This is the letter in electronic form [aka, e-mail] I just sent to the fine folks at WNYC’s New Tech City…
Hi Bored & Brilliant Folks,
Thank you so much to you all and Nina Katchadourian for the amazing morning I’ve had. I listened to the [Bored and Brilliant] podcast first thing, did my farm chores and then let myself have the next couple of hours to tackle the Dream Home project.
First, watching water boil is awesome! I’m a tea drinker, and I actually have a clear glass tea kettle. I sat on the floor with the dog and watched the water boil. The process was beautiful. I could see different textures in the water closest to the flame, heavy and moving, which then swirled upward. I found myself thinking of cauldrons and then the universe and galaxies of stars as pinpoint bubbles formed and exploded toward the surface of the water. The dog was bored and grumbly, and I was in awe. Such beauty, so easy to overlook. So, that exercise alone would have been worth it.
Mug of ginger tea in hand, I emptied the contents of my wallet on the kitchen table, and well, maybe it’s time for me to let go of a few things and clean out my wallet!
It was so fun to start to play. To really PLAY! So here’s my house. This feels like a pretty prime time to do this exercise. I’m amidst a big life transformation, and trying to figure out if I sell the farm (literally) or not. So, thanks for helping me frame what I want with my life – all while being bored.
This is my modern, two room peri-urban lodge. It’s a straightforward, two-room house, big windows on the sides. One main room has the kitchen and living space. There’s a tiny bedroom and creative space in the back. A tiny garage. I like a little elevation, so there’s a tower with a small room on top. Can you see the cozy wingback chair, blanket and book? I never thought I’d want one, but my sparkling blue coffee-loyalty card made an excellent swimming pool, next to an outdoor shower (which I have always wanted). My house is surrounded by coniferous receipt trees, and feels secluded and private, but it’s not too far away from life and the city – you just have the climb the cash and coin driveway to get there (in retrospect, a metaphor, no?). Behind the garage there’s a path through the trees to some hills and the barn. You know, outdoorsy and natural space.
Oh, and this dream house would be in a perfect climate. Snowy and wintery, and perfectly crisp warm days in the summer. I could be anywhere.
Thank you for this challenge, and for all of Bored and Brilliant.
Really, thank you.
OK, if you are totally confused, you should be. There is nothing about this e-mail that makes sense. [Actually, I would love to know what you thought as you read that! Comments welcome!] A few weeks back the evening NPR airwaves brought news of the Bored and Brilliant Project launched by WNYC’s New Tech City. I think they caught me with the tagline (paraphrased) “Would you like to use your smart phone less and be more creative?” That also summarizes their project: We don’t give ourselves the time to be bored anymore. Not only is there so much to see and do in this world, but we have these “smart”phones that are so easy to pull out and fondle during the slightest of downtimes…or even really important times when we should be paying attention. And, that our brains need that bored, empty, wandering time to be creative. We know this, but there is some awesome data and research in the podcasts. Check them out.
Between the Quest2015 and trying to re-orient life, my mind is trying to work toward some sort of balance. Creative balance, life balance. A bit of tethering, quieting, yoking, figuring. B&B caught my attention, but time. So I signed up. I downloaded the little app that keeps track of your phone usage (today I have picked me phone up 80 times, and used it for 25 minutes, talk about mindless fumbling) which taught me that I don’t use my phone for content, I use it for quick checking. And then I completed all six challenges this week:
- Keep it in your pocket
- Photo free day (really, I did it!)
- Delete that app (Facebook!)
- Take a fauxcation (without the cool away message)
- One small observation (wild turkey gliding)
- Dream House! (you’re here)
What have I learned? I don’t always use my phone to fill time, but I use it to connect (or to see if people are trying to connect with me). I can live without Facebook. I actually use my phone as a phone (imagine that!) and as an iPod. I do depend on my phone as a tiny knowledge box (how to spell that, what’s the temperature, what’s the time, when does my parking expire, ok…and what’s on Instagram)…I’m not sure if my usage will go down, but my phone using mindfulness is UP!
But here’s to the good stuff. Today’s challenge was to 1) watch water boil (you know, to bring on the boredom and get your brain flowing) then 2) empty the contents of your wallet and 3) build your dream home out of the contents. (Then, you have permission to use your phone to take a photo and submit it!)
This was fun, pure fun. When I wrote my to-do list last night, it did not include “dedicate 2 hours to watching water boil and building a house on your kitchen table”. But I woke up, listened to the podcast and knew this would be part of my day. It was so fun to be focused, no required outcomes, no pressure, just futz. No time limit, just meandering deliciousness.
First, the methodical emptying of the wallet. The yellow wallet that’s over two years old and distinctly dirty. (Action step, maybe it’s time for a new wallet.) Credit cards in a row. Gift cards in a row. ID’s in a column. Credit slips for the used clothes shop and Italian deli in a pile. Rarely used rewards cards in a pile (who names a grocery store Piggly Wiggly? AutoZone. CVS. Do I need these? Markers of my rural life). Cash. (Wait, cash? That never happens. Well, rarely. That’s fun). Gas receipts. Dinner receipts from my recent work trip. Mini flashlight. A pile for the important stuff: library card, insurance cards, REI membership. Checkbook (will make an excellent roof). Then the mementos, where the sentimentalist in me lurks, in the side pockets: the claim check for the alterations to my wedding dress, the receipt from the vineyard where I proposed, my membership card to the Bitters Club at Nelsen’s Hall Bitters Pub & Restaurant, a tiny, red envelope hand-stamped and embossed by my mom. And two keys. I have no idea what these keys are for. The things we carry, eh?
With my building materials neatly organized in front, I got to work. Collapse. Collapse. Collapse. Credit cards are not playing cards, and construction was hard. Persistence won out, and I ended up with a beautiful chalet. That’s what I am calling her. A relaxing, small, bright and sunny, glass-window-rich little house. I have the perfect vision of what it would be in real life, and I love it. My mind was primary architect to a beautiful narrative rising along with the house. It was quiet and clear in my head space, focus and diligence and happiness were doing a little dance.
I wasn’t sure when I was done. But there came a point when the last wallet supplies were nailed in place, and I got hungry. I took my required pictures, knocking the outdoor shower and tower over in the process, then the outbuildings in the hills, but quickly rebuilt. I loved my new little village for one, but it was also just as easy to deconstruct, declutter (my wallet is a little lighter now, but not much), re-fill and move on with my day. Of course, after writing to the New Tech City folks.
I felt joyful. Clear headed. Happy. Light. I took that spirit into the remainder of the sunny day. Enjoyed my hike, phone calls with friends, looking forward to sitting down right here. There is something special about setting time aside to just be. No goals, no pressure, nothing other than the act of creating and clearing space, just to see what comes out.
Maybe the question is: How to hold that creative space? How to practice the construction skills to build it every day, out of the things we have with us? No special tools required. How to cultivate it without the should, without the goal of something good or presentable? I don’t have the answers, but I do know that the path ahead includes more bored, and hopefully some opening for brilliance.
P.S. I did end up buying a new wallet too. Sometimes fresh eyes are good for helping us figure out what to keep, what to salvage, and what to replace.