When I was in college, I recall walking in for a final in Composition class and being handed the classic ‘blue book.’ Four or five topics were on the board to select from and we were to pick one topic from the list to write about. For some strange reason, I picked the topic boredom.
Maybe I selected it because it was a foreign concept to my life, at the time. I was a single mother of two school aged children, home owner, and working 30 hours a week. When I was not working at a book publishing company as an assistant editor, I was either attending college or studying for classes as I carried 18 credit hours to ensure a quick graduation. I had active children also that played soccer year round. I had a calendar that had more arrows on it to fit all activities on it that is looked more like an illegible city map!
To this day, I wish I had a copy of that term paper to read! I thought of it the other day, as I lay in the pool on a float just relaxing. I remember thinking to myself, ‘If someone would just pay me to do this, I would be eternally grateful and happy as can be!” I wondered then why I am never really bored.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word bore as “to weary with tedious dullness.” Maybe therein lays the issue because I find life exhilarating. Signs of life are miracles, God’s little whispers to us that all is as it should be. So I am not sure I have ever found myself in too many situations that are innately blah, e.g. boring.
Given my age, I thought back to younger days in my life. In particular, long summer breaks from school spent for days on end at the local pool recreational center. Many a day I was there from dawn to dusk, swimming, playing ‘keep a way’ and flirting with the boys. And yet, as fun as it was, by the end of July, I did not want to admit it but I was ready for school to start. Seeing day after day the limited number of kids that came to that particular pool was getting monotonous. Soaking in the sun was getting, boring! That word was applicable at that point in my life. I think I am representative of most at that age, our youthful years, we are always wanting to run away from boredom. We thrive on excitement and drama!
When I look at the time period of my twenties and thirties, there was no time to schedule boredom. Too little time and too much to do with it! My career, my marriage, parenthood and just facing the adult world was time consuming . When I was not on the go, I was sleeping out of exhaustion. And the sleeping came in short supply.
About the age of mid forties, I begun to get a life that was not spiraling with a constant influx of new stimuli to adjust to and I was slowly down. I begun to see that stillness can be healing, and soothing to the soul. I realized that now I run more to that state I use to call boredom instead of away from it! I cherish serenity in a way in my youth, I simply could not. I rejoice in that which is stable, an d steer clear of chaos and drama. Funny how time changes one’s perspectives. I would much rather be bored yet happy than not bored and over stimulated.
As I look to the future, approaching old age, I wonder how my views will change towards having empty hours on my hands. It is hard to predict. Time changes all of us. It is hard to walk by the elderly, as a child, and even contemplate ourselves being, one day, that image. But we will, most certainly, God willing.
In a world of changes and noise, dull moments should be embraced and rejoiced. These are the times we can reflect and grow. Boredom is a temporary state if you find the fine line, the balance, between living and just being.
*** Don Bergfors once said, “ I do not consider myself old. Old age is anyone that is ten years older than me, at any given age!”
Years ago, one hot summer, I had to go out and buy a lawnmower. I had never even cut the grass in my life, up to that point. And then in a split second, I found myself smack dab at the Sears department store, in the section where mowers are sold. Standing in the middle of all this heavy duty equipment with large price tags made me take stock of my life. I was feeling somewhat lost., Here I stood, divorced and trying to raise two kids on my own. I was in college full time and working part time. And, one more thing on my to do list, cutting the grass?!
The backyard in question to cut was treacherously steep. The children were not allowed to sled down it in the winter time or they would land up in the neighbor’s yard. I contemplated this while reviewing model after model in Sears that day of mowers. I quickly transitioned in my mind wondering if I had long to live. The image of myself in tennis shoes going back and forth a steep hill with two gradients that were hard to walk up, pushing a heavy lawn mower sounded like a deadly combination.
I knew that day, in Sears, contrary to women libbers everywhere, I had to find a man and I had to find him fast! Not one to marry, mind you, but one to help me decide which lawn mower I should buy as I saw, if it did its job well, as my new best friend. Especially if there was one that could cut the lawn all by itself.
