It's not that I am not doing things -- like four or five zoom meetings a week, or reading for my book club, or participating in two current events discussion groups, or cooking dinner.
But something is different.
It feels like "Groundhog Day" -- if you saw the movie. Every day is the same -- like yesterday -- or like it will be tomorrow. I am virtually confined in my house, as I struggle to observe the COVID-19 rules. I don't see anyone, and no one has been over my house or backyard or have I gone anywhere. It doesn't even make any difference what day of the week this is. It's the sameness of it all that causes me to proclaim I am bored, because everyday is like every day.
Richard Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry, described boredom in a recent op-ed piece in the NYT: "Cooped up in our homes and apartments, we've been stripped of our everyday routine and structure. And without distractions, we are left feeling under stimulated. It is this state of restless desire to do something -- anything! -- without a way of achieving our goal (if we even know what it is) that is the essence of boredom."
Boredom is not depression, psychiatrists said in the research I did for this article, although boredom and depression have some similarities. It is not a disease -- as is depression, or other mental illnesses. But it happens to a lot of people during the coronavirus, similar to what prisoners who are in isolated confinement experience, said Jessica Simes, a sociologist, in her 2019 study on this topic. We are now virtual prisoners in our own homes.
And it's been a double whammy in this area -- we stay inside and worry about getting coronavirus which floats around in insidious ways and now we can't go outside because the smoke from all the nearby fires have caused havoc with the air quality.
Boredom may be my vulnerability. I remember when I was five years old with an unbusy summer before me and I knelt on my father's chair by his desk declaring, "Daddy, I'm bored."
"Why don't you color in your coloring book? "Did that this morning." "Why don't you play with your friend?" "She's not home." "Why don't you go to the store for your mother?" "I did and brought lunch home." "Why don't you listen to your favorite radio programs?" "They're over." My father tried hard each day, and I did too, until September when I happily went off to school."
I never realized as much as now how much social interaction I intrinsically need, how I need to see and talk with friends in person, not just over the phone. Zoom helps, but it's not the same thing.
At first I was embarrassed about admitting I was bored, because it always had a negative connotation, suggesting that I lacked imagination or initiative or wasn't adept at thinking creatively about what I can do. But boredom, I've come to realize, is a condition many of us today are coping with.
Saida Grundy in an article in the Atlantic magazine, said, "Without the fun of social gatherings or the routines of work and school to structure our time, [boredom sets in. That reality has brought scores of people face-to-face ware going through the same thing. Maybe its good if we talk more toe ach other about it, and how agonizing it can feel to be bored for days on end."
So you may ask, and I do too, what do we do about it? Reading yet another book is only a partial escape, but days on end I've been reading books. And watching another movie on TV has less meaning now -- it's just another movie. I guess we can take comfort in the fact that we are not alone with these feelings, others of us.
Friedman ends up suggesting that we "do not dread boredom, but try to use it to our good." He adds that it's a way to rethink whether we are spending our lives in a way to make them more meaningful.
I'm thinking. But I am still bored.