So here we are, all sheltering in place as much as humanly possible. It’s the smart thing to do. Stay safe, everyone, and wash your hands.
As an introvert, I thought I would cope better with the situation than I am. But it turns out that it’s one thing to hang out at home alone when it’s your choice, but quite another when it isn’t. Bottom line: I’m going nuts with boredom.
While casting about for something to do, I decided to consult that font of all human knowledge: my Facebook friends. From them I received a lot of great ideas. They seem to break out into several categories.
If you have any additional ideas, please add them to the comments!
Assemble a puzzle.
Play a board game.
Play cards. Maybe even teach yourself a new card game from on line.
Read that book that’s been on your nightstand for 6 months.
Play fetch with your dog.
Hike in a remote area.
Binge watch TV.
Take a hot bath.
Talk to loved ones on phone or skype.
Feed the birds.
Get a jump on your homemade Christmas presents.
Knit or crochet or sew.
Do a renewed push on those New Years Resolutions that you’ve already abandoned.
Make your own jewelry.
Take a nap.
Listen to podcasts.
Join a virtual book club, or create your own with friends.
In recent years, with the benefit of age and life experience, I’ve come up with a strategy that has greatly increased the positive energy in my world. It will sound counterintuitive, but when I have a goal that I’m trying to reach, no matter how small it may seem, and even when I already know how I plan to reach it, I will ask for someone’s advice.
Have you ever seen the look on someone’s face when you tell them you’d like their opinion? Pure delight. You just gave them the highest compliment on earth. You value their insight. You respect them. You want to hear what they have to say.
Be sure to be genuine with your request. Even if your game plan is in place, by employing this strategy, you may be rewarded with some fabulous ideas that you hadn’t considered. It never hurts to get someone to look at your project from a different point of view.
And remember, you don’t necessarily have to take their advice. Either way, you’ve just made a huge deposit in someone else’s emotional bank account. They’ll remember that.
This approach will also keep you humble. It will remind you that you aren’t the only person with solutions in this world. Going it alone isn’t always the best way to get ahead.
I have never gotten anything but positive results from this tactic. Try it. Pick one person during the course of your day and say to them, “I’d love your advice.” Extra points for asking someone who rarely gets to give advice, like a young person or an elderly person.
See what happens. I think you’ll like it. I guarantee that the other person will.
I have this friend who is getting old and is convinced he’s going to die soon. He’s an artist, and he told me he wanted to distribute his art to the world before he makes his grand exit. He hates to think of it just sitting there, not being appreciated.
I instantly came up with an idea. I have been focused on my Little Free Library of late, and I’ve also blogged about Little Free Gardens. So, why not a Little Free Gallery? Construct a box, put it in an artsy/touristy part of town, fill it with your art, write on it, “Take some art, share some art” and away we go!
His art would be distributed, and other artists could put some of their stuff in as well. Even children could add their beautiful little scribbly contributions. Art for the common man. It sounds like a delightful idea to me! Visions of this really catching on and taking off.
Except I forgot who I was talking to. As much as I love this person, he doesn’t really want a solution. That would require action. He instantly threw up roadblocks, which I found easy to knock down.
Roadblock: I’m not really very sociable.
Solution: I could easily find you someone who would allow your little free gallery in front of their shop. Then all you’d have to do is put your art in there. You don’t have to sit by it.
Roadblock: I don’t need to get rich. I just need to spread my pictures to as many people as I can.
Solution: That’s why it’s called a Little FREE Gallery. You’d be giving your stuff away.
Roadblock: The library idea involves taking and putting back. A gallery wouldn’t be like that.
Solution: Who cares? But other artists could put their work in there too, if they wanted.
Roadblock: Still, it wouldn’t be sharing like a library is.
Solution: It would be sharing your artistic talent with the wider community. A lot of people love art, but most of us can’t afford it. This would be a great way to spread art to the world.
