School is out, summertime is upon us all, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who has heard the “b” word from their kids more than once recently. I’ll confess, I used to hate it and get terribly frustrated when my son would utter it. Lately, though, I actually find myself smiling when he uses it. And I’ve been looking for opportunities to use the word myself.
I think you should too.
In our house, the “b” word is spelled B-O-R-E-D.
I want to challenge you to actually try embracing it and exercising the meaning of the word. As in doing nothing on purpose, and sitting still through the restlessness until you feel like you did the last time you said “there’s nothing to do! I’m bored!” (And … I wonder, how long has THAT been?)
I also wonder if the reality that being, and staying busy – just for the sake of not being still – is potentially one of the most overrated endeavors humans undertake. To that point, I agree with several of the ideas in this article on the topic of being caught in “The Busy Trap.” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/
I’ll admit, not producing is one of the hardest things for me to do, er, not do. Or not, not do. Ack. You know what I mean.
Sometimes, after dinner, when my son says, “Mom, just sit down with us,” or my husband suggests we go for a bike ride or walk the dog, I usually have a long list of reasons why I shouldn’t. Emails I should write or answer. Calls I should schedule. Manuscripts I should look at. I’m a hard worker. I naturally gravitate to being productive. It’s just who I am.
Or is it just what I do?
Recently, I’ve begun to realize that pursuing a state of boredom/idleness/stillness is the best antidote to the “crazy busy, purpose-driven over-achieving” state of mind I live with 24/7.
For writers, I think the pursuit of boredom can actually be more than an antidote to busy-ness. I think it can be the stimulus to creativity and to better, deeper work. For when you’re NOT trying so hard, that’s when creativity can run free. When God can seriously intervene in your work. When the story, or point, or idea you’re trying to express can receive permission to just be itself.
I’m not suggesting you abdicate your responsibilities permanently, or become a full-time slacker who sits around with a television remote in one hand and lukewarm drink in the other. And I’m certainly not suggesting missing deadlines, walking away from pursuing your publishing dreams, or just deciding to not show up for your editing job tomorrow. But, if only for a day, sometime this summer (go ahead, if you must — put it on your schedule) I want you to try doing nothing. On purpose.
If all I ever do is go, go, go; work, work, work, I lose focus. And perspective. And I forget why I’m doing so much. Getting caught up in it without stopping to ask questions starts to feel normal. But I don’t think it is, really.
Making peace with the evidence that idleness delivers to my doorstep — that there’s more to life than endless activity and pursuit of accomplishment – can feel intimidating at first. But it’s worth the struggle. Perhaps the point of work is not just so that we can enjoy and share its fruits, but so that we can, on occasion, apprehend a vision of the void of it.
Yesterday we returned from a few days of floating around the Three Rivers area of Oregon on a houseboat with our best friends. It actually took me two of our four days to get through the restlessness and to the state of “boredom” I’m talking about. But it was worth it. When I got there, I had an epiphany. I understood that without stopping occasionally, I have no way to gain appreciation for the purpose – and reward – my work brings me.
With not much more to do than watch the kids swim, add to the long list of wildlife surrounding us, and wonder at the glory of a dark night sky, I had room to rewire my inner hamster wheel a bit.
Instead of considering how behind I was getting by taking a few hard earned days off; I reminded myself that thanks to technology, I’m not alone. Most everyone I know could now work 24/7 and never be caught up. And I decided that instead of continually stretching for the finish line of “getting caught up” I would be okay with doing my absolute best at work every day, remembering I can’t do it all, and forgiving myself when I can’t keep up. And I reminded myself that my clients are humans – and that they know I’m human, too. Doesn’t mean I won’t work as hard as ever; just that I won’t beat myself up when I’m not working.
I couldn’t have come to that place of peace if I hadn’t been still long enough to let it settle on me. If I hadn’t used – and pursued the “b” word. On purpose.
Go ahead. Try it. I dare you.