Life in the van is a dream. It allows the space to connect with nature, and myself, and to write. It’s all I want. It’s definitely not the life for everybody because there’s the less-luxurious, nomadic side to this minimalist lifestyle that wouldn’t suit a lot of people. But for me, this way of living is perfect, and yet still, sometimes accepting this is harder than it sounds. The ego wants to get in the way: now I have the space to write, it tells me I should be putting in project proposals or sending more work off to magazines – neither of which I’m doing a lot of right now because I want to finish the novel and focus on this OUTSIDER project without too many other distractions.
Then there’s the ‘what should I be doing?’ self-destruct button hit on so many occasions it’s impossible to state here just how far a person can allow themselves to get from their true selves without even realising by chasing that one word.
These past couple of years I’ve been working on a new practice. It’s the simplest thing, but oh my! it works. When I get lost in the should-a, would-a, could-a roundabout of life, I stop, go and sit in nature and ask my heart: ‘What do I want to do?’ or ‘What does heaven look like to me right now?’
And that’s it. No worrying about potential other paths I’m not treading, no stressing about what I ‘could’ be doing, and definitely not trying to second guess what I think other people think I should be doing. When I feel cornered by the expectations of others, or the ego plays havoc with my clarity of vision, I simply stop, take a breath, and ask myself: what do I really want to be doing right now?
Often a crisis is brought on by the ego stressing that I’m not ‘doing enough’. That I should be connecting more, or conversing more, or publishing more … or … or … when the reality is that if I wanted to do those things I would. The only issue is the self-sabotaging mind that can’t seem to allow me to just be.
I moved into the van to step away from feelings of inadequacy brought about by the toxic elements of our massively busy culture that I don’t want to engage with anymore. I want to want less, and I’ve found I’m very happy with less: less stuff, less work, less money, and to a certain extent – less connections. I’ve replace that with more: more listening to my body through yoga and cooking simple food, more connecting with nature, more ‘real time’ with less people (outside of Instagram – I do still love Insta for the wealth of glorious new connections).
If my wanting, or having less, looks like failure to others that’s ok. I don’t need to worry about it, as long as I’m doing exactly what I want, it makes those opinions irrelevant. Stepping outside of the maelstrom of busy isn’t without its downsides. While the rational mind might understand that one person getting a publishing deal doesn’t mean I won’t get the one I want, our capitalist culture is still built like a pyramid scheme with everything funnelling upwards: only one person wins the competition, or only so many get published in that magazine, or only ten people get the grant. If I’m not doing those things what am I as an artist?
An additional galling aspect to capitalism is that no matter how many times you’ve achieved those goals in the past, as soon as they’re done, you’re supposed to be onto the next thing. And honestly, that’s fucking exhausting. It’s also not great for my mental health or creativity. It’s too fast and stressful and I’m supposed to spend too much time and energy having endless conversations about the art before anything’s even been made, which doesn’t work for me as it inevitably means that I’ve got no magic left when actually writing.
What I want to do right now is finish this novel that means so much. And to do that, what I need more than anything is space: visually, emotionally and mentally, within which to dream the words into being.
To me, heaven looks exactly like this simple, slow life: a van, my partner and our hounds, beautiful natural spaces to park up that inspire the writing, and a good supply of herbal teas and food. That’s it.
So, when the ego starts with the ‘we shoulds’ I’ve learned to look around and say, ok, do I really have everything I need to do what I want to do? And right now, the answer is yes, which makes me able to let go of ridiculous notions of all the other things I ‘could’ be doing.
I’ve chosen this path, and I stand by that choice, so to walk it with integrity, and faith in myself, and to do it fully present and aware, without the FOMO (fear of missing out) screaming in my ear, is by far and away the best thing I can do right now.