I’m bored: there’s nothing to do

Parents, especially those of the Baby Boom generation, you’ve probably heard this refrain countless times: I’m bored, there’s nothing to do. My kids uttered those words so often when they were growing up that I started to think there was a button attached to their bodies somewhere, requiring that they pressed it at certain times. Those times usually seemed to be when I would need them to be the best little self-entertainers they could be. As often as they would frustrate me with those words, I would in as many times say, “Go to your room, you have all kinds of contraptions to keep you busy.” Whenever I would say that, I would, of course, mentally compare their materially-blessed existence to mine when I was their age. I had not even a fraction of the wonderful toys and electronic gadgets their mom and I had showered on them.

Bored is defined as being weary and restless. Generally, a person who’s bored hasn’t been able to find sufficient stimulation in their surroundings. That begs the question: Is it the environment or the reaction to the surrounding? How many times have you heard it said that bored people are usually quite boring themselves? Returning to my children when they were growing up, I would have to admit, in retrospect, that their mom and I probably could have done a better job of stimulating their imaginative skills. Have you noticed how in our culture, showering the human animal with stuff seems to be the norm? It has become normal for us to seek stimulation in a nicely wrapped package, rather than using the God-given abilities that we were given.

I can clearly recall growing up in rural cross County Arkansas. As I’ve written and discussed before, we would have been dirt poor, except for the fact that we were so poor we couldn’t even afford dirt. My cousins and I were excited to see the Sears-Roebuck catalogue come in the mail. The models, smiling in fresh, new clothing; the colorful presentations of toys; and just the crispness of the pages was a sight for our poor, sore eyes to see. As we perused the pages, we painted pictures in our minds of what so many of the items on those pages would look like under the tree on December 25th. These mental pictures began to fade as we grew older, because we became more aware of the improbability of ever having such finery under our tree. But, before we were buffeted by reality, as we grew older, our imaginations were robust in their ability to conceive mentally what experiencing ownership of a certain toy might feel like. The fact that we didn’t have it, didn’t matter. Oftentimes, we would try to manufacture a toy, for which we had a strong affinity, using whatever materials we could scrape up. Now, how’s that for imagination and creativity? I can recall very few times when we would cry out the phrase, “I’m bored.” Boredom rarely, if ever, graced us. Looking back, I think we were just experts at taking the lemons life brought our way and making whatever kind of drink we desired.

As I’ve gotten older, I find the refrain, “I’m bored,” is used by folks who are much older. Have you heard of the fellow, who retired and soon after died from boredom—at least that’s what everybody said happened ? No one knew of any health issues. It just seems he died from boredom. I remember, three years ago, when I retired, one of the main questions folks would ask me was, “What are you going to do?” This question usually followed an expository on, “I’ve been working at this job for so many years. I don’t know what I’d do with myself.” Obviously, this type response indicated that far too many years had been dedicated to the job, with little time spent developing self. This seems the case, whatever the age. If time isn’t invested in thinking, dreaming and imagining a reality beyond the immediate physical environment, boredom has a petri dish enriched with nutrients in which to grow.

As I look over my life, three score and six, I find many reasons to thank God. One is that I’ve suffered little from boredom. From early childhood to the fast-approaching years of ancient-hood, I’ve been blessed with a rich imagination. That’s not to say I’ve always been good at birthing my thoughts to assembling better mousetraps, I’ve just been blessed with the ability to ward off the curse of boredom. I’ve been retired now for three years, and I’m not bored yet. There’s a question retired folks are often asked: What do you do with yourself? My response is always the same: “Whatever I want…”

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Thoughts while waiting to see my oncologist

It’s January 10, 2017. I’m sitting in a patient waiting room of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Myeloma Institute. A patient care technician just took my vital signs. This is always done prior to my receiving a visit from Dr. Morgan, the director of the institute, who is also my oncologist. The place is busy this morning. I’m having to wait a little more than normal; however, that’s no problem. If it weren’t for the physicians, researchers and staff of the Myeloma Institute, I wouldn’t be here this morning. It’s their care, by the grace of God, that has gotten me through the last (almost) seventeen years. So what, I must wait a bit more than usual…small price to pay.

The waiting has caused me to occupy my mind with several apps on my iPhone, along with looking out of the window. Although this is the middle of January, it’s a rather warm day. The temperature is around 62 degrees. The skies are gray and the wind is high. I’m on the eight floor of the building in which the institute is housed high above the tree line. I’m looking north, away from the UAMS campus. The topography, extending out from the campus, is inclined upwards to almost eye level at the point of the horizon. In my view, I see the steeple of a church poking its holy meaning into the sky. My faith tells me that it’s meaning is filled with hope; hope for healing and salvation. Thoughts of healing and hope are richly occupying all corners of my mind at this moment. I’m here to finish up the staging activities that are preambles to my beginning treatments for my relapsed Multiple Myeloma. Yeah, I’ve enjoyed a good ride. I’m remembering the prayer I made to God shortly after I received my initial diagnosis. It went something like this, “Father, please let me survive to see my children grow into adulthood.” At the time, my youngest was nine, the middle child was thirteen, and the oldest was twenty-two. As I look back, I’m convinced that the prayer was a bit selfish; however, God was graceful enough to grant it to me. Thank God, He’s who He is, because with the things I’ve done, I probably wouldn’t have taken the request under consideration-had I been God.

