Managing Boredom

Here is my typical week: Monday through Friday, wake up at 5:15, roll out of bed, make coffee and something to eat, then open the laptop and start working by 5:30. Take an hour lunch between 1 and 2, then work until 4 or so. Then it is time to head downstairs to work out before heading back upstairs to set the table and help get dinner ready. Once dinner is over, any remaining food is put into the fridge, the dishes are placed in the dishwasher, the counters and stoves are cleaned and the garbage taken out.  If there is nothing else to do, which is usually the case, I’ll take a shower then, depending on the time, fiddle with my I-Pad or watch TV until around 9 before brushing my teeth and heading to the bedroom. If there is something interesting on the tube I’ll watch a little while longer before nodding off, otherwise off to dreamland I go, only to wake up the next morning and repeat the same exact thing.

Saturday is pretty much the same, other than the fact I don’t get up as early. The mornings are spent grocery shopping followed by chores, and those are usually done by Noon. The rest of the day and all of Sunday is is spent trying to stay busy or helpful. I do most of my blogging on weekends, which helps, and so does the NFL, particularly if the Sunday games are any good.  Otherwise I’ll fiddle with my I-Pad or hang out with K, trying to find something decent to watch.

How bored have I become? I’m now getting eight hours of sleep at night during the week instead the typical of getting five or six. Dreaming is often more stimulating and entertaining than reality, so perhaps this is a situation where escaping reality is actually heathier because I am getting more rest.

We have been into our new entrenched reality for over six months, and it has become very old. I’ve become a hermit, venturing outside of my cocoon of safety only to get groceries, get my treatments, and drive somewhere for the occasional errand. Personal contact with anyone outside the immediate family is rare, replaced by Skyping or Zooming.  The new normal is a dull, sobering and boring existence. Managing boredom has become an ongoing challenge. 

Fortunately, I was raised during a time where there weren’t a gazillion channels on television, there were no computers or internet, and we had to find creative ways to occupy ourselves or risk being put to work by our parents. I  would therefore venture outside to find a friend to play with or find a discreet place to read to avoid suffering that fate.  This kind of training, if you will, has better prepared me for dealing with the isolation we now face than most kids and young adults, who I really empathize with.

I can only use relatives and colleagues as an example, but I am so glad that I don’t have school-aged children anymore. I would certainly welcome a little boredom in my life if that weren’t the case, but I’d wouldn’t trade my boredom for the insanity parents face today. I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to balance work, being a part-time home school teacher, and managing the emotions of children filled with energy and the need to unleash it in a world where options are limited at best.

Then there are young adults Nidan’s age (22). After he was furloughed from work, he used his love of the outdoors and exploring the woods to his advantage, and made daily treks that lasted hours to help break up the monotony. This solitary adventure keeps him safe, but still only occupies a sliver of the day.  He also made the smart move to continue his college education, so the classwork chews up some more time, but there is still a void that need to be filled. And like anyone his age, there is the desire to have a meaningful relationship, but how can anyone create that in today’s environment? He has the unfortunate burden of living with two immunocompromised people, which he takes seriously. He is trying to be patient, but he’s chafing at the bit, and who can blame him? It wouldn’t be so bad if the end was in site, but we are all fatigued and impatient about having to had to navigate a life where one breath can potentially kill you or those you love, with no end in sight. Maybe now that Trump and some of his inner circle have become infected, the light bulb goes off and we can actually move towards more of a coordinated, national response to the pandemic, but I am afraid that is wishful thinking.

There is a certain psychology necessary to address boredom. Besides needing to convince one’s self that this will eventually pass, we have to figure out ways to enjoy simple things that we perhaps took for granted, or start new hobbies. My physical limitations prevent me from being able to do a lot of things around the house and yard, so I have to search for more cerebral things besides playing card games and Scrabble on the I-Pad. My agent recently asked me about perhaps starting another novel. I actually have almost one hundred pages of written text on something I started a year or two ago in addition to a series of short stories I wrote that can be used as the nucleus of a new novel. I looked at both again after that conversation and got a little excited about resuming either because they both have promise. Continuing one or the other would certainly occupy my time, but the motivation to sustain the effort needed to do it isn’t there yet. Maybe that will change when it starts to freeze outside.

I’ve always been good at drawing and painting too, even though I haven’t done either in decades, so diving back into that could be an option. It’s a solitary endeavor that chews up time, and we all need things like that not only to make the days more tolerable, but to keep ourselves from going stir-crazy.  

Finding and embracing things like that helps prevent us all from scurrying around aimlessly, like a hamster on one of those metal wheels, their little legs pumping furiously while they go nowhere.  This is critical for me because even though a summer where more than 90% of my time was spent mostly isolated at home is over, there was the drama regarding the house sale that overwhelmed everything else and made it seem less onerous. We could also spend time together outside as a family unit, and occasionally have a close friend or relative over provided we kept our distance and wore masks.  But the colder weather is coming and that option will soon close.  

The onset of a colder climate will initiate a period of time that will be long and dreary, not to mention potentially dangerous. The holidays usually offer a respite, but how can this year’s season be anything but comparatively sterile and underwhelming? At least we are fortunate to be able to experience them in whatever fashion we do with all our friends and relatives around. Not everyone can say that.

By the time the weather turns warmer, there will hopefully have been a change in out national approach to the pandemic and we will have managed to control the spread better, not to mention more promising news on the vaccine front. But until then I’m braced for another six months that may feel like six years. Managing the boredom is going to determine how tolerable it is, not to mention maintaining one’s sanity.  It’s going to take some ingenuity to navigate, but what choice is there?

Author: Steve Markesich

I am loving husband, a doting father, a Red Sox fanatic, an aspiring novelist and MS advocate. Feel free to check out my stevemarkesich.com web site.

10 thoughts on “Managing Boredom”

  1. As Trent Reznor wrote, “I believe I can see the future/’Cause I repeat the same routine.” The cycle is getting a bit wearing, isn’t it? And my daughter is in the same boat as Nidan–taking university classes on line, not being able to socialize–hopefully this second wave will be over soon.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I can’t say that I do anything exciting persay, but I promise I am never bored. I have done some binge watching series on amazon prime though too. Only because suzanne’s post this morning was about what NOT to watch, I will make a suggestion to watch Suits? Also, if you are too bored, pick up the damn phone!

    Liked by 1 person

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