Fear of Boredom

“That ball of yarn is getting smaller and smaller,” R. told me as he headed to the car.  “Yup, thanks for pointing that out…” I said.  Sky like white-out this quiet Memorial Day morning.  The rain came on gradually.  A few spots here and there dotted my pants.  Pretty soon, I started to feel soggy so I put on my Frogg Toggs.  Today I thought about my fear of boredom and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, change.  Scott Peck says that the only people that aren’t afraid have brain damage (no slight intended.)  True courage is to grow and expand in spite of the fear.

I have a friend who tries to do something she is afraid of every month–trout fishing, crabbing, memoir writing, cycling across Europe, adjunct teaching, volunteering at church.  She is a YES person–whenever someone asks her to try something new, she will say yes if at all feasible.  It means that she sparkles with life, and has the energy of 3 people put together.  Even though I like adventure, I enjoy it in small doses.  Too many new challenges, and I start to wobble like an elephant on a unicycle.  Then again, when I restrict my life to only that which makes me feel competent and comfortable, I go cross-eyed with boredom…It makes for terrible dinner conversation.

So I feel these opposite movements in my life.  I make my path somewhere in the middle, leaning my bicycle one way or the other.  This weekend I leaned hard toward the familiar.  My boyfriend asked if I wanted to go to the outdoor concert called Folk Life or the movie theater with him, and I just couldn’t bring myself to say yes.  Then I regretted not letting him spice up my life with these intrusions into my familiar world of knitting, walking, cooking, drinking tea, reading, lounging on the couch.  Given how simple and routinized my life has become–one might say staid if one were feeling uncharitable–it strikes me as strange that one of my fears of commitment is boredom.  As someone who has moved every two – five years, the thought of settling down in one place with one person for the rest of my life is, well, unnerving.  I’m scared of running out of things to talk about.  (My YES friend tells me she prefers to call it a “companionable silence” rather than “running out of things to talk about.”) I’m scared of getting bored of sex.  I’m afraid that the person that once captivated me, might become a part of the furniture, or that I might become wallpaper to him.

Most of all, I fear my own emptiness.  The thought of being lonely and married feels worse to me than being lonely and single, two mirrors reflecting each other.  My mother once told me that she is never lonely in married life but I think I will always be lonely on some level–there is this huge silence inside me that I cannot put words to, cannot encircle with my mind–it’s as mute and vast as a snowy mountain or a whale in the deep.  But I’m not sure it’s that grand.  Sometimes I think its just a hollow vase (made in china) taking up the space I call my heart.  I’m reminded of the poet Rilke’s definition of marriage as “two solitudes touching.”  It never seemed very satisfactory to me.  Then again, despite this solitude that I cannot share, the fact that no one will ever be able to crawl inside me and look out at the world through my eyes, despite this loneliness that drives me to paint, film, sculpt–I do so love the thought of growing old beside my Love like two redwood trees, roots knotted together for strength and resilience, heads full of chanting birds, alongside a pebbly stream…


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