Bored? Restless? This has been a topic I’ve struggled with. A few years ago I wrote about it and now I find it’s popping up again on regular ordinary days. Time to review my experiences and take my own advice. I’ve often been pretty quick to say, “I never experience any of those feelings.” Sure, I’ve been agitated, irritated, anxious, but restless…? If I’m honest about these bored and restless feelings, they fit. Just the use of that little word “never” has been a sign of my resistance.
That old “never say never” phrase is so true. When those feelings do skitter around the edges of my day, I’ve learned how to use them to work for me in my writing, and in other life situations.
I get restless when: I’m in groups at cocktail hours. Or I know I have an hour or only an hour to get ready for something.
I am bored: when someone talks politics for more than five minutes, whether I agree them with or not. When a conversation dominator holds forth (Could that be a reflection of myself?)
In A Path with Heart, Jack Kornfield writes of boredom as a lack of attention, a restlessness, accompanied by discouragement or judgment. “We don’t like what is happening, … or because we feel empty or lost.”
Empty or lost. Bingo. If I don’t get caught up in trying to justify how really boring “it” is, what can I discover? What does that feeling herald? I usually have to not be hungry or sleep deprived in order to be this objective with myself. Sometimes I am, and it works.
Restlessness, agitation, “the pacing tiger” can come as a reaction to something I don’t want to feel. “The mind spins in a circle, or flops around like a fish out of water.” Know that awkward feeling?
5 Gems, aka Antidotes to B&R
If I don’t keep resisting the feelings I can remind myself feelings aren’t facts. They usually pass in 90 seconds (a counseling gem that got me through quitting smoking and other vices) if I don’t find excuses to cling to them. If I accept that these feelings are impermanent labels–after they pass or underneath them– is something much better. Like the water at the very bottom of my friend’s water garden. Where the miniature waterfall pings into the water, it’s stirred up, maybe sparkling (which can keep me in the excitement of restlessness) or cloudy. But down at the bottom or away on the edges where the koi drift and float, it’s crystal clear.
Years ago I had a dear friend named Kenny Moore. He used to say when someone was fidgety or anxious, either physically or emotionally, “They’re on the verge of a miracle. Just around the bend something great will happen.” What a tonic that was. I know. He saw me fidgety in meetings, emotional in dealing with difficult people, incredulous over some minor flaw in a person. “E-Z does it. Go through this, Eth, you’re at the bend in the road.” And I did. Instead of ending a friendship, or verbally blasting someone, I learned to stop and listen. Not always to the person (I’m not that serene), but to what was under my feelings. And it did get better.
Another more recent gem: “This is a temporary limitation.” The “this” situations are uncomfortable residual feelings and physical quirks from my stroke in August 2021. In any of my restless situations if I “step away” and breathe – even for 5 minutes of positivity, it’s possible to feel empathy for the cocktail drinker, the conversation dominator, the amplified noise, or myself. Thank you, Dr. R.
When I’m feeling bored or restless, aka empty or lost, or pacing like a tiger, I let myself pace. Literally. I go for a walk, leave my desk, or the story, or the list of phone calls, and step out back and walk around our yard.
Or, and here I can see many of my fellow type A personalities shudder, I can do nothing. I don’t need to read another book on writing, or work harder. Sometimes I have to concentrate less. And the new creative idea, the new perspective drifts, floats, and sometimes shoots to the top like a jumping fish.
The last time I posted about bored and restless, my friend Stephanie commented, “I especially love it when the creative idea jumps to the surface like a humpback whale.” Stephanie, I don’t have a photo for that but Yowza!, it’s a perfect image!!!
What makes you restless? What’s your gem that gets you to that creative idea, or willingness to do some interior housecleaning, or just be?
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days, she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.