Week #8 – BOREDOM
I love my first cup of coffee in the morning. I love it like I love my children—deeply and completely. Brewed in a French press, I drink it black, 190 degrees, from a white porcelain mug that I’ve had forever. I drink it in the dark, or the pre-dawn shadows, or at daybreak (depending on the time of year) quietly sipping my sacred java while contemplating the day ahead, grateful for the deafening silence of my own company. Even my dog respects my ritual, refraining from nudging me with her wet snout for the 7-10 minutes it takes me to ingest that first jolt of caffeine. She, like everyone else who lives under our shared roof, understands the necessity of my routine.
Which is why I was so caught off-guard when, not so long ago, my husband walked into the kitchen, ignoring my first-cup status, and blurted out, “Are you having an affair?” Huh? I looked down at my t-shirt (the same one I’d worn the previous day) and considered my growing indifference towards hygiene.
“Nope, you’re good,” I said, returning to my not quite finished mug of black gold.
“I’m serious,” he persisted. “Are you having an affair?”
I sighed. It was an odd time of day to be engaging in a game we’ve played many times before. One of us asks, “Are you having an affair?” to which the other replies, “Why, are you having an affair?”, and so on, back-and-forth, while we stare into each other’s eyes looking for a twitch, or quiver, any sign of deceit, until the tension eventually makes us burst out laughing, ending the game, and, more importantly, a likely strain that’s built up in our relationship and caused us to behave more like roommates than soulmates. I squinted to see him in the dim light and was surprised to find a hint of vulnerability in his face. “We’re fine,” I assured him. But he wasn’t convinced and pinged my phone saying, “read this,” before walking out of the room
His worry, it turns out, stemmed from a morning headline about a 40% rise in infidelity amongst married women. In two new books on the subject, the data presented revealed that this growing group wasn’t cheating to fall in love and end their nuptials, but to stop themselves from blowing up their marriages (usually involving children) altogether. Across the board, their discontent, and subsequent actions, stemmed from either a) feeling that their emotional needs weren’t being met by their spouse (nothing new here); b) resenting the disproportionate amount of “invisible labor” for which they were responsible (try stopping me from penning a thousand words on that subject); and/or c) the fact that they found marriage to be boring. (THWAP! Bull’s eye. Ding! Ding! Ding!) Now I knew why he was upset.
I’d been throwing around the boredom word a lot lately, even going so far as to liken myself to our geriatric dog —Yup, just two old girls, bored out of their minds. And while I really didn’t mean for anyone to hear my thoughts, I may have uttered, I’m so bored I could die, a few times under my breath. To clarify, it’s not that marriage in and of itself is boring, it’s that this period in life, this middle-age marsh through which I’m dog-paddling, has become rather dull. As my energy wanes to chase unfulfilled dreams and champion new causes, I find that the highs and lows, the interesting parts of life, are more about my children than about me. And while I should be grateful for boredom, because boredom means that things are okay, that everyone is safe and sound, I miss the surprise and spontaneity and uncertainty of youth. I miss moving to a new city, starting a new job, figuring out how to pay the rent. I miss pulling all-nighters, trying a whole new look, traveling at a moment’s notice. I miss spending half a paycheck on shoes, walking 20 blocks home because I have the time, going to weddings and baby showers rather than funerals. And, yeah, sure, young love . . . who doesn’t miss that? Though I swore I would never turn into one of those people so underwhelmed by their present that they fixate on their past, here I am, longing for an infusion of that glorious, painful, panic-inducing time in life when self-invention is the task at hand.
It takes me a minute to come down from the high I get recalling those earlier years –before marriage and children and mortgages– and a minute more to recognize how exhausting it all sounds. My boredom, I consider, doesn’t stem from wanting what’s gone or resenting what is, but from the prickly discomfort of waiting for what’s next.
Later that day, I send my husband a sweet (and somewhat dirty) text to let him know that I get his point and that, despite my ennui, we’re still okay. I promise myself that I will forego using the b-word out loud. And that tomorrow morning, maybe, instead of rising alone to indulge in my coffee ritual, I will stay in bed a little longer, and wait to see what happens.