Permission to Be Bored
When was the last time you were bored?
Bored??? Yo no comprende.
Agreed. It’s been a while.
To-do lists take precedence over all else. And then procrastinating from to-do lists is a close second. Only once I’m mentally wiped from either the doing or the putting-off-the doing, there’s only one thing left. Netflix.
Nope, there’s no space for boredom here.
And just like that, the buffer that would normally weave in and out of obligations, work, and even rest, vanishes. That whitespace is replaced by gobbly-gook. (Remember those chunky, colorful, vertical lines that appeared on an old-school TV between broadcasts? That’s the gobbly-gook.)
In adulthood, our mind ceases to shut down, rarely rests, and quite possibly never becomes bored.
In fact, the last time I was bored may have been summer as a kid. Remember those pre-fall days that seemed to drag on and on? When camps ended and the sweet excitement of no school finally waned?
And, just a note, if you lived in the country, your family had strict TV limits, and cul-de-sac hockey was something reserved for suburbanites. (Though that didn’t stop us “Hidden Valley Road” bumpkins from breaking out plastic hockey sticks and giving it a go.)
Yes, there were tree houses, trails, and makeshift zip lines. Steep driveways, agreeable skateboards, and shoes that were begging for tread to be left at the base of the hill.
Oh, and so many things to hoard. Like acorns, tadpoles, or the dozens of rocks I’d bring home, because they looked slightly different than the other thousand that littered the area.
And despite all of that, I’d still get bored.
But that was the thing about those dog-days of summer. Us kids had to become bored, so we could reach farther and farther with each passing day to dream up ways to entertain ourselves.
Everything was born out of our imagination. Everything was born out of our need to not be bored.
That way, we could come up with those silly games. Like that one where we waited at the end of a (very) quiet country road with our bikes. And when a car came into view, we had to pedal like heck to make it down the driveway, and through the hairpin turn, before the car passed the mailbox. I think I was the only one to suffer a gashed leg due to this rendition of “burn rubber”, as we appropriately named it.
Boredom inspired us, shaped us, provided stories worth retelling… and gave us a few battle scars along the way.
Lately, amidst all of the to-dos, and even the ubiquitous struggle for mindfulness, I’ve been yearning for this boredom.
I ache for that whitespace to swoop in, to weave between to-do lists and updates and wifi, and even trips to the gym or moments on my yoga mat. I want the buffer of space, to not be mindful, to not look through my third eye, or cleanse my chakras (that may be as blocked as my off-brand vacuum), but to be bored.
Can I get an Amen?
So today, I gave myself the chance.
I had stuff to do, but I decided against it. I let my lists steep in their own anxieties and saved them for another day. Because I refuse to be one of those people who claim busyness as a badge of honor – I’ve worn that one for far too long.
I want to feel the flow and not resist the ebb. Rather, I want to welcome it.
So I laid on the grass. No scrolling. No reading. No asana. No meditation. And I stared at the sky and the trees until the hum of the crickets on dayshift went from background noise to center stage.
My mind wandered and lulled. It grabbed onto thoughts that each took it for their own wild ride; there must have been thousands of them. But, eventually, I became bored.
At one point I stared at an ant that walked by. I was amazed that the gusts of wind, which had picked up immensely since I took my perch, didn’t threaten his tiny stature in the slightest.
I wondered – how has he not blown away? Anatomically, does he have miniscule moonboot appendages on the bottoms of his feet? Ohhhh… does he have feet? Or just legs?
When he walks through gravel, does he feel like he’s walking through the narrows at Zion? My imagination was flush with imagery, both logical and cartoonist. And amidst my boredom I realized this is what I’ve been missing.
This whitespace not only gives our mind the “ghetto reset” (unplugging the whole damn thing like a router on the fritz), but it also gives our intellect permission to reach and stretch.
To search and scour the edges of the imagination. To marinade in the simplicity of wonder – rather than asking the robot in our phones or hitting Enter on a Google search (that will surely aid in placing a target on our back for ads about “holistically growing your garden’s ant population” or “the best moon boots on Amazon”).
So… when was the last time you were bored?
When you let your mind become nimble and wrap around your questions and insights, and then roam to its own delight? When you just let your thoughts run until you put-putted right out of mental gas – and then your imagination woke up?
I never looked up the ant/moonboot situation. And I don’t think I will.
Sometimes, curiosity and wonderment are worth so much more.
(Photo credit: Mitchell Taylor)