Picture it with me (my guess is your version looks awfully similar to this–just alter and delete a few things and presto! My day becomes your own!):
I wake up, stumble out of bed, head straight to the coffee pot and stumble around my kitchen until I finally get a cup of that black brew in my hand. I quickly suck down some of that black nectar and stumble over to my favorite chair where I sit comatose and blinking until the black goo starts to work its magic. Somehow, that process takes far longer than it should (and far longer than it feels like–I swear there is a kind of time warp we get stuck in in the morning–ten minutes becoming a half an hour, twenty minutes becoming 50) and so I have to rush to get ready and then race to work–a couple of minutes behind schedule, of course, pulling into the parking lot with a squeal of tires and a cloud of dust and gravel in my wake (okay, so not really, but that’s what it feels like).
I get to work and, despite the fact that I do like my job, I start counting the moments until I get to go home and veg. in front of Netflix watching whatever tv series currently offers my dose of escapism (currently the DC comics–who doesn’t love a good hero?). In the meantime, I fight to cram bits of learning into unwilling minds, and battle the mindset of this entitled generation which seems to think that because they suck air they deserve the right to pass my class. Finally, the anticipated moment arrives: the bell rings, and I haul my disillusioned and exhausted self out of there and I try to put the chaos and the stress of the day behind me. Ironic that, with the current state of driving, which often only increases my stress level due to the idiocy of the modern, cell phone distracted driver…so I arrive home feeling more stressed than when I left.
Finally I get home and steal those few minutes of escapism that I have spent the whole day longing for, those few minutes of alone time in the midst of the chaos of living, and I escape from my world until I begin to feel at least marginally human again, at which point I then snuggle with my littles and chat about their days.
Being that hunger seems to hold my growing children in its grip, the “I’m hungrys” cannot be long put off before I have to forfeit my brief reprieve and cook dinner. Well, then of course, I have to clean up from that dinner I just provided. Typically, as I am still finishing this odious task, my big little dude starts pestering for our one on one time: it’s time to take a walk with that biggun and to talk about the things on his mind (usually video games, or weird bits of knowledge, or girls these days–fun times!).
By the time we get back, all I want to do is crawl into my bed and sleep, but I typically force myself to work another hour or two instead. Then of course, I need to reward myself, so I watch another episode or two of my latest binge watch, and thus fall asleep much too late, which means not enough sleep, and then, of course, someone hits repeat and, much like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day, I get up to do the same thing all over again the next day…
Life in the modern world.
Insert a different TV show, change the order, maybe insert takeout for making dinner, make a few other minor adjustments and poof! You have your routine instead of mine. The narrative itself changes little.
When I was young, the treadmill of life as I like to call it, seemed unthinkable. I would never get on that treadmill. Life was meant to be lived, experienced, appreciated…not be lived on repeat.
So how in the world did I end up on the treadmill along with just about everyone else?
Psychologists would likely jump to the fact that we love patterns and routines us human beings. We’re creatures of habit. It seems to be hardwired.
But I believe that’s only part of it.
I believe the truth is that we are just too darn busy to live any other way, and that we have lost the art of solitude which prevents us from knowing any better.
Solitude? What in the world does solitude have to do with the treadmill of life?
An awful lot actually.
As I’ve been getting ready to teach Romanticism, I’ve found myself re-reading Thoreau for the first time in many, many years, and I find myself rediscovering why I loved him so much the first time around.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
Once again I find those words resonating with me. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks pondering them and thinking about what they mean to me in this modern life.
My pondering led me on a journey of sorts. I started thinking about everything I should do: places I wanted to go, things I wanted to experience, goals I have yet to achieve.
But as I pondered these things, I found that just the thought of them made me tired. A part of me seemed to whimper at the thought of so much doing.
Yes, I want them, and yes, I plan to climb those mountains and dive deep into those seas, but something inside of me waived its arms in protest, dissenting at the thought of still more doing.
Adventures should be exciting and exhilarating. They should fill me with anticipation. And yet, though a part of me undeniably wants these things, a part of me feels the weight of burden at the mere thought of achieving them…something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and I was determined to figure out exactly what it was.
So I pondered some more, and the pondering lead me to that word “deliberately.”
What does it mean to live “deliberately?”
When you look at the meaning of the word, it seems pretty obvious. It is more than just filling our moments. It is a great deal more than simply doing.
It’s going to the woods as Thoreau put it. It’s pulling away, and pulling inside. It’s finding the solitude to reflect on the moments so that we can get all the meat from the bones, so that we can suck the marrow from the moments.
In our society, we forget that solitude and reflection are a necessary part of living to the fullest.
We’ve all felt it–that itchy feeling when we have an empty moment. That urge to grab our cell phone and hop onto social media or text a friend. The urge to fill the silence with music.
When I was a girl I was so good with silence. As an adult, I too often fill my silence with noise.
When I listen to the inner voice I realize that, for me, living deliberately is less about the doing and more about honoring the silence.
Living deliberately is much more about appreciating the small moments than it is filling up our lives with big ones. I want the big ones. I crave adventures–but I’m starving for solitude.
It’s the difference between want I want and what I need. But I’ve been too busy to even notice, or at least acknowledge, that I need it.
What about you? When you look inside, when you dig deep, is it really what you’re not doing that leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled?
Or, if you’re honest, is it more about the fact that you’ve lost yourself, that you’ve become so busy and your life so filled with noise that you don’t take the time to suck the marrow from the bones of life? That you don’t take the time to realize what you already have, or the things that need to change, or the people you need to connect with or…well the list goes on and is different for each one of us.
Scale back. Unplug. Spend some time reconnecting with yourself.
It’s what I’m going to do. It’s what you should do. We owe it to ourselves.
Live deliberately–not more. That is what it is all about.