Nothing is

This clock came from Queen Marie-Antoinette's private sitting room at the Tuileries Palace, Paris; photographed on display at the Corocoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, September 2013.

This clock is from Queen Marie-Antoinette’s private sitting room at the Tuileries Palace, Paris;
photographed on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, September 2013.

“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

Free to go very slow

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

2 Comments

  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Maybe boredom and serenity are two sides of the same blanket and we choose which side we want to wrap around ourselves as we sit quietly in our chair. We can be discontent with the bristly side called boredom, or we can snuggle into the softness of serenity. Sometimes I find myself wrapped in one and sometimes in the other. Pandemic isolation does that to me at least a couple times a week.

    Marie-Antoinette’s clock is a work of art and must have been made by very skilled workers. It looks like it cost a fortune. Very impressive. Things like that seem to have eventually upset the ordinary population though. I wonder if the average person then even had a clock in their house. Now we all have multiple ones. We even wear them on our wrists to make sure we’re time coordinated with the rest of the happenings in our daily world. At least here in America, we seem almost obsessive about time.

    One thing though…..with all the social isolation of the past several months, I quit wearing a wristwatch because I don’t go places where I need to keep track of time. Time is all distorted now anyway. Weeks seem to fly by but hours are sometimes long. Strange isn’t it?

    • Judy, that’s an interesting observation– that at times, we might essentially “choose” to be bored? I don’t recall doing that, but maybe my times of agitation are more the result of (possibly self-generated) anhedonia, ceasing to find pleasure in things that normally give my spirits a lift. In that respect, I might be “choosing” boredom. I agree that isolation (for me it started at Jeff’s death, long before the pandemic) plays havoc with all one’s normal coping mechanisms. Gretchen Rubin said “the days are long but the years are short” and I think someone put that thought into a song as well. Yes, Einstein was right in saying time is relative!

      That clock was in the now permanently closed Corcoran Gallery of Art in DC. Had I known this magnificent museum would soon be closed, I would have taken more photos. The collections are being gradually donated to universities and museums elsewhere, but the truly gorgeous interiors and layout can never be duplicated. It’s hard not to see this as just one more nail in the coffin of what was once a fairly healthy shared culture here in USA.

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