“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.” — Thomas Szasz
I found it interesting that this quote contrasts boredom with serenity. I would not think of the two as opposites. I would tend to think of anxiety as more the opposite of serenity, although boredom undoubtedly makes everything seem a waste of time. But I think anxiety can too.
When I’m feeling most anxious, a lot of my distress comes from the idea that I’m not making good use of my time. It’s especially frustrating when a day is fraught with unproductive attempts and flat-out failure to accomplish anything. Then it can turn into a vicious cycle, as my distraction over what has gone wrong disrupts my effort to get back on track.
Perhaps it would be easier to minimize the setbacks if I could learn to see everything as being beneficial in some indirect way, even if only to help me avoid it the next time. If I have to wait in a long line when I’m in a hurry, I can make a mental note to avoid that location on that particular day or time in the future. If I throw my schedule off by spending too much time in a phone conversation, I can resolve to postpone telephone calls until higher priorities have been addressed. If I’m sitting in a medical waiting room — something I’ve spent countless hours doing over the years, and especially in 2013 — I can make it a point to bring something to read or work on while I wait. If it’s something enjoyable that I rarely have time for, so much the better.
More importantly, though, I can also realize that some of what may appear to be wasted time can actually be vital moments of rest, reflection and rejuvenation. This year, I have the usual ambitions about cleaning out, clearing space and getting rid of a lot of stuff. I fully intend to do that, because I think serenity will be more possible in my daily life if I do. But meanwhile, I need to practice the habit of serenity from where I am now, on day one. For me this will involve not fretting over wasted time, or expecting an unrealistic level of achievement from myself.
I hope you will join me this year in resisting the tendency to feel overwhelmed by life, even when it’s overwhelming. Especially, I hope we will make the clock our servant, not our master. If you have any secrets for staying serene while swamped with endless tasks, feel free to share them with us! Good luck!
One year ago today