Life is Complicated

On one of the coldest days of the year I declared a snow day for myself. I stayed at home in warm woolly long johns and decided I wouldn’t work. But I would still do the daily ritual of saying good morning to my ever-growing list of departed souls. And I still had to tend to the routines of feeding and walking the dog, dealing with meals and vitamin regimens, checking the water chlorination system, fetching and sorting mail, paying the multitude of monthly bills, phoning to check on various people in my life, and figuring out which appointments I could cancel from this one day of the tightly-scheduled week. Life is complicated. Crammed. It’s filled with routines and responsibilities. Whether or not I work, my time is consumed.

Space is consumed as well. The piles of possessions, books and papers, the wardrobes of my own and my dog’s, the pillows all over the house for bolstering my bad back, the leftover belongings of my daughter who died and my son who now has his own home, the parts and pieces of projects that beg to be completed… the accumulation of stuff.

Maybe that’s why I like to travel. Leaving home, I pack only what can fit into one rolling suitcase and one carry-on bag. Traveling limits the amount of physical things I have to contend with. And it detangles my time. During vacations, my life is deconstructed, like the salads I make for my friends, with just a few delectable items carefully splayed out on a white plate.

Back in November, on my first full day in Australia, I followed my tour group to the Old Melbourne Gaol where there were rows and rows of inmates’ cells. I stepped into one empty cell and shut the door on the noise of life. Squatting on the floor, I tried to imagine sleeping there countless cold damp nights with only a thin horsehair mat and scratchy blanket. This was once some criminal’s home, I reminded myself. Someone lived here, sandwiching his weary bones between a mat and a blanket. Life beyond that had to be drawn from whatever warm thoughts the prisoner had stockpiled in the depths of his mind.

Alone in the cell, my thoughts wandered to the peeling paint on the walls. Which made me remember my bathroom project that needed patching. Which took me back home to the dog, the bills that would not be paid while I was traveling, the people waiting for my calls, …the friends eating salad without me. And the ones I love.


What makes life complicated? Is travel an escape from routines and responsibilities?




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6 thoughts on “Life is Complicated

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Oh, Robin. That cell sends chills up my spine. I can’t imagine such a life, such deprivation and hardship.

    The stuff. I don’t have so much by many people’s standards, but the discouraging part it I don’t make any progress in moving things out of here. I say I will, but I find other things to do with my time. It has to happen. After spring arrives, it will wait another year. I have a sinking feeling about my good intentions, but I guess I need to accept who I am and take another snow day.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yeah, Elaine. Me too. I’m taking more and more snow days and not really making much progress in un-cluttering my life. Rain days. Yes, by the time the good weather comes it’s too much of a shame to devote the day to cleaning up. The past two years I kept promising to take a rain-day to clear out my closets. They’ve been pretty dry years. Might just have to team up with a like-minded person. If I can’t keep a commitment to myself, perhaps I can come through for another person. Yes, life is complicated.

  2. Lucy Bergstrom

    What lovely ruminations on the routines we all have, work, bill-paying, housecleaning, obligations and responsibilities. Yes, traveling does simplify all that, though I remember a visit to one of my daughters, where her children had trashed the house, and she announced that her daughter’s birthday party would be in a few days. I cleaned and scrubbed like a fiend, throwing away Monopoly money and hotels, puzzle pieces, an open peanut butter jar with inserted knife, and hundreds of other items no longer salvageable, found on the floor! So it was relaxing to get home from that trip, though the party was a big success.
    I often travel now to the town where I lived since the 60’s, good old Ithaca. When I’m there now, I’m on vacation. When I lived there, I worried a lot about how to make ends meet and had a stressful job. It’s funny how my attitude towards Ithaca has changed – now it’s the place I go to relax and enjoy life.
    Garison Keillor talks about the joys of cancellation in one of his Lake Wobegon monologues. It’s the relief you feel when something gets cancelled, (usually) due to bad weather. Suddenly, a pocket of leisure opens up, that you didn’t have before. And you don’t have to feel guilty for not going to some event that you should be supporting. Thank goodness for bad weather!

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh, yes, being an Ithacan I’m well aware of the joys of cancellation. I love that. It’s like a gift of time. And since it didn’t cost anything, it feels like time that could be spent in a less productive mode, maybe even irresponsibly. No guilt. No needing to account for anything. I love when that happens. I think it’s experiences like yours with the birthday party that make me not want to go on some of these working vacations or eco-tours. By the time I finally leave home I am in severe need of a break. No way I want to be working or doing anything other than relax when I finally get to a vacation destination. Maybe we need to figure out how to squeak a vacation into our regular busy schedules at home, Lucy. I mean ones where we don’t have to wait around for a snowstorm or the car to break down or some other cancellation.

      1. Lucy Bergström

        Hi Robin,
        I agree it’s stressful getting ready for vacations! I’m on vacation now and got a cold the evening I arrived in the US. Since then I’ve coughed a lot, stayed away from people (including you) and gradually stopped feeling sick. I’m off to see my mom on Thurs. and have to not be sick then! Not even coughing! It’s not polite to show up sick! Call me to chat, that’s not catching. I’m staying with Kira and Kelly and my cell is 607-280-1068. Love, Lucy

        1. Robin Botie Post author

          Not only is showing up sick at an elderly person’s place “not polite” it’s downright dangerous. Colds and coughs and flu are hard on older folks. It really bothers me when someone’s walking around sick. I hear people hacking all over the gym and Wegmans, and I cringe. I head for the Purell and wash my hands and hope I don’t catch what they’re carrying as I regularly visit people who are elderly or cancer patients. I hope you were able to have a good visit with your mom, Lucy. Looking forward to catching you when you return to the States. And I’m seriously thinking about Denmark.


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