Bored? Good!

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When I decided to (semi) retire, besides being afraid I’d run out of money and become a bag lady, I was afraid of being bored. I preemptively researched places to volunteer, concerts, restaurants to try in my new city.

Because I have had some kind of job since I was 15, I could not even imagine endless days of not working.

I’ve been afraid of boredom since I was a girl. After all, when I’d complain to my parents that I was bored, they would quickly warn me they had an endless number of chores with which to fill my young hours. So boredom was something to be punished.

Even today, anything is better than boredom.

I fill my inbox with subscriptions and, in the rare moments I don’t have the mental capacity to read, I play endless games of Dots or Minesweeper on my mobile devices. Because I’m afraid that if I don’t fill my mind with activity, it will be the beginning of mental and emotional decline.

I recently read an article that has me rethinking that notion. In it, British psychoanalytical writer Adam Phillips, defines boredom as it starts in childhood:

“Every adult remembers, among many other things, the great ennui of childhood, and every child’s life is punctuated by spells of boredom: that state of suspended anticipation in which things are started and nothing begins, the mood of diffuse restlessness which contains that most absurd and paradoxical wish, the wish for a desire.”

Phillips argues that boredom serves a purpose:

“Boredom, I think, protects the individual, makes tolerable for him the impossible experience of waiting for something without knowing what it could be. So that the paradox of the waiting that goes on in boredom is that the individual does not know what he was waiting for until he finds it, and that often he does not know what he is waiting… Clearly, we should speak not of boredom, but of boredoms, because the notion itself includes a multiplicity of moods and feelings that resist analysis; and this, we can say, is integral to the function of boredom as a kind of blank condensation of psychic life.”

Phillips posits that boredom is full of possibilities because it challenges us with simply “being.”

And that can be terrifying.

When my mother was dying, she couldn’t focus on a book or even on the television.

“This is boring,” she said from her hospital bed.

Who knew that dying could be boring? And yet, maybe it has to be. Without filling time with activity, it allows the mind to open, to cast about among possibilities, to settle on what it is one wants to do, ie let go of life.

When you are bored, often it is because you are tired of your own company. But at the important times of life, whether it is dying or crisis, you had better be able to spend time with yourself.

I may need to practice boredom, just as I do meditation, although it seems the opposite of meditation, in which I focus on my breath and a chant. With boredom, it is the very lack of focus that brings possibilities.

So maybe my new retirement goal – although I still don’t want to run through my money and be a bag lady – is to leave space to be bored.

Boredom

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I’m A Creep

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When did I become creepy?

Was it the time I said with a wolf-like growl that I was Team Jacob all the way and my daughter said, “Eeewww, mom, he’s my age. Maybe even younger!”

Was it this week at a Bruno Mars concert when I thought to myself that the diminutive singer looked like a pocketful of fun, and then realized I could never, ever say that aloud in the crowd of young women surrounding me?

If I met myself as a guy, I would think I was a creep. Stop looking at those young things! What’s wrong with guys your own age?

And I do love guys my age, especially – and exclusively – the one I married.

The woman in the mirror, the one with the bags under her eyes and the slightly saggy middle? She knows that the boys who say, “Yes ma’am” aren’t just being polite, they are firmly demarcating the age gap they see.

But the one who peeks out of the eyes above those dark circles? She thinks she’s still got game. Not that she wants to PLAY the game, she just wants to sit right next to the sidelines and watch. Watch the ripped young bodies.

Yep, I’m a creep.

Creep

Zombie Wars

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Have been having some bouts of insomnia lately…at least during one of them, I was productive and wrote this poem:

 

ZOMBIE WARS

Shameful fears, imagined slights

Rise to haunt me every night.

 

By day, they’re buried dark and deep

By night, they rise to rob my sleep.

 

Zombie fears and zombie hurts

Stretch seeking fingers up through the dirt

 

And in their struggle to get out

Infect the air with shame and doubt.

 

Snatch at my heart, suck at my brain

Reliving every secret pain.

 

Reopening wounds with slashes deep,

They steal my dreams, they steal my sleep.

 

Turn solitude into being lonely

Turn “what if” into “if only”

 

The dark beneath my eyes, the scars

Of fighting nighttime zombie wars.

zombie

Like Riding A Bike

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Everybody says that riding a bike is one of those skills you never forget.

But I have not ridden a bike since my friend, Jeannie, and I were street rats in the mean suburban boulevards of Buffalo Grove, IL. We’d leave in the morning, and ride all day to places forbidden (like the abandoned barn we swore was haunted), coming back only for lunch at her house or mine. My bike was purple, with a banana seat, pedal brakes, and a horn I never used. Except for the occasional slipped chain or that one time I went too fast over gravel, my bike was just another part of me.

“I don’t know. You never were that graceful on the bike, even at your peak…” my father says dubiously when I tell him now that I am getting a bike.

Maybe he’s right to be cautious. This is Charleston, with crowded, bumpy streets very different from the wide avenues of my youth. At any moment, some tourist could wander in front of me, or some native might open a car door into me on the narrow streets. I remember a coworker in D.C. who had a fair amount of skin scraped off after a driver turned in front of him, sending him flying over his handlebars.

And, yet. I can’t walk everywhere. There are places I want to go that are too far for walking, too close for driving. So I buy a bike.

I talk earnestly with the young man selling bikes, a tattooed guy I just know races low on his bike when he’s not selling to me. He patiently finds me the perfect bike and promises to adjust the hand brakes so I’ll be less likely to flip.

On my first day with the bike, my husband, who’s been riding his bike to work for the past six months, takes me to a parking lot for maneuvers. I’m slow, awkward. My first trip to the grocery, I insist he ride with me. I’m afraid of falling, of failing. Even of inadequately locking my bike at the market.

We shop. I load groceries into my bike basket and strap on my helmet. And start to pedal. I loosen my death clutch on the handlebars. I breathe deeply. And suddenly, I’m flying.

Like so much in life, my fear loomed larger than reality. I feel free, tough. I am a biker chick.

Biking to grocery

Biking from the market