When I was growing up in small-town Wisconsin in the '60s and '70s, my mom had a stock reply for whenever I would whine to her about being sooooooo bored, which was fairly frequent:

"Well, I'm not on the Entertainment Committee."

Ooh, I hated that! At the time, I thought she was being callous to my obvious suffering and neglectful in her responsibility to do absolutely everything for moms are supposed to, right? I had no real appreciation then that she was always busy running the household, cleaning and scrubbing and washing and ironing and cooking meals from scratch, supporting our family business, AND added a full-time job on top of that when I turned nine years old. She wasn't being mean; she seriously didn't have the time to figure out how to please me every single second of the day, after I got tired of "I Love Lucy" reruns or no one in the neighborhood was available to play. She couldn't take hours out of her day to take me shopping or to the movies or to a playdate that would be at least an hour's round-trip drive, if the weather was good. But I would stamp my feet and puff black smoke and keep whining anyway just in case I could wear her down. Sometimes I could, but most of the time she would go back to what she was doing, leaving me to pout alone. And for that, I thank her a thousand times over.

Boredom, I now believe, is a monumentally ridiculous problem. Most of the world's population never gets the grand opportunity to be bored; they are too busy working just to get by day-to-day. Boredom is an indulgence, and a shameful waste of precious time. If you find yourself bored, it's time to make some changes in the way you go about life, son. Let me explain what I've learned from being such a Whiny McBorederstein that I would sit and weep about it, to now, where being bored doesn't even occur to me, no matter how languorous or routine or dull my surroundings might be.

1. Time is something to grab on to and make the most of; not an annoyance to fill, like dirt into a grave. What's the easiest thing to do if you are bored? Head straight for some pre-made, non-interactive entertainment parcels on TV. Man, did I watch a lot of TV back in the day! A LOT. I finally watched so much TV that I think I overdosed on it. It wasn't entertaining or satisfying anymore; it could no longer keep me engaged. More importantly, I realized that I had probably spent years of my life sitting and staring at someone else's creative work rather than making anything myself. That little truth didn't feel so good once it sunk in, and after that, TV had to work its ASS off to get me to even turn it on again. Just ask yourself, why am I flipping on the TV set (or cruising the Internets, or getting sucked into an alternate gaming-world reality) for hours and hours and HOURS every day? Am I just filling time? Could I be doing something that would be more fulfilling? If the answer is "WELL, YES," I can't tell you what that something might be because that's your deal to figure out, but you definitely can start thinking about your options. You have lots of them; wouldn't you really rather take an hour out from watching another "Real Iron Chef Cupcake Wife Swap Wipeout" to learn to play the guitar, for instance? I DID! SO CAN YOU! TWANGGG!

2. Being bored gives you the opportunity to daydream, which has some surprisingly powerful benefits. Do you appreciate your brain? You really should, because it is very smart. Your brain likes to do things! When you give it a chance to not be fed (or overfed) on external stimuli, you give it the freedom to let it take a walk off leash, so to speak. Giving your mind space to wander for awhile will often lead to creative solutions to problems or flashes of inspiration and imagination that no other process outside of actual sleep dreaming may be able to access. Daydreaming can also lead you to think about some of the challenging things in your life that you may be ignoring at your peril, and may help you to see your way clear to fixing them once and for all. This is all very awesome.

3. Being bored allows you to pay attention to detail, and to appreciate your surroundings, whatever they may be. When you have nowhere to go and nothing to do, when there's no agenda to follow nor any distractions, you can allow yourself to observe things that you normally would pass by. Instead of letting time feel like an oppressive foe, let it become more fluid and relaxed, the way it could be when you were very small and everything seemed so fascinating and new. Listen to and identify the sounds, smells, and sights all around you. Hold and touch a fallen leaf or flower petal or single blade of grass and really pay attention to its beauty, just as it is. People-watch as if you were an alien being. Get down on the floor and get a cat's-eye view of your apartment. Read a book you've always been meaning to read, and revel in the author's unique sense of pace and rhythm. Paint a picture, even if you can't paint. Look at the gorgeous grain pattern of the wood on your floor. I'm serious. When you become an obsessive observer of everything in life -- the good, bad, strange, and lovely -- I think in a more adult way, you fall in love with the world all over again. It's quite amazing.

More than anything else, it was the opportunity of boredom that led me to achieve more than I believed I could on my own, and made me more responsible for my own growth and happiness. There really is no Entertainment Committee out there, but you don't need one anyway. You've got everything you need right inside you already.

(Mom and Kooby, January 1974.)