It must have been near midnight when I left her, but her last line kept ringing in my ears…. ‘you know Fr Joe I would love to get back to my boring old life’. In one way this was a strange thing to say but in another way it made a lot of sense. That said, Maggie’s comment really got me thinking, especially about the whole thing around boredom and routine.
In a way it might be a timely topic as we all face into another year of school and meetings not to mention the winter months of cold and rain. In fact there is a substantial number of people who are about to move into their most difficult time of year. Some of these suffer from a condition known as SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. In other words there are people who enter a kind of emotional slump with the onset of winter.
The other thing that Maggie’s comment made me think of was how we use the word ‘boring’ or ‘bored’. It can be a word we tend to associate with young people, ‘ Mum I’m bored’, ‘Dad this is so boring’ and it is often accompanied with the complaint that there is nothing to do. Having landed this mentality on young people it is important to note that sometimes older people also complain of suffering boredom. Whilst I know many people for whom this is a reality I personally do not recall ever having a day when I could say I was bored.
As far as I understand it boredom seems to have two distinctive qualities. The first one seems to be that those people who are bored oftentimes mean they have nothing to do. However the second aspect of this is the idea of having something to do but it is drudgery and lacks any degree of excitement. In other words in this instance the boredom comes from the sameness, the monotony the routine.
A question we might ask is, ‘is routine always boring?’ Is it possible that routine might be a good thing?’ After all, there are people who have embraced what could only be described as a strict routine. I am thinking those who live the routine of the monastery, observing a strict horarium, or indeed those who must a observe a strict regime with regard to health or meditation. Apart from these there are those who wish to live their day to day reality in a very ordered way. For these people routine is not boring. In fact, for many, routine is a safe framework within which to work and live in peace. For these boredom is a non issue, but rather routine and indeed predictability is
Whilst I do not wish to be unkind and I am sure it is not always true but being bored can sometimes be a very selfish thing. I often think boredom is a form of navel gazing. Is it not true that giving into boredom is at times a luxury that many simply will never have? There are so many people in our parish who will never even get the time to be bored. Many of these are women, though some are men, but they are people who have other people relying on them. This may be a little baby or indeed an elderly parent. The fact that another is relying on us for basic stuff such as getting washed or being fed is fairly certain to keep us from getting bored.
I want to go back to where I started which was with Maggie’s comment and her longing to get back to her ‘boring old life’. You see Maggie has been in hospital for the last four months. She went in to get a cataract removed and ended up contracting a very severe infection which has in turn led to one complication after another. During the past few months, by her own admission, she has had the chance to think about what is really important in her life. She misses the really ordinary things. Maggie misses baking her own brown bread. Bouncing her little granddaughter on her knee. Smelling the lavender in the back garden. The smell of the fry on Saturday morning. Pete’s warm tender loving hug. The little things. The routine. The mundane. Yea Maggie wants to get back to her ‘boring old life’. The next time you are bored think of one thing you would really miss doing if you couldn’t do it and just do it. The next time you are bored say a prayer for those who have nobody to pray for them. The next time you are bored think of Maggie.