The Pandemic Has Been Boring
Learn to master boredom without drama.
I’ve been sheltering in place for almost 2 months now. I am lucky to have a job that continues to pay the bills, so I keep working from home, 40 hours a week. I would love for writing to be my day job, but numerous other demands on my time as a breadwinner, father, and a man, have been much higher priorities. I’m not there yet, but someday, I might get there.
I am also lucky to have a family with my wife and two young daughters. We are all working together to avoid cabin fever. My kids are schooling from home on their Chromebooks. My wife goes out once a week to shop for food. I order parts for my projects online and have them delivered when the cost is justified or free. I’ve made a few trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot, and though I like to get out, those trips are depressing.
At Home Depot, there is a long line just to get in. There is a line to pick up orders, but that’s short. And at Lowe’s they’re a bit more relaxed with no lines to get in, but most people are wearing masks. Both had full parking lots, so they’re busy and doing brisk business. I still wonder if it’s worth $6 for shipping a few bucks in parts. I’m seeing dystopia at the home and garden centers.
Last weekend, my wife and I spent hours working in the garden, planting new trees. We got a cubic yard of compost for the trees, the garden, and our lawn. I’m not really a landscaping guy, but my CC&Rs say that I must have a lawn on at least 25% of the property. So I’ve got to keep up the lawn. For that, we have the Intermountain Farmer’s Association, the IFA, for our gardening supplies. They have great compost. And they have great lawn feed just for the climate here.
So I’ve been feeding my lawn and mowing it. I bought a new mower with some of the money we’ve received lately and it’s electric. I gave away the gas mower because I’m just not that into oil and gasoline. And I don’t miss the noise of unmuffled exhaust. The electric mower is exactly what I wanted. It’s a bit overkill for the size of my lawn, but I estimate that I’ll be able to mow my lawn ten times before I will need to charge the battery for the mower again. And with this mower, I won’t be contributing to the smog in the valley.
I have an electric trimmer, too. That also uses a similar battery as the mower. I’m actually very pleased with how the batteries have been working out with my tools. I’m becoming a fan of Ryobi. So I have a mower, a trimmer and a leaf blower that are all made by Ryobi and they all use the same type of battery. For battery-powered tools, they have a remarkable amount of power.
My leaf blower hasn’t been used in years. One of my kids found it and managed to wrest the power toggle from it. I have no idea where it went. But since I’m not driving to and from work anymore, I have more time for repair projects. I thought about taking it to a shop in years past, but for the last two years, we’ve hired the kids from across the street to mow the lawn.
I could never get those kids to mow the lawn the way I wanted. I made many requests and finally gave up this year. So this year, I bought the mower and I’m mowing the lawn myself. I’m trimming the edges, too. I needed a leaf blower to blow the clippings back onto the grass, too. We really don’t have any trees around here save for one. The ground is rocks locked into a light shade of red clay, which is great for weeds, not so great for lawns and gardens.
So I looked up the model number on the leaf blower and found the parts I needed from the Ryobi Parts website. I’m actually looking forward to fixing this myself. I don’t think it will be that hard to fix. I found an operators manual and I can see which screws I will have to remove to open the casing up and install the switch. I’ve been fixing stuff like that around the house, too.
While clearing the living room for vacuuming, I made the mistake of pushing a coffee table from Ikea on the carpet instead of pulling it and I broke one of the legs. My wife found some wood glue we had around the house and she made repairs. My wife and I are making our own repairs of our things instead of tossing them and buying replacements. I think of this as a form of recycling. Just fixing one thing instead of buying a new one has a long line of knock-on effects.
By fixing the table instead of buying a new one, I’m eliminating the stress added to our environment with that purchase. That table was made of wood, so when I buy a new one, someone has to cut down a tree, cut the wood into parts, sand and finish the parts, and then pack the parts in a box for purchase. Again. And all of that requires energy, time, and effort that could have been used for something else. The same is true for the leaf blower.
