I’ve always secretly held the belief that, should I ever be committed or incarcerated, I’d probably be fine. Whenever I watch the film, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s nest, I’m always struck by the idea that I am Billy Bibbit to Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy. I’d have no desire to get out and would be happy enough indoors doing jigsaws and playing board games. I wouldn’t even need the medication to make me amenable, Nurse Ratched would love me. Same with prison. As long as my fellow inmates were reasonably civilised, I’d breeze through my sentence and probably be one of those institutionalised prisoners, who don’t want to come out, in no time at all.
I have a lot to be thankful for and much of that, I have to say, comes from my parents. One of the best gifts that my mother instilled in my brother, sister and me is the ability to occupy ourselves. It is this gift that would serve me well if I am ever in a lock down situation. One of my mother’s favourite phrases was, “There’s no such thing as bored only boring people.” Her assertion was that we had to develop the inner resources necessary to occupy ourselves and she would tolerate no whining or expectations to be entertained. And much as I hate to admit it, she was right.
We live in an age now where people don’t seem to be able to occupy themselves at all. Everybody is looking for outside stimulation and, if they don’t get it, they start screaming blue murder. Boredom, it seems to me, is often used as an excuse for a whole manner of bad behaviour and allows people to be more demanding than is quite possibly healthy. I know people who can’t be on their own for any amount of time at all and this is their driving force. However, it can drive them into a whole host of poor choices. Not to mention relationships which you have to wonder if they’d be better off without.
I like spending time with other people but I value my time alone even more. I would survive perfectly fine on a desert island just so long as that pesky man Friday didn’t keep hanging around and I had a life time supply of chocolate to keep me alive. There’d be none of that hunting and fishing for me thank you very much. I’d be happy simply sitting in the shade, having a nice long think.
It always leaves me a bit perplexed when people claim to be bored. I mean, quite aside from the thinking, there are literally countless things available to do. Writing obviously takes up a lot of my time, followed closely by reading. Both solitary pastimes that keep me entertained for hours. Even without the written word, however, I’d have lots to do. The most common question I get asked when people learn that I am not working is, “What on earth do you find to do?” And I can honestly reply that I don’t have enough hours in the day.
You may be thinking that it’s easy to say these things when you haven’t been put to the test. Well let me tell you that a couple of years ago, my sister and I got snowed in for almost a week with my mother at her house. She has very strict ideas about television and let’s just say there’s no chance of becoming a TV addict at her house. She claims that too much viewing turns your brain to mush which I don’t agree with but then maybe that’s because my brain has turned to mush. Anyway on paper the snowbound experience sounds like a fate worse than death but it turned out to be more relaxing than a Buddhist retreat. We became like throwbacks from Little Women. My mother knitted me a jumper and my sister and I spent our days doing puzzles, reading and baking (well okay she baked and I ate but the sentiment was there!) If that’s what it’s going to be like in an old people’s home then bring it on.
I think the modern way of expecting to be constantly entertained has done us no favours. Everything is about the external environment with no thought for the internal. Surely this just leads to us being strangers to our own thoughts, which is probably why so many people fear being alone. It must be horribly disorientating to feel alienated and at odds with yourself.
I have a friend who has just returned from Cambodia and she says the thing that has struck her most on her return is how desperate and miserable everybody is, rushing around trying to fill up their time. In Cambodia, though without all of the things that we consider essential to modern life, they have what we don’t have. They have a pace of life that affords them the space to simply live and be whoever they are.
We are supposed to be an advanced, modern nation but I’m starting to wonder if we’ve perhaps gone backwards instead of forwards. We have become ensnared by our modern trappings and our constant expectations of being happy and entertained as though these are our natural birthright. Little wonder then that half the population is turning to religion or mysticism whilst the rest are hooked on Prozac. My advice – let’s all just sit down and have a nice quiet think. It works wonders.