The Prosperity of Boredom

This past week, I’ve been feeling very guilty because of all the things I haven’t done. If you share that experience, I hope this can ease your guilt. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine without it.

 

It is no secret that the past few months have been uniquely peculiar. For all of us. It is rare to be sharing an experience with so many people, across so many cultures, countries, stages of life.

It humbles me. It simultaneously enthralls and terrifies me.

It is important to note that even though the enemy is common, the battle is not. Everyone fights this fight in a different, and differently difficult way.

However, amongst my peers, there is a stunning similarity.

Yes, you guessed it. Boredom.

We have baked and we have cleaned and we have sent messages to the family. We have watched all of Netflix and written journals and played Candy Crush again and yet, the more we seem to be doing, the more this monster of leisure seems to be craving.

Of course, this isn’t simply an urge to accomplish something. It is a need to forget. To ease the anxiety, the fear of the unknown. We can’t pass the days worrying from sunrise to sunset about something that is utterly out of our control. Unfortunately, neither can we compartmentalise in the ways we are used to, by going to school, the office, the gym, the bar, a friend’s house.

And so, right when we need it the most, distraction is a limited resource.

So, let me make this abundantly clear. IT IS OKAY.

It is okay to be bored, to feel bored. It is okay to lack productivity. It is okay to be frustrated and anxious.

It is okay that you gave into the hype and watched that reality show and it is okay that you didn’t finish that book.

It is okay that you haven’t been exercising everyday and that you’ve been snacking at strange hours of the day. It is okay that you’ve been going to sleep later than you’d like and it is okay that you haven’t been focusing at work as much as “you should”.

I keep listening to friends giving themselves a hard time because self-isolation has not been the productivity jack-pot they expected. The conditions in which we are living aren’t normal. Staying positive and functioning is a wonderful objective, but let’s not pretend it is easy to achieve. (And don’t be fooled, I have called friends on many occasions, complaining that I have yet to read Jane Eyre. Because that is what I need more of right now; Victorian literature.)

This is a difficult time. For everyone. We have to acknowledge that. So be bored. And let this realisation wash over you. You will be bored for a little longer. And that is okay.

 

*Photograph by Oumayma B. Tanfous 

 

 

 

Sudoku

I was printing Sudoku. Thirty minutes to noon, dressed in random coloured clothes, brushed hair, but no makeup. My nails have been chipped for days now, and my glasses are as dirty as can be. I had just finished listening to an Agatha Christie mystery. Maybe for fun, maybe for educational purposes, most probably to not let the time pass me by so painfully. 

The front door opens and a mask that hides a smile or a frown walks in. I don’t notice something is wrong, well, more wrong than the normal wrong of normalcy, right away. A few breaths later, a grandfather is dead.

I’ve always wondered why people simply say “dead”, so informally, casually, breaking the news of someone’s passing like they’re telling you they’re going to the supermarket. I don’t know if there is another way to say it. All I know is I didn’t manage to print any Sudoku.

And I took my headphones off. And I stopped lounging around my bed and the sofa and sofa and bed and found my way to a proper table. Because now life is serious. The tree has fallen and we have heard it. What an irony, that the tree was falling all morning, and was fallen for a few hours before we glanced at it and decided to define it ‘fallen’. What a blissful journey that of ignorance was. Utterly unfruitful and deceptive and, isn’t that its charm? Now, what is left for us to do but to look at the tree and look at ourselves and look at the rest of the forest with a knot in our stomach and regret in our eyes.

So, to sum up, I won’t be doing any Sudoku today.


Today, my housemates lost someone precious to them. And for the first time in these dark months we’ve been living, the danger and pain came too close to this house, close enough to show it’s unforgiving teeth.
Stay safe, stay inside, stay connected to the world we all love to hate.

 

Tolerating Self-Isolation | Pt.1 Emotional Awareness

In this series I will be examining the keys to tolerating self-isolation, from co-habitation to confinement, from feelings of frustration to anxiety, I will try to take a deeper, closer look at the difficulties of this endeavour and how we can cope with each one.

Part 1: Emotional Awareness 

Credits:  Ben Zank

During these unusual times, we each do our part in helping the world recover, and the curve flatten, by staying home. That means staying with our families, housemates, significant others, as well as staying with our thoughts for more time than we are used to.

After years of therapy, I’ve grown to identify my triggers. What is a trigger? Any thing or situation that pushes your personal limits, challenges you overwhelmingly or provokes you.

Self-isolating, especially for a long, or in this case, undetermined amount of time, is difficult. No amount of ‘How to’s will change that. However, recognising the devices that can significantly increase or lessen our misery, might be the most important task we can undertake during these trying times.

Knowing how you are feeling at any given moment might sound simple, but is rather deceiving. Chances are you will need a few days to realise it, but I urge you to observe which activities, rooms, hours of the day, parts of everyday life, agitate you the most. Those are your triggers.

It might be watching the sun set, realising you haven’t moved all day.

Eating the same food over and over again.

Watching the news.

Being in the same room as your family for a long period of time.

You might realise that you are more easily frustrated. That your breathing is a bit more erratic. Maybe a sense of despair or hopelessness is overtaking you.

Your instinct is to shut down, talk to no one, be alone. You get an urge to eat something sweet or salty, even though you aren’t actively hungry. You want to lie in bed and sleep immediately. You want to start shouting.

Even though our instinctive reaction to such feelings is to ignore and avoid them, and simply follow our urges, the best thing we can do is ask “Why?”. We aren’t necessarily looking for an answer, and one might not be easy to find, but the idea is that we will recognise what triggered these reactions/ emotions.