As luck would have it, my man appeared. He was godlike, even though his baggy yellow shorts and beer gut did not do much for me romantically. He looked dirty so I figured, he was a man’s man and I quickly latched my eyes on his. Honestly, though, I think seeing me standing there with two kids drooling chocolate chip cookies everywhere, was a sure sign to him. I was a damsel in distress and even he could not pass up the opportunity to be my knight in shining armor. We chatted briefly and he gave me pointers on things to take into account when deciding on mowers to purchase. I am not sure he was listening to well as I thought I had made it clear I could care about the value proposition statement of each of the countless metal beasts. I only wanted to know, based on my yard’s description, which mower would make my job easier. He eventually obliged and what seemed like record time, my new mower was bought, put in a large box in the back of our little car and we were heading home.
My car was a small black Chevette stick shift, complete with faded red and orange racing stripes up the back side panels. Even as my children’s young ages, they knew this was not a cool car. Our vehicle would do nothing for our images around town. They were insisting already that, when I drove them anywhere, drop them off a block away so they were not seen in the car that looked like a black trash can on its side. The bucket seats in the front meant they were both sandwiched in the seat together. If that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, they also had to hang on to the edges of the box containing our new purchase for dear life. And then I drove slow home, trying to avoid any bumps.
Once home, the man of the house, my fourth grade son, helped me haul the box out. Silly me, I thought when I opened the box it would be assembled. No such luck, I had to put it together myself, the women who could not build a house out of Lincoln logs. Much to the amusement of the men gathered across the street my neighbor’s front yard, I had to read the directions. And read them I did, over and over again, till they made some semblance of sense. And that evening, before dark, I managed to put it together , our brand new mower.
Then came the scary part, would it start? When it did, wow, was I impressed with me. I tried hard to ignore the chanting from across the street as the men not only laughed amongst themselves, but yelled comments at me while I had attempted to do what they said was the impossible. And in the end, I did do it. I sat back and stared at my mower in admiration. This starry eyed glaze did not last long as my son reminded me that it was near bedtime and they wanted a snack. How could they think of such trivial things as eating when we had this wonderful new mower just begging to be used?
The next day, at the crack of dawn, I was out there in the backyard. It was a slow start as I had to learn how to leverage my body lower on the hill than the mower so I could direct the mower across the yard without it, and me, landing in a heap at the base of the hill. I was just about getting the knack of it when my kids popped out the back door and quickly shouted me how proud they were of me. As I looked over my shoulder, I recall seeing them in just about direct line with the mower and visions of me losing my grip came to mind. I quickly shouted back, please go back in the house. I told them the truth, with me behind the mower in our yard, it was not safe to be outside. They ran in as quickly as they could. I am not sure if this was a sign of good faith in my advice or lack of faith in me in controlling our power mower.
That summer flew by but the memories of that experience live on in me. I was out there countless times, cutting the grass alone. My neighbors all had burly husbands to do this manly work but not I. The first few times, the men gathered again and sat in lawn chairs just to watch me cut the grass. As they teased me, and I acted as if I did not hear a word, I begun to find humor in their inability to find something more worthy of their time than me cutting the grass.
Later in the summer, I learned something quite amusing. The neighbors husbands, the same ones that saw fit to tease and taunt me, began to resent me too. Apparently they had used the day they cut the grass at their homes as a convenient excuse to not do anything else around the house. Many times, they felt, since the job was so difficult, they should be allowed to play eighteen holes of golf the following day Sunday verses spending time with their wives and children. However, the day I started cutting the lawn also, things begun to change. These wives saw me out there, bright and early with as much lawn to cut as their husbands. They saw me later, washing the car and playing with the kids. I was taking them back and forth to soccer games, helping them collect leaves and bugs for science projects, and grilling dinner out. There was not room in my life, at that time, to be tired and have down time. But, the women knew, it was no longer just ok for their husbands to make feeble excuses for not helping out more. Cutting the grass was only one chore of many!
I look back on memories like this fondly and with laughter. I had such a big hill to walk up and cut. Much like life, lots of uphill walks are taken. The steps we take are not always on steady ground either but more on faith and motivation. Those days are long gone. Today, I live on even more property than I did back in those days. Yes, the acreage of my current yard far surpasses that steep hill in Kentucky. When I met my present husband, and we began corresponding, early on the subject of mowing came up, of all topics! I learned, coincidentally he enjoys it and feels reenergized riding his large mower. It takes literally hours each week to cut his lawn here in Tennessee. And when I reflect on this, I think I knew back then, especially when I saw his big tractor, I was smitten for life!