Born with the Happy Gene?

I often think I’ve been lucky to be born with something that keeps me looking at the bright side of things, even while I may be struggling with some dark inner mess or, like for many years, with behaviors I know are in direct opposition to any happiness or growth. Thankfully, I’ve been free of bulimia for the last twelve years, but I’d be lying if I said I was free of anxieties around eating. These come and go with whatever is up in my life – maybe the focus on food anxiety keeps me from feeling other, more uncontrollable anxieties. Of late, I’ve had an annoying evening eating routine – I sit in a corner of my kitchen, facing a wall, and eat cheese melted on toast, raw veggies with hummus dip, and chips. Some nights I drink a beer. I read the local paper until my eyes begin to close, then shuffle off to bed for another hour or so of reading – usually a book or magazine article, sometimes Facebook, which, while minimally interesting, is mostly a time suck.

On the face of it, this is a rather harmless evening routine; I might even say it’s well-deserved downtime after a day of work, exercise, and checking in on my soon-to-be 90 y/o mother. And I’m good with that way of looking at it. It’s just that I want to stop doing it. The whole thing. I’m bored with it and it doesn’t bring me any pleasure. It’s a numbing routine, becoming more and more numbing each day.

This is what I want to do: I want to eat different foods (I have to be careful here that I don’t expect different foods to make me happy and engaged, or to change what’s driving the boredom – these are the deluded wishes of a food addict); I want to read more books and journals; I want to play with art materials, even it it’s just for an hour or so; and I want to write more again. I just have to find the jump-start that will take me to a new inner place where I’m able to change even one thing about the current routine and then, maybe I’ll get the tiniest insight about the boredom.

I’m wondering if all of this coming to a head this week is related to my Sunday experience in a short dance workshop where one group exercise had us focus on movements that were either boring or interesting to us. We were instructed to move as we wished, speaking aloud the words boring or interesting as we walked, rolled, sat, ran, flailed…in space. If we said something was interesting we were instructed to let it go; if we said boring we were to repeat two times, doubling that with each successive, boring movement. I found myself uttering the words randomly and playing with the notion of boring and interesting in ways unrelated to the movements. Repeating things sometimes made them more interesting and even compelling (I think my evening ritual has become a variation on compelling – closer to habitual), and I’m wondering why I often feel compelled to continue to do things that initially seem good for me (which the food ritual may have been when it began – maybe it was a way to allow myself foods that I had previously considered forbidden), but which become traps that lead to a kind of deadened state. When dancing, I notice that my habitual patterns sometimes comfort and soothe me, but I know I have to break the spell if I want to find real pleasure/aliveness in any extended improvisation. I have to stop myself, do something different, or just be still until some new impulse arises.

To add to all of this external input that has me focused on my current stuck-ness, I saw this quote form Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher (1813-1855), in the local paper:

“Boredom is the root of all evil–the despairing refusal to be oneself.”

I get it. I really get it. Thankfully, I’m not quite to the despairing part (I did experience that extreme state years ago before I began dancing, and before I was able to use the wisdom of the twelve steps of OA/AA to find freedom from the bulimia/E&T – eating and throwing up – as I so lovingly called it for more than 40 years). I may not be deep in the pits at present, but I am stuck and bored with myself, and have, at most, a hazy view of how my innards are hankering to evolve.

I’ve been here before – restless, in a kind of daze, falling back on old patterns, listening some to the inner knowing, yet not fully opening my mind, heart and ears. I know I can’t force things in these times. I can make an effort to change one thing about my stuck, bored routine, though. I can cultivate patience with myself while nudging myself to act. I can do my best to trust that whatever aspect of myself is clamoring for more air-time will be one I can embrace and ride into the next chapter – hopefully free of my current evening routine.

And, as I take baby steps in the doing of all of the above, I can thank that happy gene for allowing me to keep a sunny disposition while all this unfolds. Some people – like me – are just lucky!