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Emails to my Therapist

Help Me Stop Wasting Time!










Dear Nicholas,  Sometimes lately, thinking I’m at work at my laptop, I’m instead watching videos of “Cutest Chubby Babies on the Planet” on Youtube.  Or reading scandal news on the Daily Mail, checking often for updates. Or watching clips of surfers, of dancers. So, help me stop wasting time!

Chubby Babies?

I’ve long told myself that berating one’s self is the only true waste of time, that daydreaming and sleeping and running a so-called errand, etc. all turn out to be useful. Now I’m thinking otherwise. Of course it’s the Internet that has led me astray. I never watched chubby babies on a typewriter.

Also, as long as I’m sitting before a computer, I can pretend to myself that I’m getting things done, that I’m only taking a break for a moment. If I were outside on this gorgeous day planting bulbs, I would know that I’m not at work. But the little breaks for babies and scandals last far longer than I intend. I could plant an orchard in the time I’ve recently devoted to Ghislaine Maxwell, Michael Peterson, and hundreds of beguiling individuals less than a year old.

Is the solution to just declare myself on break? I don’t want to. At the moment that would feel like, not vacation, but defeat.

What’s Good About Scandal

When I’m reading about true crime, court cases, ghastly behaviors, I can tell myself: well, at least I didn’t do anything as bad as that.  But that doesn’t fully account for my attraction to this not-very-elevated literature. I don’t know what does. Except perhaps some persistent curiosity about why we people do some of the things we do.

Another Theory

It’s possible that I’m at a turning point in my work and that is leading to frittering. I have a new novel under contract, MY LIFE ON EARTH AND ELSEWHERE. My agent is shopping a proposal for a book based on this very correspondence that you’re reading: THE TIME WE HAVE LEFT. And I’ve finished the third draft of a combination memoir/biography: MISS CHANT OF COTTAGE LANE: The Making of a Mystic. Right now, none of those big projects urgently need me.

So why not chill? Because there are small but important loose ends that need knotting up. However what my brain craves is immersing myself into something larger, a book of my own or someone else’s. That’s like sliding into a bath. I don’t look up. I lose all sense of time. Doing small chores is like driving a car back and forth over railroad tracks.

What I don’t like is feeling that I’m slipping out of my own control, deciding on one thing and then doing another.

Could it be the pull of planting shrubs in the beautiful fall weather? I don’t think so. I’m still so put off by the deer and voles eating my garden this past year that I don’t even stop the dogs from peeing on my plantings.  Why bother ?

Longing to Get A Grip

So please help me stop wasting time. I don’t like being in this state of frittering.

I suppose I could go clean out our aquarium which is getting a bit green, to a degree that amounts to goldfish abuse.

(A story I can’t resist telling, a digression: Once years ago eating out with my extended family, my then three-or-four year old nephew  beside me pointed out a fish tank in the back of the restaurant. He said, “Look! An auditorium!” I helpfully advised him that it was an aquarium. He thought for a moment, then emphatically said, “No! It’s the home of the fish called the aud.” Such a bright boy, intuitively understanding prefixes.) Anyway, I continue to deal with my darting attention.

Maybe there’s nothing to be done. Maybe this has some hidden value. Or at least it will pass? Anyway, writing these 664 words makes me feel a bit more worthwhile.





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  • Lee Grohse
    October 20, 2022 at 1:13 am Reply

    My mind is in more or less constant bounce mode. And where I bounced to with this is the memory of the aquarium Bob had in his old Chapel Hill office. I am guessing you have heard of it. If an aud or two didn’t live in that auditorium, they were the only things that didn’t. Perhaps some of your current aquarium flora or fauna are descended from those invincible auds.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 20, 2022 at 3:52 am Reply

      I believe we are similarly minded, Lee. And I arrived in Bob’s life in time to make the acquaintance of that office aquarium, which was a world unto itself. The one at home is only two goldfish and an alga-eating creature, a pleco, that is not doing its job. An aud would be a serious step up.

