I want to be unruly.
When I say unruly, I don’t mean causing social mayhem. Unruliness can mean something simpler and yet bolder than that, like disrupting our normal routines so that we become fully alive in the present moment.
This doesn’t sound that difficult, unless, like me, your scheduled routine is so ingrained it is essentially a daily set of rules. I wake up, check my email in bed. Make coffee. Shower. Put on mascara. Read the news on the subway. Work. Check Facebook on my lunch break. Buy more coffee. Call my mom on my walk back home. Try to convince myself to work out. Make dinner. Search the Internet. Go to bed. Repeat.
Even my thoughts and emotions tend to be predictable. I feel calm and creative in the morning, stressed about my endless to-do list after a cup of coffee, anxious about a new business venture in the afternoon, defeated that the day escaped without more productivity in the evening, and relaxed as I unwind after dinner.
There’s nothing wrong with this schedule—no obvious destructive behavior or red flags necessitating intervention. Indeed, most of our schedules are comfortable, workable, and useful.
But one day, as I squeezed into a subway seat with my half-drunk iced coffee, I realized that I had no recollection of my walk to the train. I had been a virtual zombie since I woke up—completely unaware of my surroundings. As I turned off autopilot for the first time that morning, my senses awakened to the reality around me. I noticed a businessman leaning against the subway pole, asleep. I heard the vibrations of the train against my feet. I saw two young kids playing rock-paper-scissors and giggling. I smelled the subtlety of my hazelnut-flavored coffee. Scanning the train, I wondered what else I missed each morning as I zoned out, going through the motions.
It was then I committed to a personal revolution to disrupt my normal routine. Dedicating myself to unruliness, I simply stopped doing what I normally do. I took a different route home. Instead of yoga, I did sprints. I saw a movie on a week night. I stayed up late. I left my hair down, unbrushed. I read a book in the park. I refused to check Facebook for a day and sat at a restaurant by myself.
Most of the changes weren’t comfortable, which was exactly what I wanted. It was refreshing to feel a slight unease during the day. Unruliness made me feel more awake during normally mundane moments, igniting a sense of spontaneity and curiosity as I broke free from my schedule. It encouraged me to pay attention to the now, which was ever present, but often ignored. My senses came alive. I remembered to look up at the sky at random points throughout the day. My gratitude for the little things, like a slight breeze and a comfy chair, expanded. I became aware of the natural rhythm of my breath, noticing when it became shallow in stress or deep and steady in relaxation. I listened more intently to my friends as they spoke, hearing their unspoken messages. Unruliness grounded me in the present moment, which was constantly alive with new possibilities.
I am not wild, nor will I ever be. And I still often get stuck in routine. But I can be unruly. Run around barefoot. Take a side street home. Giggle as I sing aloud on the sidewalk.