The Value Of Boredom And The Dangers Of Busyness
The other week, I threw a very impressive childlike tantrum. My boyfriend had decided to start a project in the garden that would take him a few days, leaving me to entertain myself for that period of time. Of course, I firstly yelled at him for not preparing me for his upcoming project ("you should have warned me - what am I going to do with myself now, you selfish bastard?!"). I then proceeded to cry loudly before stomping upstairs and lying in bed all day doing nothing as an act of protest ("why am I doing nothing? Because YOU LEFT ME TO DO NOTHING!").
"The anxiety felt during periods of inertia never fail to kickstart my ambitious drive, leading me to frantically Google projects, hobbies and new jobs"
This might give you an insight in to my relationship with boredom and idleness. I would do anything to avoid boredom. A graph of my work and project load over the last 5 years would resemble a child's drawing of the mouth of their most feared monster - jagged teeth, uneven and frantic. The anxiety felt during periods of inertia never fail to kickstart my ambitious drive, leading me to frantically Google projects, hobbies and new jobs - looking for the next hit of 'yes, I am worthwhile, I have it together, I am successful' to flow through my veins and calm me down.
Inevitably, I can't keep up this new diary of obligations. There's a predictable stretch of time where I lambast myself for not being like 'those people' who wake up at 5am, meditate, go to the gym, make a healthy breakfast and manage to take Insta-worthy photos of the whole magical ordeal. I then inevitably drop all projects, let people down, and tell myself I need to strip it back and 'take time for myself'. I tell myself I'm lazy, I'm a quitter, I'm a failure. I can predict that in a few weeks time, the whole sorry cycle will come driving past my door once again, as it always does. I asked my therapist "Why can't I stick at things? Why do I quit everything?" She astutely noted: "It sounds to me like your problem isn't quitting everything - it's starting everything".
I'm left in the wake of my destruction, wondering how I got here. Why does my idleness fill me with dread? I'm reminded of my mum's response when I was younger and I would tell her I was bored: "Well, there's loads of cleaning/cooking/gardening you can help me with". Her words, irritated and more mature than mine, taught me that boredom was indulgent and lazy.
Society echoes this sentiment. The phrase 'The devil makes work for idle hands' purports the notion that trouble and evil ensue from not being busy. Being busy has a certain level of prestige associated with it. 'Busy' people are desired by others - in terms of their time, and their skills. They are valuable and worthwhile. We meet up with our friends for drinks and ask how they've been. "Busy", they say - and we both congratulate and loathe them for their success in equal measure.
"Busyness is like that hot guy that is texting you asking you to come over. You are society's sexy - the hot new thing."
And so not being busy allows us to feel abandoned. If we aren't busy, this means that no-one values our expertise, our knowledge or our time. We are on the outside looking in, wanting to feel important, wanted and desired. Busyness is like that hot guy that is texting you asking you to come over. You are society's sexy - the hot new thing.
All these conflicting and confusing realisations encouraged me to tackle this head on, learn to embrace boredom and eschew the busyness badge. When we are bored, we notice where our minds inevitably wander to. This is most likely something we were trying to avoid that now comes at us with full force, potent and uncomfortable. I started meditating more to allow myself to notice my boredom and my unwanted thoughts, and to sit with them more comfortably.
Boredom also brings to the forefront of your consciousness what you are naturally drawn to. Whether that be a desired career, a hobby, a lifestyle habit.... you end up looking for what you actually truly want to be doing. I discovered how I am naturally drawn to creative pursuits, like writing, poetry and music. I noticed how it stirred my soul to look at beautiful works of art and photography. I started engaging with these hobbies without a goal in mind, but for the pure joy of its existence. I found it brought me peace and a childlike curiosity that I hadn't felt in years. For too long I had numbed myself with a busy schedule, filled with things I didn't actually want to be doing. Boredom had allowed me to discover life again with fresh new eyes.
The result, thus far, has been a more meaningful passing of time; hours filled with enjoyable pursuits rather than obligatory tasks. I no longer have the addictive 'rushing around' feeling that can be so delicious, but I do have a more considered and calmer attitude towards 'doing' and 'not doing'.
What about you? What is your relationship with boredom?
(See the poem I wrote on a life at fast pace)