Magic bullet boredom

boredom (bôr΄dəm), n. a bored condition; weariness caused by dull, tiresome people or events, ennui. –Syn. tedium.

Of all the headlines I’ve recently scanned, the prizewinner for dumb in my book went something like this: “Tips to prevent school children’s forgetfulness: ways to keep lesson material at hand all summer.”

A sincere educational soul, no doubt, wishes to help a child remember three plus four and what is a verb for that first week in September. The article’s author probably also thinks, “Ah, yes, give the kiddies school lessons to do a couple times a week, perhaps whenever they start moaning that they're bored. Two problems solved!”

As early-morning writing becomes further ingrained in this fortysomething’s daily routine, I recognize two types of boredom featuring in most years of my life. One I’m finding I welcome with open arms after decades spent waiting for it to arrive. The other helped me become a writer in the first place. And schoolwork at any time of year never relieved them.

As is well known by anyone following this blog for a while, I hated school. Learning, let me make clear, I always enjoyed (and so there were days and teachers at school I really liked – my hatred was in a general sense). School restricted and constricted me, and so partly for that reason I homeschooled my kids, but you know what? While the two of them got to follow schedules more attuned to their personalities and learning styles than I did, my children each found themselves restricted by limitations. Victoria, for example, had to live in a bedroom with weird orange carpet. I’d no clue how much the 60s-style shaggish stuff, reminiscent of rotten orange peel, chafed her refined artistic soul. Only now do I get why she attempted to cover her floor covering with all her toys and drawing papers – I always wanted her to pick up, of course. (Well, now the carpet’s gone, and V. can stand to come visit.)

My point is, the more constricted one feels, the more tedious one’s tasks become. When children launch into a school year, whether at home or away, they face a daily amount of time where they’re restricted, bound to complete tasks for their own good. I don’t care how many over-the-summer drills a child has practiced, he or she must transition into their school routine, perhaps remembering educational points, perhaps not, but this jerky process is overall a good thing. It’s equally good, I would argue, to face the boredom entwined in the process – the first type of boredom I mentioned above.

This #1 boredom (usually I call it tedium) is the better type. It tends to springboard me to a positive outcome. The sensation is the same I felt during summer mornings when Mom handed me a trowel and said, “Go weed around the raspberries.” I would sigh. I had plans I’d rather carry out: lounging in my room, for instance (which by the way had a nice wood floor with a neutral throw rug).

But an interesting thing happened out in the yard. Beneath the swaying bushes where sweet-scented berries hung I gradually relaxed and enjoyed the job. It suited me. It felt good to accomplish the task. I just needed the nudge of Mom’s command and the restriction of being under her authority to get to it.

Boredom type #2 dogged me every school year (well, except sixth grade – Mr. Loftis was so cool I fell deeply in love with him). This type of boredom feels very unfair. I mean, here I spent idyllic early years at home with my family, until lofty powers commanded I must do this stupid thing five days a week: go be shut up in a room with 29 other kids my age and only one adult, figure out some inane problems in the first ten minutes, and sit bored out of my skull for the rest of the day while the other kids at best ignored and at worst taunted me.

Books, of course, rescued me in many ways. But boredom really pushed me to write stories. I’d learned to wield that pencil, right? And this writing process put those books on the school library shelves, so I might as well contribute. I wrote because stories sparked in my head like nothing else – they stayed with me on the awkward journey home as I made up whole chapters and retained them to write down the next day.

Finally each long year summer arrived. I skipped home, free. I stretched, ran, breathed, and dreamed, and even weeded the raspberries. My mind needed that release from boredom #2. Though I don’t know for certain, I think summer activities helped me retain my required school learning.

I still ache with tedium, sometimes even anxiety, amid conditions that I feel forced into and just can’t deal with. Thankfully I still have books to tote with me and my writing pad on which to scratch with pen.

I still meet the first type of boredom, as well. When I’m where I want to be, but lazy, I require a nudge to do stuff for my own good. With kids grown, I now can do 4:30 mornings. By my own command I’m restricted in those magic hours from checking email or blogs. Every day I begin wondering how I’ll possibly survive till my shower and breakfast. Nearly every day I think, I don’t know what to write next. But I’m compelled to be in the place that suits me. And it never fails. Somehow raspberry breezes lilt inside my brain. Ideas spark, and I do the task, joyfully.

Comments

Mike S said…
I also hated school. It was akin to another tedious chore. In my senior year I figured out a schedule where 3 days of the week I had only one class. My friend John & I used to depart through the back door as soon as we were marked 'present' in homeroom. On those 3 days we just plain didn't stay.

Creative ennui is a sacred passtime for me. I just love the excitement of watching grass grow and paint dry:)
Deanna said…
Thanks, Mike. You get what I'm trying to say, despite my lack of complete logic and structured argument. I'll work on this thought-trail more sometime.

And my senior year I had few requirements, so, yeah, I was out the door, too, whenever possible! :o)