One of the most wonderful things to come out of quarantine has been getting back in touch with boredom.
When I look back to my calendar in the “before times” (early 2020) I’m astonished at how busy my life was. Whether it was social events, time with friends, or work — I rarely had a day that was completely blank and unplanned.
Cut to mid-March and all of a sudden it was the opposite. Almost all my days were completely blank, with some rare exceptions. I actually stopped using my calendar, and instead set alarms or reminders for the 1 or 2 things I had scheduled each week.
For the first time in years I got bored, which is such good medicine for me. Alan Watts said that “boredom is the only problem” and the more I think about it, the more I see how insightful that statement is. How much of my life have I spent avoiding boredom? How many beautiful moments have been cut short or wasted by my need to avoid boredom?
Too many, I suppose.
So now here we are in the spring of 2021, with the COVID-19 vaccine getting rolled out throughout the world, and it looks as though life might soon be back to normal. All the “empty” space will be filled with engagements, work or planned social time — and part of me is afraid.
I’m afraid I’ll forget about the importance of boredom and fill my life to max capacity again. I’m afraid all that white space will become a vacuum, and my tendency to fill it up will win the day.
So here’s what I’ve decided to try on. I’ve decided that my life is already full.
Yes, it’s true I have “space” to add things to my calendar, but that space is there for a reason. It’s there because having nothing planned is an important part of my life.
My white space is not an invitation to be filled. It’s just as important as anything else, and when I choose to add a planned engagement, I need to remember that I’m also taking something away. Everything is an exchange, so there is no addition without subtraction.
I heard some wonderful advice once in regards to thinking before you speak. There were questions to consider, such as — is it true? Is it kind? But finally, the last question to consider was “will it improve on the silence?”
What a beautiful way to highlight the importance of silence in a conversation. When we speak, we’re also choosing to not have silence. When we add things to our life, we’re taking away precious time to ourselves. It’s with this awareness that I hope to schedule (or not schedule) my life as post-quarantine reality comes to be.
It’s also worth mentioning that I’m lucky to be living in a place where free time doesn’t usually send me into a spiral of binge watching TV and endlessly checking social media feeds. I live at an intentional community in the countryside, so when my day is completely free, my life often looks like weaving in and out of conversations with folks I live with, spending ample time outside and diving into random creative projects on the property.
For many people, their living situation doesn’t meet their social needs, so it’s natural to schedule time with friends and events. The lessons from quarantine will be different for all of us, but I imagine what’s true for everyone is there’s something about this time we don’t want to lose.
Whether that’s more time with immediate family, a re-connection with nature, or just enjoying the quietness of an unplanned day — I hope we all remember the lessons from quarantine as we ease back in to our daily lives.
For additional inspiration in saying “no”, I recommend my poem An Ode to Space