Everyone has an opinion about going tiny. They wish they could. They never would. They wouldn’t know what to get rid of. And to a person, they can’t imagine not being able to escape from other people (i.e. husbands, wives, kids, roommates). It is ironic, then, that I think this whole tiny business is making me feel…well…lonely. I realize we’re nowhere near in our house, but it’s in the forefront of our minds, is the center of most of our conversations, and is setting the experiential tone for our weekend dry-runs in the camper.
I’m trying to get a handle on how I could feel loneliness when my life is so full. After all, my kids are in great places. Work is solid. Jim and I love one another and are really enjoying how the house process is nurturing our relationship and individual selves. And except for work, we’re rarely apart. Lonely? Really??
Recently, Jim was pacing in the camper (more like methodically turning in circles, as you might imagine), and his expression looked familiar. “Are you bored?” I asked.
“Yes,” he conceded, to which I replied, “Me, too.”
Bored? Really?? How could it be? We are in our paradise, with each other, not working, surrounded by heaven on earth. What gives?
It occurs to me that in the absence of a task to do, I am not quite sure how to fill my time. It’s unimaginable that I would feel this way after decades of pining for “down time” (a.k.a. mom time, me time, alone time, girls weekend time). Fast forward (and I mean fast), long gone is the need to arrange a playdate, to schedule a doctor’s appointment, to plan a vacation, or to envision the next renovation of a house. It’s official: I am… gulp… an empty-nester. And – I am not ashamed to admit – my kids now manage me more than I manage them.
After the better part of my life’s having been driven by a mile-long to-do list running through my brain every second of every day, I now am officially bored. And lonely. Or maybe both? Or maybe one because of the other?
Fairly regularly, Jim and I talk about boredom and whether it is the result of not being able to think of anything to do or not being able to motivate to do anything that you do think of. To me, the former is is a better description of bored; the latter is unmotivated. Believe me. I know unmotivated, and bored is not the same as unmotivated. Sneaking in one more episode of Shameless or Sons of Anarchy… THAT is unmotivated; it certainly is not boredom. Regardless, both definitely take an emotional toll.
Case in point, Philosopher Jim would say that in the absence of anything to do, you have no purpose. And if you have no purpose, you might as well die. Huh. Boredom equals death? I’m so glad I didn’t know this for the first…say…fifty years of my life. Ever the instigator, he often regales me with this kind of opposite-of-Pollyanna perspective, and despite the drama of it all, it never fails to evoke a response. Of course, that is exactly what he’s hoping for. Grrr. These kinds of life-views force me to contemplate and defend my worth, and regardless of whether I’ve worked long and hard not to get sucked into debates about pointlessness, I must ready myself. Bastard!
Back to the camper. There we were, walking in circles, me preparing for a discussion about the tragedy of boredom. Then, out of nowhere, he tossed me a curve ball by asking, “Why does being content feel so uncomfortable?
Aha! An about face! Now we’re getting somewhere.
After a lifetime of demonstrating value through achievements both small (going six months without a cavity) and big (ensuring the kids stayed alive), I find myself with a dramatically diminished interest in accomplishing anything…especially not things that are defined by anyone other than me (dammit!). But now I have to face – as I wallow in down time – that I am woefully incapable of coming up with a list of things to do. On my own. By myself. No Joneses to keep up with. Without the guide of someone else’s system of measure.
Have I really been riding the wave of the life going on around me for so long that I never learned how to make a freaking list? Or is it because I never knew how in the first place that I just let myself be swept up in everyone else’s?
Regardless, it’s no wonder that my connections to people often have felt more desperate than peaceful… more needy than enriching. I have relied on them to frame my purpose and determine my success. I guess it’s not a total shocker that I’ve cared what people think, but that that focus has far outweighed my own need to self-develop is quite startling. Because now The Better Me has to face that these feelings of boredom and loneliness are my own dang fault. After all, I have no list and no one to set my course.
➜ Having no list…bored.
➜ Having no one charting my course…lonely.
So there you have it. The facts. No one to blame but myself.
I’ve been working hard to eliminate asserting blame from my repertoire, so I’m going to devote my attention – a.k.a my energy – to curbing those feelings of being lost and alone. Johanna’s daily updates make me feel a little better…at least for a moment or two. But how will I really overcome a sense of uselessness?
I’m not really sure, but I’m fairly certain it will involve starting with a list.