The Sweet Taste of Boredom

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Everyone encounters boredom at some point. In traffic jams, in long queues at the grocery store, during a class lecture, on an airplane, at the DMV, being home alone – plenty of opportunities.

Boredom is not uncommon.

Apparently, in my teens I had the knack of labeling everything as “boring.” TheI had a good time hanging out with friends, being at school or watching television, but I got bored too easily.  For my lovely grandmother such behavior had no bearing whatsoever. I suppose her generation understood boredom in one of the two ways – a person who spoke too much or someone who rambled off the topic. Their sense of boredom wasn’t a state-of-mind.  On the other hand, for me (and my generation) it had become a state-of-being.

In simple terms, “feeling bored” implies a lack of stimulation or waiting for the next fix – either an action (to begin the next chore/task) or inaction (to get done with a chore/task). Just the other day I was watching a film with some friends at a multiplex and it wasn’t as endearing as I’d expected – the print and sound quality was poor, and my favorite song didn’t play until the end credits. Not fun.

Here’s what changed the experience for me: Maybe the feeling of boredom (or disappointment, one of its off springs) didn’t originate from the film itself, as much as it did from within me. A huge part of feeling bored comes from the inability to delay gratification.  I’m not saying that every book is interesting, every job is fulfilling or every relationship is exciting – But a low tolerance level can cost you an interesting book, a fulfilling job or an exciting relationship.

From a macro perspective, a lot of human experience can be considered boring. There are huge stretches of parenting, a marriage, a business, where “nothing” is happening, or at least nothing obvious.  Usually we seek to alleviate that boredom with any available distraction, meaning a new partner or a different career.  Sometimes, we even go out of our way searching for a distraction. But have you considered using such occasions as opportunities to tap into patience? Not passively hoping and waiting, but participating in whatever is happening (or not happening).  You might be surprised how joyful the whole exercise can be.

After all, it’s a matter of tuning in. I know, routine activities like taking a shower, cooking a meal or weeding the garden doesn’t rock my world either.  But how does paying attention change your experience?

 

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