Back in high school, my junior year (I think) I sat through a common sort of boredom: Reading an uninteresting play with assigned read-aloud parts. We took our turns in the silent agreement of force, reading without inflection. I read for a minor character, the mother of a mentally challenged son, chased by police with guns (unless memory fails me).
While following along for my few lines, slogging through a boring play with equally boring monotone, I began questioning our silent agreement. So, the play is boring, we have no choice. Who started this agreement? Why? Because enthusiasm, even for something bad, isn’t cool.
I follow enough along now for keeping tabs, 7 paragraphs of dialogue from my next line. My heart flutters nervous at the new thoughts, tapping the breaks. Wait a minute, brain, what if they make fun? But I’m so bored!
Six paragraphs away.
No, stop, honor the agreement, be cool. No, I’m bored. You’re not even a good actress. They’ll make fun of you. So, I’ll make it over-the-top on purpose. This play doesn’t deserve serious acting anyway. Oh god, you’re going to do this, aren’t you? I’m pretty sure, and it’s down south, I can manage a cheesy Southern accent for a cheesy line. I can’t handle another line in monotone.
I recall noting class clowns in my past. A few earned laughs purely for breaking the boredom.
It’s a drama. A sucky drama.
Go for the comedy. Deep breath, heart panicking.
And I completely forget my line, sorry! Hah! All I know is my character was yelling at the sheriff, read by Ricky, and I did it with an over-dramatic Southern delivery. People near me jumped awake and stared.
Ricky was great, he read his lines very reactionary. “I know! I know!” The way you might respond when somebody suddenly yells a joke at you. The giggles escaped all over. I remember the dialogue was fond of every character having a doubled phrase habit during “emotional” scenes.
I read a few more bursts of lines the same way and nearly everyone picked up the practice around me. I remember someone asking me why I did it, someone without lines, while wearing a judgemental look for breaking the monotony agreement.
I shrugged. “I was bored. Weren’t you bored?” She never responded.
Though I didn’t like the teachers making us stand up front and read our lines from that point forward (the spontaneous shock-wave of willing and fun participation excited them, so I forgive that decision), days of monotony for everyone became entertaining fun for at least half the class. I received a best supporting actress award markered on a styrofoam cup, hah! I won the styrofoam awards for best supporting actress!
A few days ago, while working on freewrites outside, I reflected on life and meditation. The breeze kept forcing my journal back. After pushing back several times, I let it turn the pages and read where it landed. This story. Insight flashed across unconnected neurons.
I frequently work with what I must, making the best of it. However, not actively as a life philosophy. Never as vibrant as I attacked monotonous reading that day. I realized just how readily we accept monotony in our lives, living by some silent agreement. If we must, we do so grudgingly and with as much detachment as possible. Afraid others will perceive us as any number of negative things, we hand in our colours and pick up the monotony uniform.
If I just finish this last chore, I can finally work on what I want. Yet, often, after chores are complete, we lack energy for our joys. We attempt conserving further energy, continuing in a cycle of bleeding vibrancy down the sewer of monotony.
Now, don’t get me wrong, doing the dishes still sucks. However, eventually, the dishes call. No really, do them, unless you like free housing for the local insect community and their fungi friends. Why let such necessities steal as much joy as possible then? I’ve made a renewed commitment for mindfulness when dragging my feet. If I notice monotony, I shoot it down with brainstormed ideas on coloring all over it.
When I do dishes, I exercise and/or sing. If I feel more quiet I mentally work on a project of some sort, play a game in my brain.
In practice with my primary goal (writing), I often dragged my feet on practice until recently. My head overflows with story ideas, pulling me in a hundred different directions from several different characters and worlds. When I sit down and write, I quickly grow frustrated over my lack of experience. It’s like an epic movie in my head, severely restricted by a pitiful budget.
I let that entirely stop or extremely slow my pace for over a decade. I began loving and missing regular storytelling, but dreading and avoiding writing. With a little brainstorming and mental reframing, I’m taking back the fun. In order to write stories, I must write. In order to share them successfully, I must edit.
Rather than look at my stories as frustrating failures, I’ve been reframing the entire process. I now watch them grow, fed by my attention and hard work, rather than crying about losing my baby and failing as a parent. Sometimes my story needs grounding and lectures, but those beautiful moments shine back. The whole process brings renewed energy back in. I also feel more confident and alive.
I feel more free breaking monotony. So you HAVE to do something? Why just use the grey crayon? There’s a whole box full of colour. Personalize that PITA bar. Obviously, I imagine some rows of monotony resist breaking and colour. In this case, I brainstorm harder and reframe. Some attempts prove more successful than others. Just keep trying and resist the urge, when you MUST do or accept something, to flush the rest of that song down the toilet. You give the negative more time and energy than it deserves that way.
Finally, I’m not advocating acceptance with a smile for atrocities, injustice, abuses, and more. I’m advocating a reframe and positive channeling for when no other option exists (or at least no viable option). If you can’t do anything about it, break the monotony and make the best of it, even if just in little ways. Editing nightmares? I don’t know, pretend alien space invaders infiltrated your story and the only way to save planet earth is by identifying and shooting them down. You can even make the little Pew! Pew! as you delete words, go on.
So someone gives you a funny look, heck, maybe they’ll laugh, their day brightened. Maybe they’ll ask why you’re crazy, then join in when they see the light. Or maybe they’ll stay in gray monotony and give you side-eye. If you’re not hurting someone (other than imaginary space invaders), why sign the monotony contract?
What do you think? Any recurring monotony in your life looking for a broken face? I’ll brainstorm with you! Got stories to share about when you made the best of a monotonous, or downright awful situation? Any other feedback? Share in comments!