Real life both hems us in and keeps us intact

I’ve written before, years ago, about my conflicted feelings about “the mundane quotidian routines[that] are both safety net and cage.”

Today I was thinking about how real life, in its banal detail, both hems us in and keeps us intact. There are times when I truly think that if it were not for the demands and rhythms of my regular life, I might actually fly into a million pieces, exploding and disintegrating as the particles of me scattered like mica into the air. Life is a collage of the prosaic and the transcendent: Pour the cereal. Pack the lunches. What is our place in the universe? Pair the socks. Wipe the placemats. Notice, stunned, the stark blackness of a crow against the suddenly-fall gray September sky. Make the doctor’s appointment. Remember the birthday card. What does it mean to really love another?

And on. And on.

Some days my interior life is so intense and, often, painful, that I can think of nothing else. Whatever is bothering me spreads quickly through the interstices of my consciousness, like a black ink blot taking over a white page, obliterating everything else. And then something happens: a child cries or there is a meeting that can’t be skipped and I am tugged back to the day to day, away from the perilous blackness that just moments earlier threatened to swamp me.

In this way my life often saves me from myself. Equally, though, it frustrates me, distracting me, rendering me unable to really plumb whatever it is that is on my mind. Reality and its demands are a frame that simultaneously contains and restricts my experience.

Every single day of this life contains drudgery and divinity. They swirl together, and could so easily become mud, the clotted brown of wasabi stirred into soy sauce. Instead they seem to sharpen each others’ vividness, sometimes to a degree that pierces me. Most of the time, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

9 thoughts on “Real life both hems us in and keeps us intact”

  1. Yes. I know exactly what you mean.

    When the divinity and the drudgery are each sharp and distinct, those are the times when their adjacency – the way the light is caught in a crack in the windowpane, for example – can make me cry with its beauty. It’s pretty raw, living in that universe, but I’m content to abide there.

    What is harder for me is when they do smush together into a kind of indistinct mud. I feel lost in those times. Unable to anchor myself in either the sacred or the ordinary. Confused and not well connected to anything.

    I appreciate your highlighting the relationship between these two contexts. It makes them each more distinct and more implicated in each other, in this our life as humans.

  2. Simply gorgeous. And true. And moving. This reminds me of one my favorite Frederick Buechner quotes, which is in my own post today:

    “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness…” – Frederick Buechner

    Thank you, Lindsey.

  3. the drudgery and the divinity…these polarities haunt me (in all forms). thank you for helping me feel ‘not alone’ in this soulful overwhelm and wild gratitude.

  4. Somehow I have stumbled onto your blog and have discovered someone who thinks about the things that I do….but articulates them so very beautifully. Thank you.

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