Sunday, 1 June 2014

Things do do, places to go, people to see.

I ran into a tragic case this week, a lady who finds no joy in life. It's not that her life is bad, it's perfectly OK by any measure, and it's not that she's clinically depressed, she's just very, very, very bored. And somewhat negative too.

She has money. Not great wealth but enough. She covers all her bills and has spare for leisure. She can afford to eat out, visit friends, go shopping on a whim, and buy nice things for her home. But she's not happy. She lives alone, so maybe loneliness is part of it, but I think most of it is attitude.

In the course of the conversation, she was given lots of suggestions about things that would enrich her life, and she simply dismissed them all as not interesting, or pointless. There comes a point when you just can't help a person, and I didn't really bother. I've come across people like this before.

Before I met Martin I had a boyfriend with a mother like that. I remember sitting in her kitchen trying to be polite and make conversation, and somehow the topic of what we do in our spare time came up. And she said these exact words "I don't really enjoy doing anything". I didn't know what to say, so I changed the subject, but as you can see, it stayed with me. It rocked me to the core actually.

I'm one of those people with too many interests. I can't fit them all in. There aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things I love doing, and I have to prioritize. But bored? Oh no. I can be bored, of course, I just know what bores me and I avoid it like the plague.

I'm sure you've met bored teenagers. I consider that a sad thing, so I've always made sure mine don't get bored. If they say they're bored, or even if they look bored, I give them something to do. As this usually involves chores they hate, they make a great deal of effort to always be very busy doing something, even if it's just reading a book.

One of the things I teach my kids is to get interested in things that last. Doesn't matter what it is, so long as it's not temporary. Because one day you'll be old and have time on your hands, and life will be better if you have long-standing passions. Everything else will come and go, but they won't.

I assume somebody gave me that advice when I was young, I don't remember, but I know the happiest people I've known, right through my life, were busy people. Busy doing whatever it is that makes them happy.

However, I hate the word hobby. I really do. It sounds like something that comes in a box. When somebody says "I need a hobby" I think to myself, no, you need an attitude change. A hobby is sort of separate, and not considered that important. It's not a REAL thing to do with your time. You've even heard "it's JUST a hobby".

No, I like the word passion, because it connotes something really important to you. The thing about a passion is that it can be your career if you choose. Doesn't get relegated to Sunday afternoons. Or at least it can be something given a great level of importance, something you identify with. Even if you have a less than stellar job and don't wish to think of yourself as that job, a passion can take its place. "I work in retail, I am a guitarist".

Even if all you do is collect pottery chickens, if you put enough love into it, it can be a passion.

There's this wonderful piece Stephen Fry did about finding the meaning of life:

He did this as a humanism project, but I see no reason why it can't be applied to people who follow a religion too. For some, perhaps, their passion is their religion, and if that is enough, then power to them.

But I find as many if not more bored, miserable, and negative religious people as I do non-religious. Religion is not a ticket to happiness. It's still down to individual attitude and what you fill your life with. 

Let's go back to the lady I began with. I had only one question for her, and you may think it's a foolish question, but I thought it was worth asking.

"Do you want to be happy?"

After all, nobody can force you to be. If you prefer to stay miserable, that's your absolute prerogative.

It even applies if it's just a bit of misery, now and again. 

If you find that you just CAN'T be happy, and you want to be, then there are all sorts of options available to you, but if you have just chosen not to be, I don't think I can help you. 

As for her, she didn't reply.


  1. The woman must still be thinking....

    I like the word, "passion." I also can see employing the word, "avocation" instead of 'hobby' to describe something we love to do. If the word, "vocation" is used to described our paid work, then our avocation maybe all the rest we do for which we are not paid. "Vocare" being the latin root--so much of what we SAY or call ourselves, centers around what we DO. (Being an 'advocate' as an avocation does have its insights.) ;)

    Enjoyed Fry's video, of course!! ~ Blessings! :)

  2. Last year we hosted someone who, I have finally concluded, is broken.

    The first thing that was wrong was that she had come to the U.S. on a six-month visitor visa. The easiest way to come to the U.S., but it meant she could not do anything that was paid. Notwithstanding that we were spending our own limited resources to make her comfortable, she had, in her own words "stuffed it up".

    Then her battered old laptop finally died. She chose, and bought a replacement. The replacement was defective; the DVD-ROM drive did not work. For your or me, this might not have been a major problem because she did not use DVD-ROMs. But she had paid for a DVD-ROM drive and she was d@mn well going to have one. So the laptop was sent back to the manufacturer.

    When a replacement arrived, there was something wrong with that as well. It too was returned, and a refund finally obtained.

    When she came I thought perhaps she could become interested in helping me with craft projects which might help to build income, and a basis for staying, but no. She was good at one thing, and one thing only. She wanted to find someone who would sponsor her to do that one thing. Gradually, it became clear that the job market was already beyond glutted and she resigned herself to going home.

    After she got home again, I heard that she had got yet another laptop. The next model up from the one that had originally died. And it was defective. Another replacement was sought. But now she has lost interest in trying, so it is neglected. (A very enviable piece of kit, but worthless to her).

    So I have learned. Some people just can't be helped. Give them what you can afford (not just physical resources, but support) but don't give too much. And don't expect anything to change.

    1. It's sad really. I've known a few like her.

  3. That is not boredom. That is clinical depression.

  4. I agree with Chris D. Anyone can be happy. If someone chooses not to be happy there is something fundamentally wrong. I feel sorry for the woman that you're describing and I hope she can get the help she needs.
    My passion is genealogy, it has been so for years and is likely to continue when I'm in my old age. So I'll never be bored.

  5. I think that emotions like "happiness" or boredom are conscious, deliberate choices, and I agree about the distinction between "hobby" and passion. Now granted, if a person found themselves ground down under the wheel by a string of negative circumstances, it might be presumptuous of us to suggest to them that they should "choose" to be happy. But in all other situations I do believe that people choose to be who, what and where they are in life, whether that's a joyous thing or otherwise. As regards religion, well….it can be many things, from a buffer to Life's pains to a pair of blinders to reality.

    I think that my mother (86) is one of the most wonderful people I know. Her faith is what I'd call "much stronger" than my own, but she's also a woman with both feet planted firmly on the ground. She has profound spiritual principles, but knows that faith must also have "legs."

    But bored? Me? Never.

    1. Studies have shown that people who are happy before a tragic event in their lives, bounce back to their original level of happiness in time, and people who are unhappy before a massively positive event soon revert back to misery after the novelty wears off.