Of the myriad number of concerns one may have before coming to Prison, one of them is likely, will I be bored out of my mind when I am here? It is valid – you have a lot of free time. No grocery shopping, no errands to run, no time spent driving anywhere, no need to cook, no long dinners with family and friends, no camping trips, the list goes on. Admittedly, there are a lot of hours to fill in a day. On top of that, I am here during Covid and it is fairly locked down – three and a half days of the week we are cooped up inside. Views include looking at frosted glass windows, of which you cannot see through, or sitting in a windowless basement, in which the lights are always off. The only visibility coming from the soft glow of a TV.
We are only given 15-20 minutes to eat each of our BOP provided meals, so eating, an american past time, only takes up one hour of your day.
I am taking this as a chance to slow down, which was much needed. I can also tackle all the learn this/practice that/read these items I have created over the years. At least the ones that I am capable of handling while away. The thing is, if I put it off the list finds me the next day and the next day and the one after that. Finish that book, keep up with guitar, play more chess, go to bed early/wake up early, write more, research topics that interest you, achieve your fitness goals. There is no escaping it here – you made the goal and now you have the time for it.
The main challenge is actually getting oneself to follow through with the list.
I can play a few new songs on the guitar
I can play a few rhythms on a drum set
I started a self directed music theory course
I can sit down a read through a book without becoming distracted
My chess game is getting better (and if you want competition, try playing anyone who has been locked up for 5+ years)
I just started learning piano
I am getting stronger than I’ve ever been
I used to ride a bike everywhere I could throughout my neighborhood – I miss that. So I ride an exercise bike. Is riding an exercise bike in a dark, windowless basement on an absolutely beautiful summer day my idea of a good time? In a word, no. But if we are locked down due to covid, I can either ride that bike or no bike at all. And in turn, when I get back home I will be strong enough to pick up with my mountain biking right where I left off – or more likely, I will be even stronger.
The answer to my question is, yes, you will be bored. It’s impossible not to be. The trick for me is taking time to reflect, meditate, and be calm while also staying motivated to tackle that list – plus whatever else I add to it. Sometimes it’s okay to be sad about the situation, to make space for that. Boredom can lead to anxiety, and that’s the big thing to stop. I am learning if you’re bored you can take one of two paths. You can be still and be with yourself or you can work on any number of things on your list. Importantly, stay away from anger, letting your thoughts spin out of control, or being frustrated at the situation – because as much as you have a right to feel all those ways, it’s only going to make the experience harder.