“We are what we repeatedly do.” - Will Durant
When was the last time you felt stuck? The last time it seemed the clock in the corner ticked off the seconds between the routine cycle of emails, traffic, or errands, and not the passing of quiet morning to restful evening? The last time the pavement outside seemed more a part of you than the birdsong coming from the park down the street? Most times, the rhythm of city life lulls us to sleep from our need of open space. Perhaps we’ve even managed to make this rhythm a healthy one: alarm, run, toast, work, cafe, meetings, commute; alarm, run, toast, work, cafe, meetings, commute; alarm, run, toast… But it’s still just that — a practiced cycle of habits that take us from one end of the week to the other. You order the groceries, refill the metro card, schedule the appointment. And then you forget — is it Tuesday or Thursday? Sometimes they’re only distinguishable by the heading in our planner or the project due at noon.
Having a routine has never been a bad thing. The neat organization of our schedules simplifies our existence and structures our souls. But this structure is not all that we’re built for. Our skin can’t perceive over 4 million textures just for the most exhilarating thing we touch in a week to be the Amazon box on our doorstep. We weren’t given feet for them to be crammed uncomfortably into work shoes from Monday to Friday and then placed in slippers for the whole of the weekend. Relaxation for our bodies is a good thing, but rest for our souls is of even more significance. The younger versions of ourselves had no problem breaking our daily format. When presented with a dresser full of clothes, we chose the most unusual pairings. When offered a grilled cheese, we nibbled it into the shape of Texas. When given a sunny day, we turned our yards into battleships or racetracks. We don’t anymore. Now, sunshine is too often for opening a window and sitting back down at the computer, and accolade is won by those who have perfected this pattern, not broken it.
But perhaps now is the time for a shift. In this odd season of new normals, maybe the breaking of our routine could be the healthiest thing we could choose to do. What if now is the time to get out? Not forever, but what about for today? Perhaps for this weekend? How about early Sunday morning? What if we woke earlier than normal just to get outside for an hour, or left the city behind for an evening after work? Magic happens when we leave the pile of laundry that never fails to appear every Wednesday (it’ll still be there when we get back!), and instead pack a basket with pen, paper, and snack and choose to get as far away from the car horns and the dinging of reminders as a day’s drive will take us.
Getting out of the city doesn’t have to mean booking a flight or taking a vacation day; in this season it can simply mean driving a little ways to press our hands into the shore of the lake, or to stare closer at the way sunlight hits an evergreen in April. It’s easy to forget that now — even now as you read this sentence — there exists the rhythmic sound of waves hitting the edge of a lake, there is wind bringing the warmth of spring to the woods, and a bird you’ve never seen before is hopping around rocks looking for a worm to bring home. The beauty of nature doesn’t pause just because we aren’t there to see it, but what a treasure that we’re given the blessing of being an observer of it if we choose.
Sure, city living is lovely. The hustle, the community, the food are all big draws for a life within the limits. But getting out and exploring the unique nature that comes with our specific spot on planet Earth could likely be the balm that our parched soul is in desperate need of to help unstick itself from the persistent rhythm of routine.
I would be thrilled to hear how you interrupt that rhythm and experience nature. Connect with me on my instagram, @lydiacockrell_