When the Boredom Bug BitesPosted: September 2, 2011
You are a busy person. You have multiple responsibilities and obligations. There are many days when you feel you haven’t had a moment to yourself. But finally, you have some leisure. Ah!
What do you do with your leisure time? Do you slow down and savor the change of pace? Spend time on a hobby? Do things you’d like to do but normally don’t get around to doing? Take a nap? Watch a film? Meet friends? Explore a subject of interest?
Or do you pull out a few more things from your list of Things to Do, and try and accomplish them?
Or do you sit in front of the TV?
There’s nothing wrong with television. It is a convenience which offers us wonderful opportunities to rediscover the wonder of our lives – if we choose to do so. There are hundreds of hours of programming that will open your eyes and mind and heart, that will enrich your life. But do they?
It’s not the TV: it is us. We decide how to engage with the TV. We decide to sit in front of it for hours every day, not knowing what else to do with ourselves. We don’t acknowledge this as leisure time – maybe because we multi-task as we watch TV. But mostly, we don’t consider it leisure because our brains are still in ‘work’ mode. We are thinking or worrying about various things that need to be ‘done’. Do you ever really switch off?
You’re meeting someone at a café or bar, and the person is late. This is an unexpected gift of time. What do you do with it? You’re outside, so you can’t work (though many of you will whip out your iPhones, Blackberrys and Tablets). You can’t catch up with people on the phone, because it’s noisy. What do you do?
And therein lies the rub. This is the real reason our children are able to manipulate us with “I’m bored”. You try, desperately, to fill this free time.
Stop for a moment to think why. What is wrong with just sitting there doing nothing? Why don’t you deserve to ‘do nothing’? Especially considering your kids often ‘do nothing’ and get away with it? 😉
You do have the answer to this question. If you’re doing ‘nothing’, you will be spending time with yourself. And that means looking at your life: what works in it and what doesn’t, why things don’t work in your life (we are more oriented towards the negative, so you will typically look at the ‘not working’ part of your life, not the ‘this works great! :-)’ part of it), who is responsible for things not working, and so on.
These are tremendously uncomfortable thoughts to have. It is far better to be busy ‘doing something’. It is also much more comfortable.
What thoughts are you trying to push to the back of your awareness? Why can’t you spend time with yourself without any external aids like your i-whatever, cellphone, tablet, laptop, book, magazine?
At the café where you’re waiting for your friend, try to just sit there. Keep sitting there, doing ‘nothing’. No, you won’t cut a ridiculous figure. Nobody is going to spare you a thought – while you are worried about what others think of you as you just sit there, they, in turn, are worried about what you think of them.
If you can be at peace with yourself, if your child can see you sometimes just be-ing, he will learn – almost by himself – how to spend time with himself.
Your son has just finished something, and comes to you saying, “I don’t know what to do now.” (A polite way of saying “I’m bored”. 🙂 Lucky you!)
Don’t give him options, ideas of what he can do. Just let his statement dangle in mid-air. He might want to join you in what you are doing (if he can). He might hang around while you do whatever you’re busy with. He might wander away and find something to do. Or he might choose to just sit.
And he will choose this if he has seen you choosing it. Children are eternally curious. “What are you doing, Dad?” “Mom, what are you doing just sitting there?”
If you can answer “Nothing” and not explain further, he will accept that ‘doing nothing’ is yet another way of spending time. And if he can’t think of anything to do, then he will simply choose to do ‘nothing’! And once he learns this, he will never be bored. There’s a blissful thought for you! 🙂
But there is so much more to doing nothing. Look at the possibilities: you are doing nothing and your daughter joins you. As you sit together silently, each perhaps absorbed in your own thoughts, you create a special space to communicate with each other beyond the mundane. She might share an idea she has, or ask you about something that’s been troubling her. You might get a peek into something that happened at school.
You might be equally surprised to find yourself sharing parts of yourself or your life that she doesn’t know.
This is conversation, a place where you both connect with each other. This is time spent together where neither of you has an agenda. You are not trying to teach or advise or moralize or explain or inspire or make an example of anything. She is not trying to cajole or coax or defy or shock or rebel against or prepare you for anything.
You are both there – doing nothing. It is time that doesn’t count, in one sense. And because there is nothing at stake, nothing either of you is trying to achieve, it can create many meaningful moments. And you get closer to your child. Both of you can just BE with each other.
I urge you to give it a shot. It is tough to disconnect from the endless “To Do’s” we’ve created for ourselves. But if you have ever done it (and I’m sure you have, even if just for a moment!), you know the value of doing nothing.
In fact, there is a word for it. A ‘good’ word – one which makes ‘doing nothing’ a desirable thing, a goal to work towards, an achievement to aspire for. Yes, ‘doing nothing’ is also called r-e-l-a-x-a-t-i-o-n. 🙂
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