On Boredom

It is early January, and the Christmas holidays are drawing to a close. The decorations are down and the house feels empty and sparse in the way it only ever does after the glitz and tawdry glamour of Christmas. It is the time of year when thoughts turn to abstinence and minimalism, the thrill of ‘clearing out’, diets and resolutions. For me it is a time, the only time perhaps, when I experience true boredom. The strange feeling that nothing in my life, none of my activities or responsibilities, are enough to fill the groundswell of time that billows around me. Such a contrast to my usual experience: rising early, the long commute to work followed by hours of doing things I don’t want to do but need doing, followed by another long commute, dinner, a thin sliver of time with the family before sleep and then doing it all again the next day.

In this slow, post-Christmas period I have an abundance of time and little to fill it with. I am used to having only that bare morsel of time to fill, more than enough to be easily devoured, and now find myself faced with a feast I cannot manage. The hours pass achingly slowly. I sit in a quiet room listening to the sound of my children chatting upstairs, the whirr of the washing machine as it carries out a task that if done by hand would swallow down many hours, the burble of the TV in the living room lulling my husband through another long, weary day. I sit and I do nothing. There is nothing to do.

Or is there? Of course there are many things I could do. I could read, as I have been doing, I could write, I could organise my sad finances though little could be achieved there no matter how many hours I spent upon it, I could dust, I could go for a walk in the cold and the rain, I could go shopping (if truly desperate), I could learn some Japanese, I could go for a coffee with my husband or a friend, I could go for a drive, I could do some exercise or watch TV or surf the internet or do one of the million of other myriad things that we do to make time disappear. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to. I am bored, being bored, finding life tedious and banal. It is all grey and repetitive and dull.

And it is marvellous. These are stolen hours; hours for wasting, for losing down the back of the sofa as I stare at the scuffs in the paintwork I could be painting right now. These are hours that cannot be filled with repetitive tasks, with enthusiasms or interests. These are hours to be tossed flagrantly away in decadent inactivity, to be crawled through torturously, to be experienced second by second by second. Boredom is a privilege. It is a sign that life, however busy, can also be replete. I need nothing, desire nothing. I can sit in my quiet room and think of nothing pressing enough to draw me from my contemplation of the carpet. The rain crackles like static on the window, creating the perfect excuse to go nowhere and do nothing whatsoever at all. Lovely, considerate rain.

My mind lulls on a sea of blank nothingness. How rare these moments of pure, unadulterated emptiness. How rich I have become in time, so unexpectedly. I know that when I’m back in work it will be different, that I will so quickly return to the habit of gorging down time until there is no tomorrow, that too soon it will have run out and I will look back and think ‘what did I do with it?’ and the answer will be ‘nothing’, which is always true no matter what you do. But on this day nothing is exactly what I choose. I glory in my boredom, enjoying every near-endless moment of it. Because tomorrow, despite everything, will come all too soon and my profligacy of time will then be over.

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