Monday, January 12, 2015

On boredom and progress


Did you hear that? That was my big sigh of relief. The holiday decorations are down, we survived winter break, and here we are, back to regular programming in our house. On the first week back, I had the house to myself for the first time last Tuesday since December 19 - approximately 19 days and a few hours ago, but who’s counting really? - and I have to say, it was like the first rain after a season’s drought. When you’re home with young children at every minute, every hour of the day, girls who are constantly making needing and needling, giggling and struggling sounds, the quiet is a welcome respite for this introvert.

On my first day alone, I was energized by the new year and felt tempted to make grand plans - so many things to see, do, explore, conquer. But first, I breathed in and out. Let’s enjoy the here and now. I used to think that if we aren’t constantly moving and going somewhere, we’re missing out on so many things. I’d pack our social calendar with play dates and museum outings, and if we’re just sitting around the house without a plan, I’d feign enthusiasm and announce, “let’s go do something!” probably afraid that my family would be drowned by stasis if we didn’t keep moving.

But over the winter break, after weeks of holiday baking and cooking and planning for one social gathering after another, I found myself looking forward to doing absolutely nothing. I had intended to explore more of Austin over the break, taking my girls to different parts of the city to make sure they were exposed to culture, that they were learning something, or at the very least, not bored at home.

Except, thanks to the holidays, I was already drained before the break, and much of my ambition dissolved at the thought of having to deal with all that’s required to get the girls out the door. Because leaving the house in the morning, no matter where we went, often involved this same old tiring script, “eat your breakfast!” “stop dawdling” “brush your teeth” “where’s your sock?” “where’s your other sock?” “do you have a sweater?” “no you can’t wear pajamas to the place” “you need a jacket; it’s cold” “no, not this jacket” “find your sister” “where’s your water bottle?” “pick a snack” “no, you can’t eat that now” “get in the car” “where are your shoes?” “no not those shoes” “help your sister”...  

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Therefore, despite my best intentions, we mostly ended up lounging around the house, which my girls gleefully exclaimed as “Yay! Pajama day!” If the sun was out, we would attempt biking outside the house or a jaunt to the park, but the ambitious Explore Austin adventures - except for a trip to the children’s museum and another to the Texas History museum -  were tucked between my big girl and me as we sat together under the blanket, reading our respective books. The world to which our books took us was about as exciting as it got.


no prizes for guessing what this place is


And we were okay with that. I read an article recently about allowing ourselves to be bored to stimulate our own creativity, and when I saw what my girls did during their down time, it made perfect sense to me. They’d wake in the morning and often make a beeline for their favorite nook in the house, the craft corner, and there, they would spend many hours (yup, not minutes, hours!) coloring, drawing, cutting, gluing, and shaping something.





Their creations didn’t always make sense, but who needed a masterpiece when I had two little girls who found joy and even harmony in creating something with their hands? They’d sit together and compare their creations, “See this Little Miss?” “Oooh...that’s beautiful. I really like it!” Sometimes, my three-year-old’s piece would warrant a query, “What is it, Pickle?”


And she’d answer, a horse or a flower or a snowman or something that looks nothing like what she’s making, but who cares? She’s proud of it, and we’re thrilled that the girls have their own nook that doesn’t involve elbowing our sides for space. Everyone was (mostly) peacefully engaged in their task at hand, sometimes singing to the radio, sometimes humming to fill the silence. And I could either relax myself (Whoa! I know, right?) or work on my tasks around the house without someone vying for my attention.

It was a wonderful thing.

Apparently, we didn’t need to be running from one scheduled activity to another just to pass the time. Huh. Who knew?

That’s not to say we did nothing at all during the break.

We celebrated My Guy’s birthday with his favorite cake that the girls insisted we make at 7:30 in the morning while their daddy slept in, and because it was a chilly rainy day, a movie, “Big Hero Six”, which we’d watched and loved on opening day last year.

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this didn’t last very long…

We had friends who visited from Chicago one weekend so we did leave our house to do some sightseeing ourselves. (Because who doesn’t love a sunset view?)

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On New Year’s Eve we drove to Houston to satisfy my craving for Malaysian food. Yes, the Chinese in me didn’t think twice about traveling three hours each way just to eat, but luckily we also had friends there with whom we could meet, making the day trip seem a little less crazy. They were college friends from Malaysia I haven’t seen in 20 years, but when our kids met one another for the first time, they got along so well together that you’d think it was their reunion.

IMG_9541 Roadtrip!

Little Miss finished book one of the Harry Potter series.


Thanks to My Guy, she also learned to ride a bike.



Pickle started to be more conscious of pronouncing her “r” sounds; instead of “wunning”, she’s remembering to say “running” except she clenches her teeth and makes so much effort to produce the proper “r” that it sounds like she’s growling the word instead. Now, her attempts to correct herself are met with giggles, but this sweet girl of ours just laughs along with us.

Speaking of running, thanks to the highly engaging Serial podcast, I managed several longer distance sessions around my neighborhood myself (eight, nine, ten miles), which felt like an accomplishment since I’d been struggling with the hills in the area for a long time. I guess when we’re immersed in a different reality in our head, we don’t really think about the incline. That also means we don’t get to psych ourselves out of it either, which, I’m certain, is the ticket. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy.


Like how I’d convinced myself for years that I’d fall out of my headstand and break a bone during yoga (when in fact I could do that simply by walking down the stairs with my two-year-old). Inspired by my hill running, I finally let go of the wall to get into my headstand, and voila, I didn’t fall!

I struggled to let go of my need for safety for years, never really trusting myself to hold myself up. I needed the teacher next to me or the wall before I’d get into the pose. I’m clearly not the risk taker in the family. Maybe it’s the energy of the new year plus the thrill of not feeling like dying as I slowly climb uphill, but I found the courage to let go of my inhibitions and kicked up slowly without any help or safety net at last.

And there I stood, on my head, exhilarated.



Oddly, it makes me excited for 2015. Learning to recognize and honor our need to unwind and consequently making space for our imagination, as well as achieving small goals with incremental progress - sometimes the little things do add up don’t they? At least I hope they do.