I Do Not Entertain Myself Well

It’s been two years since I moved to North Carolina from upstate New York. I can’t get over the weather here; I’m not used to spring actually coming in March, wearing shorts and mowing the lawn in early April, such blue skies, and the warmth of the sun. Every “morning” (I’m a night owl, so my morning isn’t the same as most other people’s) I take my breakfast out on the back deck and just love the weather. Even when I have to stand in the gazebo attached to the deck to stay dry, I still love that I’m not standing in hip-deep snow or suffering with a “breeze” that wants to rip the skin off my face. The climate here makes me happy.

But it’s also been two years since I’ve had a job. I taught English Composition and Introduction to Literature for most of my 34 years of teaching, and I miss it terribly, although I’m not sure I’d want to go back. I suppose there’s a chance some college near by might need a part-time instructor come fall, and while the idea of a paycheck is very attractive, because it comes with a schedule, it doesn’t sound so great. In two years, I’ve gotten used to not having to be somewhere at a given time, except for the occasional doctor’s appointments. I enjoy sleeping until I wake up all by myself, no alarm clock needed. I like taking my time waking up, turning on my phone, checking Facebook before I take myself to the shower and get dressed. Then I go out with the dogs, go for a walk around the yard, come back in to have my tea and the rest of my breakfast, reading a good book while I eat. It’s after that that things get ugly.

Even before Covid, lack of money kept me from going out shopping. I’ve never been one to just go out for a drive; gas may not be as expensive as it once was, but it still costs money. Fairs and festivals are usually on the weekends. My afternoons loom empty, and try as I might, it’s hard to fill them.

I can throw in a load of laundry. I can vacuum and mop. Now that the weather is warmer, I can walk out and check on my newly-planted trees and water them. I can call one of my cousins or my sister and listen to all the things they are doing. One of them is newly retired with an also newly retired husband. They’ve lived in the same house for twenty years, and this is a chance for them to do projects they never had time for when they were working. She’s also into knitting and crocheting now that she has time. The other cousin has a brother she’s been taking care of since their parents died over thirty years ago. He has become a full-time job, and she still works. My sister has children and grandchildren that are with her at some point just about every day. They almost never call me, which leads me to believe they are busy. I want to stay in touch, but I don’t want to be a nuisance.

I don’t have any hobbies. Hobbies are things you do with your free time. What if all you have is free time? I used to knit, but I did that while I was watching TV in the evenings, not in the afternoon. (Now I have two dogs on my lap when I sit down for an hour or so to watch TV, and I fall asleep in the chair just about every night. I never used to do that.) I used to paint by the numbers, but I had to give that up when my walls and the walls of most of my friends and family were filled with my paintings. I have a kit now that I’m sort of working on, but it consists of gluing little tiny squares of different colors onto a canvas mapped out with different numbers and letters, representing the different colors. It is about as exciting as watching paint dry. I can work on it for about a half an hour before my eyes are crossed, and I have to stop or go mad.

I don’t cook, and I seldom bake. I help with projects around the house, like staining the decks, but my husband usually does most of that before I even get up, leaving me with the railings, which don’t take long.

I play well with others. I don’t play well by myself. I used to go from stressed to bored in ten minutes flat. Even when I was working, I used to have five weeks off between fall and spring semesters and fifteen weeks off for most of the summers. I got bored then, too, but there was an end in sight. It’s only a vacation if it’s FROM something. This is being put out to pasture to listen to my arteries harden. Trying to find something to pass the time is terrible. I don’t know how much time I have left, and this seems like a waste of it. And if all this doesn’t sound like whining, I don’t know what would. Maybe it’s not whining; maybe it’s wallowing. Whatever it is, I’m doing it in beautiful surroundings with great weather. And I’ll shut up now.

Photo by Margarida Afonso on Unsplash

Former English professor ponders life, love, and how to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

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