Monday, 16 April 2012

Busy, busy, busy

When I was little I was always told; 'bright people don't get bored - they find something to do.' The thing is, it has stuck. I can't erase it from my head. I am bright (or would like to think I am) therefore I must. not. get. bored.

So, I'm really good at filling my time. I can find umpteen different things to do with any spare moment lurking in the shadows. And if I can't squeeze what I want to do into that time, I have an innate ability to str-e- t - c - h time to fit in what I need it to fit. In fact, I would go so far as to say I am particularly talented at keeping busy.

The problem is, in equating being busy with being 'bright', I never stopped to realise that actually, sometimes, being bored is useful. Ok, perhaps not boredom exactly, but down time; time to recoup, to do little or nothing than just be and to breathe. To appreciate living and take stock, or just, literally, switch the grey matter off. It turns out I'm really not that good at stopping. In fact I'd go so far as to say I'm not at all 'bright' (or intelligent) in that area of my life. Not at all.

It's a skill I need to learn. And I think I need to accept that my skills in this area are significantly remedial, for now. But how do I temper this boredom...? It's spilling into frustration at the moment, and there's part of me that just wants to get busy; do stuff; keep my mind and body active. I mean I don't want my brain to stupefy, but there's something in me that thinks that I need to learn to do this now, or I will never master just being; I risk always being the product of my actions and the things I do.

So, I wonder - how do you cope with boredom? Do you get frustrated? What do you do if you can't just 'do something'? What's the secret to just be-ing? I think contemporary psychology calls this 'mindfulness', but whatever you call it, if you have any tips - please share!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Half finished...

I have a confession to make. It is a shameful confession, especially for someone who studied "Eng Lit" for 3 years at Cambridge. But... I am a compulsive abandoner of books.

At present, our house is strewn with my literary detritus: by my side of the bed there are roughly half a dozen different books that I have begun and never finished. Many of them aren't even literary. Not in the true sense of the term. In fact, even when I was at university I was more predisposed to reading contemporary novels, barely considered literary in "Cambridge" circles. But now. Now, I am ashamed. If I were to tell you that the unfinished books by my bedside (in the spare room, on the bookshelf, in the magazine rack... maybe even in the kitchen) were such tomes as James Joyce's Ulysses, or even a Jane Austen or two, perhaps you (or even I) could forgive me. But they're not. In fact I daren't even tell you which books lay unread...

Let's just say that they didn't come from a library. And they didn't come from the 'canon' of English literature. In fact, they would feel entirely more at home in the book aisle of the supermarket.


What has the world come to? What is wrong with me? I spent 3 years of my life reading 'quality' prose, and now I am reduced to this? Half finished supermarket bestsellers? I hang my head in shame.

I feel that I should end this with a 'I promise to complete said books before committing to buying (or even borrowing) any new ones' but, well, I'm not sure I can do that. You see, the thing is, I like reading. But I also feel like I shouldn't have to make too much effort, or it's really not that pleasurable. I suspect it's a reaction to having to read and critique "Eng Lit" at university. And I know that sounds arrogant, but, for 3 years reading was a way of life, my raîson d'être, and now I feel like it needs to work for me, instead of me working for it. I want escapism. Good, quality, escapism. Sometimes that's trashy 'chick lit' or a best-selling thriller, sometimes it's more 'quality' literature, but whatever it is, if it doesn't hold my attention, well...

Any good book suggestions? Please let me know. I'll give anything a go, but can't promise to finish it.