According to one of those online lists of weird holidays, this week we have experienced both Simplicity Day (July 12) and Pandemonium Day (July 14). The internet gave me precious few clues about the origins or meanings of these days, or how to appropriately observe them. Simplicity Day, July 12 commemorates the birthday of Transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau. The info on Pandemonium Day more sparse, consisting of vague references to the meaning of Pandemonium, coined in the 17th century poem Paradise Lost (a combination of Greek and Latin words for “all” and “demons,” or so the internet tells me).
Most of us probably feel like we are closer to pandemonium than simplicity, but I’m guessing we’re actually somewhere in between. Twentieth-century first world pandemonium includes family, jobs, hobbies, trying to fit in exercise, and all the rest. But it can all feel chaotic nonetheless. Case in point: I’ve been writing this in five-minute increments, taking pauses to put a vocally reluctant toddler on the potty, break up household squabbles, and change out the laundry. No demons, but too much of this feels like a little pandemonium.
As I recall from my high-school English class, Thoreau got away from it all. Most of us do not have the option to leave our work and families behind for that cabin on the lake (not to say I haven’t been tempted). So how can we put a little more simplicity into our pandemonium?
Plan stuff out.
This is key to my sanity, in fitness and in life. First, when I’m training for a race or other fitness goal, I write the plan on the calendar. In addition, I spend a few minutes a week writing a couple of simple lists: What I Did and What I’ll Do. This gives me an opportunity to examine the steps I’ve taken – no matter how small – toward my goals, and game-plan for the steps I can realistically take in the next week. Notice I said “realistically.” This brings me to the second step.
Cut stuff out.
Having a plan allows me to know what’s not in the plan. I get tempted by shiny objects, and can get distracted by things that seem urgent and important, but really aren’t. If I keep my eyes on the “What I’ll Do” list, I’ll know what can be saved for another time, or just ignored altogether. So that 5K I really want to do the weekend between tris? That’s not going to happen this year.
Give stuff up.
Then, there’s the times when you’re knee-deep in pandemonium and don’t know how you got there. It’s not a matter of knowing what to do and what not to do. It’s a matter of extracting yourself from things you’ve already committed to doing. This is the most difficult. We can’t get out of our commitments, and sometimes we just have to suck it up and finish them whether we like it or not. (You’d have to ask him, but I think this is how my husband feels about the triathlon I talked him into.) But sometimes, the wise move is to step away.
Ride stuff out.
The truth is you can’t escape all the pandemonium. If you’re reading this, you’re probably an active person trying to lead life with a balance of everything, whether you’re training for a race or just trying to schedule a little time to take a walk a couple times a week. Embrace it. Do it the best you can. You’ll have ups and downs. You’ll have moments of placid sanity by the (real or conceptual) cabin in the woods, and you’ll have times when it feels all the demons really have descended upon your house.
In honor of those of us trying to find the balance, I’m naming July 13 In-Between Day. Not quite simplicity, not quite pandemonium. Just life.