Roadblock: I like the idea of offering pictures at low prices without a store. Low price is important. Free stuff goes in the garbage can.
Frustrated response: Well, if there’s money involved, you’d need someone watching over it. And no one would give you a free space or a free box or contribute to it if it’s for money, so you’d have a much harder time.
Roadblock: I want someone who takes one of my pictures to take it seriously. If it’s a freebie, they can chuck it like a plastic bag.
Irritated response: You have to have faith. I also hope my library books actually get read, but there’s no guarantee. But if even one person reads something they wouldn’t have already read, I’m happy. Sometimes you just have to put positive energy out into the world and hope it makes an impact. You started off saying you just want to distribute your art to the world before you die. Now it sounds like you want to pursue profit. Those are different goals.
Roadblock: I’m an old guy who wants to get his work out in the world no matter what. I do not support schemes that have artists give out work for free. Artists need to make a living.
Resigned reponse: It’s not a scheme, it’s a public good. No artist would be forced to participate. It may be a fun way to put some small art works out there and get themselves some recognition. Oh, never mind.
I think what I need to take away from this conversation, the lesson that I need to learn (and will have to learn over and over and over again in my life), is that when someone presents me with a problem, they often aren’t really seeking advice. They’re just spewing words into the world with no real destination.The conversation should have gone like this:
Him: I want to get my art out into the world, no matter what.
Me: What a great idea. Good luck with that.
If I approached more conversations from that angle, I’d probably have fewer grey hairs and less acid reflux. But noooo…
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“How about guest writing a post for my daily blog? Give me a day off. Please. I’m begging you.”
“I don’t think I’d be compatible with your viewing audience,” was his reply.
That instantly gave me a flashback to my childhood.
“Ma… I’m so bored!” I used to say when I was little. (Especially during the Watergate Hearings. I thought I’d lose my mind.)
“Read a book,” she’d say, “Or go ride your bike. Or write a letter.” Or any of a million other valid suggestions, up to and including, “Clean your room.”
But I usually didn’t want to do those things.
Well, congratulations to my friend, and to the me of my childhood. That means you’re not bored after all. Because if you are truly bored, then you’d jump at the chance to do just about anything. Boredom is for people with no options.
No. What you are is a person who wants to be entertained. That’s a completely different animal. Entertain me! I want it NOW!
What did I expect my mother to say? “Oh, you’re bored? I’m so sorry! Let’s run out and buy you a pony!”
When did we become so eaten up by our own sense of exceptionalism? What makes us so special, that we expect to be entertained every waking minute? Is it because entertainment is usually so readily available these days?
I fear that in this world of instant gratification, we are losing our ability to use our imaginations. While traveling in some of the poorer parts of Turkey, I watched the children there amuse themselves with soda straws and bottle caps, for crying out loud. Can you imagine an American child doing that?
I think we should read more books, write more letters, and ride more bikes. Maybe if we had a chance to experience true boredom, we’d do those things. Maybe we should lock ourselves in empty rooms with a soda straw and a bottle cap, and see what we come up with. It might do us good.
And for the love of GOD, if you have an idea for a guest post, or even just a topic, for this blog, speak up. You’d be amazed at how open I’d be to that idea. I’m not bored. I’m overwhelmed.
Writer’s block has taken up residence in my brain, and seems to have made itself quite comfortable there. Times like these, I cast about desperately for ideas. I ask friends, read about current events, and I have even been known to Google “What should I write about?” Because you never know where you’ll get an idea.
Sadly, all those sources came up empty this time around, so I went to my place of last resort: the random word generator. I asked for three random words. And even that was no help the first 4 times I asked. Nothing inspired me. But then I asked one final time, because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. And this is what the generator generated:
release distant situation
Okay, whoa. I don’t know if this just highlights my tendency to read something into just about anything, or if this is as profound as it seems to me. Because, yeah, I do need to release some distant situations.
