Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sacrificing boredom

In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice.

Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull

A few days ago I realised how much my life had changed when one of my Facebook friends remarked that she was bored and did not know what to do. Her comment stopped me in my tracks. It dawned on me that, way back in the mists of time, BC (Before Cohousing), I too had experienced boredom. But, when I reflected on the last year, I could think of only two occasions on which I had been bored.

One was the morning on which I woke up with my seafront condo shrouded in a thick fog, and felt as if I was in a sensory deprivation chamber. However, I shifted the lens through which I viewed the fog, and came to appreciate the magic of it. I shared that experience in my blog post entitled Embracing FOG.

The other occasion was the day on which I wore ear plugs to get a hint of what it was like to be hard of hearing. That felt very trying to me. But I think it's fair to say that, during The Experiment, I came by the sense of boredom honestly, so to speak.

When I saw my Facebook friend's comment, I found myself wondering why, except for two unusual instances, I did not recall having been bored during the last year.

I suspect that boredom is related to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

I do not believe that we feel bored when our physiological needs are threatened. When that happens, we experience panic, pain, or some other heightened form of discomfort. I was in a vehicle accident at the age of seven. Boredom is not the word that springs to mind when I remember my body being assaulted by glass, metal and hard ground as I hurtled through the windshield (in the days before seat belts).

I suspect that I experience boredom when my subtler, higher level needs are thwarted for reasons that feel invalid to me. When I make what might be called a sacrifice for a goal that is important to me, I do not feel as if I am suffering. During my trip to South Africa in June and July, I spent the better part of a day at Cape Town Airport. My original, morning flight to East London was cancelled, and I was re-booked on a later flight. Then that later flight also was cancelled, and I was re-booked on a third flight. If you can believe it, my third flight was cancelled, and I was re-booked on a fourth flight. However, the third flight subsequently was re-instated, and that was the flight on which I flew to East London in the late afternoon.

Spending a day at Cape Town Airport was not something I would have chosen to do if I'd had many other options. However, since I wanted to reach my mother and brothers in East London, I bit the bullet and settled into a chair at Cape Town Airport. I read Bill Bryson's hilarious book called Down Under. From time to time, I took breaks from reading, and watched the people in the airport. People watching was an interesting exercise. I learned a lot about the demographic changes that had taken place in the fourteen years since I'd last been in South Africa. In any event, my desire for connection with my family members in East London made it feel worthwhile to tolerate what otherwise might have been a boring day at Cape Town Airport.

But, at other periods of my life, when an emerging new value has clashed with an old value that has started to feel obsolete, living up to the outdated value has felt boring. An example is laundry. It'll give you a clue to my age when I share with you that there was a time, admittedly decades ago, when it mattered to me that my laundry came out whiter than white. Back then, the effort felt worthwhile. But I gradually realised that I didn't care. Once that transition had taken place, any extra effort expended on laundry felt boring.

When I look back, I feel that boredom has been my Higher Self's way of telling me that there is an agreement that needs to be renegotiated. On the one hand, I have experienced fear, because I have perceived that a change in my behaviour might alienate someone whose good opinion I have needed for security. If my laundry no longer was whiter than white, the people who valued whiter than white laundry might expel me from the whiter than white laundry club. On the other hand, if I have wanted to progress to other values that have come to mean more to me, I have had to risk criticism from the whiter than white laundry club.

Of course I'm using laundry as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek example. Some of the taboos that I have broken on my journey to self-actualisation have been more serious than changes in my laundry practices.

When I turned my back on my old life in Calgary, it felt risky. No, actually, that's not true. It didn't just feel risky. It felt terrifying. I can identify with the Richard Bach quotation. It wasn't easy to sacrifice the boredom that at least seemed to have security attached to it.

But what happened when I took the plunge, bought into Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, and moved to Nanaimo? I have participated in shaping our community, learned a great deal about real estate development and communication, grown in confidence, made new friends, and accessed beauty through singing, dance, theatre, walking, hiking and photography.

The alignment between the external expression of my life and my inner values is demonstrated, I think, by the fact that boredom now is almost unknown to me.

1 comment:

ms toast burner said...

Interesting post, Judy. I remember you talking about boredom on my blog but how you've expanded on it here has made me think more, and differently, about it.

It's made me question whether I am bored or not... to be honest, I can't really tell! Which is a bit disconcerting.

I am going to think about this more, obviously.

Love the laundry analogy! I've full membership in the 'it use to be white' club. ;-)