Tag Archives: boredom

how to bore yourself into having the best summer you will never forget.

12 Jun

FC REading

The Summer we…. read every day in these exact same positions

We’re all supposed to be experts. Especially if we dare write now and then, and then ask people to read it, we should have asserted our expertise in something. I have acquired mastery in a few things – obviously, cream cheese based dips, Disneyland, the long-gone TV shows Alias, and wearing t-shirts. I believe the term we are looking for to describe a person with this specific skillset and knowledge base, is lifestyle expert.

As a lifestyle expert, who, like you, is looking at weeks of summer stretching out ahead, I am anxious to get started filling those long summer days with the exact stuff that will make for great memories. I want this selfishly for me and, more selfishly, for my boys so they will someday reminisce with their own kids about how much fun they had with their amazing parents, and then for those future mystery kids to say, “Wow; Grandma and Grandpa are the best.”

“Well,” you might be saying, “tell us, Lifestyle Expert…tell us how to make a summer that we’ll never forget.”

After 40 summers of in-depth field research, the solution is clear: find something – even a tepid, mildly fun something – and then do it a lot. No! It’s not about manufacturing a new adventure every day! The key is intentionally indulgent repetition.

Look back at your own summers. No matter what cool big stuff you did, I’m guessing those long warm days blur together, and the parts of the blur you remember are: popsicles, water fights, sunburns, lounging around a pool/lake/park/beach with your friends, whatever your 4th of July tradition was, and probably a regular family trip to the mountains/lake/ocean/desert/city/backyard tent.

My kids may only have relatively few summers under their mom-made-us-wear-these belts, but they already start their reminiscing about just last summer with “We always…..” and then fill in the blanks like a couple of weathered older guys sitting on a porch, talking dreamily about their (mandatory) weekly trips to the library and subsequent reading time on the couch; and trudging through the cold San Francisco fog to the damp and dreary playground, and then to the burrito place, the market, and the pet store. Even lucky enough to take a dream vacation around the East Coast, our 9-year-old never fails to bring up how what he loved most were those nights we got back to our hotel room just in time to watch “The Tonight Show.” In 30 years, he may not really remember Paul Revere’s House, but I guarantee you, he’ll remember all of us, exhausted, sore, and punchy, lying there in the hotel air conditioning watching Jimmy Fallon.

I think of my own summers, and I instantly recall running errands with my mom every Monday. We’d zip around town in our giant Chrysler Cordoba, stopping at the bank, the post office, and finally McDonald’s, where I would think about how much paperwork is required to be an adult. It was easily 100 degrees every one of those Mondays, and my skin would sizzle against the car seats, and heaven forbid, the metal seatbelts. I’m sure I was a real peach when it was time to start our weekly Monday adventures, but, little did I know, in 30 years, I would treasure those trips as well as weeknight tennis with my dad. Not Wimbledon, or Palm Springs tennis, just regular old Tuesday night tennis on the old courts by the town’s recycling center.

Happy blurs aren’t just for childhoods. I treasure the summer I discovered the white wine spritzer, and the summer my self-tanner was full of *@&%$# glitter, and those 92 mostly-summer couch dates with my husband watching “Mad Men,” and the summer I listened to the new Franz Ferdinand album over and over, and the pre-drought summer I came home from work most nights to squirt the kids with a hose, (in a very classy sophisticated way before drinking my white wine spritzer).

Let’s look ahead to Summer 2016, and come up with some possibilities for stuff you always used to do in the Summer of 2015.

Remember last summer when we….

  • played Uno on the porch every night?
  • ate all that watermelon?
  • went to the library and checked out every one of Judy Blume’s/Beverly Cleary’s/David Sedaris’/Nora Ephron’s books? (They may not all be excellent choice’s for 9-year-olds.)
  • watched every episode of _____________. I hear they’re making a movie of it. That will be great!/terrible! (The Lifestyle Expert recommends “CHiPs.” It works well, because it is hilarious, and they are making a movie of it.)
  • Ate lunch in the park every weekend?
  • Always rode bikes to get Slurpees? But then we had to drink them in front of the store because we are not skilled enough cyclists to hold our Slurpees and steer our bikes.
  • Got really in to the Giants? (The Lifestyle Expert recommends this. The Giants are the best.)
  • Learned how to do calligraphy? And then we wrote everything with our special pens all summer long, and then school started, so we had to stop and go back to boring cursive, and now I need to re-learn calligraphy.
  • Cooked our way through So-and-So’s cookbook? (The Lifestyle Expert is not an expert in this area.)
  • It doesn’t matter. Put whatever you want here. Put in the bank, the post office, the cracked tennis courts.

Sure, plan a grand adventure here and there, and enjoy every second of it! Big adventures are good for the soul. But, expertly speaking, make a lot of room for the nothing-special stuff too. You just don’t know how special that nothing may turn out to be.

FC Cordoba

Me, my mom, and our Chrysler Cordoba, in the summer.

the b word

17 Oct

“Don’t say that…it’s a terrible word.”

