When I was a kid, boring Sunday afternoons were often spent in the basement making up stories and playing with my sisters. Being the middle of three girls gave me the unique opportunity to watch both sides of the sibling equation and come up with inventive ways to depict it using Barbie and Ken and my Sunshine Family dolls. I was never at a loss for words or an outlandish idea that we could act out or create with cardboard, pens, and paints. My sisters often thought I was a weirdo, and to be honest, I wouldn't always disagree.
And to be honest...can't you tell by now that I'm a middle child?
Whenever I would complain to my mother that I was bored, she'd never say what Betty Draper told her son on Mad Men...that only boring people are bored. Instead she'd reply, "Go read a book or go outside or ride your bike or play in the basement." Ever-full of ideas for how to quell my tedium, Mom rarely said, "Go watch T.V.," for she knew it was my pabulum of choice.
Once I got the idea to turn an empty shoebox into a "Mean Mother Machine". The user could wad up any one of the tiny paper dolls my sisters and I had created to look like the women in our neighborhood, then dispose of it through a host of chutes in the box. My mother laughed until she cried with she saw "Mean Mother Ingersoll", then rolled it up, and threw it down the chute which eventually led to a make-shift dumpster at the bottom. I imagine I had been in trouble for something that week and used the empty hours of a dull Sunday afternoon to plot a harmless, albeit direct response to my punishment. I had no problem proudly showing my mother the results of my labor. And I was rewarded with the best possible prizes: her laughter and enthusiastic praise.
Fast forward thirty-odd years. I've just spent the past three days bored out of my mind. If you read the blog, "Let the baby sleep," then you know I'm supposed to be on a self-imposed writing hiatus for three weeks.
Well, that didn't last long.
Since last Friday, I've checked off all but one thing on my "To Do List," and now find myself bored to tears. Sure, the house is totally clean. The laundry's done. The gardens are growing. I've worked out and taken naps and caught up on my paperwork.
But without a writing project, I don't know what to do with myself.
The feeling's not completely unfamiliar. I was one of those strange kids who read the encyclopedia just for fun. During the summer of my tenth year, I started with "A" and worked my way toward "Z", stopping when I found something that piqued my interest. At the time, I could tell you anything about the digestive system, the underground railroad, and all of the Ohio presidents. Even now I go to the library at least twice a week and browse the non-fiction section, looking for anything that catches my attention. I can spend hours practicing yoga and meditating, but at the end of it all, I need to do something productive to keep the momentum going.
And to be honest, I feel my best when I'm in that creative space, no matter what it is.
These days I'm bored with television, bored with boring conversations, bored with all the time and space I have now that my fourteen-hour days are done. I look forward to teaching yoga, to spending time with friends, to my next trip to the park or the library or the grocery store. Anything to keep me moving.
And yet, I wonder what this is all about...this not being able to step out of the momentum of writing a novel and just let myself be quiet without feeling guilty. Take today for instance. I woke up at six, fed the cats, then went back to bed until ten. Then I putzed around the house, went for a long hike at Wildwood, and came home to take a nap on the back porch until six. Someone just told me that would be a pretty good day for him, but I smiled and shook my head. "Not for me...that's why I'm here at the library to research my next book."
I'm not normal and I know it.
Most folks would love to have a day like I just did, and I certainly don't fault them for it. But I don't have a typical nine-to-five life, and even when I did, it didn't really fit. I like the long stretches of silence in my office alone when I lose track of time and work until the wee hours of the morning. I love being able to pull something out of the ether and write it down in great detail. Still, since the beginning of springtime, it's most surprising that I'm most enchanted when inspired by being a part of life, and not just a casual observer.
But maybe there's a lesson or two in my reticence to simply enjoy the freedom I've been able to create. Perhaps there's a great gift in diving deep into the boredom, knowing that some creative spark will eventually light a fire in my imagination...but not expecting it to arrive any time soon. I'm trying to learn how to change gears, and like the ones on my bike, I'm sometimes stuck between one and the other. But I know to just let the wheels turn. To trust that the metal will click into place, just as the next step in my life will materialize whenever it's supposed to.
Since I turned forty, I've discovered that I don't have to be normal, for as I often told my first graders when I was teaching, "Normal is boring." Since then I've found that when I fully embrace whatever I'm experiencing, there's some glimmer of inspiration, even if it's as simple as a gentle urge to soothe Forest when he had the hiccups earlier today or watch an adorable rabbit hop around my backyard. When I went outside to feed her some strawberry tops, I was suddenly reminded of the children's book I had written with my niece a long, long time ago.
So maybe I'll dust off the manuscript for "The Tale of Hiccup and Buttercup" and see what magic there is to be found in a story about courage and contentment...and re-discover the magic in letting my wonderfully uncommon life lead me for a while.