How I Tackle Boredom Living Alone with MS

Retired on disability and struggling to bring structure to your day? It’s something I face upon rising that is finally getting easier to solve. In the beginning we tell ourselves how sick we are of our disease limitations. Then it isn’t quite enough to keep it our little secret. Misery is meant to be shared.

Boredom is an actual problem

If you are bold enough to say out loud I’m bored, you’ve already heard the stock responses, few of them validating boredom as an actual problem. The favorite seems to be: If you’re bored then you’re boring. I never did buy that one. I am boring to be sure, but despite that, I’m not always bored. That one just sounds kind of spiteful.

“Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche has a point, but it requires a person to live in a constant state of urgency. My little ticker would have given out twenty years ago in that puddle of frenzy.

“The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.”
― Albert CamusThe Plague

Camus gets closer to the essence. When we who put ourselves out to pasture are challenged to impose new structure on our daily lives, habits are the foundation of that new construct. But habits can create problems, too.

“The absence of the will to live is, alas, not sufficient to make one want to die.”
― Michel Houellebecq

He’s such a hoot, Michel. I’ll bet it’s even funnier in French. Still, we could also take this as identifying the root of apathy or a lighter stage of depression. One just exists, drifting along through each day. It can go on indefinitely. That’s kind of serious, though, much more so than just being bored. I think Michel was going for a laugh here. Any resemblance to a more sober truth is likely accidental.

“…I also believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.”
― Susan Cain

Cain appeals to me on a very personal level. I’m both a writer and an introvert, so what’s going on in my head has often been much richer than what is happening in the room. Then why do I so often feel bored and restless?

I love watching television. I’m a vintage movie and TV trivia geek of such epic accomplishment that I’ve sent several normal people screaming down the street to shield themselves from the toxic fallout of my encyclopedic knowledge. My latest binge is spending afternoons and early evenings watching DECADES, a cable network that runs episodes of MANNIX, THE DICK CAVETT SHOW, LAUGH-IN, and a number of other 60s and 70s programs that I first watched as a young teen. Seeing these programs again as a young senior is such a different experience that the shows seem brand new. But now the thrill is wearing thin and I think I know why.

Watching for hours every day is precisely what is rubbing the shine off my new toy. DECADES not only shows reruns of vintage programs, it repeats the shows in the evening that it ran earlier in the afternoon.

Battling monotony

It’s not boredom I’m experiencing. It’s monotony. I’m watching too many hours of DECADES. It’s not like binge-watching THE WALKING DEAD or BREAKING BAD, where the episodes parade along chronologically hour and after hour from S1Ep1 to the bitter end. That would be okay. But repeating the same six episodes of a show causes a WIZARD OF OZ moment that I really resent. You know, the scene at the end of WIZARD when Toto pulls back the curtain to expose the machinery and the ordinary man that’s been on a big power trip making the meek little quartet jump through hoops just to send Dorothy back home? That’s what happens when I watch too much television. I can see the machinery. Have you ever become aware of an actor acting? It’s darned disappointing. I see them hit their marks and deliver their lines. I can even see them clocking out at the end of the day and taking their paychecks to the bank. The magic is gone. I want the magic.

So this is what I’ve been doing about it lately. I create my own magic. First, I drink scotch daily. I cut back my calories to gain a fuller effect. Two things happen. My brain quiets down, tuning out all the critical, angry chatter, and my creative portal opens wider, letting in the chatter of ideas instead.  I keep a spiral note pad and pen nearby to quickly jot down those valuable fragments. Sometimes they come swiftly and, like a bear during a salmon run, I have to grasp and bat at them with bared claws and teeth before they tumble back into the swirling maelstrom. Quite a thrill. Productive, too.

The best magic of all happened one day when two ideas trickled in for a second novel I’ve carried in my head for fourteen years, a novel I never thought I’d write. Now I have hope again. That’s the kind of experience that makes me think things like: MS? What MS? Don’t bother me, I’m writing.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. Quotes About Boredom. Goodreads. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/boredom">www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/boredom

Comments

View Comments (10)
  • Bettybeem
    4 months ago

    For the first few years, I’d become quite frustrated by “boredom” times. Then I did some creative problem solving and created a list of things I could during “slug” times. The list includes artsy crafts ideas, writing projects, and chores saved for these times. I also save some fun ideas like exploring the possibilities of Alexa. This list has been very effective.