I think about the supply chain and it’s the effect on the environment when I use the stuff I own. I’m mindful that if I break something and have to replace it, the broken item will probably go to Goodwill or a landfill. And I don’t mind trying to make repairs myself. I learn something new every time I make a repair. I get a sense of accomplishment when I fix something myself. I feel a sense of peace knowing that I didn’t send something to a landfill. It’s a gamble for me to fix it myself in the sense that the most I have to lose are the costs of the replacement.
When something is no longer needed, I give it away most of the time. I am part of a community that has a private group on Facebook. That is where I post stuff I want to give away or sell. Often, they come to buy it, or they take it if I can’t sell it. With the gas mower I no longer wanted, my wife found someone in her circle of friends who wanted it. I was happy to let someone else have it. I’m not worried about the money I spent on the mower because it seems like the money I’ve lost always comes back. I’ve found that when I give stuff away when I surrender something, often, something better comes along to replace it.
All of that took place with zero drama. Fixing things around the house, giving things away, taking care of the lawn, the garden, the family finances, all of that comes without drama. Yet, I still find myself looking for something to watch on TV at night after the kids are asleep.
I have a bunch of stuff to watch on TV and there isn’t enough time to watch it. I have Netflix. I have Prime. I have Google Play Music/YouTube Premium that I got in a promotion years ago for ten bucks a month. I have Disney+. I’ve got a trial of CBS All Access. I’ve got a 3 month trial of Sundance Network through my phone carrier. I have more viewing options than I know what to do with.
Oddly, my wife doesn’t watch any of that. She likes Korean drama from websites that don’t seem to worry about copyrights. My kids like YouTube, but they keep drifting to The Unspeakables. They won’t watch any Disney movies with me. I got CBS All Access for the Star Trek Picard series and I enjoyed that. But there isn’t enough time for all that I have subscribed to. So the culling is coming. I will cancel the trials before they expire. We actually use Amazon Prime. And someday, I will drive to work again and listen to unlimited music on Google Play without commercials to break my train of thought. But I think the rest is toast later on. There are only so many hours in a day.
My only complaint about the streaming services is that most of what passes for entertainment is really just an exchange of abuse between people, consenting or not. We call that, “drama”. I don’t mind drama if it’s well written. I’ve enjoyed shows like Ozark, Colony and The Good Place. I really like The Good Place because it’s so philosophical. I just finished Safe House on Sundance, and that was philosophical, too. But I’m mindful that all that drama is just fantasy. It never really plays out that way in real life because life is very complicated.
Just the other day, I saw a headline about a Salt Lake City woman who pursued her ex-boyfriend in her car and rammed her car into his car. I don’t know if she had thought that through, and I don’t think she was expecting a hug, but that’s drama. I’ve also seen a rise in domestic violence and sexual abuse of children as a result of shelter in place orders. That’s more drama. I may be bored, but I don’t need that kind of drama in my life.
I’m an introvert so staying at home and isolating is comfortable for me. I’ve spent many years living alone before I got married and had kids, so I’m kind of a stabilizing force around three females who are social butterflies. At night we play Uno or Fish together. We might do a puzzle or play Sorry! together. We sometimes eat dinner together, but we always spend some time together before the kids fall asleep. And then my wife and I…we find something to do.
But for me, during this pandemic, there has been very little drama. Every day is the same in a relative way as I get older. Every day, I can make a choice between peace and drama. I make the choice to err on the side of peace every day. Every hour or every minute if I have to. I let what I have now be enough for today.
I’ve tried other ways of living and thinking and found them wanting. This is what works for me during, perhaps the darkest time in America that I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I was born here. I’ve never seen anything like this. So now, more than ever, I need to find comfort in boredom because life is already hard enough for everyone. I don’t need to stir the pot of drama because I’d rather not lick the spoon. If I do nothing else, I will err on the side of peace. That’s my prime directive.