I relish wise words from old-time friends.
Recently, I came across an email I’d copied and saved about 10 years ago from an old friend – Kerry Nelson, who now lives in Osakis with wife Lorrie, both of them empty-nesters. I knew Kerry years ago when he was director of the Douglas County Historical Society. We still communicate frequently via emails, mainly about old-time great music: Beatles, Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, to name just a few.
Kerry wrote this: “You know, I have never understood it when people say they are bored. Good Lord, people, there is SO MUCH to read, learn and experience in life. And, if all else fails, volunteer somewhere and help people instead of focusing on YOU. Bored is a word I will never understand.”
Kerry’s words of wisdom stuck with me because his email got me thinking about all the people who gripe about boredom and how boredom has become alien to me. Of course, life has plenty of “down” moments when nothing is happening, when you have time on your hands and nothing special to do. Boredom, a form of temporary paralysis, can then set in.
Life can also be unfairly punctuated by disappointments, dashed hopes, frustrations, pain and even diagnoses of potentially terminal illnesses. Cancer is one such challenge, as Kerry well knows, having battled cancer twice – and won. A serious health problem can be a teacher, if you let it. And one lesson it teaches is never to let yourself become bored. Many people, facing a terminal illness, would give anything to have more “down” time to do more activities, what some call a “bucket list.” They know all too well that boredom is a waste of time, a kind of hang-dog luxury for spoiled people.
Boredom is a form of giving up, of disconnectedness, of not wanting to be engaged in life and in the moment. When you come right down to it, boredom is really a form of laziness.
People who don’t develop many inner resources tend to be bored. They depend upon others for their amusements. They tend to be dependent. Those inner resources include imagination, curiosity, a keen interest in people, a sense of humor and – most of all – a passionate connectedness to life and everything in it, the good and the not-so-good.
I’m lucky to have known lots of people who were almost never bored. They were not Pollyanna optimists, either; most were hard-headed realists who forged ahead in their lives through thick and thin, like Grandma Saunders. She kept telling us kids, “Don’t tell me there’s nothing to do. There’s plenty to do. Find something to do and then go do it!”
That was in the days when my pre-teen siblings and I would sometimes mope that we were bored, whining we had nothing to do.
“Clean your room,” parents would say. “Take out the garbage. Go weed the garden.”
We’d scoff and groan. NO, we mean something FUN to do. Not that crap. When Grandma was visiting and heard our lazy, good-for-nothing groans, she would launch into her stern speech, shaking a finger at us. It took me years to learn her lesson, how to banish boredom.
The surest cure for boredom is to internalize the fact that we are mortal. Picture your life as an hourglass, sand slipping through it, time running out. Stay active, learn to meditate, daydream. With a renewed appreciation of precious time, you’ll be able to enjoy, as if for the first time, say, the glorious colors of autumn leaves, the bittersweet contemplation of times past and yes, even relishing a slowed-down drift of minutes while sitting by a window on a melancholy rainy afternoon.
My advice is this: Don’t waste time. Connect with life moment to moment, even during “down” times, and – presto! – that old bugaboo called boredom will vanish.