The orders are ever-changing but clear – we are staying home. For a while.
Schools are closed, stores are bare, and roads are nearly empty. We’re being urged and ordered to stay home in order to protect ourselves and others, and it’s having an enormous effect. Never in recent memory have any of us experienced an event like this, something that spans the globe and reaches into our own living rooms.
We’re making sacrifices, social and economic. We’re trying to stay informed without becoming overwhelmed. This pandemic is a really big deal and none of us are immune from the effects one way or another.
Among the daily updates and increasingly strict quarantine orders, though, a second pandemic is emerging, one that threatens our well-being as significantly as this novel virus: boredom.
Americans have been obsessed with busyness for decades, with some even referring to it as “the new wealthy”. We pack our schedules with practices and programs, enrichment and entertainment. Our kids have events and classes and meetings every night of the week. We feel the urge to post our baked goods and holiday crafts on social media, showing just how much we accomplish. We are busy, and we feel good about it.
But what happens when we’re forced, as a nation, to chill out, to slow down? What happens when we’re separated from our craft stores and our class times? With no practices to attend and the law telling us not to congregate, what do we do with this inner busyness we’ve all adopted and flaunted?
We become bored. And it’s damaging us.
We have overscheduled and overstimulated ourselves to the point that we cannot sit still, cannot stay home, cannot find rest. During a time when the best and safest thing we can do is relax, we find ourselves unable to. We think up ways to leave the home we’ve fought and worked so hard to create. We fill parks and stores during a time when isolation is needed. We are so programmed to do and go and make that we saturate social media with images of what we’re baking, making, planning, doing.
We live in a time where books are available without leaving our houses, where years’ worth of entertainment is streamed through our televisions. YouTube offers free lessons and phones ensure conversation. We have no reason to become bored or feel trapped in our homes… and yet we do.
We leave the safety and comfort of stillness and seek out the frantic.
We ignore the calls to be still and we create our own chaos just to feel more comfortable.
This global pandemic has exposed a second pandemic we’ve been suffering from all along – the inability to rest.
We’re so infected with activity that we feel more moved to move than to rest.
We are already overworked and overscheduled. We are already stretched too far and too thin. We have enough demands placed on us from the outside world, we don’t need to create our own.
Yes, we must find ways to work and earn. Yes, we must still continue to live and thrive. But when we feel so bound by the comforts of home that we are seeking ways to leave it, especially in the midst of a dangerous and deadly pandemic, it speaks to the debt of activity we feel we must pay.
Yes, it’s important to find some normalcy in the midst of such an unproven time. But when your “normal” is never stopping, it’s not a normal that needs maintaining.
You do not owe the world your constant attention. You do not owe the world your constant activity. You do owe your own body the respect of rest.
We have uncovered how deeply this urge to go is ingrained within us. We’ve been forced to pull back the curtain and expose ourselves for the activity addicts we are. We find our identity in what we do, and when we cannot do we feel lost, lazy, listless.
Dare to fight two pandemics at once. Dare to rest. Dare to become bored. Dare to go without manicures and root touch-ups. Fight for your peace as you fight for your health. Allow yourself to live a day without producing or attending something. Do not tie your worth to what you can offer, and do not fear the appearances of a slow life. You do not owe this world your activity, but you do owe yourself a lot more – you owe yourself the gift of doing nothing.