  • kenju
    October 20, 2022 at 2:28 pm Reply

    You have described the story of my life. I came to own a computer in 1999. Since then, I have wasted countless hours on nearly useless pursuits – mainly scrabble and words with friends. But I can also be side-tracked by email jokes and videos. It isn’t all a waste of time, as I see it. It provides a necessary break from the reality of my daily life, and without it, I would be at the crazy farm. Go on with your perusing, but finish those books – I can’t wait to read them!!

    • Peggy Payne
      October 20, 2022 at 2:34 pm Reply

      I kinda thought I might not be alone with this difficulty, kenju. And you’re right these pursuits are providing a necessary break. Also, Scrabble and Words With Friends are no doubt good for the brain. Maybe “chubby babies” are good for the heart. I hope so. Surely they’re healthier than scandal and crime.

  • kenju
    October 20, 2022 at 2:35 pm Reply

    It makes for a nice balance to the day.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 20, 2022 at 2:49 pm Reply

      Yes! (unless it’s most all day)

  • Mary Ellen
    October 20, 2022 at 3:15 pm Reply

    As I get older, I definitely am not as focused. I have to make lists and highlight the really important ones like roof inspection, gutter leak etc.
    I waste too much time on my IPad too, but I enjoy it. Mostly blogs and newsletters and messenger with friends.

    I see dust and think oh I clean that in a few days for sure. Yeah right!
    I find I like to just putter and putz….with no rhyme or reason

    • Peggy Payne
      October 20, 2022 at 3:47 pm Reply

      I’m a great fan of puttering, too, Mary Ellen. Right now I have a list of three things that need doing this morning (there are currently 14 more minutes to this morning.) Maybe this afternoon… I like your philosophical attitude.

  • Mike Collins
    October 20, 2022 at 4:45 pm Reply

    First, I’m wondering if I’m in some sort of Twilight Zone because the date on all the comments above is October 20, 2022…but the times are all a few hours ahead of what it is right now….I’m hoping it’s a simple matter of having the comments clock a little off…orrrrr, should I anticipate hearing that unmistakable Twilight Zone theme. As for the wasting time thing…during the isolatorium of the last 3 years I’ve gotten in a very bad habit of watching car wrecks on YouTube, “Idiots in Cars” is what it’s called. The videos have heightened my awareness of what goes on around me on the road…but, they’ve raised my anxiety level, too. Hello to Bob!

    • Peggy Payne
      October 20, 2022 at 5:28 pm Reply

      Fascinating choice, Mike. Idiots in Cars I’ve never considered. My own choices make no more sense to me. I think we’re all listening for the Twilight Zone theme these days. Bob says, “Thank you. Hello to him!”

    • Mary Ellen
      October 20, 2022 at 7:45 pm Reply

      You are right ..the last comment says 551 pm and I’m at 344 ET.

      • Peggy Payne
        October 20, 2022 at 10:34 pm Reply

        Confusing. And I don’t think we’re up to the time of the change to Daylight Savings.

  • Anonymous
    October 20, 2022 at 5:45 pm Reply

    Peggy I can’t think of anything more life affirming than a chubby giggling baby! Everyone should watch them at least daily! These diversions are Not a waste of time!!

    • Peggy Payne
      October 20, 2022 at 5:51 pm Reply

      Thanks, Anonymous! I do appreciate the support.

  • October 21, 2022 at 4:33 am Reply


    • Peggy Payne
      October 21, 2022 at 1:11 pm Reply

      Hmm, blank message from someone in Boston. Are you there, Boston?

  • June
    October 21, 2022 at 11:38 pm Reply

    I call it “down a rabbit hole.” And then I discovered there’s a website called “N.C. Rabbit Hole.” Too cool. Good luck with “chubby babies,” etc.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 22, 2022 at 12:20 am Reply

      Good to hear from you, June. I checked out the Rabbit Hole website. Pretty interesting. There are so many beckoning “rabbit holes” on line. I’ve managed to dodge Wordle and video games so far. But the possibilities are endless. BTW, this afternoon I gave up and cleaned out our aquarium.

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