The days are long with repetition as I heal my rotator cuff. It doesn’t matter what time the alarm screams, each morning is the same—an amalgamation of waking, walking, and stretching, so I’ve turned it off. The time I awake to face the world is irrelevant.
I’ve been here before. I was raised as an only child, who couldn’t leave the house to play with others. It was up to me to entertain myself in a room full of adults, or in a room by myself, so I learned to fill the day with made-up activities. And when I exhausted the list of events: “playing school” with dolls and teddy bears or reading books two years above my age level, I’d sigh heavily and proclaim to my mother, “I’m bored.”
“If you’re bored, then you must be a boring person,” she’d reply, turning the situation on its head. For decades, I’d perceived her response as a comment on my flawed personality. But now, I get it. It was a call to be creative.
However, I’m no longer nine; I’m 49. Throughout the years, I’ve learned how not to be a boring person. Yet, today, I. am. bored. My mother’s words reverberate. It’s funny how an interpretation of a parental lesson can echo in one’s brain, well after the parent ceases to exist. But this is different. I have plenty of ideas and few ways to execute them. No one ever outlined the appropriate protocol for a person who has an overactive mind but no access to manifest her ideas. What should a writer, who doesn’t have full functioning of her dominant hand do with an abundance of time?
Boredom is the uncomfortable state of wanting to engage in satisfying activity, but being able to do it.Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart
It is 8:30 in the morning, and the day will be long with routine. I venture downstairs where my husband has prepared a berry smoothie. I’m grateful, but I miss the anticipation of making it myself. I slowly sip its purpleness, savoring separate flavors: the tanginess of the berries lingers on the back of my tongue; the sweetness of the protein powder hits the tip. These are the things I notice now that I have time. It sounds poetic, but it is not. It is boredom expressed as imagery.
Dwight laces my green and gold sneakers. It’s time for my walk. There is the dog with the hazel brown eyes; they peer at me like a sad girl. There is the guy who jogs every day. I wonder if he’s met his goal. Here is a neighbor with a mustard yellow pick-up truck; he backs into his driveway and gives me the proverbial head nod that Black people know well. There is the green bag of poo that has sat next to the bushes for the last two weeks. Someone’s footprint has dented its side.
When I return home, I’m glad I didn’t choose to receive short-term disability. Working gives me something to do. Part of my day is filled with grading student assignments. I hope dictation accurately interprets my feedback. The other day, a comment with the word titties almost sneaked away into the ethers. Simply. Simply. Simply, I said, trying to correct it, before using my left hand to delete the inappropriateness and to peck out the correct letters.
My amygdala begs me to fly, to find an adventure. We don’t have to be here, it whispers. But I cannot drive, so I rely on dreams. I fade away to last summer’s European trip. I tuck away the corn-maze of a city that was Piazzale Roma; in my mind’s eye, there is no confusion; I ignore Venice’s overpriced taxi rides. I romanticize memories and wish myself there again, aimlessly searching for our gondola ride. I find it and float, as an Italian man in a striped black-and-white shirt sings, while rocking me back-and-forth over the dark black water that lulls me to sleep.
An ache in my shoulder awakens me.
Convalescing is boring, but it is necessary. I convince myself this will be over before I know it, just like childhood memories of teaching teddy bears and adult experiences with European excursions. One day, I’ll be back to manifesting my wildest desires. But until then, I scroll social media and watch a stranger dance to Beyoncé’s “Cuff It.” I roll my eyes at their pedestrian attempts, slightly envious that today, I cannot replicate their movements.
One day, I will. One day, I’ll be back doing what I want. In the meantime, I stare out the window at the same squirrel chasing the same nuts under the same tree.
Post-script: I wrote this two weeks after my surgery on February 6, 2023. I’ve started physical therapy and have entered a new type of boredom, one that comes with doing 30 minutes of PT three times a day 🙃
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