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The other side of boredom

By Lauren Olson, May 13 2020 —

I think it is classic human nature to complicate pretty much everything. Which is why it comes as no surprise that in a time when we have very simple instructions — like staying home — a lot of people are struggling and complicating it. 

I speak for myself, too, when I say that for some reason staying home and doing “nothing” is so hard.

Here’s the thing: I think we’re all going through the same phases here, though in different orders. I’ve experienced some denial, panic, even acceptance.  I’m sure there are other phases as well — the next one for me will be boredom. Once the novelty of all the at-home workouts being posted on Instagram, the baking and the puzzles and crafts fizzles out, people are going to be sitting at home going, “now what?” 

We’re all so terrified of being bored. Why? Because being bored means we’re not doing anything worthwhile. In our minds, we’re wasting time, energy and space. But what if that’s what we’re meant to learn here? What if we’re meant to get so, so stinking bored that  we’ll realize being bored is where all the actual living can start?

Our lives are so filled with accomplishing, striving and doing. Being idle is pretty much seen as being a failure or a loser because most of North American society has agreed that our worth as people is completely tied up with whatever it is that we “do.” But am I actually less worthy if I don’t “do” anything? Is my being actually threatened by inactivity? Of course not. 

All the doing and accomplishing has, sadly, become such a way of life that nobody seems to remember what they even like anymore. Nobody knows who they are anymore. Once you strip away someone’s job, someone’s activities and outside approval in all shapes and forms, what’s left? 

I’m not immune to this at all. When I got laid off from my job, I felt completely incomplete and like my entire world had been pulled out from under my feet. I was nothing without my job and my income-driven goals. Thankfully for myself, I’ve explored this idea of having everything I had valued taken away from me. I’ve had that experience both voluntarily and involuntarily.  And through both I’ve learned that even if I seem to “lose” everything, I’m still intact — I’m still myself. And, on top of that, through those experiences of sitting in excruciating discomfort and working through the feelings of complete unworthiness, I’ve learned to like myself. Just myself. Without the relationship, without the house, the pets, without the job, without technology. All gone. All stripped. Just me. Learning to love “just me.” That’s what we all get to try doing now, amidst this global pandemic. We get to be bored and we get to rediscover ourselves.

Getting bored takes some time and some practice. Don’t underestimate this feat. We are experts at staying busy or distracted (note: distracted does not equal bored). I’ve been working on getting bored for years — honestly. I’m legit bored of movies (aside from a few — Frozen 2? I’ll watch it millions of times and never get bored of it). But I’m not totally bored of some TV series, I’m not totally bored of reading and doing puzzles yet. But, I’ve experienced how it feels to have something that was once a total pleasure, like watching movies, become extremely boring. It’s pretty cool actually! So I challenge ye brave warriors with a fair warning to not give up easily because true boredom takes some commitment.

What happens on the other side of boredom, though? Why even bother trying to get there? I’ll tell you why. Because, on the other side of boredom is creativity. On the other side of boredom is inspiration and, wait for it, action. You know those ideas you get sometimes that light your soul on fire and you feel a moment of awakening in your heart and you just want to do that thing? And then, just as quickly as it appears it disappears. And you go back to your book or your TV show and that idea goes to rest with all the other neglected ideas in Idea-Cemetery. Well, the other side of boredom is where action on those ideas actually happens. I’m telling you, you don’t have to believe me, and you probably won’t anyways. But my whole life has been a series of those ideas lighting me up, teasing me like a carrot on a stick always just out of reach — and I’ve always been too busy trying haphazardly to prove my value to the world to actually follow-up with any of them. Not without nibbling away at my spirit every time. Now that I’ve felt boredom from that endless circuit of trying and failing to get that same feeling of passion and excitement from my job or my relationships or whatever other thing, I’ve taken action on the things and ideas that matter to me. It’s not about what that thing is, as long as doing it feels light and effortless and energizing. That’s what getting bored will lead you to. 

I was just as upset and frustrated as anyone else when I got laid off from my job. I felt a mountain of stress,fear and worry. I made knee-jerk decisions that I then had to take steps backwards from to land in a place where I felt like I could breathe again. All of that is okay. Recently, I was at the stable where I used to ride and work at, which I hadn’t been able to visit in months. I soon realized that all of this craziness that’s happening in the world — among the fear and uncertainty — I’ve come back to something I love, deeply. When I put my foot in a stirrup and swing into a saddle and onto the back of a horse, it is like my soul takes a deep and life-giving breath. Without the coronavirus seemingly taking away everything I thought I needed, I wouldn’t have been here. I wouldn’t be riding horses every day, hydrating that part of my soul that just really needed a drink. 

So with all that said, as you enter into the next few weeks of staying home and as the boredom settles in, instead of fighting boredom, accept it. Welcome it in. Let yourself binge watch Netflix until you’re so fucking bored of TV that you crave doing something else. Then you’ll look for that thing you’ve been putting off. So do it — do all the things that everyone else on Instagram is doing. Bake everything, workout five times a day, do hair tutorials, make vegan soup, organize and clean your house every day and post inspirational messages that you don’t even follow through on. Do all of it. Eventually you’ll be so sick of your own bullshit that you’ll get up and you’ll do something that you love or that you’ve always wanted to do. And that boredom will have helped get you there. This global crisis will not have been wasted, because you’ll have allowed yourself, at least for a moment, to remember a part of yourself that’s been buried under work and the stress to constantly succeed. To do something for no other reason than because you just friggin’ love it.

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