I am well-versed in persevering through pain and discomfort, but I struggle to stand stillness. Inertia and inaction quickly rob me of energy and joyfulness.
There is a book by Charles Fuge called “Where to, Little Wombat” that we read to my children when they were tiny, about a wombat that got “bored of burrows” and so went in search of other places to live. Of course, she had adventures along the way but ultimately realised that wombats are not made to live alongside otters underwater, or to soar with the swifts. The plaintive protest that “I’m bored of burrows” has become the catchphrase in our house for wanting a change of scenery.
Since the COVID-19 restrictions have mostly confined us to our own burrow, that catchphrase has been trotted out quite often.
For some of us, it takes courage to remain still and wait out the silent storm raging outside our doors. I can only imagine what it would be like if the space you have been confined to is filled with fear and anxiety, rather than mere boredom, and nothing I say should be construed as minimising the courage it must take to survive that reality.
It takes ingenuity to create variety in the days and weeks spent in the same physical space with the same people.
BC(before COVID-19), my family DID things on the weekend that made it feel like Saturday and Sunday were a break from the humdrum keep on keeping on existence of the weekdays. It struck me when I was talking to my mum the other day that a week without a weekend feels like a year without Christmas. Just one long stretch bleeding into the next long stretch.
To keep the stay at home directions from killing off weekends altogether, my family has begun to make Saturday nights fancy.
I would have preferred a “Fancy Up Friday”, solely because of the alliteration, but for maximum impact on the boredom, it needed to be Saturday, so the planning and preparation could take place over the course of the day. Here are the rules for the Fancy Up, in case you’d like to play along at home.
- There should be a theme. So far, we’ve had “All Black” in honor of our New Zealand neighbours on ANZAC Day; a focus on texture (silky, furry, leathery, etc); and bejewelled (which was a bit tricky for my husband). Everyone must dress in their finest clothing that relates to the theme. Because I have two daughters, I make a shortlist selection of clothing for myself, and one daughter makes the final choice on my outfit while the other one plays the part of my make-up artist for the night, with these roles swapping each week.
- Strictly no home cooking. We have been supporting restaurants under pressure from the shut-down by ordering home delivery from one of the many fine dining restaurants that have moved to providing home delivery because of the restrictions on people dining in.
- The table is set nicely, i.e. tablecloths, matching glassware, no homework piled up at the end. Soft lighting and mood music are nice touches, but optional.
- Every member of the family sits at the table for the whole meal, start to finish, and then pitches in with the tidying away of dishes
- Dinner is followed by a movie that will please everyone or, at least one that no-one violently objects to. (I’m going to put in a plug for the brilliance of the movie “Yesterday”, which provides a unique take on the waking up in an alternate reality genre that I identify with given that Donald Trump was elected while I was deeply unwell and unconscious to world affairs.)
I will not alienate any readers who live in real families by pretending that the evening has gone perfectly every time – OK, even once – but it has done what it was intended to do, and provided a point of difference in the week that helps with the perception that time is, in fact, passing.
Right now, outside our doors there is variety and freedom but there is also danger, to ourselves and those we interact with or those who they interact with after us.
So, when you are bored and restless, ask yourself the question, “Where to Little Wombat?” and answer it by saying, “nowhere, all I need is right here”, or use a little creativity to dream up ways to introduce entertainment and variety into your life within the safe confines of your own home. Start a fancy-up, propose a socially-distanced cocktail party with your neighbours, or video-call your parents. If we all adopt an attitude of being grateful for the good things we are able to spend more time pursuing in this period when the world has slowed down, perhaps we can find energy and joyfulness in the ease of our days.
If this post has inspired you to come up with an ingenious way to stand the stillness, please leave a comment below, or just like what I have written, if you do.