The first 77 years of my life have been interesting. Not all has been fun. Not all has been exciting. Not all has been pleasing. And, I won't say that I wouldn't change a thing, because there are a few things I wish I could have another try at. But the years have been interesting. To me that is better than fun, and better than exciting.
Growing up as I did on a farm helped me to begin finding things interesting: interesting to explore, interesting to try, interesting to achieve, interesting to learn about. Of course I have known people who grew up on farms just as I did, but who wanted to get away from the farm and to have nothing to do with farm life. That is kind of a mystery to me. It is always a bit strange to discover people who are feeling bored about things that to me are interesting, even fascinating. The experience of boredom is itself a kind of mysterious and fascinating thing to look at and to try to understand. Helping someone get past boredom is not a simple or easy thing to solve, even though we may try. I do remember a few times when my son or daughter would come, asking What can I do? I'm bored. I would make a few suggestions. Usually they would not prove helpful. The response would be something like, Aww, that doesn't sound interesting!!
Sometimes we seem to get into moods in which nothing seems interesting. We find ourselves unwilling to seriously consider anything that requires a mental effort. There may be interesting possibilities all around us, but we are hardly willing to look for them, or to focus earnestly enough on any of them to begin to awaken to them. Sometimes our problem is that we want to be passively entertained. We may want someone else to provide us with something that might be fun. We may not be willing to pay attention to anything long enough to allow us to begin to be absorbed in discovering its interesting qualities.
I think it was working with my Dad that helped me begin to see things beyond my natural reactions to them. One day when I was about 10 or 12 years old, we were working in the hay field. The day was hot, we had been at it for hours, and I was not in a good mood. It was time that I wanted to be listening to the Sky King show on the radio. I was hot and sweaty, my socks were full of stickers, hay leaves were down my neck, but Dad wanted to get that one more load of hay before we quit to do the milking. To beat all, Dad was whistling as he worked the hay piles on the ground, forking the hay up to me on the wagon. Finally, I said, "How can you be whistling at a time like this?"
He stopped for a moment, kind of smiled, and said, "Oh, I was just thinking how nice it will be to have hay for the cows in the middle of winter!"
Well, yes it would! I don't remember my Dad ever grumbling about hard work. He seemed to find ways to enjoy doing the things that needed doing. I think working with him helped me come to enjoy applying ourselves to get things done, and even taking satisfaction in accomplishing things that didn't come easy.
It seems to me that having some curiosity about how different people do things also helps to let us discover the interestingness in the things we do. I remember going home with one of my school friends one time, to spend the night. He was wanting us to be free to play, but his Dad insisted that he milk the cows that he normally milked. I was really looking forward to seeing how they handled their chores, to compare with how we did ours; but my friend was angry about having to do chores rather than playing as we had been. He wasn't very interested in showing me things about their barn or cows or farm.
Another thing I think helps to make one's life interesting is being willing to apply oneself to tasks in an enduring way. Some people seem to give up an effort very quickly if they find it hard, or if they are not learning a new task quickly, or if it is hard to figure out how to do it. Sometimes, staying at it, with determination, is the only way to create break-through, to learn a skill, to solve a problem, or to discover what it takes to do well. I always remember an old saying that I read somewhere, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again!"
I always wanted to learn to play basketball well, as my Dad had when he was in high school at Garfield. But you don't learn to play basketball in a few easy lessons. You learn by trying, again and again, and again, and when you goof up, try again, and again, and again!
Editor's note: This column first ran Nov. 1, 2017. Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and can be contacted by email at [email protected], or call 621-1621. The opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 01/08/2020
Print Headline: Living an interesting life is a choice