I’ve told myself countless times that I’m not surprised, since Dr. Morgan gave me the news last month that I was experiencing relapse of my Myeloma. After all, there’s no cure for this wretched stuff. There are patients who are experiencing remission much longer than I, but the chances are always good, that if you live long enough, the disease will return. There was a time when I probably would have found myself debating the decision as to whether I would undergo treatment for my relapsed condition. The toll taken on my body seventeen years ago, isn’t something I would wish on any human being. The chemotherapy, other various drugs, and the pièce de résistance tandem stem cell transplants put me into remission quickly, but not without a good degree of agony. Advances in treatment over the last sixteen years have convinced me that treatment for relapse won’t be near as agonizing. I won’t even have to take chemotherapy this time around. Instead, I’ll be administered a drug designed to boost my immune system, giving it the ability to fight the Myeloma cells. It’s been an easy decision. God has presented me with the opportunity to have “cutting-edge” treatment in both cases where the disease has ramped up its attack.

There’s nothing like suffering from a chronic health condition to make you appreciate the gift of life. Being accompanied by cancer in my daily walk has brought me into a greater understanding of what others with chronic health conditions contend with daily. Many live agonizing lives, suffering through excruciating pain twenty-four/seven. Diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Muscular Dystrophy, and any number of muscular degenerative ailments that attack the vessel in which they reside. I find myself blessed, since I don’t suffer the agony of constant pain.

I’ve chosen not to petition God for x-number of years this time around; although, I have as strong a reason to do so. He’s blessed me with four grandchildren, ages five months to twenty-two years and a great grandchild, one year old. The past seventeen years have fueled my faith in ways that probably wouldn’t have happened, if I had not lived all these years. At the time, I was diagnosed, patients with Multiple Myeloma were dying within three to five years of diagnosis. I missed many patients/fellow sufferers, who were diagnosed around the same time as I. They would sit in the waiting room with me for treatment; then, at some point I would see them no longer. Now, my prayer is, “God thank you for all that you’ve done for me. I pray for healing (long-term remission at least); however, it’s your will that must be done. It wasn’t easy reaching this point…

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Does time grow wings at a point?

Have you ever awakened one morning and realized that time has sped up? Well, at least it seemed to have done so. If this hasn’t happened to you, I would venture to say that you haven’t lived long enough. I can bet you that if you just keep living, this critical moment will arrive. We all know that time doesn’t speed up; there have been twenty-four hours in each day, and three-hundred sixty-five days in each year since I’ve been around. Oh, don’t forget the .25 day in each year that accumulates to a full day every four years.

Time has had its peddle-to-the-meddle moment for me. When did it happen? I can’t say exactly, because there has been a mixture of circumstances to which I could probably point. Two of these altering factors have been a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma seventeen years ago, and my achieving the age of sixty-six last year. Most folks I talk with about the topic of time shifting into high gear, attribute the imaginary phenomenon to them looking in the mirror one morning and realizing, “I’m old.” It seems reaching a certain chronological point on the age scale, or being saddled with a serious chronic illness can cause you to think, “I have far less time left than I’ve lived.” It’s at that point that time becomes of much more value. You are prone to think about all the things you haven’t done and the shortened amount of time you have left to accomplish them.

Just what are some of those things you might not have done? This question can generate images of a challenging bucket list, chalked with things you probably wouldn’t have done anyway, except for the threat of imminent transference to the next plain of existence, a.k.a., death. But let’s not go there. Let’s operate more down to earth. What about a list of things that are much more achievable, and possibly just as challenging as climbing Mount Everest? Have you got some relationships with family and friends that have been limping along for years, even worse -completely broken? Don’t you think it would be great to leave this life with all relationships of value to you in perfect working order, or at least working better than they are now. What about your spiritual life? If you have a head knowledge of your creator (in my case the Triune God of Christianity), don’t you want to feel more connected, more in line with how God wants you to operate? My faith heritage tells me that meeting your maker face to face will be a harrowing experience if you haven’t done your best at keeping His commandments on this side. If you think on it for a little while, you’ll discover a host of other down to earth, relatively easy items you can put on your more achievable bucket list. These things have value and you just might feel like a better human being for accomplishing most if not all of them.

The late Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN, the Catholic Television Network, was known to believe that time is our greatest gift from God. While watching one of her YouTube videos, I heard her say that. I was a bit confused at first because I had always thought that life was the greatest gift from God; however, I considered the fact that all we experience is encased in this thing called time. Without the gift of time God gave us when He stepped out of eternity to create all that we see and don’t, life would have no framework for operating. That’s a bit too deep for me; I’ll leave that alone. I think you know what I’m trying to say. The bottom line is that I think we’re all wired to appreciate the importance of time. Unfortunately, most of us don’t develop a sincere appreciation for it, some existential understanding of it, until we feel the clock winding down. It’s at that point that time grows wings, takes flight, and we are challenged in our efforts to keep up with it. The hard truth is time marches on at the pace it always has, we just have less of it to do what we feel we need, and want to do.

Here are some hard truths young folks could benefit from: They don’t have as much time as they think they have. They will get old quicker than they think they will. They may not live to a ripe old age. If they do get old, their bodies might be riddled with sickness. There are many more truths I could list; however, I’ll close the list with this one: James 4:14, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Time…maybe we should treat it like the most valuable emerald it is, because it just might grow wings some day?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.