faces of boredom




Dear Diary,

Don't be so surprised to hear from me after 20 years.

20 years ago, I was cooped up in my bedroom writing you Smiths lyrics like love letters.  I was bored but I would never have admitted it then, because boredom would have been my fault. Chapstick in my pocket, grown up desires, confused anger, Hamburger Helper on the table.  It was 20 years ago and you were the listener and the voice.  I would ask you questions as if really expecting an answer.  Considering how much frustration I carried around with me at all given times back then, I'm surprised I was not more frustrated by how infrequently you replied.

But I suppose we're even.  I never asked you about your day.

You were a 15 year old girl's everything: the secrets I couldn't keep otherwise, the end of a bad day, the details of the very best days, the mindless drawings that seemed so profound at the time I swore I was the love child of Edie Brickell and Basquiat (now I'd say more Lisa Frank and the Fresh Prince), the ramblings of dreams and future plans, and you were always on my side.  There was never any doubting your allegiance.

Let's not pretend we don't know the secret to our bond, however.  It was unmistakable boredom that led me into your arms.  And that's not bad.  I believe whole-heartedly that some of my finest creative moments were bred out of boredom.

Remember that secret raft I built out of scrap wood one summer?  That raft was built to sail me away from boredom to the opposite shore (200 feet away) of the pond behind our house.  And while I never had the courage to step foot on it, I sure was proud of how much it looked like a legitimate raft.

Remember the projects and jobs I took up many summers with the weird girl who lived near us?  We swore we were going to strike it rich stealing her grandfather's garden loot, set up a produce stand just out of his sight near the (very quiet) road, and use the money to run away and rent a house together.  I think a few of your pages may have been dedicated to confessing how little I really wanted that to happen, but no matter.  Boredom drove me to stealing many of his peppers, muscadines, tomatoes, figs, and bushels of blueberries.  Boredom gave me terrible stomach aches when we conceded entrepreneurial defeat.

Remember the summer of weaving?  My wonderful, patient, undeserving-of-the-brat-you-can-confirm-I-was mom did almost everything she could each summer to thwart my complaints of boredom.  She would offer up basket-making kits, complete with soaked reeds and special needles, even wooden buttons and bobbins and beads, just to make the suggestion that much more enticing.  She would gently lay brightly colored embroidery threads and embroidery hoops at my bedroom door in the morning, as if a kind of start-of-the-day peace offering.  She would take me to the library to check out how-to books on macramé, jewelry making, pottery, sewing, every craft book shy of raft-making.  And though I never saw one first hand, I bet there were a few books on "How To Deal With A Difficult Teenager" thrown in for her.  The end of the summer of weaving yielded a shoebox with about five half-assed dream-catchers, a few more gray hairs for dear old mom, and a few new trial expletives clumsily written on your pages.  Boredom.

So, where have I been all these years?  Where have you been all these years?  Or should I say, where has boredom been all these years?

There's hardly been a bored summer since the summer of weaving.  There were jobs, there were boyfriends, there were road trips and exploration beyond the pond in our backyard.  There was the summer I graduated which quickly became the summer to plan a wedding.  Then there was the following summer in which I would become a mom.  And Diary, you should know more than anyone that it is never the mother that feels boredom, only the child.  From that summer on, just the concept of boredom became a luxury, a dream, the romantic notion that there'd be enough time in the day to stop and think about something other than the next responsibility.

But I never forgot you.  And I am bored again... a slightly redefined version of bored, but bored nonetheless.  20 years later, I am sure your pages are going to read differently than they did during the summer of weaving.

I'm on bed rest at the hospital, 28 weeks pregnant with my third daughter.  My water broke 5 days ago, and I'm doing my best to be a patient patient.  My brain is so busy, despite how still I'm supposed to keep my body.  I am doing my best to avoid Googling everything- best and worst case scenarios, long term complications, how to talk to your other children about said complications, how to help your husband run a household from a hospital bed, how to keep that same sweet dear mom from the summer of weaving from pulling out the gray hairs I gave her 20 years ago, how to prepare for the unexpected, how to be still, how to stop thinking and thinking and thinking.

It's only day 5 and I'm already feeling ownership of the view from my room.  I look forward to watching the nurses open the blinds each morning, greeted by venting systems and construction worker accesses and the side of the life flight helipad tarmac, tops of many rooflines beyond that.  And while I am about a room too far to the right to see any actual helicopters, I like watching the blue and orange plastic construction tarps whip around in the wake of the helicopter's landing.

I like the soft blue glow of monitors and IV stations at night.  I love being hooked up to the machines, because it means I can hear her heartbeat, strong and steady.  I like the smell of the hand soap they use, because it smells like a hospital.  It smells like a poor attempt to mask medicinal with almonds & cherry.  It smells like progress and hope and good statistics for preemies in 2014.  I'm even starting to like these compression socks.

The terrible cable, the revolving door of nurses and doctors, the IVs and the shots and the pills, the room temperature cottage cheese and fruit, the hum of the air conditioner, the task of calling in my next meal, the sound of a Muzak lullaby being played in the hall everytime a baby is born, the bad jokes exchanged between me and Pookie, the orderly who helped me take a shower, the thrill of seeing my kids walk in every other day to visit, the nights that are so quiet I feel guilty (because I know how not quiet things are at home)...
This is boredom.  And it brought me back to you after 20 years.

Every Tuesday marks the start of a new week.  Today marks 28 weeks.  She's almost 3 whole pounds, and she appears to have a forehead like her Daddy and an upturned nose like me.  We are a little bored, but we love it.  Every day and week that we get to be bored together is a gift.

May she have summers of raft-building, summers of failed produce stands, and summers of weaving just like me.

This was taken 2 weeks ago, the tail end of summer vacation.  I love these faces of boredom.