The Mercy of the Mundane

When the day seems like a swirling tempest, a schedule is an anchor.

Cali Yee / 10.26.21

There is a trend going around, perhaps you’ve heard it: #vanlife is taking the internet by storm. People are flocking to convert boring vans into their own cozy, twinkling, and modern oasis. Young adults are hitting the open road in search of adventure, freedom, and most importantly, insta-worthy snapshots. Say goodbye to home addresses and hello to a never-ending road trip across the country. 

I’ve been living my own version of #vanlife for the past week and a half. I moved out of one house, slept on a friend’s couch, and have since moved into another friend’s basement before I hopefully (fingers crossed) find my forever (but really only until May) home. The address I am using is my work office, that way I know I’ll definitely get my Amazon packages, because sometimes online shopping is the only way to cope. 

Despite the fact that I am from a generation that has curated such influencers, #vanlife is not for me. Because moving makes everything messy. There are boxes everywhere — some are organized, but most are a jumbled mess of wrinkly clothes and tangled jewelry. Much of the time I feel like I’m doing the splits. I have one leg stretching to the place I am currently living and the other leg in the place from which I recently moved. I have searched the expensive depths of apartments.com and broached the sketchy listings of Craigslist, to no avail. It’s no secret that the current real estate market is competitive, stressful, and bananas (to use my co-worker’s word). 

I think many of us have experienced this in one way or another. It’s the process of change, of disruption. This process calls us to be flexible and patient, when the only thing we actually want to do is cry or yell in frustration. Change can be paralyzing. And sometimes, when we don’t want to feel stressed or anxious, we turn to numbing or coping mechanisms. My current coping mechanisms have been frosted animal cookies and James Bond movies. Some days these things feel like the only things I can control (though I do have a hard time controlling just how many cookies I eat).

When life gives us uncertainty, we try to grasp at anything that can give us any sense of stability or control. Either that, or we want to give up entirely: sleep in late and be dead to the world. I’ve done both of these things this past week. I’ve cleaned and tidied compulsively to feel like I have my ish together. And on the other side of the spectrum, I’ve woken up late, anxious, and unable to focus on anything but the web browser that reads “apartments for rent.” 

It is in these moments that I am thankful for schedules. Yes — thankful! Any mundane routine that gets me out of bed and away from my endless thoughts feels like good news. Having a meager list that tells me what to do, where to go, and when to do it is the only thing that feels like mercy right now. 

I’m not referring to checking everything off your to-do list, some mythical self-optimization project, or making the most of your day. But all of us live lives on some sort of schedule, whether rigid or flexible, and sometimes it doesn’t always have to be associated with a timetable that is controlled by the to-do list czars. 

Routines can be an act of dependence. 

Daily rhythms get us out from under our weighted blankets and bring with them a sense of familiarity and comfort. When the day seems like a swirling tempest, a schedule is an anchor. As Annie Dillard says, schedules are “a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time.” She refers to them as a “powerful pattern.” Patterns in which we fall into when the whole world feels frighteningly uncertain and chaotic. And perhaps they are reminders that we don’t have to worry about what we are going to do tomorrow, because we have this present day on which to focus our attention.

You don’t need to get out of bed right now, do yoga, take a shower, do your laundry, read the newspaper, and then solve world hunger before going to work. But if you’re looking forward to your skin care routine, morning coffee, or post-work run — little things that give you space to just be, I hope that you feel free to lean into them. 

And the true Comforter who cares for you will be with you in each moment of your day – whether you are checking things off your to-do list or traveling across the country living your #vanlife.

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