Monday, September 20, 2010

What the Hell Else You Got To Do? A Recent Question

I was in the gym, as I often am (although lately, for some reason, whenever I get to the gym, I just want to get out…it might be the new rust colored paint on the walls…it might be the FOX news blaring from the plasma screens; it could be the crowds of annoying people who are just parking their butts on the Nautilus equipment or talking too loudly around me, which makes it hard to concentrate on my reading).

But anyway. Sometimes people (it's always men) come up to me in the gym. For example, the same guy asks me, once a week, “Is your name Judy?”

I always smile and tell him no, my name isn’t Judy. He probably wants to know what my name is, but I think that fishing expedition is sort of ridiculous. Besides, he hasn’t asked the right question.

Some other man suddenly started talking to me this past summer. “Damn, this never gets easier,” he said as he grunted out some reps on the assisted pull up machine.

I nodded. I was using the hip machine. I like that one as my hips have been achy and tight ever since I had children.

“But you gotta do it, you know?” he blurted a few minutes later, suddenly reappearing in the aisle next to me. “How often you come here?”

I told him most mornings.

“Me, too.” he said. “You gotta do it. You gotta keep from falling apart.”

“True,” I said.

My new noisy friend pointed to an elderly man nearby who was slowly doing some tricep dips. “Ya especially gotta do it before you can’t do it no more. Like after you retire. Me, I’m not retired or anything. But you, man,” he said, pointing to the older guy, “what the hell else you got to do? You ain't working, you got no family you need to take care of. You got nothing going on. But you got your body, so your job becomes keeping that body in shape.”

He snapped his towel over his shoulder and sauntered away.

I was left thinking about that—and feeling sort of bad for the most-likely-unintentional diss on the old guy. Was it also a diss on me, even though this man certainly didn’t know my status?

What the hell else you got to do?

Some obnoxious troll wrote something similar to me back in June. This troll clearly wanted to engage me (as hundreds of people did) in some sort of political debate.

I responded that I do not have time for that.

“Oh, really?” he wrote, “It seems to me you have nothing BUT time.”

Charming! I ignored it. Yes, I have time, but that time is not going to be spent arguing politics with people whose minds will never be swayed. I have better things to do.

I can work on my own projects. I can read. And yes, going to the gym is important. In general, my focus is on doing good, lasting work. I believe that everyone needs to have outside interests, a meaningful hobby or, better yet, an avocation. We should all, in our own ways, work a little bit everyday to make a difference in the world.

I don’t think lives are well spent buying stuff or cleaning out closets. How does that make the world a better place?

That reminds me of someone who told me she spent her day off squirting dozens of take-out soy sauce packets into a half-full bottle of soy sauce. "You just never have time for all that stuff you should do," she explained. "Besides, I'm the child of Depression-era parents. I simply can't waste things."

I was incredulous. I said, as nicely as I could, "Your life is too important to spend even an hour doing that. Really, it is." I know that doesn't sound nice, but I meant it kindly. Perhaps I shouldn't have said anything, but it makes me crazy to think that anyone would engage in such meaningless activity, though I suppose it's certainly no worse than watching TV.

"The soy sauce in packets is probably of inferior quality," someone else piped up. "You probably don't want to mix it."


Like most people, I have annoying to-do lists of things I have to do, or mean to do. I have lots of stuff on those lists that bores me to tears. The bad stuff (calling to cancel Club Penguin memberships, for example), I tend to do one or two pieces at a time. I don’t want to waste my whole day on chores.

No, I want to do something meaningful, create something lasting. So I write.

I study new subjects (currently, microbiology and anatomy) and, every day, I try to learn something I didn't know before.

I work on art projects--though I don't actually love doing this while I'm doing it (it's hard work!), but I am always happy, later, that I created the art.

I help my children with school, and try to encourage and inspire them more.

I also work as a tutor, and my schedule is even filling up more than I’d like, in that regard.

Right now, I am--more than ever--protective of my time. I want time for me, time I feel good about spending.

If I use that time for the gym, then fine. 

Lately, I’m feeling as though I want to be freer. I want to be outside, in the sunshine. I don’t want to be trapped in a box.

What the hell else you got to do?

I can, at any given moment, think of plenty.


  1. Good points. Essential to happiness is making time for oneself and things that renew one's spirit, such as reading and hobbies one enjoys.


  2. Yes, and thanks. I just read (after I wrote this) that in order to boost happiness, people should read every day (it's calming) and take at least 20 mins to be creative. Self-care is very important, i agree. It's the old adage: we can't take care of anyone or anything else until/unless we take care of ourselves.

    Thanks for reading.



  3. Have you read The Happiness Project?! So much of what you said resonated with me, as I am reading and trying to incorporate some ideas from that book right now. Going to the gym is not one of them...ha...but taking time for things that are "fun" to me is.

    1. Interestingly (and thanks for reading), I am not going to the gym anymore. It was starting to make me angry in some weird way, and I realized that I shouldn't spend 40 minutes a day driving there and back (traffic). I got an elliptical for my house and I do on-demand fitness videos. I thought I'd rot and fall apart, but I am just as fit now, if not more so. I will have to read The Happiness Project.