What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I knew this woman once, in a writing workshop — we were all in our twenties, so I can't bring myself to call her a girl but maybe "girlish" is an apt descriptor all on its own. She was very sweet and had a childlike, high-pitched voice. She wrote 20-page stories about women getting together and doing nice things, everyone having a lovely time.
There was no conflict. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. And no one in our class knew quite what to do with her or her fiction.
In hindsight, I should have at least valued more highly that reading her stories never raised my blood pressure as happened every single time the beardo dude handed out a story for critique. But at the time, I just silently echoed the feeling that everyone else seemed to have, too: No one wants to read 20 pages without conflict.
The emphasis on conflict as the central hinge of plot is pretty common. While there are narrative types that don't depend on it (I think everyone should read this fantastic piece on kishōtenketsu), mainstream American entertainment seems especially in love with the idea that a story without angry struggle is boring. It's all reality TV and tabloids — and, I mean, people call Internet headlines clickbait, but people click.
Even home makeover shows (yes, I have a problem and that problem is that I can't stop watching Love It or List It on Netflix) focus on the supposed drama of home renovation. And I'm not talking about the discovery of issues hidden in old basements — I mean the hidden camera angles while homeowners have whispered discussions about how betrayed they feel by the designer.
I'll be honest: I'd be happier to watch an hour (minus commercials) of paint drying as long as that paint was part of transforming a house from drab to fab or whatever marketing language got used. I'd watch two hours of some kind of panel of designers talking about the importance of room accessories and whether or not the items have to be practical, but that one might just be me. (Because milk jugs. So many antique milk jugs.)
The manufactured drama of everything being the worst of all time ever all the time is exhausting. Perhaps it's related to compassion fatigue. Maybe the Internet has just made us all burnout cynics. Whatever the case, I am happy at this age to own the boring parts of my life.
I love boring things, the stuff we do as part of our days without even thinking. It's the stuff we're good at — the parts of being responsible for ourselves (or others) that aren't even worth a humblebrag because they're so mundane.
On the one hand, I live in Florida. The minute I leave my house, whatever I'm wearing is wrinkled again anyway. There is zero practical reason for me to iron my clothes, which aren't generally the kinds of things that need ironing anyway.
On the other hand, this is a craft chore that, for me, is almost meditatively soothing. Though I have skipped ironing my seams while sewing or quilting in the past, I am kind of die hard about it now — pressing a seam open is good practice. I never thought I'd feel this way about ironing, but we learn new things about ourselves every day, right? At least on a good day.
Putting gas in my car
I have never run out of gas (though I apparently can't type that with a straight face). And I realize that saying this is, if you are the superstitious type, is just inviting something to happen that leaves me walking down the side of the road with a red gas can in my hand.
But I will be damned if my tank gets below a quarter-full mark and that was true when I was scrounging nickels out of my first car's ashtray so that I could scrape up a couple of bucks, too.
Feeding my pets
My ability to keep myself fed on a regular schedule is very Reply Hazy with a side of Ask Again Later. But my pets — they get the good stuff. My old man cat (Heph is 16 now and he is the first pet I got as an adult) is particularly a fiend for scrambled eggs, and sometimes I'll make eggs for me just so I can share them with him.
This boring task has always been accomplished through pragmatism: When I didn't think I had a stable enough life to have a pet, I didn't have a pet and once I became a pet owner, I made them a priority.
Waking up before the alarm
It doesn't happen when it's raining because the soporific effects are intense. But as much as I love a late night spent with friends (people or, metaphorically speaking, a favorite book), waking up before my alarm goes off and forces me awake is pretty high up on my list of life's little pleasures. I have one of those natural light alarm clocks and I still haven't plugged it in—mostly because I really like that five minutes where I can huddle under the covers while everyone else (husband and dog and cats) is asleep.
Usually I think about shoes.
This is only four things and everyone knows you're supposed to use odd numbers on these lists. But there would always be more items to list anyway: Going to the eye doctor (I look forward to it every year), filing our taxes, Ed falling asleep in the middle of painting miniatures while I sew. And boring things are personal anyway—any number of things I think are boring might be a huge source of anxiety for someone else.
I don't really believe in the idealized image of a woman who has everything — every facet of her life —all neat and tidy and together. I mean, maybe that person exists? But I tend to think that even people who look super together on the surface have their issues. Perhaps it's because I have never met, not in any place around the world that I have been, a perfect individual. I think it's fine to freak out about things and also be really good at other things, boring things, things that no one ever thinks to mention because they are foundational things. We contain multitudes and all that.
The world may still not be ready for 20-page stories where women simply sit and have a delightful time. But today, I want to know: What's your boring thing? What are you good at that you don't even think about because it's so automatic? Chances are good, it's not the same stuff that other people are good at, so let's celebrate it just a little bit.