About Boredom


I can’t imagine what it must be like, having nothing to do with your time. I watch the people around me here at Orchard Creek and I see so many folks who have nothing to do all day—just nothing except eating and working with the Physical Therapy Po-lice. Some of them do get pretty crafty about avoiding their PT appointments, which shows a spark of life:

PT: Would you like to do physical therapy today? (granted, this is not a genuine question. “You VILL take physical therapy so give up now and come along” is what she really means).

Patient: No, not today. (“Never! So get outta my room” is what he really means).

PT: Oh, come on now, Henry. Physical Therapy will make you better and then you can go home! (Smiling. This is the Ultimate Threat for most of the patients).

Patient: I know that. You keep telling me that. But I didn’t sleep last night, and I need my rest.

PT: You can rest this afternoon. A workout will be just the thing you need to wake yourself up this morning. Why don’t you get in your wheelchair and I will push you to the Physical Therapy room?

Patient: closes eyes, slows breathing, and lies perfectly motionless.

PT: Leaves. But she VILL be back, I can guarantee it!

Meanwhile our patient does doze off—after all, he’s been awake since 6 AM, staring at the TV, watching FOX news. But he’ll get up for lunch, which is the next exciting thing.

So there you are: the number one preoccupation is food. Breakfast is at 8, Lunch at noon, dinner at 5PM and evening snack cart at 7:30. In between meal times, there’s television and more television, despite OC’s best efforts to provide Bingo, Bridge, and Beauticians.

Me? I don’t do any of the three “B’s”. I spend lots of time on my computer surfing and working. Right now I have a client for whom I am constructing an online course on leadership—a really fun assignment. I write in the blog. I do origami (not very well) from the beginner’s kit a friend brought me, and I will figure out how to fold The Crane. And the PT people gave me some magic markers and a coloring book of Oriental designs taken from the actual embroidery on robes and formal gowns. (I am supposed to color in therapy in order to entertain me while I practice standing on one leg. Try it—it’s not easy).

And finally, there are friends and family who visit and bring gossip and presents. They don’t scold me, like my neighbor’s daughter does her mother (“Mom! They tell me you won’t eat your oatmeal! Mom! You don’t use your walker to go to lunch. If your ankle hurts we’ll get it fixed—you NEED your exercise. Mom! Why are you wearing that red sweatshirt? It’s got splashes of garage paint on it! Mom! What’s this $4.00 charge? You sent WHAT? Valentines to the staff? You’ve got to be careful with your money, you know.)

Yes, I do listen to a fair number of conversations, too. It’s hard not to, when you have a facility of mostly hearing-impaired people who leave their room doors open. And it’s also due to the fact that I’m interested in how my companions are coping with their lives and with the questions of “Where will I live when I get out of here? My children don’t want me to stay in my house alone anymore.” “Will I ever be able to drive again?” “How can I get my taxes done, all my records are at home.” “Will Medicare cover my drugs if I go home?”

How are the residents at Orchard Creek confronting these problems? That’s the fascinating part for me. Orchard Creek is a microcosm of people, from the residents to the caregivers and professionals. Some haven’t the energy to answer these questions, or to ward off offensive relatives and visitors. And a great many of them have no skills to invite anything but numbing boredom into their lives.

How sad.


5 thoughts on “About Boredom

  1. As a mom of younger kids, I often think how awesome it would be to have a whole weekend to myself to do nothing. Just this past weekend, I had a whole day to myself, and I did much of what you all at OC do … I read, and I ate, and it didn’t feel nearly as good as I thought it would. I’m glad that you like the project you are working on, and with all the info you are gleaning from your fellow residents, it seems like you are primed to write a book on transitions. Whaddya think?

  2. But. . . are they bored? What is dreadfully boring to you and to me, may be just the kind of life “the other guy” loves. No worries, nothing to do but stare at the TV, eat and nap. Some of us are really terrible at doing “nothing”. . . and some of us do nothing very well! In fact, some of us try to do too much and find that running out of time to do something is a way of life. Personally, I am glad I am one of the people who is terrible at doing “nothing” because I figure if you keep doing something. . .you won’t rust! 🙂

  3. I was interested to read about your origami project. Our 8 yr old Chinese “granddaughter” has been giving all of us lessons. So far we’ve made a star box and a swan. Fortunately she’s very patient and an excellent teacher.

  4. Dear Gertie,
    I’ll be interested in any insights from the inside on healthy responses to people who seem to give up on life before their time.
    with hope,
    Wendy S. Harpham, MD

  5. Greetings from the south!

    To quote from Today’s Buyer’s Rep – People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.

    I thought of you when I read it…

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