It was another one of those evenings. We’d gotten the kids to bed and my husband asked me what I was going to be doing. I sighed (as I often did) and said something along the lines of how I have a bazillion and one things to do and I love every single one of them but I really can’t handle being so busy all the time.
My husband must have heard this one too many times because he just looked at me and said, “would you stop it.”
I looked quizzically back at him. “Huh?”
“Would you just stop pretending that you’d be anywhere near satisfied or happy without a bazillion and things going on all the time? I get it. You’re busy. But you’d be miserable if you weren’t. Can we just accept the fact that you need to be busy and stop complaining about it?”
Figurative cold splash of water in my face.
I wanted to react. I wanted to defend myself. But, he was right. Yes, Jon, mark it on your calendar, I’m admitting you were right.
I need to be busy. My brain needs multiple projects and ideas spinning around in order to feel stimulated and content. I do not tolerate boredom well. The problem, however, comes that I do not tolerate overstimulation and over-commitment well, either. And the window of tolerance between boredom and overstimulation seems awfully narrow.
Hmmm . . . as I write that last sentence I seem to recall saying that about my children a time or two, as well. I guess the apples don’t fall far from the tree.
I am about to lay out some ideas that might help to find the balance. I need to make it perfectly clear that I have not yet mastered this skill. Just last week my husband and I had our own annual culling. We physically wrote down all the projects and duties and tasks that we’ve (well, mostly I’ve) committed to and cross things out. It was painful. Because all the things are good, and I get different pleasure and stimulation from all the things. But, when I have all the things all the time I’m left with nothing of me.
So, my first tip is to have an annual culling. Look at the things you’re doing and separate the wheat from the chaff. Well, or the highly desirable wheat from the moderately desirable wheat. Be mindful and honest with yourself and have someone you trust sitting with you to hold you accountable. Do a mini cost-benefit analysis on each item on your list. Is it bringing you joy or stress? Is it necessary? Then be merciless. Some things have got to get screened out.
But then, grieve. Those things that are getting screened out might still be good things. It’s okay to know that we have to close a door and still not want to. But we need to grieve it.
We also need to learn to rest. Practice mindfulness. Create space and sit in the discomfort of being bored for short little snippets of time. Eventually, those snippets of time will grow longer and be less intolerable.
And when the new ideas come up, we need to have our own little mini-cullings. It’s okay for us to reflect on if this is an idea to pursue now, to pursue later, or to not pursue at all. It’s okay to take time to think about it. It’s okay to reflect on whether or not this new idea will be invigorating or enervating. We don’t need to pair our lives down to nothingness and uber simplicity. We aren’t wired to be content with that. But, we do need to be intentional with our energy.
And, because those apples don’t fall far from us trees, we need to lead our kids through the same process. Let’s teach them early to be evaluative and mindful of their own windows of busy tolerance. What degree of activity do they need to stay content, but not anxious? Lead them through their own culling. And help them accept who they are and how they are wired to be.
In my husband’s wise words (yes, dear, I’m even calling you wise now!), just stop it. Stop pretending to be something we’re not. As soon as I accepted that I need to be busy, I was able to stop complaining about it. It’s simply me. And it may simply be you. Or your kid. So, let’s just accept the fact that we need to be busy, find our window of tolerance to avoid overstimulation, and stop complaining about it.
Check out other amazing blogs to help you and your child balance boredom and burnout at this month's Hoagies' Gifted bloghop.