Hello good readers. I wanted to talk a bit about something that I have been wrestling with a bit lately. It is basically what I call wasting time. I had a roommate I stopped living with years ago and I ran into him downtown. He has had a mental illness for a number of years and just before I saw him, he was sitting on a bench, not doing much when some police came up to him. They asked him what he was doing and he said, “I’m just wasting time.” and because he wasn’t up to anything they felt was legitimate, they gave him a $250 fine for loitering. This is an extreme example, but a true story that shows how important it is to have a purpose in everything you do. In my own life, I experienced homelessness more than once, and I always saw not having a direction or a goal of some sort to be the worst of it. When I was homeless after being stranded in California, even though I sometimes went days without sleep or food, I still didn’t have that loss of hope that comes with not having a direction to go in.
When I look back at my childhood, I sometimes, but not always, lament how much time I spent starting at a TV screen. I happened to be watching re-runs of a show from the 1970s that I had seen a few times before, and I was amazed at how much of it I had seen before. I think that watching TV can be a problem as far as wasting time goes, but there is a way around that. You can become an active TV watcher. You can do this first by becoming aware of what kinds of things are on and then trying to maximize the time you sit in front of the tube with just your favourite shows. There is such a thing as a good TV show, and good ways to spend time in front of a screen. I don’t want to judge anyone, but video games are also a part of this. The way I try to make the best of my video game time is to try to only use very realistic simulators. You can get flight simulators or driving simulators. Still, if you want to play something that doesn’t fit into that category, try to lean towards games that make you think.
The way I wanted to explain to make watching Television worthwhile is to learn to look at TV like a film student would. One of the ways to do this is to read books that go with what you are watching. Recently, I watched an amazing series aired on Prime video called “Jack Reacher” which is based on a series of books by Lee Child. I have read a number of these books which I find extremely stimulating intellectually because they are so well written, the suspense is so well done and each new book is a new chapter in the main character’s life and also a mystery that you try and solve as the main character goes through it. If you decide that you love watching TV and movies and don’t want to stop, consider sitting in on a few University film classes. This will help bring meaning to your time watching a screen.
One of the ways I found that helps to make the most of my time (I am writing this for people with mental health disabilities that often don’t have a job and live on disability benefits) is getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, weekend or not. I then try to balance a set number of tasks as each day goes by. If it isn’t a day I work one of my part-time jobs, I have a system going where I will take a long-distance walk, mainly for exercise and fresh air, but also partly to both wake myself up and use up a portion of my day that I might otherwise have spent sleeping in or doing something without purpose. Walking to me is my salvation. Some of you may want to go for a jog, others might ride an exercise bike for a while. I find that there are really just two things I need to do when I get up, namely eat breakfast and get some exercise. I do have an exercise bike but I usually spend my time on it later in the day, especially when I want to get my heart rate going (cardio, which most doctors will tell you should go on 3 hours a week–walking doesn’t get my heart rate going). My late in the day exercise is also useful for regulating my blood sugar level.
I have recently subscribed to some TV streaming services. One is Netflix, and another is called “Kanopy” which anyone can download and register on for free through their local library. It gives you all kind of movies, TV shows and documentaries. Yesterday I had the total joy of using Kanopy to watch “For a Fistful of Dollars” the Clint Eastwood classic and it was very entertaining. Another free streaming service I recommend is called “Plex” which you can also download in an App Store and watch free movies with. I like having a lot of choice in which movie I watch and when. I have a ton of DVDs and numerous streaming services. It takes me back to the days when I would go to the video store and pore over movies for as much as an hour to pick out the perfect ones.
Of course, no one really has to follow what I say to the letter. You can ride a bike instead of walking, you can go to a gym or a pool. For a while, when my knees were doing a little better, I would take a 2-hour walk, then swim for an hour and take a two-hour walk back. It felt incredible to be in such great shape, but I don’t think it was doing my knees, hips or back a lot of good.
There is only really one thing I hope you don’t do Dear Readers to pass time, that is to smoke. I swore when I quit smoking I wouldn’t become an anti-smoking Nazi but the truth is, it is a horrible habit. It makes your fingers and teeth yellow or brown, it robs you of precious oxygen and makes it harder for your lungs to function and can cause cancer and a whole host of illnesses. If you smoke, do your best to quit. I don’t even want my readers to vape, I feel this is a poor alternative to smoking and can end up costing you more and doing just as much if not more harm. Little is known now about the long-term effects of vaping. Do yourself a favour, save a ton of money and quit while you still can.
Now I will get to another way I feel time can be well wasted, reading. I loved to read as a child, I recently went through some old report cards and my grade two teacher put in mine how happy she was that I was such a voracious reader. I did a lot of reading for a while longer, then started to get away from it. I started reading comic books and for a long time didn’t do as much text-only reading. When I finally grew out of comics (we didn’t have a lot of adult-oriented graphic novels back then) I started watching “Reading Rainbow” by Levar Burton of “Roots” and “Star Trek The Next Generation” fame. He rekindled my love of reading, and perhaps more importantly, made me feel okay to read below my age level to build up my concentration and reading comprehension. I started out reading a few books about the FBI and such in the children’s section of my library, then worked my way up to novels about movies I saw (my favourite being a Han Solo book and another one a Star Trek book). Despite having poor grades in English for a while, English became my second best subject, and I was able to complete the academic English in grade 12. My love of reading about history allowed me to complete Social Studies in grade 12 as well, both with respectable marks.
If you find that you are not much of a reader, what I suggest is that you find something fun to read. I had a time in my life when I couldn’t find a book that held my interest and so I either would read my favourite book ever, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” or I would read parts of a book about a heavy metal band and their exploits. I really can’t emphasize enough how much joy reading can be. If you find you have concentration problems, maybe from not reading for a while, do like I did and start with younger books. For those with a mental illness, there are some great Young Adult Novels about mental health that are an easy and fun and even instructive way to get some words under your belt.
There are many advantages to taking the three types of advice I talked about today: getting some exercise, watching TV with a critical eye and getting into reading, but perhaps the most important one is that these are things you can do with very little money. In some ways, there were a lot of advantages to going through the Pandemic, I learned to be okay with spending time alone and I learned to get adjusted to not spending too much money. I really think that, aside from when you are dealing with loved ones, a person with a mental illness needs to be cheap. Buy generic products, always look for ways to save money on your food budget, quit smoking and other costly habits. I was able to do this, and, with the help of my local library, get some work as a freelance writer (I took a number of instructor led courses through my library called ‘Gale Courses’ that taught me so much). By doing these things, I have been able to sock away a little money that I can use either for a big trip or possibly even fund my retirement.
Well Dear Readers, I want to thank each one of you for coming this far. I hope you can take my advice and spend your time wisely, yet still be careful with money and engage with your community. A couple of last minute ideas to help you along could be to join your local community league and to make the most out of your local library. If you have more ideas, please feel free to share them here. You are also more than welcome to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I would love it if you write to purchase some of the books I have written, but asking your local library to stock them is just as good. Take care and see you on my next night of insomnia!!