The Doldrums

There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself — not just sometimes but always. When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in … Nothing really interested him — least of all the things that should have – Norton Juster in The Phantom Toolbooth

tollboothWhen my daughter was in junior high school, she took a brief interest in acting.  One of the plays she was in was The Phantom Tollbooth.  Back then, I was in my forties.  Life seemed to roll by mostly as I expected and seventy years old seemed very far away.  I was far less philosophical than I am now and much more interested in my daughter’s activities than the meaning of a play based upon a children’s classic.  In Tollbooth, Milo, the bored-out-of-his-gourd main character, receives a tollbooth upon returning from school one day and uses it and the accompanying map to journey to the Land of Wisdom in his toy car.   At first, bored and unfocused as usual, he drives aimlessly and ends up in … you guessed it … a land called the Doldrums where there is no color and both thinking and laughing are not allowed.  In the Doldrums, everyone does nothing … according to a very strict schedule.  In a humorous and pun-filled metaphorical journey, Milo travels through the City of Words, the Forest of Sight, the Valley of Sound, and the City of Numbers accompanied by his faithful companion, Tock the dog, who teaches him the value of making good use of time.  He eventually is able to defeat the demons of the Mountain of Ignorance and rescue the princesses, Rhyme and Reason.  When he returns to his once-boring room, he knows that he can use the lessons he learned in the Kingdom of Wisdom to appreciate the world around him.

I bring this up because I am sitting here in my cluttered office, posting but uninspired.  Last night, when Muri and I went to the movies, we took her car because the inside of mine is cluttered with the refuse of my busy but uninspiring life.   We are three weeks from Christmas and Muri has packed her fall decorations in their plastic containers.  I’m not inclined to return them to our storage bin and bring home the winter and Christmas ones.   I’m inclined to say, You know, I don’t think I’ll decorate this year.  I’ve got the Pre-Holiday Doldrums and if I don’t break free, I’ll soon be facing the Post-Holiday Doldrums, where I’m not only uninspired but regretting that I didn’t enjoy the season as it is.  When I Googled what to do about the doldrums, there was The Phantom Tollboth with a message even a junior high kid could appreciate if he were so inclined.  Getting out of the Doldrums is up to me.  Put one foot in front of the other.  Act as if.  Do the next indicated thing.   Chop wood carry water.  There are so many annoying cliches about moving on from the Doldrums because we all visit them.  And as far as I can see, when we are there, we always want something to happen to rescue us.   But in the colorless land of the Doldrums, if that something happened, we’d discount it.  And Tock the helpful and time conscious dog, is fictional.  There’s only one way out.  So, when I’m finished here, I’m going to clean my office and car.  I’m going to have lunch with Muri and run a few errands.  I’m going to make that trip to the storage bin.  And hopefully by the end of the day, the Doldrums will be behind me.  Or, to put it another way:

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club – Jack London

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3 Comments on “The Doldrums”

  1. startraci Says:

    Oh my goodness. I had forgotten The Phantom Tollbooth and The Doldrums. What a good reminder to put one foot in front of another even when it doesn’t feel right. Thanks for sharing this!
    -Traci


  2. Until today, I had never heard of the Phantom Tollbooth. The doldrums, though? Oh now, that’s definitely a horse of a different color as I am very familiar with them! Too much so, I do believe. I’ve been trying to figure out how to have some kind of little get-together -probably here at my house -and invite my Avon customers to come and visit, have some coffee or tea, share some cookies, perhaps meet other customers of mine and strike up a friendship in the doing. That’s the ideal scenario but how it will eventually play out is anyone’s guess right now. Anyone with some easy-to-do suggestions, please feel free by sending them my way because those doldrums are always wreaking havoc on the planning capacity in my life! Merry Christmas to you and Muri, Bud and hope getting out the winter/Christmas decorations for Muri helps your doldrums fade away.

  3. Cheryl P. Says:

    I had never heard of the Phantom Tollbooth but it sounds interesting. I popped over to Amazon and the illistrations are really cute as well.

    I certainly understand the pre-Christmas funk. With Wayne over seas, I am doing less than normal “everything” this year. I am not in the doldrums as much as the retrieval of all Christmas stuff from our storage bin is more than I think I can handle.

    I think that sometimes the doldrums tend to be like inspiration…. it is fleeting. It often goes away just as it appeared…in a moment.

    I hope that spending time with Muri and decorating brings out the spirit of Christmas and lifts you out of the doldrums.


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