There are a lot of things I need to let go of. Resentment about abuse perpetrated by people long dead. Disappointment keenly felt when people whom I thought I could count on have let me down. Insults. Hostility. Cruelty experienced or observed. Manipulation. Lies. Corruption. Criminal behavior.
Letting these things fester in my soul doesn’t do me any good whatsoever. It doesn’t solve anything. And the only one it hurts is me.
So, yes, I think it’s high time I work on releasing distant situations. In fact, it’s overdue. Like draining an infected wound, it may not be pleasant, but it will make me feel much better in the long run.
A friend and I were musing about who can take credit for the first blog ever produced. (Certainly not me. I jumped on the bandwagon rather late.)
If you stick strictly to the idea that blogs, by definition, are web based, I suppose with a little bit of digging one could find the first one. But really, blogs (short for weblog) tend to be highly unique to the writer. Some are random musings, such as mine. Others are highly researched. Some include commentary, others are all about the photographs and links to other articles. So how on earth would you begin your search?
To add another layer of complexity, humans did such writing before the worldwide web existed. They wrote diaries. They kept scrap books. And surely people of note must have realized that their personal letters would be kept and reviewed by others. We have a longstanding tradition of putting our thoughts and ideas out there for the world to see.
One of my favorite examples of this tendency are the colonial almanacks that were very popular in the 1700’s. The most famous of these, of course, is Poor Richard’s Almanack, written by Benjamin Franklin.
I have no doubt that Franklin would be a blogger if he were alive today. In fact, he put out this almanack annually from 1732 to 1758, and I happen to own a copy of the collected works. I love pulling it out and reading it from time to time. In the era of the horse and buggy, it was much more efficient to publish the thing once a year. But he’d probably be blogging and tweeting on a regular basis, if given the opportunity today.
His almanack included poems, sayings, astronomical and astrological information, a calendar (of course), and information about the weather. His writing was all about being frugal and working hard. Much of his work is still popular to this very day.
If you speak English, odds are you’ve quoted Poor Richard’s Almanack at least once in your life, whether you knew it or not. Here are three of his more famous lines:
A friend in need is a friend indeed!
Fish and Visitors stink in 3 days.
Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
I’ll be the first to admit that some of his sayings, especially about wives and servants, are controversial in modern times. But viewed through the lens of his era, Ben Franklin is one of my blogging heroes. I’d follow him.
When you make plans for the future, you’re demonstrating a delightful amount of optimism. Because life is fragile. It can pop like a soap bubble at any time. I’ve seen that happen more than once.
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
Sorry, John. You know I love you. But I disagree. I think life is making plans. The alternative, making no plans at all, or sitting back and letting the world kind of wash over you, is a form of death.
We are not meant to live like moss on a tree. The fact that we feel the need for religion shows that we struggle with accepting fate. I don’t think we are meant to be so accepting. We are meant to be the architects of our own lives.
Plans give you purpose. Purpose is what makes life worth living. I find the best antidote for depression is having something to look forward to.
Even more evidence of optimism is making plans with someone. It says, “We’re in this for the long haul.” “I have great expectations for us.” “You are the person I want to spend time with.” “I have faith in our relationship.”
The only thing I can think of that’s better than anticipating your future is anticipating your future while holding someone’s hand.
It occurred to me recently that before you can be a writer, you must first have something to say. You have to have opinions and thoughts and ideas. You have to be good at explaining and/or describing things. You can’t be hesitant to speak your mind.
I’ve always had something to say. No doubt about it. Even when I would take those tests at school that are supposed to help you decide what career path to take, mine would always come out “writer” and nothing else. I mean, seriously, while my friends would have 5 or 6 suggested career paths, all I’d have was writer. (I strongly suspect bridgetenders are not even on the list of careers for those tests. Most people don’t even know we exist.)
