Thursday, August 7, 2008


So I was pondering some theories of physics today and - No, okay, I can't possibly make myself sound that smart. In reality, I have been all but glued to the couch recently, due to an unexpected influx of great new books, and now that I've finished them I find that it's hard to get moving again. It reminds me of what Mr. Durkin, my high school physics teacher, taught me - a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force.

I'm thinking the outside force that gets me moving again is going to be the new school year, because laundry sure isn't doing it.

Adding to my sloth this week is an overriding feeling of boredom. There's nothing going on, nothing coming up, no big trips or family visiting or special occasions or anything to look forward to. And nothing around the house seems pressing either - to be perfectly honest, house cleaning has always felt like busywork to me. Something you're assigned to do to fill time but that doesn't mean anything. Cleaning (beyond our nightly/Saturday scheduled cleaning) is never going to get me moving.

I tend towards boredom frequently, which I'm just now noticing about myself. I hate boredom to an extent that only my children could rival. In fact, when I laugh at them through gritted teeth on the first day of summer vacation for announcing their boredom, what I'm really saying is Join the club! Or possibly, Welcome to my world, friend, where we get to be at home all day and wonder if there is more to life than putting away your shoes and breaking up arguments over Lego Star Wars.

Everyone handles boredom differently. When Brad is bored, he either watches tv or he eats. I try to call him on this, so he can notice that he's not really hungry, he's just bored, a skill that I haven't yet mastered. When Noah is bored, he picks fights. He will purposely do stuff to annoy his brothers, to the point of minor violence, just to entertain himself. If the family is watching a movie together, he's the one jumping on the couch or rolling on the floor or otherwise making the rest of us crazy. (He's largely outgrown the movie thing, but the tendency is still there in everyday situations.) Zack and Darcey don't seem to get bored yet. Zack is pretty content to find himself something to do, and Darcey just putters around the house, getting into kitchen drawers or the bathroom or, her favorite, the shoe closet.

When I'm bored, I get antsy. I think I do a little of all of those things my kids do: I eat, I watch tv, I whine a lot, I wander the house feeling bereft of hope that anything fun will ever happen again.

My main goal is boredom prevention. I think it might be my overriding goal for my daily life. How can I get through today and not go stark raving mad from boredom? I have lots of tactics. School is my first line of defense. It gives me goals, small things to achieve every week, bigger-picture things to work towards, and a feeling, when I'm sitting on the couch looking for something to watch other than a Cosby Show rerun, that there's always something I should be working on. It keeps me productive and busy, and that makes me happy.

Projects are another strategy I use frequently. Ryan used to be baffled by my constant picking up of a new craft or hobby, only to abandon it later for a different one, and then be picked up again two years later. I cycle through projects constantly, and there's usually something I'm working on. I've done cross-stitching, crocheting, knitting, quilting, photography, sewing, and a very ugly bout of decoupage, which I doubt will be revisited. I also enjoy card-making (but not card-sending) and in the past I've done a ton of scrapbooking. I will go through organizational phases, where no closet in my house is safe from my wrath. Cooking is a hobby, unless it is cancelled out by the hobby of being on a diet, which is probably my least favorite hobby of all.

I rarely leave the house without one or more things to occupy any free second of time I might encounter. I am waiting for Apple to create an iPod chip that can be inserted under my skin, with controls built into my arm so that I can't possibly forget to bring it with me somewhere. Maybe I could have one implanted, you know, like a pacemaker. My iPod is my $300 binky, my digital security blanket, the thing that the Linus in me drags around everywhere just to make me feel good. I like knowing that, should the need arise, I could instantly fill my downtime with an audiobook, a podcast, some music, a video, or a game. Oh, the freedom of it!

The gym is one of those places where boredom hits me hard right between the eyes. I can't look at a treadmill without dread, and the ipod isn't enough for me there. I need my ipod for some ear-drum shattering music, a magazine to read (and to cover the timer on the machine), and a tv to watch while I read the subtitles. And that is still barely enough to keep me occupied, although I'm not sure what it would take to keep me truly entertained on a treadmill: a live acrobatic show? Trained monkeys performing stunts? Someone handing me dollar bills for every minute I keep walking? Yeah, that one would do it, but I can't imagine how much that gym would charge.

I hit a patch of boredom today that I should have been prepared for, but wasn't. I met my friend Michelle at the Lehi pool to take our kids swimming. Being around friends is the number one way for me to be not bored, so I had an ipod with me for the car, but I rejected the idea of bringing any number of other things with me - the book I was almost done with, my waterproof ipod case (for listening in the pool), today's crossword puzzle from the paper. Literally thought of bringing those things, but, in a spirit of trying to break myself of packing half my house everywhere I go, I left them all. Which turned out to be a mistake because Darcey, who had skipped a nap, lasted hours longer than I expected her to, and Michelle had to leave at 3:30.

Man, did I regret packing light after that. I was good for about the first five minutes alone, trying to think about people watching or just, I don't know, thinking. It didn't work. By 4:00 I was trying to figure out how quickly I could convince the kids to leave, although they were having so much fun that I knew that would be wrong. So I stayed and sat and stared at people and thought about stupid things and when I checked the clock again it was like 4:15. Argh! This is why I put a magazine over the time on the treadmill! By 4:30 I was tired of trying to stop Darcey from licking water off of the ground around the pool, and put her in her stroller where she promptly fell asleep. That at least freed me from the water, but made me regret more than ever not having a book, or a notebook to write in, or my Palm. Curse me for cleaning out my purse before we left! I had a sudden brainstorm and realized that the two foot long receipt from Albertsons was completely blank on the back, perfect for jotting notes about how miserable I was for a new blog entry. I had no sooner uncapped the pen than Zack appeared, shivering, and asked to go home. Which I had been longing for, but still ended up frustrated because I finally came up with something to do that would stop me from being bored!

So the truth is out - I'm no better than my kids. I have better coping mechanisms than they do, and I'd like to think that I might be slightly less annoying on the whiny-ness scale. Why do I hate boredom so much? A therapist would probably say I'm afraid of what I'd think about if there wasn't something constantly going on. But I've listened to the stuff rattling around my head, and frankly, it's not too interesting. I'm looking forward to school starting again, to jump start me out of my boring funk, to kick my resting body off the couch, to have inertia work for me rather than against me. Because after all, a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force. Thanks, Mr. Durkin, turns out I learned something after all.


rachel said...

I just don't remember what it is like to be bored. I almost wouldn't mind, at least for a day or so....
Should I send my kids to your house?

The Wilkins Family said...

I really like the way you write. You are brilliant and funny. I feel the same way that you do, however I have intentionally tried NOT to busy myself and enjoy the moment more often. Those days, I really feel like I have lived, and enjoyed living.