Nothing to Report: Boredom as a Balm

I talk to my mom five or six days a week. My mom has always been a very active person. She has always had a job and lots of friends, hobbies, and activist causes she works on. Her life has been rich and full of things to report when we talk.

My mom is retired now and, like the rest of us, isolated from most of the activities that used to fill her days. When we talk Mom starts the conversation, “Hi Laura, how are you?” At some point in the conversation, Mom will say, “Well, tell me something. I have nothing to report.”

I don’t really have anything to report either but I do have a lot to talk about. This past year has been a year filled with time. I have so much more time at home. Every day is the same. Minus a chunk of hours carved out in the middle of the day for work, the free time of the day is void of the things I used to do — coffee with friends, going to a movie, out to dinner, sitting in the stands of my daughter’s soccer game, going shopping for the boots I’ve been coveting. But now none of that exists. Daily life is boring.

And this boredom is good. This boredom is a balm that I needed to deepen my connection with myself and my partner. We are both bored. And in this boredom, this life devoid of social distractions and obligations our relationship has deepened — with ourselves and with each other.

This boredom has been an invitation into our individual interiorities. Ten months ago the beach we walked was filled with shells and driftwood, seabirds, and other people. But the shoreline has been receding, taking with it everything on the beach. Now the beach we walk is wider, with more sand, no shells, driftwood, birds, or people. It is just us, walking the beach. The ocean is there, vast and beautiful, a constant reminder of the inherent peace that exists when all of the detritus is washed away.

We walk on the smooth sand staring out onto the ocean or looking down and the sand, being with ourselves, quiet enough to hear our thoughts. And every once in a while we come together. We share a conversation about what is going on in each of our interiorities. And it’s interesting. It’s fascinating, this new access to the inner workings of the one I love.

My mentor once taught me the concept, “It’s not the what, it’s the who.” In the context of that lesson, I was trying to come to terms with firing an employee who I felt lacked integrity. My mentor explained, “she may be great at what she does, but it’s the who that matters.”

When I talk to my mom, it’s enough to just hear her voice, to listen to what going on in her head and heart. I don’t need to hear any news. But I get it. This “what” is how we were socialized. What is your job? What is your income? What are your hobbies? What have you done today? The whats are the details that we’ve been trained to give focus and attention to for most of our lives.