My whole life I’ve been told that I have very strong opinions. But that was meant as an insult. As in, “Shut up, female, and leave the thinking to the rest of us.” People rarely accuse men of having strong opinions. And I would get that criticism from men and women alike, because a lot of women don’t realize how complicit we can be in our own oppression.
Well, I thank God for my strong opinions. Without them, this blog wouldn’t exist. And I’d be a heck of a lot less interesting.
Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who expects everyone to share my opinions. People like that are insufferable (in my opinion). I don’t think I’m very good at pointing that out, though. It’s definitely something I need to work on. It never occurs to me that some people view opinions as coercion.
I don’t see opinions that way. I also don’t think of them as being right or wrong. Opinions are simply points of view. No two people will see things from the same angle. The world might be easier to live in if we did, but it would sure be monotonous.
If you want to be a writer, I urge you to get out there and experience life, and, yes, form opinions about those experiences. Listen and learn as much as you can. Be open to unique people, places and things. And most of all, don’t be afraid to express yourself, even if the whole world tries to shut you up.
Right around the time that Trump got elected, I noticed that I was using the “angry” icon in response to a lot of my friend’s Facebook posts about what was happening. I don’t think of myself as an angry person in general, but so many outrageous things are going on in the world these days that it’s hard not to react with a bit of ire. At the time, though, I thought I could afford to be angry.
This situation is an anomaly, right? Surely it won’t last long. Surely our collective anger will force politicians to act with more integrity, even if it isn’t sincere on their parts. And if anger is what it takes to get me up and moving and protesting and trying to improve things, then so be it.
But very recently, I’ve noticed a shift within me. I’m not using the “angry” icon as much. Now I’m using the “sad” icon. I’m tired. I’m starting to get cynical. I’m starting to think we can’t force people to do the right thing. They have an agenda that is not going to budge, in spite of its destructive insanity. I think I underestimated just how immovable this evil force would be.
So now my anger comes out in other ways. In the privacy of my car, I find myself cursing at stupid drivers. I am suffering fools even less gladly than in days of yore. I’m fidgeting more. I’m eating more pizza and ice cream. None of these things are positive shifts, but I’m frankly feeling powerless and bitter. It feels like the bad guys are winning.
I know now that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and one should pace oneself, but I’m running out of ideas, energy, and optimism. I don’t know what to do anymore. And that’s what they want. So maybe I really should go back to being angry.
It’s hard to live in a world where “sad” and “angry” seem to be your only two choices. I need more “like”, “love”, “ha ha”, and “wow” in my world.
Here lately, humanity seems to be struggling with concepts that should be pretty straightforward. It doesn’t make any sense at all. It is causing conflict and anxiety that seems completely unnecessary. Given that so many people these days don’t seem to want to think, let me lay down some basic concepts for you:
Texting while driving? Deadly.
Waiting your turn? You freakin’ better!
Compassion? Karma, baby.
Net neutrality? Crucial.
Racism and/or sexism? Idiotic.
A fur coat for your schnauzer when people are starving? Unconscionable.
A right to health care? Obviously.
Voting? The most important thing you can do.
Helping yourself to my french fries? Get your own.
Not pulling right up to the car in front of you in a traffic jam, thus preventing the people behind you from getting through intersections sometime this century? MORONIC.
Abuse of power? May your chickens come home to roost, and soon.
Courtesy and Respect? The bedrock of civilization.
Education? Critically important.
Smoking? Bad for you. Even worse for those who love you.
Human rights and basic freedom for everyone? Duh.
Paying your fair share? Of course.
Vaccinations? Not important, as long as you’re okay with having the life expectancy we had in the freakin’ 1600’s.
Global warming? HERE. NOW.
Abuse of children or animals? Sick. Demented. One of the few things worthy of torture.
Taking care of the planet? A good idea if you want to live.
Blocking the grocery aisle because you’ve run into a friend? STUPID.
None of these concepts seem particularly controversial to me. And yet here we are, a world divided on these issues. I don’t get it. I really don’t. Please make me understand.