Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Benefits of Boredom

by Kelly

There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither. ~ Alan Cohen
When 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 EspaƱol 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,


Katie said...

When we went on our vacation this year, I told my husband that I was banning all social media for the week we were going to be away. He took me up on it and it was truly wonderful. In fact, I haven't put FB back on my phone, being content to let my mind go blank during those times when I'd normally be scrolling thru my newsfeed or what have you. It's a fantastic feeling. : )

AFishGirl said...

Very interesting post, Kelly. I would not use the word bored, I think more of what you're exploring here is that "white space," the idea of not having constant stimulation from our gadgets, the constant checking, the Internet at our fingertips all the time. People pay big money now to go on "unplugged" vacations. It's all interesting. You always give me pause to ponder. And bored? I've never been bored. No. A lot of things, but never bored. Even in waiting rooms. There is probably something wrong with me.

Carol said...

You are preaching to the crowd. I dont have many neighbors close by, and its a good thing because otherwise the town would be talking about the inordinate amount of time I spend on my porch. "there will be time for cleaning and cooking, but I miss the scenes in my yard when Im not looking!" -my version of that old parents' rhyme! Maybe if I sita on the porch more today I will improve my poetry....

Cathy H. said...

If there's something wrong with Pam, there's something wrong with me, too! I've never been bored either. Your family had a beautiful place to "unplug" and enjoy each other's company! I would certainly enjoy a vacation just like the one you had!

Deanna said...

Beautiful post, Kelly. You are speaking to one who agrees with you 100%. Reading, relaxing, doing nothing without any of the guilt, I vote for that!!

Dotti said...

What a great set of vacation photos you have! Cherished memories. And, yes, to the unplugging, connecting in real life vs. virtual life. And learning to embrace the change of speed. We all need to unplug every now and then just to keep our sanity.

terriporter said...

Love this post, Kelly, and your beautiful photos! Back in the old days when we went on vacation, we truly relaxed and "got away from it all". These days, everyone takes their electronics along and that is a shame. Oh, I'm as addicted to technology as the next person, but your vacation sounds so perfect -- everyone doing something TOGETHER, enjoying each others company and truly relaxing. So glad you had this time with your family.

heyjudephotography said...

Those few days of true down time sound like heaven!

Renuko Style said...

Thoroughly loved this Kelly! Can't say I really know how to be bored at this moment but it sounds very appealing and worth 'working' at. So funny we have to work at it.

kelly said...

thank you all for the kind words! I guess I should clarify that, boredom wasn't a problem for me personally...I mean I had butterflies and a camera! LOL. :) But I did so enjoy the unplugged downtime with my family for sure!

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing part of your day with us. If for any reason you are unable to leave a comment here on this post, please leave your comment on our Facebook page or in our Flickr discussion group. We love hearing from you!

© Focusing On Life