About 15 years and four entire lifetimes ago, my days were worked out into a Super Routine. Like a Super Food! Not a moment of any day, week or weekend was scheduled sub-optimally.
For example: I can likely tell you where I was and what I was doing on any day, down to the hour, simply based on the day and time. Thursdays 6am? At the gym, 15 minutes into my workout. Fridays at 12? Cramming at work, at a desk in a big office building in Manhattan, trying to end the week strong and get a jump-start on the week ahead. Saturday mornings, 10:15? On my mat in yoga class.
Etcetera. For years. Decades.
I say this with an air of incredulousness. In reality I loved it, nurtured it. Even now I look back at it with fondness and longing.
I believe that if, like me, you are a world-beater–someone who runs towards the fire instead of running away from it–then a tightly scheduled life is like a little slice of heaven. It’s a way of keeping your feet, your entire self, tethered to something solid and seemingly unchangeable.
Back in the days that I’ve just described, one Sunday afternoon, my ex-husband (D.) and I were flying around the house closing windows and taking out trash, rushing to catch the train back to New York. As one does on Sundays at 4pm. Obviously.
As usual, we were racing around because–despite my careful planning–we were running late. Uch. That feeling in the pit of my stomach. We’re going to miss the train.
We closed, cleaned and hurried out. I drove to the train station like a New York cabbie. Parked, lugged our backpacks onto the platform. Somehow, we’d made it. We hadn’t missed the train!
But when I looked at D., he was patting himself down with an urgency that made my stomach clench. Our eyes met. “My phone,” he said. “I think I left my phone on the kitchen counter.”
My meltdown was re-gearing up. D. could see that. We both knew that my schedule was my security blanket, my comfy ritualistic denial and unconscious insistence that everything in life was safe and fixed and under my control.
D. looked me in the eye and said calmly, “Lisa. I have to go back. If I miss the train, I miss the train. I’ll take the next train home.”
At first it made no sense to my frantic mind. I asked him to repeat it, and he did. It seemed so simple to him. No “what ifs.” Just Plan A, meet Plan B. As D. turned and ran back to the parking lot, back to the house, yes indeed missing the train, it became my mantra–a phrase repeated until the words become meaningless and what remains is the comforting rhythm of repetitive sound: If you miss the train, you miss the train; you take the next train home. If you miss the train you miss the train…
As life would have it I reach for those words to this day, if I’m stressed out or scared or feeling exceptionally lonely. That’s my toolkit, folks: a couple of sanskrit prayers and if you miss the train you miss the train; you take the next train home. My inner North Stars.
Even now sometimes, this logical ecosystem doesn’t completely compute. Sometimes it still seems unlikely that life is even proceed-able with each NEXT big, crazy, unbelievable thing. It can’t!
On other days, it rings so true that it hurts. Life is not going the way I planned. I will continue nonetheless.
We’re living in a place right now where every single day we have to shove aside what’s happening because taken all together, it’s just too much. We are on fire, we are uncertain, we are sick and disorganized and afraid. All of that shoving-aside, the collective mental packing and storing for later, takes an enormous amount of emotional energy. We are drained, spiritually. I know we feel it. I see it in our eyes.
Today my alarm went off at the same time as my quarter century of pre-dawn workouts. I make my tea, set up my desk the way I like it. I arrange my schedule meticulously in the dark light of morning despite my understanding that, as a Realtor in Connecticut in 2020, all attempts at a schedule are meaningless. Everything is going to change and keep changing until the sun sets again.
Still. I like it the way I like it.
I also know now that if I miss the train, I miss the train. I’ll just take the next train home.