feature Mental Health minimalism vanlife

Anxiety tryptic

August 8, 2018

Thought I might as well make this a tryptic on anxiety. This is a photo from a few weeks ago. It nearly broke Andy’s Instagram page 🙈 with all the ❤. We love each other dearly but it’s a lot of work being the van, which is making us work harder at our relationship. Communication is key. It is everything. And although it’s hard, we’ve also been in the normal world, rolling along for years without really talking about the tough stuff. Yesterday Andy struggled with his anxiety (I’ve discussed this with him before writing this). Yup – guys get it too. A large part of living in the van is about stepping outside of ‘civilised time’: constantly projecting into the future, saving for a house, a pension, making excessive future-proofing plans for the children, planning retirement, planning a house extension, planning a house move; and sliding into ‘now time’ which is to always ask ourselves do we have what we need for today? This week? This month? Good. Then we’re doing better than probably 70% of the world’s population. And when we do that it works, we can live in the moment, remembering that death is inevitable, but wasting away endless days waiting and planning for death, is not. Living like this isn’t stress-free but our focus is on smaller things like finding water, a launderette, gas bottles, food, showers, 4G – and these seemingly insignificant achievements make the day feel full and worthwhile. But every so often we begin to panic about the future – what will we do in three years? Or five years? We can’t even see what work we might have in January? And the anxiety cycle begins. On top of that yesterday Andy saw an amazing mountain bike in the trailcentre shop. It was about £4K and so he began dreaming of how he might afford it, and started looking at interest free credit and looking at his potential workflow for the next three years so he could pay for it. As the evening wore on he became anxious and grumpy and even watching Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs didn’t cheer him up. He cannot own that bike unless he quits the van and works a lot more hours every month. This morning he had an epiphany – the wanting of the bike had made him start to project into the future again, and we can’t do that in this life, so his anxiety started kicking him up the arse, telling him to stop. He’s not buying the bike. But perhaps we’re both beginning to realise how much the capitalist/consumerist dream also feeds into our collective anxiety; how much we have to plan for the future to buy the things we’re told we need to live a happy, successful life. What is success anyway? We are successful vanlifers. That’ll do.

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