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Jewish Journal

Bored Games

by Teresa Strasser

March 7, 2002 | 7:00 pm

Do you ever bore yourself?

I do. I am boring myself right now. I mean, I'm bored of my toast with spray-on I Can't Believe It's Not Butter every morning of every day. I'm bored of the clothes hanging in my closet, the bath mat in the bathroom, the same books in a basket on my nightstand night after night.

I'm bored of the way I get out of my car: pull on the emergency break, grab my purse from the passenger seat, open the door, press the automatic locks, get out. Slam. In that order every time. I'm bored of staring at the imperfect ivory trim on the walls of my office, noticing the same splotchy defects.

It's beyond just being sick of my surroundings, the same row of lipsticks on my dresser, the same crumpled receipts in my wallet. Even my own thoughts are getting to be redundant. The alarm goes off in the morning and in pretty much the same order, thoughts go marching through my head like obedient soldiers: What am I doing with my life? Who cares, just get up and do something. Make a schedule. Make the bed. Make some toast. Sound off, one, two.

I'm not in a rut. To be in something implies that one can readily get out. I think I am a rut.

As I write this, I'm even tired of my own writing, the way I string words together, the way I'm always looking for a big picture, the way the same adjectives pop into my head. Time and again, the same set of events transpires. I don't want to write something, I convince myself it doesn't matter how boring I think I am, I hack something out, notice it's not too bad, never want to do it again. Every work opportunity brings on an identical anxiety spiral -- I can't do it, I have to do it, I guess I did it.

The look of my silhouette as I catch it in the reflection of a storefront window is painfully dull. Seen it a million times. If just one time the freckles on my face would rearrange themselves, maybe I wouldn't be so tired of my face, the one I've been hauling around with me all these years. There's nothing wrong with it; I'd just like to order another flavor from the face menu some days, just a change of pace.

I try to get out, but even my destinations are tedious. I buy my groceries either from Ralphs or Pavilions. I frequent the same four coffee shops, depending on the day. I almost always get gas at the station down the street, across from where I always take my dry cleaning, say hello to the woman behind the sewing machine, lose my ticket by the time I return.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you now that for the first time since I was 16 years old, I have no boyfriend. It's been seven weeks, shattering my previous personal best of four days with no love interest. I'm not sure, but this may have something to do with my boredom. How do people hang out with themselves all the time, no omnipresent outside force to break things up, no one else's personality in the loop?

When I was a kid, I would spend summers with my grandparents who in one day would take me to a museum, a movie matinee and the beach. I'd get home, plop down on the couch and sigh, "I'm bored."

This drove them crazy. They were old and tired and it was time to yell at McNeil and Lehrer.

"Why don't you read a book," they'd suggest, like Jewish grandparents are trained to. I would.

Even back then, I knew that to sit still and do absolutely nothing would be to let some kind of loneliness land on me. I knew life was like sun tanning in Chico, if you lay still for too long, the buzzards will think you're a carcass and swoop down on you. You've got to keep moving.

I keep moving, but I'm doing it alone and I can't take myself in such large doses. Everything I do, I'm the one doing it. People keep telling me how healthy it is that I'm taking time off from having a boyfriend, how I have to learn to "enjoy my own company." If you haven't heard it, this is the party line and I'm taking everyone's word for it because the hard line is usually the most rewarding. If boring myself is the worst that happens, so be it.

Ever since Peggy Lee died two months ago I keep hearing her ask, "Is that all there is?" Well, is it? Do you stop getting sick of yourself, or is this all there is?

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