Overturning the Everyday

For the past two days I have been sidelined. Sipping pedialyte from a light blue carton as I lie on a sagging futon in the living room of my college honor house, the experience of being sick away from my childhood home is still surreal. My housemates filter in and out of the front door, offering rice cakes and words spoken in comforting tones. After a night spent with tubes in my arm in the ER, I’ve been forced to slow down. It’s days like these that I realize what John Tallmadge calls “the Wild Within.”

In his anecdotal yet universal article written about the birth of his first child on a cold Ohio night, Tallmadge speaks of the schedule-less week that followed bringing his baby Rosalind home from those sterile white hospital halls:

“As for Rosalind, she slept, woke, and fed, casting her eyes about and flexing her tiny hands as if to get a feel for her body. She looked so small and frag­ile – she fit tidily in my two spread hands, no bigger than a loaf of bread – and yet she radiated a sense of tremendous power. What was it, I wondered. She absolutely compelled attention; we hung on her every movement, danced to her mood” (Tallmadge, The Wild Within).

Though my situation is decidedly different, I am spending today without the usual chaos of my routine. I am lying here and living my day hour by hour–listening to what my body wants and needs. In a culture of “time poverty” where my average day means running from class to class, holing up in the library, making time for friends in the caf, and drilling myself into the ground at track practice, days spent lying and watching the trees sway outside the window and focusing on the “wildness” of the human body only occur when forced. I realize the complexity and depth of my relationships. I think of my housemate Abby, who helped me into the car last night and rubbed my back in the waiting room. I think of my boyfriend Steve, who brushed the hair out of my eyes when I was huddled beneath stark white sheets. My parents call me from their Florida vacation, wishing  they were here to help. 

We need more days like this that break the routine. We find comfort in our everyday lives, but we don’t take the time to stop and understand what meaning lies behind them. Tallmadge ends his article with this thought provoking idea:

“It seemed to me then that adulthood offered two basic choices: either to help life in its wildness and unfolding, or to resist life by choosing security and routine. To live for relationship or to live for autonomy, the path of labor or the path of addiction : Choose one” (Tallmadge, The Wild Within). 

I realize that in my average everyday life I do resist the “wild” through my security and routine. I don’t always take time to breathe. I don’t appreciate all of my relationships fully. To create great change, whether it be in the context of taking more time to see the people and events of our lives more holistically, or in the context of trying to change a damaged system (i.e. an ecological revolution or educational reform,) you have to remove yourself from the “normal” and habitual. Today, the “betrayal” of my body against me has left me thinking about how I need to be more conscious about how I take care of it. It has made me realize that sometimes I need a day of being still. I watch the lives of the 9 other girls in this house swirl around me, and I realize how unconscious I was of their routines. I’ve learned a lot about each of them by just lying in this central location. I realize how oblivious we become of one another. We hover in our own bubbles until something happens that makes us collide. We need to perfect the art of seeing. Today is a good start. The routine has been upheaved.

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