When I hear the word “bored” an image pops into my mind of being a kid in the summer, tossing around those lethargic words when it seems too hot to play outside and no one can come over, and you’re in between your favorite Nickelodeon shows.
When we were young, bored was a word that meant, “There’s nothing to do.”
As an adult, I find I can feel something like “bored” whether I’m busy or not so much—and for better or worse, there’s technically always something I could be doing, so it’s not really a matter of needing to come up with more to-dos.
Perhaps now being bored has less to do with “there’s nothing to do” and more to do with “why am I doing this thing I’m doing right now?” Whether that thing be another random Wednesday at your job, studying for a standardized test you’re not even sure you should take, or cleaning up the kitchen…again.
This version of boredom seems to be more about meaning than about a lack of activity.
When my kid-self was “I’m bored”-ing to a parent or a babysitter or a grandparent, it seemed like that older-and-in-charge person was able to spot so many things to do that I couldn’t see, and/or had this cheerful, enthusiastic approach to pastimes that I saw as old hat or unattainable or too much trouble.
As an older and wiser adult, I’m sure it’s easy to look at a seven-year-old and think, “Oh my gosh! It’s a beautiful summer day, we have a water hose and a sprinkler to our name, you’ve got a stack of books to read, and there’s an entire tub of play-doh you could get out.
The options are endless, and on top of that, they’re fun!”
Their more seasoned perspective could easily see the joys of the options at hand.
I wonder if sometimes there’s a similar relationship between the grown up version of being bored and a God who looks down and says, “Oh man! If you could only see how many great choices you’ve got and what gifts are all around you!”
This doesn’t change that adult life is not always brimming with the grown-up equivalents of water sprinklers and play-doh; there are of course times to confront big questions about calling and purpose and the practical solutions to those questions.
But it reminds me that the tedium we encounter in the day-to-day can be alleviated at least a little by adjusting my attitude to include a wider perspective, even if it’s only an imagined one.
Something good happens when I see my same situation from a new angle.
Frederick Buechner says that “to be bored is to turn down cold whatever life happens to be offering you at the moment.” For me, this means that sometimes, getting un-bored is a matter of seeing things in a new light.
Whatever form that bored feeling takes, I’m telling myself not to dramatically lament the circumstances like my younger self, but to see the feeling as a “ding ding ding” urging me to look a little closer, see what else is here, and enjoy whatever I can about the moment that’s presenting itself.
Maybe this moment allows me to zoom in and appreciate something small, or zoom out and remember something bigger than me or someone other than me, or maybe it’s just a chance to remember that some moments are less sensational than others and that’s part of life.
Either way, it’s a ping on my radar:
What am I missing here? What can I give my attention to? What can I try better to see?