1. Really Old Story
Back in the days of my youth, BAC (before air conditioning), summers were a long, dry, suffocating eternity, stretching out like a dusty gravel road, where I would plod one dusty bored foot in front of the other, the drone of cicadas the perfect boring accompaniment to my boring walk, through my boring life.
One day when I was about eight, I made a horrible mistake: I told my mother I was bored. Uh Ohh!
“You want something to do?” She clapped her hands together with a mirthless smile, “…I’ll give you something to do!”
Fifteen minutes later, I was weeding our 5,000-acre vegetable garden (all 8-year-olds know that all vegetable gardens are 5,000 acres). Turns out parents have very little patience for kids who are bored.
2. Old Story
I remember a news segment on Saturday morning TV called “Boredom Busters,” in which bored viewers learned about things they could do to avoid the tedium of another boring weekend.
At the time, our four girls were young and absorbing every free second of our time. We saw the segment while collapsed on the couch and looked at each other in exhausted astonishment. “People are bored?!”
3. Recent Story
I was talking to a friend of mine last month. “Now that the kids are gone, it’s like we have too much time on our hands.”
What? Is boredom making a comeback?
Boredom isn’t bad
To be alone with your thoughts, asking yourself, “Now what?” is an essential part of living. It gives you perspective. Where exactly am I going? What exactly do I really want to do?
When I talk to people looking to retire and I ask what their passion is, or what they think their purpose might be, many will say, “I don’t know!” Well, there is nothing like boredom to make you look hard at yourself. The next time you take a four-hour drive, shut off the music and invite Boredom along. You may learn something!
Distraction doesn’t help
Distraction is not the antidote to boredom. Eating to distract, sleeping to distract, entertainment to distract is like taking aspirin. It may mask the symptom; it does not address the problem.
Fun is overrated
I remember slouching into the living room as a kid. I was careful to avoid the B word (I knew what that would get me!). My mom was charitable enough that day to not sentence me to Weed Duty, but she did say, “Why don’t you play with your toys?” to which I replied, “I played with them already!” I was tired of my toys…they were played out.
All parents know that no matter how many toys kids get, they eventually become tired of them. Adult toys are much more expensive and for that reason, we may think our life is crummy because we don’t have a boat/cabin/RV/yacht/second house/new spouse. BUT! Mayybeee it’s because you are made to do more with your life and that is leaking out as boredom. And trust me, adults get tired of their toys, too.
Can I help?
It’s the best and worst question a parent can hear. A small child decides they what they really want to do is help you. Sigh…there goes the afternoon. Yet isn’t it true that little kids have figured out what the rest of us struggle with? Work is fun.
This makes the teenager in me shiver. We were made to work. When we work, some kind of mysterious itch is scratched. When we do what we were made to do, it erases boredom, distraction, loneliness and low-level depression because we are doing something important.
So, during the long, hot month of August, sit down with your three-year-old self, your eight-year-old self, your teenage self and your older-but-wiser self. Find a boring place to gather and talk amongst yourselves.
You are the wiser one, so lead the conversation:
Don’t say the half-truth: “Let’s do something fun.”
Say the whole truth: “Let’s do something important.”