Last fall, my partner and I and another couple travelled to Vermont to visit my partner’s brother and girlfriend, who were attending comic book school together (yes this is a thing) in a small town called White River Junction.
Road trips for me, in the past, had only been undertaken with my close girlfriends. I had never been on a long road trip with a partner and another couple before. So, in my mind, road trips were a chance to have deep, intense discussions about love, life, periods, politics, environmental doomsday predictions, basically a non-stop chat fest interrupted by “ooo look at that house!” or “ooo look at THAT house!” or “pass the pretzels” or “I have to pee AGAIN” (do your friends have the bladders of 75 year olds like mine do? )
So, it was to my surprise, and deep anxiety-provocation when this car ride with my partner was mostly spent in silence, observing the landscape, napping, and sometimes breifly making observations about architecture or types of trees, while listening to a well curated music selection.
And while everyone else seemed to be having a nice, relaxing time, with each mile that passed in relative silence my anxiety levels ramped up to high volume. “OMG YOU’RE SO BORING!” My mind screamed! “Can’t you think of ANYTHING TO SAY?! You’re not connecting with your partner! You aren’t meant to be! These people don’t like you! This is the trip where you and your partner break up because you find out you have nothing in common! THIS IS IT!”
By the time we reached his brother’s house, I felt so boring and uninteresting and disconnected that I could barely stand being around anyone, even though I loved his brother and his partner and had been excited to hear about their lives and explore their town.
After spending what could have been a delightful dinner and after-dinner hang feeling awkward and teenager-like, I had to have some real-talk with my boyfriend that night about my deep and long-standing anxiety about being boring, not being funny or interesting and therefore not loveable, and how that anxiety was being hella-triggered because of the quiet car ride.
He had no idea that I was feeling that way, and said that for him (being a geographer), long car rides were a great, meditative time to really observe and enjoy the changing landscape, to free your mind of thought or worries or concerns and just be present to the act of moving though shifting landscapes of human design and natural beauty. This was a very different approach and perspective than what I had expected and experienced car rides to be. But it made sense to me, and hearing his perspective made me feel better.
Also, he gave me some great advice that I needed to hear. He said “Natalie, if we’re going to be together for a long time, we’re not always going to have deep and interesting things to say to each other, and that’s ok. You’re going to have to get used to silence sometimes, because if I feel pressure to always be “interesting” for you, it’s going to be a pretty stressful thing. I don’t expect you to entertain me or to always be interesting, and you shouldn’t expect it from yourself either. Sometimes you’re boring, sometimes I’m boring, sometimes life is boring! IT’S OK TO BE BORING!” and also “if you want to be with me, you’re going to have to get used to silence sometimes. Silence doesn’t always mean something is wrong”.
Maybe Uma Thurman said it best:
Phewph! Did I ever need to hear those words! Maybe it was because I never found myself “pretty enough” (does anyone?) and relied on my “sparkling personality” to be what drew people to me, or maybe it was losing my father to cancer at a young age and wanting to make “every moment count”; however this seed of anxiety around being “boring” was planted, I was giving it wayyyyy to much power to blossom into some monsterous flower that was taking away my ability to just “chill”, to “be boring”. My concepts of “being boring” in fact were really just “being human”, allowing conversation to flow or not flow, enjoying silence when silence was there to be enjoyed, and not having to “prove” I was loveable by being the life of the party (or the car ride) at all times.
Now, sometimes this anxiety seed of “being boring” is being planted and watered from within, like mine is/was, and sometimes it is being watered from somewhere/someone else. We may find ourselves with a partner or a friendship group or a family that doesn’t always make us feel interesting or worth listening to. We may not have others around us that ask us questions about ourselves, our days, our passions or our feelings, and if we experience this external lack of interest long enough, we truly start to believe we have nothing to say or add, that our interests are stupid, that our jokes aren’t funny, and that our feelings don’t matter. If this sounds like you, I highly recommend mixing up your social habits, whether in person or online, to find folks who share or can engage in your passions, your jokes, your fashion-sense, your what-have-yous, to remind yourself that you are not the only weirdo out there, and that YOU, YES YOU! ARE INTERESTING! (sometimes!)
On the flip side of that, I highly recommend getting comfortable with being boring, sometimes. This doesn’t mean resorting to apathy and binge watch Netflix all day every day and disengaging from the world entirely (though maybe sometimes that is your form of self care, in which case, Netflix away!). What it DOES mean is allowing yourself to forgive yourself if you don’t always have something interesting to say or to add, you don’t always have the perfect joke on hand, the perfect words of advice to give that are going to solve everyone’s problems in an instant, or you don’t have the most interesting story from your week to share (didn’t solve climate change or shake hands with Lena Dunham or run a 25k marathon this week? BOR-RING!)
There is also a way to REVEL in boring shit. Sometimes I LOVE doing boring things that are not considered cool, interesting, radical, intellectually stimulating, etc. I’m learning how to recognize that I actually really ENJOY doing boring shit sometimes, and it takes away my fears of being boring. For example, I LOVE deep cleaning the fridge. I JUST LOVE IT. I’m not going to Facebook about it, but I do it more regularly than you’d expect. Boring as shit to some, absolutely fucking satisfying to me.
Also, ONE MORE important thing to remember when feeling boring is:
NONE OF US ARE AS BUSY/INTERESTING AS WE LOOK ON FACEBOOK/INSTAGRAM. FOR REALZZZZZZ. -I can’t tell you how many times people have messaged me with a cool thing to do or apply to or to ask to hang out and they add “but you probably are super busy”, and I’m like “I just took a bath in the middle of the afternoon and now am eating peanut butter off a spoon after trying unsuccessfully to do yoga at home for more than 10 minutes…I have time for you”. There was this Australian model recently who changed her entire instagram captions to showcase how her whole account was a lie and that she was secretly miserable in real life. Way to go Essena O’Neil. I bet she’s as boring as the rest of us on the regular. Don’t take social media as your “am I interesting enough?” scale.
Summary: Being “interesting” all the time is not a pre-requisite for being loveable. We are all boring sometimes. No one is infinitely interesting, but you ARE infinitely loveable.
Have your own tips about how to combat anxiety around being boring? Share below or email theliferescriptedacademy @gmail.com
HAVE A BORING DAY! XO