I read in Emily St. John Mandel’s novel The Lola Quartet that people surround themselves with crumbling things—houses, cities, relationships—and call them beautiful and loved, because crumbling things offer escape routes.
Once, someone asked me if I ever feel safe, and I’d never thought about it, never thought of “safe” as something it were possible to feel. I feel bored often, if bored means stuck or a kind of restless, turning-on-itself comfort. To me, that is a distasteful safety.
My escape route as a child and teen was my basketball hoop in the dark. I created whole worlds in my head, new stories, bold paths and choices that could be abolished as quickly as they were made. I could inhabit everywhere as I shot baskets. My dog trying to steal the ball, barn owls, toads I rescued from my cats, moths like ash.
I remember the first time I realized people were supposed to choose only one life, a day or week repeated with little variation. I feel scared now that I’ve accepted this, boredom as simulacrum of safety.
Not all escape routes are bad. Science, in practice, and medicine especially, escapes from the horrific boredom of overarching narrative (once it eschews overarching narrative). It sees enough crumble in the absolutes. Once you get down to individual experience, to the practice of care, it’s all crumble, all girls with basketballs and injured toads creating new worlds in the dark.
Medium: ink, Sharpie
These words are like a virus. I hope by writing them down I don’t infect anyone else. I told them to a friend in college and ten years later she tells me, they still haunt her.
The words of a first grade teacher chased me through high school, to Italy, a college major in science, remote wilderness, graduate school burnout. They are likely the fire that keeps me writing through child rearing and busy jobs.
“A bored person is a boring person.”
I’ve never wanted to be boring, or worse to disappoint. I move through life in gulps, bug eyed and wanting to lick, hold, examine everything: galaxies, earthquakes, plant chemicals.
But I dont sleep. I am 36, mother of two. I have a serious day job, and yet, I can’t manage my participation with every second of the day to let my body relax at night. I track my heart rate to try and hold myself accountable, to see that anxiety, non stop meetings, vacations, petting dogs, that these are reflected in the parasympathetic system of my body.
I went to a meeting on Monday and was bored. I let myself be bored. My heart rate sank like it was laying down in a feather bed. The thought drifted by that perhaps the key to rest would be permission to be bored.
Medium – Pen, Fit Bit Charge data.