The Art Of Boredom: Embracing Summertime

When was the last time you actually felt bored? Sure, we’re used to hustling hard whether it’s for our careers, our families, our beach bods. What about the other end of the spectrum? Is there something vital we are missing? I’m not even sure I know how to NOT be busy, even if given the choice.

I grew up in the country surrounded by miles and miles of open space. I remember it fondly and as an adult believe that a childhood immersed in nature is truly a luxury. As a youth however, with no driver’s license and no helicopter parent, I remember boredom so intense it was nauseating. Those long, hot summers in Tehachapi. Not even in Tehachapi, but another 30 minutes outside of “town”. That’s when you know you’re in BFE.

My parents would shut off the TV at 8am and boot my brother and I outside. We were only allowed back in for food or water until sunset and otherwise they couldn’t care less whether I went bouldering, mountain biking, horseback riding (we had 4 in our back yard), tree climbing, or tangoing with a rattlesnake. I still have scars from a Calvin and Hobbs-type episode of riding a Red Flyer wagon down our very steep street. I got to walk home with knees full of gravel to get help. Asphalt hurts like a mother in real life.

Do I condone the borderline negligence of parenting back then? I’m alive after all…

Part of me is pretty keen to say yes BUT parenting today has swung so far the other direction that I feel there’s a different type of negligence. Are we grooming our children to expect endless entertainment and an agenda? Are we equipping them to think for themselves? Are we robbing them of their imagination? How will they ever learn how to figure out what to do with themselves, how to be comfortable in their own skin and how to enjoy the simple things? What ever happened to day-dreaming?

Enough of the kid talk, what about us? The “Grown Ups”. In this digital world there’s so much more. More information, more communication, more should-dos and more Pinterest project ideas than ever.

“Digital technologies have enabled constant engagement, and it now seems like we have entered a battle with boredom (either actual or anticipated), and that any moment without distraction or entertainment signifies a “loss” in the duel. But as it turns out, we might be thinking about boredom all wrong. Research suggests that boredom (in moderation) should be embraced. The happy balance between chronic boredom and constant engagement can prove beneficial for our minds and even our careers.” The Science-Backed Benefits of Being Bored

As I focus on my Mer-Journey and my next steps for self and career I’m putting daily effort into Mindfulness and Meditation (discussed in Un-slumping Yourself Is Not Easily Done). Well f#$k, meditation is hard. Not running through my endless to-do list is hard. Stillness of mind, being present and not go-go-going is really hard. We can only listen to the heart once the mind is quiet and silencing the mind takes practice.

My entire adult life I’ve been hustling, especially at work. When I wasn’t working hard, I was playing hard. I’m sure I have some fellow kindred spirits here as this is a cultural thing. The hustle culture, workaholism as a lifestyle and allowing work to define us are all cultural.

“The New York Times says hustle culture “is obsessed with striving.” It is the complete abandonment of finding healthy work-life integration, and instead, defining oneself’s worth, and perhaps one’s entire life, by what is accomplished in the workplace. This in turn leads to overwork. And then what’s next? Burnout.” Why Are Millennials Buying Into Hustle Culture?

“Historians have documented that after the Industrial Revolution, time suddenly became equated with money,” says Mary Waller, professor of organization studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “The more busy you were, the more value you had. It went beyond just a status symbol; it became economic. You increased your economic value if you could cram more work into an hour than someone else.” The cult of busyness: How being busy became a status symbol

It is no surprise that when we have children we redirect that bred in the bone hustle to our parenting, resulting in helicoptering. Our obsession with productivity even with our kids is more about how we define and value ourselves than intentional parenting. Even though it may be the case, it doesn’t make it right.

I invite you to take a moment to pause and ask yourself, are you an achievement addict? Have you considered that in your career, in your parenting and in your life you may actually achieve more by doing less? In her Tedx Talk Bethany Butzer discusses how “We wear our busyness like a badge of honor. As if we don’t feel like we’re worthwhile human beings unless we’re incredibly busy. But all of this busyness is coming at a cost and the cost is our health and our well-being.” She asks, “Might it even be possible to achieve more by doing less?”

“We wear our busyness like a badge of honor, as if we don’t feel like we’re worthwhile human beings unless we’re incredibly busy. But all of this busyness is coming at a cost and the cost is our health and our well-being.”

Bethany Butzer

From my childhood I remember moonlit horseback rides on hot summer nights under the stupendous Milky Way. All of those long days of boredom resulted in a hobby, a sense of adventure, a few scars, a rich imagination and a comfort with being in my own skin that is one of my favorite attributes.

Today, having taken a pause from the career hustle to focus on my family, I have the opportunity to seize the moment and slow the f#$k down. In addition to the benefits to my kids, I’m wishful this will help with my Mer-Journey. I wholeheartedly agree with Kate Arends when she says “Letting go of hustling, being busy, or constantly doing THINGS might open up a chasm in myself that will allow me to get acquainted with who I am without being defined by what I do.” My Only Goal This Summer Is Doing Nothing Call me crazy, but a dose of boredom may even help with discovering my next steps professionally. “Research suggests that boredom encourages the pursuit of new goals when a previous objective is deemed no longer interesting.” The Science-Backed Benefits of Being Bored

More daydreaming, less doing. More feeling, less thinking. This summer may be my last chance like this, before I dive back into the hustle and before my children have commitments of their own. This summer I am committed to slowing down and being present, to not having plans and activities ready for every free moment and to allow both my kids and myself to enjoy some good, old-fashioned boredom. After all, it’s good for the soul.

When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.

Rick Warren
Foggy, warm beach morning here in SB

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