“…the paradox of the waiting that goes on in boredom is that the individual does not know what he was waiting for until he finds it, and that often he does not know that he is waiting…” Adam Philips
In our American way of thinking a person’s identity is predicated largely on his ability to be productive (and to be useful). One of the very first questions you are asked by a new acquaintance is, “So… what do you do?” It’s as if you are being asked, “So, what makes you a worthy human being?”
The Unrelenting Source of Bored
Where does that leave the unemployed and the retired? I can answer that question since I retired about four years ago. It leaves you feeling bored and useless. You wake up in the morning with nothing on your calendar and unless you are invested in some fulfilling hobby, your morning is especially discomfiting. You have no idea how to spend your time. It is a terrible, humbling and humiliating experience.
Psychologist Adam Philips suggests that perhaps instead of living in a state of boredom we are merely in a somewhat nebulous “state of waiting.” And most often we don’t even know what we are waiting for. So we find ourselves falling back into the state of boredom and uselessness.
We feel hopeless and helpless and there seems to be nothing to provide a sense of genuine personal identification and meaning. We end up bored as hell.
Boredom and Possibility
But I found (and still currently find) that boredom is an easy escape from “possibility for the future.” The possibility of a future that is still unknown. It also leads us to live in a state of restlessness.
One and one-half years ago I was bored spitless and did not at all consider myself in a state of waiting for some thing to come along and fill a void. And then I had a guest on my podcast from a charity called Wells of Life. Today, I write to you from Uganda, Africa and I am a volunteer Vice President of the Board of Directors of the charity. I am part of a dedicated group of talented and hard-working people drilling hundreds of clean water wells in rural villages, and providing clean water to hundreds of thousands.
And I am helping. I never would have imagined I was not bored but in a state of becoming. I needed that “downtime” to get myself prepared mentally for the fabulous work I get to do. An old quote from Lanson Ross rings true in my mind right now, “You are what you have been becoming.” And for the unemployed or retired, boredom is really a sense of our failure to be aware of the fact that we are in the process of becoming.
Change Your Perspective
What then are your options? It begins with a change of perspective. It is an obstinate refusal to allow boredom to consume you while you are actually in a state of waiting (or becoming). Such a perspective requires a most difficult conscious choice to disallow that demon called boredom to take reign of your day.
And yes, there are days when that demon will take charge and you will be overcome with the feeling of uselessness. But not EVERY DAY. There can come about a sense of waiting to become the next you that fate has determined for you. Whether it is in business or service or both there is always hope that the day will come.
Be patient and give value to the present moment… even if it appears boring.
But Waiting to Become
Photo courtesy of :tommaso79 at istockphoto
2 thoughts on “Bored or Becoming”
Thank you Charlie!
Very well said!
Thanks Suzanne. This one meant a lot to me. It was a very personal issue with me. I really like the idea of “waiting” instead of boredom.