Then I went to university. Four years without a car there. I loved the buses, though. I was often squeezed between other students. It was like being in a herd, of sorts. We were all headed in the same direction with a similar purpose, sometimes eyeing each other with interest. Then off to Berkeley, California where I lived two years. Again, no car. I walked to work each day and all around town. Sometimes I took the BART to San Francisco for a treat. That’s a great city to pound the pavement in, on your feet! Then on to Taiwan. I didn’t even own a scooter, like many did. Initially I walked hours per day, observing the hustle and bustle and smelling the unique smells and hearing exotic sounds. The beauty and benefit of mindfulness! It was quite a learning experience.
When I returned to my home state after my travels, I was forced to buy a car. Though my state is densely populated, it still has smallish towns. It has its rural beauty, but a lot of suburban areas, too. After starting a career, the rat race began. Yes, I drove most everywhere. I had to get places quick, quick, quick. There was lots and lots to do, and little time to do it. A trip with a cart in the grocery store became like a type of car. Just as there’s road rage, cart rage exists, as well.
Sometimes life in general is an analogy for a tunnel vision run, and not a panoramic walk. Many of us work(ed) 60 hours per week, plus errands, chores, cooking, cleaning, and carting kids here and there. Trying to fit in some gym time? Or something else? Even that’s often a fast-moving rush. Then there’s the sad reality that most people in my country (the US) have little time for vacation. They start most out with only two weeks. My nephew in Europe starts at five, plus many other days the average person doesn’t get in the states. Some people, when allowed the chance, even take express vacations, like whirl-wind tours. Eight cities in eight days? That’s not uncommon, for some. Does such a trip really create lasting memories?
TV and movies can be nice, but in moderation, I think. Over time they can become an unhealthy escape. I think that if you watch too much, it’s almost like giving your life away. I’ve lived years with little to no access to TV or movies. Did I miss them? Honestly? Very little. Even today I only watch the “tube” when my husband puts it on. I’m by his side, but we communicate little other than a laugh here and there. Our focus is in one direction. The screen we watch doesn’t reflect any “true” reality, or require creativity, on our part. If you punched right through it, you’d hit the wall. Not only that, it feeds us stuff that sometimes does us harm.
I am not a heavy cell phone user, but I confess I do spend oodles of time on the internet. I could definitely be better served by walking outside more again, but I don’t. The sad reality is that I get more social contact in places like this. Though woods are nearby and I love seeing animals, I yearn for people contact. Unfortunately, so much social contact on the outside is transactional. Eight dollars for a coffee and pastry at the cafe. One hundred fifty at the grocery store. Six dollars for a slice of pizza and diet Coke. Twenty five to fill the gas tank, and more. At work, you may have time with people, but only brief minutes of casual social interactions beyond work-related conversations.
Many of us see our family and friends so little, nowadays. I know this may be different in other places around the world, but where I am, in my situation, it is often the case. They’re wrapped up in their race, too. Even within families there’s a rush from the table to go separate directions. That’s if they ever even congregated there, in the first place. Then there’s often staring at some form of screen again. Looking at the virtual nothing.
What to do? What to do? How do we get ourselves off these monotonous tracks?
I was inspired to write the above post after reading one by Troy Headrick on the blog Pointless Overthinking