As a follow up to my July 1st post, I’ve done more thinking and some interviewing of women of color about boredom (as promised). My first observation is that I don’t get bored contemplating the topic. That curious insight is the fodder keeping this blog post topic alive.
“Boredom means we can sit with a person we seek to know better, ourselves.”
This quote was offered by my friend Deborah, an educator and certified life coach. It got me wondering how I feel about getting to know myself better. I realized that I don’t like myself when I’m bored, so I try to distance myself from me. Now I’m wondering if that’s why I find it so troublesome.
Deborah’s quote reminded me of a something Janis Cooke-Newman, the founder of Lit Camp, referenced in a recent writing and meditation workshop she offered. In the virtual session, she shared a teaching she heard related to people saying they find it difficult to meditate. In response, her teacher said, “[m]editating is spending time with yourself. What is it that you don’t like about spending time with yourself?”
Boredom is a lack of gratitude; Boredom is feeling powerless; Boredom is avoiding feeling uncomfortable feelings.
Author, Speaker, and Success Coach Dr. Sweta Chawla wrote this to me:
“Wow, a word that comes up so much while raising an 8-year-old boy, especially a single child extrovert.
I remember someone once saying to me that boredom is lack of gratitude. It rubbed me the wrong way and I don’t know if it’s because I felt truth in her words or because it didn’t resonate.
I can tell you as a person that is hyper-vigilant, of course being a woman and a POC as well as other childhood experiences…like being bullied for being different, has contributed to perhaps misreading boredom. In situations where I have no control or am not stimulated…I feel anxious/bored. But really, I think it’s that I am feeling powerless.
For me, boredom has also been about numbing and avoid feeling other uncomfortable feelings. I’ve seen this with my son too. When he struggles with homework or doing something that is hard for him, he says “it’s so boring.” I think if we are brave enough to be with boredom some real truths become available about our own fears, inadequacies, etc.
Sometimes even peace can make me feel bored. But I also know that it’s not healthy to be “on” all the time. Being bored in some ways feels like a luxury that many of us, especially in the American productivity hamster wheel could benefit from embracing more. I’ve found that with myself, and even my son, embracing boredom has created space and inspiration and creativity that would never have room to emerge without boredom.”
Boredom as the bane of the Protestant work ethic and capitalism
A thought came to me related to the influence of the Protestant work ethic on the American psyche’s experience of boredom (and on my own psyche).
I remember a friend of a friend giving me a button that read, “The harder you work the luckier you get,” (a quote attributed to professional golfer Gary Player and to author Brian Tracy). Years later, my mother sent me an 8 ½ x 11 poster with the words, “I will do the most productive thing possible at every moment.” I had it taped to the refrigerator in my studio apartment until a friend of mine suggested it was an abomination to have that reminder nagging at me throughout the day and night.
Given that our capitalist society puts value on an individual based on their income earning ability, when I’m bored, I have lost my enthusiasm for productivity, therefore, my “value.” Being unproductive, when viewed with a lens of internalized oppression, means lazy, a term that has been used pejoratively against people of color for centuries, often to justify verbal abuse, corporal punishment, and other forms of violence.
Maybe my boredom is simply a desire to be without doing, which I can’t allow because I’ve internalized that my being only has value if it’s doing. My DNA knows it’s not safe to be bored.
No time for boredom
Finally, two other women responded to my inquiry saying, “Boredom? Not much time for that!” One from the East Coast is the mother of a 5-year old and the other from the West Coast is about to bring a newborn into her life. For them, boredom is a distant luxury.
I’m so grateful for these responses from my community of friends and am left with much to think about.
My next Blog Post on July 22, 2020, will be a conversation with Dr. Cio Hernandez about the quote,“Only dumb people get bored.”
If you have insights or experience with boredom, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.
Photo by Mark Basarab on www.unsplash.com