  • bethybright
    4 months ago

    I couldn’t love this piece more. I loved it from the first word to the last. As a devoted writer an introvert myself, I could relate to every word. Now I’m trying to figure out if I can cultivate a taste for Scotch. 🙂

  • potter
    1 year ago

    Congratulations your boredom fix has led you to your new novel. When I feel boredom creeping in I decide it is time for a new art project. I spent most of my summer making a mural for my front porch and when I had it finished my husband said he isn’t able to install it for a while. I was trying to figure out what to work on next when he broke the top to a bubbler fountain I had made. He was going to glue it but I had the clay and glaze so I made a new one. I have a 9’x5′ fountain in my front courtyard, it has about 80 tiles that have shattered. I took a chisel and hammer and tried to break the shattered tiles with out breaking the others. My husband checked out my lack of progress and use some tools to break the tiles out for me. I have a few more tiles to make then I am ready to lay tiles. I do all of these projects to keep boredom away. Potter

  • Bettybeem
    1 year ago

    This was one of major frustrations when MS forced my early retirement in 2001. I had absolutely no idea what to do when i was at that slightly-more-active-than-a-slug level of functioning. Finally, I’ve developed a list of various activities that can be done depending on my functioning level. At that very limited functioning level, I enjoy Pinterest, doing zentangles, use Praying in Color techniques to pray for those on my church’s weekly “pastoral concerns” list, do logic puzzles, and write curriculum. I’ve found having a list of possible activities which are varied has been very beneficial at those times I once found so boring.

  • itasara
    1 year ago

    I almost passed this one up, but glad I read it. Well put! I grew up as an only child. I’m used to being alone. I am married. My children are presently out of the house. My dog and cats have passed on. I’m 69.5 now. I do too watch a LOT of TV these days and do enjoy this passive activity. I should get out an exercise; I did that for years, years ago, but have no desire to do so now. Most of the time the news is in the background while I spend hours trying to get thru myriads of emails. I am catching up on a TV series I never watched like Grey’s Anatomy. I find it fun to watch.Also watching Ray Donovan. I just haven’t felt much like doing much of anything these days. My house is disorganized; my husband constantly reminds me!. I spend a lot of time texting. I do have a singing p/t job t I may have to wind that down. I guess I don’t like getting older. I’m glad my MS has been at bay and so far not a huge problem for me. I used to do some art work and read, but my eyesight, although basically ok, is still not as good as it used to be so I don’t feel like sewing or doing drawing, or reading much. Last week we traveled to visit my son and my brother in law, but I don’t enjoy traveling.. or getting ready to go away. I guess In some ways I feel like I’m in a slump. Maybe I have become boring!

  • trloftus
    1 year ago

    Very eloquently put Kim. I enjoyed reading this – very inspirational. I can relate. I think we must be about the same age. I have also written and published. I also frequently get bored and lonely – to the point I want to go back to work, focus on tasks/projects, earn a living, and interact with people everyday. Am I dreaming again? Thanks and good luck!

  • Monk
    1 year ago

    I was at a dharma talk and someone asked the monk about boredom. And he said he finds boredom fascinating. That left us all surprised. But it takes a stepping out of our Western cultural ideas to explore boredom in a different way. I’m working on it, it’s hard but that idea keeps me interested!

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much for sharing, Monk!
    Meagan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Julie
    1 year ago

    I have found myself doing a lot of reading. To me, this is time well spent, never boring. I have also found myself watching too much TV. This had made me feel a bit sluggish so I have recently started getting up during commercials and either doing stretching exercises or just walking around the house. It may not cure my boredom but I believe it is helping my body from getting bored!

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    1 year ago

    That’s awesome, Julie. We appreciate you sharing with us! Reading will certainly keep the mind going. And that is great advice on the commercial breaks. Always helps to get up and move!
    Best – Meagan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

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