What are you afraid of?

If you ask me what I’m scared of in life, I’ll tell you things like financial insecurity, poisonous snakes, and losing loved ones. Pretty typical.

However, if you look at my behavior, the thing I work hardest to avoid is boredom.

Until we had reliable books on our tiny pocket computers, I always had a book or two with me. I still pack and buy books when I travel. I can’t read in cars, so I always have a knitting project or two to fidget with/work on when I’m the passenger. I listen to audiobooks while I exercise, do household chores, sew, assemble puzzles, or play video games.

Being alone with my thoughts is so deeply worrisome to me that I have all of these defenses against that state. But guess what needs to happen for us to fall asleep. Yeah. Boredom.

I have an Oura ring as a fitness tracker. It’s pretty nifty and I get all the data I’m looking for. The most surprising outcome is that I can now see how long it actually takes me to fall asleep. Which most nights is about 15-20 minutes after I give up on all the things that I’m doing because I hate being bored. 20 minutes isn’t so bad. But of course, because I’m not great at judging the passage of time, subjectively it might be hours.

The other thing that we need boredom for is ✨creativity✨. I’m one of those people who has great luck sparking ideas off conversations with other people, and it’s all fizzy and interesting, and amazingly fun. But for me to work out a reasoned argument, a progression, something other than an ephemeral overlapping conversation, I need quiet alone time. I need to be fallow and not working on much else. I need the silence of trees in winter.

An embroidered tree, empty of leaves and blossoms, just bare brown branches.

As a culture, we’ve only recently started talking about rest as a virtue, and most of the time, we’ve backed into it as a way to be more productive, which is… not exactly the point. But I have been lucky enough to get some time that I don’t need to be doing anything else. I can feel the buds starting to emerge from dormancy.

The tree is now covered with tiny embroidered buds in various colors of pink.

I’m hoping to set up the first half of my year in a way that allows me some down time, but also gives me the light and warmth that I need to flourish. What exists on the other side of that fearsome idleness may not be boredom, but rejuvenation.

The final embroidered piece, a tree in spring blossom, complete with flowers, grass, buds, abundance, sequins, beads, and tulle. It is a celebration.

Heidi Waterhouse

Heidi is a transformation advocate, devops nerd, and sticker fan. She spends a lot of time talking and writing about things you only thought you understood, and how they are connected. She also has an unhealthy fascination with near-disasters of the technical variety.

Upcoming appearances

Velocity Berlin
Minneapolis DevOps Meetup
DeliveryConf