Today I feel stuck. Like all the joy has been sucked from life. I’m idling in a holding pattern. Nothing that would normally entertain is getting me there. All subjects seem fairly flimsy. I try to read, my head awash with thoughts. I come to the end of a paragraph, no idea of its content. Or what I was thinking, even.
So I write. To have something to do. The effortless dance of my fingertips across the keyboard. So soothing. A little haven that keeps the grip tighter on my life. Just a little.
This is me.
In these moments of listless inaction, I am reminded of two things:
- The myriad moments when you feel like everything in the world has become beige. No value or meaning is obvious anymore. Nihilism light.
- “Only boring people get bored”.
As a child, moments of incalculable boredom arose during summer holidays. Times when I had played outside (water fights etc.), watched TV, read a book, dressed up the cat, and suddenly didn’t know what day it was. Or what to do with myself.
There is the listlessness of solitude, and the one that cloaks a rainy Sunday afternoon with a partner. Where words run short and cuddles don’t satisfy so well. Picking a thing you’d both like to do or watch seems laborious. In these moments you look out the window, look to each other, and for split second wonder if this is really all that life has to offer.
Look on the bright side. This could be the spark that ends a mediocre love-affair! Or just fleeting folly. Life cannot be exciting — contented even — all the time.
Listless boredom is common-place. And yet, when it happens it feels like your soul has diminished. The absence of desire fluttering against your rib-cage. The degradation of purpose. When desire and purpose vacate, meaninglessness pervades.
So we search fruitlessly for something to regenerate it.
But, this doesn’t mean that your life actually is devoid of meaning. Far from it. Perhaps a minute mind-reset is required. When boredom of this magnitude strikes, it is better to reduce (rather than expand) your attention.
But let’s for a moment return to that phrase: “Only boring people get bored”.
I must take issue with this.
All people get bored. Even interesting ones. The mind is like a garden. You have to nurture it, pay attention to what you put in. Which plants complement, which contrast. You must provide for the ecosystem; enough water, oxygen, sunlight. Be sure to check for bugs, disease, weeds. These are to be removed post-haste.
Your mind requires similar care. The right input, careful pruning, but also space and time.
Pure listless boredom, I believe, is the minds way of requesting a reboot.
Hear me out.
Boredom is a thing you might experience with a task, conversation, or TV show. Common-or-garden variety tedium can be rectified by redirecting your attention.
But this pervasive joy-sucking dullness that sticks no-matter what you do, it calls for something else. Or rather, it calls for nothing else.
Zero. Sweet F-A.
Now, many would say that this is the last thing they want. Boredom is alleviated by engaging, not retreating. However, ending the search for something to make you feel good gives peace. Calm.
Maybe eventually some clarity
For what is listless boredom but your mind experience a dissatisfaction with all that it is being fed. The cure is, quite obviously; stop feeding it.
Allow time to detox, digest, and be still. You want another word for Listless?
1. (of a person or their manner) lacking energy or enthusiasm.
Meditation is a great way to experience this mental freedom. Most people find it a difficult skill to learn, yet it is surprisingly simple to begin. The only thing you need to do is sit in silence, eyes open or closed, and quietly disengage from your connection to your thoughts. Don’t try to stop them, or engage. Just let them slip by. Fish in a stream. Count your breaths, up to ten. Begin again. Observe, let go.
Mindfulness practice can also be of great value. You may balk at the idea of doing the washing up when in a high-magnitude funk, but doing a simple task with great focus can really flip your thinking. Make it something bizarre, even magical. A moving meditation of sorts.
If neither of these work for you, might I suggest the age-old pursuit of children:
Lay on your back looking up at the clouds. Just watch them go by.
Or under a skylight on a soggy day, watching rainwater run down the pane.
When experiencing an elemental mind-lull, find solace in this: It is your mind begging for some quiet time. Use it well. Let go. And when you return, you’re sure to find renewed energy and purpose burgeoning.