’t have a “real job” Writing doesn’t count for them unless I am writing a book or have something published.
I would disgust the guy who wrote the letter because I read fiction books. I watch TV. I didn’t learn a language(though I did recently learn where all of the countries of Africa are on the map). I don’t spend all day every day working on self-improvement. I believe in rest.
The pandemic should have been a time when we kicked the productivity habit, but I think it only got worse. It amped up the competition in the productivity Olympics and if you didn’t play you were the biggest loser.
If staying busy makes you happy, you do you. Just leave me and my fellow slackers alone.