Laziness is a matter of morality, after all. Sloth is a deadly sin.
Listen to me read the below:
Dedicated to Grace Quantock, whose mentorship has formed most of my ideas about wellness.
I’m deathly afraid of being lazy. It’s an anxiety that’s been mostly held at bay over the years by its actionable “opposite,” productivity; my personal axiom has revolved around the idea that as long as I was being productive, even if I was, say, depressed or experiencing psychosis, I wasn’t being lazy.
Presently I am in a place (one must be careful of the word phase, which implies transience, or ignoring the possibility of transience altogether) where a seemingly simple activity like going to lunch with my family can cause muscular weakness to the point where I can’t open a car door or walk up my front steps without help, and upon finally reaching home again, realizing that my chest muscles have become weak enough that swallowing is a difficulty. And so I lose any hope of productivity that day–in this case, it was Sunday–and the next day, which is lost to sleeping for half the day and lying awake, listening to audiobooks, for the other half. Staring at the wall. At my basket of immaculately organized notebooks and Filofaxes of documents and to-do sheets, none of which can be tangled with in the near future. Or so far as I can see.
The anxiety, in this case, as deadlines and courses-signed-up-for and emails hang a few feet away from my face, becomes hard to bear. I postpone the to-dos for the next day, or a few days after that.
I ask myself if I’ve been lying to myself for all of these years; perhaps I’m actually a lazy person, in which case I need to examine my soul. Laziness is a matter of morality, after all. Sloth is a deadly sin. The more time I spend in bed, and the more things I cut out of my life (grocery shopping in the store, eating dinner with friends, cooking anything more complex than oatmeal), all add up to what looks very much like doing nothing. And to an outsider looking at me in my bed, it might as well be nothing.
“At least you’re getting a lot of rest!” some well-meaning, harried person will tell me.
I don’t miss being harried. I do mind missing out on the bustle of life, much of which feels as though it’s backing away from me in a thick fog.
If being lazy is the cessation of giving chase to life, then I’m not lazy; because often enough it feels as though life is running from me. In my most dolorous moments–in the most hopeless and whiny hours of my life when I’m ceaselessly refreshing my social media feeds (when I’m capable of holding a phone, social media both connects me to the world and reminds me of what I’m missing)–I think this way.
Day by day, I am slowly accomplishing less. My creative work, which is built around writing, is becoming more difficult to accomplish more frequently. Am I being lazy? Am I becoming lazy? Was I always lazy, but am now being uncovered for the sham that I am because of chronic illness?
The truth is that it’s easy to forget how much work healing is. It is harder for me to lie in bed and stare at the wall for hours, listening to an audiobook I’ve listened to twenty times before, then it is for me to create an online course or work on an essay. It resembles nothing of what I thought was work back when I was gulping six espressos a day, grading, teaching, writing, going to a bar with friends, and rushing from one thing to the next. In fact, it looks like laziness. But my body is absorbing nutrients. It is resting. It is fighting the bacteria that has infected my system. It is letting me be cared for and loved; and all of that is, dare I say, very hard work.
If you are afraid of being lazy—if you are worried about your productivity during a difficult time—you are doing more than you think. You are healing. You are surviving. You are, dare I say, doing great. We are doing great.
On Productivity Anxiety, by Rachel Vorona Cote (Billfold), speaks to this issue from a non-illness perspective.