There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither. ~ Alan CohenWhen is the last time you were bored?
No really…I mean it. My guess is that your life looks anything like mine, there is seldom the opportunity for boredom. But recently, while on vacation, my family got a front-row seat to boredom. And it was the very best thing that could have happened to us.
So let me back up for a minute. A couple of months ago, my husband, my adventure-seeker and intrepid traveler, starting firming up the plans for our vacation to Costa Rica. Passports up to date…check. Airline flights confirmed…check. Accommodations set up…check. Check, check, check.
Regarding the accommodations, our VRBO rental boasted that it had the three, must-have amenities for American travelers – air-conditioning, satellite television, and Wi-Fi. And when we finally arrived to our destination, the first thing Tripp did (as he usually does) is turn on the air-conditioner, turn on the TV, and check for internet connection. Typically, in that order.
After choosing our bedrooms and getting settled in, the first thing Tripp noticed was that the satellite dish wasn’t working. We were in a fairly remote area, so we only got one, poorly connected, local station. In Español no less. But no TV, no problem! We had internet! Or so we thought. Because after an hour of unplugging and replugging and checking and resetting, it became clear that, although we did indeed have access to the internet, it was nothing like the speed or bandwidth that we, as uber-connected individuals, have become accustomed to. But it was getting late and starting to storm. Plus we hadn’t eaten dinner yet and all of us were getting fairly “hangry’. So we decided to let it be and go back into town for a bite to eat.
Now, I would just like to pause here for a minute to acknowledge the fact that all of the ‘problems’ we were facing are so totally #firstworldprobs. OK? And we knew it. Lack of high-speed internet is not a real problem and I am grateful that, even as a ‘plugged in’ family, we knew the difference. And what happened as a result, has been far more gratifying than anything we could have experienced while online.
Anyway, long story, short…the satellite never worked and the agonizingly slow Wi-Fi was the best that Costa Rica had to offer. And with two days with no real ‘activities’ scheduled, that meant we were going to have to get creative…literally and figuratively.
I’d also like to add here that as an introvert, I am totally fine – no…in COMPLETE HEAVEN – when I have nothing to do and nowhere to go. Quiet time at “home” is my nirvana, whether I’m at “home” at my permanent address or at “home” on vacation. My husband and daughter are wired differently however. Both of them love to go and do, so two days with nothing planned was more like their worst nightmare.
One afternoon, I could see Tripp restless and roaming around the house and I asked him, “Dear, are you ok? Are you bored out of your mind?” To which he replied, “Yes… but it’s probably a good thing.”
I’ve been thinking about this conversation on and off for a month…how being bored can be a good thing. And how rarely the thought of boredom even comes about in everyday life. And how could it? Between cable TV, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram (just to name a few), there is no shortage of ‘entertainment’ or ways to fill up the space in our lives. And it’s so easy…with just a touch, a world of entertainment is right at our fingertips…quite literally in the palms of our hands. I also wonder if it’s a bit of a cultural thing too. In society that prides itself on productivity and flaunts busy-ness like a badge of honor, it’s almost like boredom has become a dirty word.
But I would like to state for the record that boredom can be a good thing. Because with no access to TV, we spent more time with our faces in books. With limited access to social media, we socialized with each other over afternoon cocktails and ping pong. Without all the noise of a plugged-in life, we spent two quiet days wandering, daydreaming, napping, and resting. Really resting – body, mind, and spirit. A complete reset for our souls.
The more I have pondered it, what if, rather than classifying boredom as apathetic tedium or a restless ennui, we could see it differently. Similar to whitespace in photography, what if we saw boredom as breathing room…space for our world-weary souls to rest. Whitespace is a critical element of design in all of the graphic arts – the use of which creates more meaningful and more aesthetically pleasing compositions. So why wouldn’t I apply these same design practices to my own art? The art that is my life?
More than any trinket or tchotchke, this was the one souvenir that I really wanted to bring home with me…permission to be bored. The gift of breathing room. The freedom from hustle. The feeling of peace. The connection to who and what matters most. Because these are the benefits to boredom…and these are the gifts that keep on giving.
Until next time,