Again, this will take some time and patience. Nevertheless, it is worth following through with it. Ask yourself if you are actually hungry, or eating because you are feeling overwhelmed. Are you tired, or do you want to lie in bed because you just watched the news? Did your partner make you furious, or was this perhaps a reaction to the terrifying times in which we’re living.

None of that makes you a bad person. None of it makes you lazy, inconsiderate or ungrateful. So, accept your feeling, instead of ignoring it, or masking it into something it isn’t. It might seem unimportant, but this is the first step to enduring the overpowering emotions created by the surreal conditions we are facing every day.

 

 

 

 

A Midnight Snack || Tales of Insomnia

It was one of those nights when pure adrenaline kept you going. Adrenaline, anxiety, worry, fear for the day to come, pure unadulterated inspiration, for lack of a better term.

It was one of those nights when anything seemed like a better alternative to sleep. So, I supposed I shouldn’t have been surprised when I couldn’t let my eyes close, even though I know they longed too.

It all started with a cup of tea. Nothing fancy, simply a big cup of assorted green leaves floating in steaming hot water. Three minutes later, my bedside table had become the haven for all sorts of dry snacks. From dried fruit, to biscuits, from nuts to sesame bread-sticks.

It was after fruit number two, bread-stick number three and nut number one-hundred and eighty five, right when I grabbed the packaging of the biscuits with determining fingers, gripping the ends, ready to tear open the treasure chest, when I ceased, confused. “Am I even hungry?”

These days, I find that no question is easily answered. No, I’m not hungry, and yes I’m hungry, and no, I’m not hungry for biscuits, and yes, I am hungry for answers, and yes, I am starving for a sense of security and relief and no, I don’t want any more peanuts.

I put the biscuits down for the night, turned off the light and hugged my pillow tightly, imagining it was the ease and certainty I ached to hold.

 

A trying morning

She hadn’t been out in a few days.

Her sleep was erratic. She didn’t fight it. She spent most of the mornings in bed and most of the nights working furiously. She liked the sunlight, she wanted to enjoy it. But there was something alluring about the moonlight, something that called to her every night, summoned her blood, set her skin on fire and her mind to engrossing creativity.

But today, she had to go out. Oh, no, she didn’t want to. She didn’t miss the unforgiving looks of strangers and the pitter-patter of the ever-present rain water dripping from every building’s window. But she was out of bread.

She hadn’t realised last night when she brought out the butter and cheese and marmalade and set them right next to the last piece of days-old loaf of bread. Her knife stayed sharp throughout the night and even when the abyss blue hue of the sky started to mellow, when she felt her fingers tightening on the keyboard and her ideas going in circles, that final slice was swiftly and softly severed into two.

At noon, after she had set the water to boil and had dismissed the internal daily reminder to brush her hair, she followed the trail of crumbs from the kitchen counter to her dinning table, where her laptop was sitting in front of a pile of torn pieces of paper and about a dozen black and blue pens, right next to the melting butter and room-temperature cheese and apricot marmalade.

No bread.

It is an awkward moment, when one’s nourishment dictates one’s movements.

She thought of eating the three brown bananas fermenting in her fridge. She thought of skipping the bread and just putting marmalade and butter on cheese slices. She thought of starving herself. To no avail. She knew what she had to do.

She had to go outside.

A Sunday Morning

She woke up lost.

Opening her eyes to the bright light of the morning, she knew were she was, but she still felt lost.

In here twenty-square-metres flat, there were two folding chairs and a duvet. She woke up on the duvet, but had the sore muscles of someone who had slept on folding chairs.

She didn’t have many things. That’s not true. She did have many things, but she did not have many things with her. And so, she woke up facing the late morning light falling on the dusty floor. She walked barefoot to the big square window on her white wall and pulled the curtains fully open, squinting her eyes from the greyish-white sky, that looked as dirty as those once-white curtains.

She brought the boiler from the sole kitchen counter to the cold floor, set the water to boil and sat next to it on the floor.

She didn’t like folding chairs. She liked grand, classic armchairs with rich fabrics and feathers and delicate seaming, with dark gold studs on their rounded arms and fine designs on their mahogany legs.

She teared open a coffee packet and poured the burned brown grains in a plain mug, then poured the boiling hot water in the smooth ceramic and crossed her legs as she circled the mug with her palms, her thumbs stroking its cool rim.

What was she doing? She had slept with that question lingering in her conscience. Now, a day closer to death and further from birth, was she unluckily close to the one or wisely away from the other?

She let her back fall softly onto the cool surface of the wall and her head followed. Suddenly the weather and the dust and the chairs made sense, just for a moment. A fleeting moment when she thought everything must by adding to her desperation rather than creating it. But then again, she was never truly persuaded by the universe being oh-so-caring for the, her, human troubles.

Where was she? Where did she want to be? She didn’t know. And looking around her empty-of-furniture and empty-of-people apartment, she didn’t have anyone to ask.

She closed her eyes. She took a shaky breath and let it out.

She drank her coffee.

 

 

Fenêtre

Photography of Florence Henri (1893-1982), Fenêtre, 1928, which can be found at The Centre Pompidou in Paris, France.

 

What am I, if not a window,
For the sins of the father to be purified by the light of the early morning?

But then again, what window
Can brighten the darkest human sins?

The darkest thoughts, the most ominous,
The bleak and ravenously sinister urges of minds like the ones hiding best behind
Drawn curtains

And solid shutters?
How warm does the sunlight have to burn
On my blistered skin

To cauterise the inferno within?
To melt glass and atmosphere alike
And reach the depths that could never peek

Out the open window.