Everyday, most of us live in a rut. We set our alarms to wake us up at the same time every morning. We pour a bowl of cereal, maybe a cup of coffee, we ride to work, either in a bus or a car or a train. The world flashes past us and we are observers, watching the sun come up, the city come to life around us. Long shadows are cast on grey concrete roads. Groggy commuters stare out from the dirty windows onto a landscape of identical houses, a river of cars, big box stores, gas stations, supermarkets, flashing past like the repeating background of an old episode of the Flintstones. We might as well be running in place with a laugh track and sound effects telling an audience beyond the fourth wall how ridiculous it all is.
Starbucks in hand, we are in a rush to get to our next rut. For some of that means the walls of our cubicles, or maybe the familiarity of our desks, for others it might be the inside of a truck or a shop. The routine is the same. The people are the same. We stop and talk about what we watched on TV the night before, or what the Housewives are up to, or how much we hate the Kardashians, (yet for some reason we keep talking about them). We text each other “What’s up?” and wait for the invariable answer of “Not much. What’s up with you?”
Getting out more also means getting out of oneself, breaking the routine. Scaring the wits out of yourself a little bit, because it is that kind of rush that reminds us we are alive. You can go small, which would be something as basic as trying out that tortillaria you always pass by and wondering what could smell so good inside. It could be taking a longer drive home from work and seeing something new, or riding your bike to work one day instead of driving and feeling the rush of endorphins from an early morning ride instead of a McAnything from the drive through. It can even mean the old standard of picking a spot on the map, getting there, and then trying to figure out how to get back home. Getting a little bit lost, but knowing that no matter where you go, there you are. 😉
It could mean getting on an airplane and going somewhere nobody has ever heard of a Iced Mocha Latte or Big Mac. Where bread doesn’t come in a bag. Where the biggest frustration of the day isn’t that the traffic lights are sometimes red when you want them to be green. Where complaining about the President isn’t a right we take for granted. Or why nobody has “liked” your post in the last ten minutes.
We’ve all that that dream of being at school naked. It rattles us, haunts some of us in our sleep. But there are plenty of places human beings gather without their clothes, without everything turning into an orgy or escalating into a menagerie of people pointing and laughing at your private parts. Recently I went to a clothing optional resort. I was naked there, along with just about everyone else. It didn’t turn into an American Pie movie. It was probably one of the most wholesome experiences I have ever had. It scared the heck out of me at first, but once there, I wondered what the big deal was. What had kept me so afraid of the experience for this long? It was just different than what I was used to. Ruts are scary things because they are not only what keeps us in our lanes, but we also trick ourselves into believing they protect us. I found a bunch of naked people at a hot springs to be more accepting of everyone and their differences than the last time I went to staff diversity meeting.
I would recommend the experience highly. It’s sobering once you realize the only judgement you are likely to find is what you brought with you.
I wondered where that insecurity originated from as I soaked. Was it the first day we dressed ourselves for school and our moms said certain colors didn’t go together, and so they got us a new outfit to dress ourselves in? Or was it in high school when someone had a better car than you and got more dates? Or was it the day you looked at yourself in the mirror and wished you could just erase certain parts of it all and start over again? Your hair is too frizzy, you are too fat, too short, your teeth are crooked, your eyes are too brown. We stopped feeling like ourselves at those moments, loving who we saw ourselves looking from the inside out, and started judging ourselves from how we imagined other people saw us. For whatever reason, that started to matter. To some it matters more than anything. We built those fences and we built them high.
As much as it scares us, our brains crave variety. Inside every one of us is a thrill seeker. Once we are past the anxiety of getting over out of our ruts, breaking our bubbles, and challenging those fences we have taken a lifetime to build, we become a little more fearless. What could possibly happen if we realized our fears are self-chosen? Social anarchy? Bedlam? Or would it be an undiscovered country to which we venture and never return? Would we crave excitement like addicts or worse yet, become jaded to it?
What happens if we go somewhere else and start to pick up another language? Do we risk losing our identity? What if we run a race, or eat a bug covered in chocolate, or swim naked with a bunch of strangers? What happens if we change our minds about something? Does that mean we are no longer who we were before we set out? Is that necessarily a bad thing? Will our world fall apart once we realize that maybe we haven’t been building a home for ourselves, but rather a prison? Is our prison better looking than someone else’s prison? Is it as good as the other prisons you see on Facebook or on TV? Those people sure seem happier than you in their prisons!
Perhaps it is better to remain ignorant, because how can we live with ourselves once we understand that we are limited in this world only by our own perceptions of who we are?
Maybe knowing that there is more to life that what we have been told will drive us crazy. Maybe it’s better to just drink the same coffee in every city, or eat at the same restaurants, listen to the same radio stations, watch the same shows on TV. Watch our microwave meal spin around as radiation warms it up. Even though it all tastes the same, it tastes much worse when it is cold. Conformity. Resignation. The Mundane. If that doesn’t keep you up nights, I don’t know what will.
I prefer to scare myself a little every day.