Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty – his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.- Aldous Huxley
When difficult times and people leave our lives, we often find the void almost too much to bear. We feel as if there is this huge gaping hole in our lives and in our heart. We are not quite sure what to do with ourselves.
After leaving a dramatic and chaotic marriage, I knocked around the house bored to tears. I couldn’t quite get a hold of anything to keep my attention. Nothing was exciting or compelling. My therapist told me to simply “Make peace with the peace.” The sound I heard was the wonderful sound of silence, of no one yelling for no reason, of no one criticizing me, of no one staying out all night and telling me it was my fault.
It was not easy to “make peace with the peace.” ”
The first few times you try to spend time alone with yourself, you will feel as if your skin is crawling. You will want to do something, anything to get out of this alone thing. And that’s okay. My anxiety with being alone drove me to support groups, to conferences, to 12 step meetings, to anywhere and everywhere there were people who were trying to get better and heal.
Harnessing the inability to be alone is okay for a while. For me, it really worked to drive me to places where healing happens…to talk to people who were making it work for themselves. The other end of the spectrum is after you have been alone a while, you have to get out and about and rebuild your life. Being alone too much too often becomes detrimental toward the end of your process.
But you cannot get out and about and try new things until you have learned to be alone and be okay with being alone. If you’re not okay with being alone, you’re going to bounce from person to person or do all kinds of things to distract yourself because you don’t know how to be alone.
And alone means ALONE. Not surfing the internet or the tv channels. Not texting mindlessly to your friends. Not being connected to anyone else for a certain amount of time each day.
At first I needed to harness my inability to be alone to drive me to people, places and things where healing happened. But after a while (a few months) I HAD to learn to sit still and be alone. It is IMPERATIVE, in a healthy life, that you know how to be alone. Too much alone time is not good but none is terrible. You have to learn to sit and be still.
Start slow. When you are clearly bored or clearly itching to talk to the ex or mindlessly surf the internet or do some other nonsense thing to just have something to do, set a timer and vow to do nothing for 15 minutes. Just sit there, breathe in and breathe out…get a meditation or relaxation audio if you need to, but learn to sit still and clear your mind for 15 minutes. I used relaxation tapes and meditation tapes. It takes practice. That is why they call meditation a practice, because it TAKES PRACTICE to tone down the noise in your head. To learn how to just be. It takes time and practice. Start to practice it. Do your affirmations. Keep telling yourself you are you and you are okay and it is okay and everything is as it should be. Just keep giving yourself gentle pointers and gentle affirmations.
Watch your thoughts go by. Don’t get upset by them. Don’t try to stop them. Don’t latch onto them…just watch them come and go without attachment. Keep trying to move your attention back to your own breath or your meditation/relaxation audio. Don’t get distracted by your thoughts but don’t try to suppress them either (it won’t work).
If you don’t make it to 15 minutes, try again the next day and the next and the next. You should be spending some time every day spending time with yourself by yourself when you really don’t want to be doing that. No phone, no email, no computer, no interruptions. 15 minutes of you time.
I know it’s not easy. Been there, done that. But it’s one of the essential things to being okay with you.
Last year I wrote in a post about making the peace with the peace, “Sometimes I was clear out of my mind from lack of stimulation. Over the years I had to learn to balance filling the boredom with things I’ve always wanted to do (books I’ve wanted to read, hobbies I’ve wanted to take up, things I’ve wanted to learn) and with nothing, just the peace and quiet of being in my own skin and in my own life.
A truly healthy person knows how to “just be” and just be okay with nothing going on.
Boredom is really a wonderful thing. It means you have the freedom to do nothing.
When my kids were little I did not rush to fill their boredom with games or videos or activities. Sometimes I let them be bored and let them know that being bored was a good thing. To this day they all take time out, quiet time, for themselves. I didn’t intentionally teach them to do that but when they would tell me they were bored I often said, “good” because it gave them time to figure things out for themselves. Sometimes they annoyed each other out of boredom but eventually they learned to go off on their own and fill the boredom (or not). There is joy in laying on your bed staring at the ceiling and kids can find that joy on their own.”
I just came back from a weekend to my son’s house in Boston and went with my son and daughter in law and their two kids. When the boys (ages 5 and 7) are with me, I don’t entertain them. We’re in a vehicle getting from one destination to the other. Look out the window, talk to me, take a nap. No need to have DVDs, video games etc. But with their parents they were whining when they couldn’t play with an iPhone or a video game. It was ridiculous. And I know they don’t act like that when they’re with me. I feel no obligation to entertain them and expect them to sit quietly while we’re driving. I don’t need to make sure their DSs are charged and I don’t need to let them play with my phone. I need them to be quiet so I can concentrate on driving us safely from place to place.
My kids learned to sit in the car and look out the window. They learned to sit in a room and not need to talk or be busy. We could be in a room and not find silence uncomfortable (though non of us are really non-talkative). It all comes from not being afraid of boredom and of quiet. I read Adam Philips a lot…the Harvard professor who believes that boredom leads to creativity and freedom. There IS freedom in being bored and having NOTHING going on.
Boredom is a wonderful thing a lot of the time. When you learn to sit and be with yourself and just be okay with that, it is a yardstick of growth. Don’t be upset if you don’t get it right away. It’s okay if you don’t…but try to fill some of your waking hours with just you. And learn to discover how special you truly are. You are wonderful and you need to dedicate some part of each day just being okay with wonderful, wonderful you.
Welcome the boredom and don’t rush to fill it. Spend some quiet time with yourself each and every day.