“It’s true though, I am.”

“When you say you’re bored, it implies that everyone around you is boring…that we lack the sparkling personalities needed to keep life interesting for you.”

“I don’t mean that, I just mean I’m bored.”

“Boring” had long been on my list of no-no words, since it had also been verboten in my own childhood home. My mother used to say, “only boring people get bored,” which I then repeated to my son as his knees were slung over the side of the chair.

“Jacob, this is the part where I am legally obligated to tell you that if you are so bored, I can certainly find you something to do. Math drills? Cleaning your room?”

“But those things are boring too.”

And so weighing his options, he picked up a magazine and dramatically put in front of his face blocking my view of his freckly, and likely still disinterested face.

I thought of him less than 24 hours later as I had the opportunity to sit and repeatedly wait for stuff. I waited in the car, staring lamely at my phone, poking away at solitaire, and re-reading news stories.

We waited in the bleachers for one baseball game to finish so Jacob’s could start. I did not know one kid on the field, which outweighed the fact that I normally enjoy baseball. I tried eavesdropping on the boys from the opposing team, who like Jacob, were waiting to take the field. They talked about something not interesting that happened at practice, and TV characters I didn’t know, so I chose to stare at the dirt, then the sky. I was suddenly so keenly aware of my boredom, that it became exciting. I dug around in my purse so I could make a note of what I wanted to think about, and maybe write about at some point in the future, “being bored.”

The initial excitement of my boredom was sullied once again by the less glamorous realities of actual boredom, as well as the glimmering hope of something to focus my attention on.

I threw myself into Jake’s game with abandon when it finally started.

But, as it ticked ever closer to the 3-hour mark, his team sitting 12 runs ahead, the familiar feeling was back. John had to leave for a church event, and I’d tried to send chipper text updates, “Jake stole home!” and then it was “Jake stole home….again.”  Zach scooted dramatically down the bench to sit next to another dad to talk about the 49ers. The moms in front of me were checking the processing speed on someone’s new iPhone 4S. When it was my turn to Google something, I didn’t want to leave the owner’s search history littered with my attempts at finally discovering where I’d seen the actress who plays Amy Poehler’s mom on “Parks & Recreation,” so I stuck with searching “baseball.”  Wow, the processing speed IS fast.

I handed the phone back, only to see that the game was still going. Zach came back over and graciously let me pick from the fabric of his pants the hundreds of thorny little stickers he’d acquired while retrieving a foul ball from the bushes. The people in the stands had eyed him jealously as he’d scampered off with a task. He’d taken his sweet time returning the ball to the official, undoubtedly prolonging the excitement of it all.

After every out, someone would inevitably ask, “Is that it? Is that the game? Are we done?” Sometimes it was a parent from the other team, and sometimes it was whatever kid was at first base. Sometimes that someone was me.

A few months ago, I read Stephen King’s brilliant “On Writing,” where he stressed the importance of allowing yourself to be bored. He would take long daily walks (that’s how he got hit by that car) and carry a newspaper or book with him that he would not read. His mind worked best when he was bored, creating stories that would go on to successfully give the world the creeps.

If boredom is simply our brain at work, imagining what it would it be like to be doing anything other than what we are actually doing at the moment, then all of us are likely bored most of the time. How we respond to boredom then, is critical.

You could complain about it – most certainly what teachers and parents, my mother included, find so terribly irksome.

You could get into mischief.  The stats cited on militaryschoolalternatives.com (I was NOT there for my own children – it just happened to come up when I did my lazy Internet research) show that roughly 50% of kids are likely to drink because of boredom. Same goes for adults. Frankly I thought it would be higher, but we have to trust the dedicated statisticians at militaryschoolalternatives.com.

You could do something important. Maybe you’ll get the idea for the next great American novel, or decide what to give the teachers this year at Christmas (always a stressful endeavor). Maybe you’ll give in and call your sister, figure out how to fix that thing at work, or finally remember that you need to buy stamps.

Be bored, but for Pete’s sake, if you’re sitting within conversation distance of me, don’t tell me your bored, it’s offensive.

*As our family settled in for the night after the game, I inadvertently proclaimed my distaste for something on television, by spelling to John that it was “b-o-r-i-n-g,” in front of Jacob who’s 11, and as it turns out, can totally spell words.

He leapt out of his chair, giddy with excitement. “A-ha!” he squealed, as he should. “I can totally think of things for you to do to not be so bored. Would you like to connect things, you know, like you do at work? Or do math drills, or connecting drills, you know…like for work?” His smile of redemption lasted all the way to bedtime.

**As I was writing this, I checked email no fewer than 10 times, entertainment news 3 times, and Facebook 5 times. I made two mugs of tea, and did a load of laundry. I stared out the window for a while, and thought about painting my nails. And then I stopped thinking about painting my nails, and painted my nails. I also completed my research: Pamela Reed is the woman in “Parks & Rec.” She played Arnold Schwarzeneggers’s partner in “Kindergarten Cop.” Now you can relax.