Everyday Life in Middletown is set up to capture ordinary, routine life—the daily patterns and variations that constitute most of our experience but typically go unremembered and unrecorded. The diaries submitted by our volunteer writers for Wednesday, October 4 capture what we might call, at the risk of paradox, an unusually normal day.
Several writers underlined the day’s ordinariness in their accounts.
“Today was a normal day,” wrote Diarist J89, celebrating the fact that he and his wife are back to their routine after (mostly pleasurable) disruptions for travel and visits from their grandchildren. J89’s day concluded with helping his wife cook for an upcoming event. “Doing chores at home,” he wrote. “A great way to end a normal day.”
Also content with ordinary life was Diarist C45. He flirted with trying to make his diary more interesting—perhaps by recording a more varied day than October 4—but decided, “that would be missing the whole point of Everyday Life in Middletown.”
Ultimately, he expresses gratitude in “achieving a goal of a ‘quiet, normal life.’ Why shouldn’t I shout that to the heavens?”
But not everyone found routine comforting on October 4. Diarist A29, whose posts for Everyday Life in Middletown have been generously and movingly documenting his grief over the death of his partner, continues to find his routines empty and meaningless, his day a thing to be endured.
“The day’s activities seem irrelevant in the larger picture,” he wrote, “…activities are just something to take up the time of getting through the day.”
In our next blog post, we will say more about “getting through the day” and the variations on the ordinary sketched out in this (dare we say) uniquely ordinary diary collection.
But for now, we wanted to highlight some other themes and features in this collection:
It topped 80 degrees in Muncie on October 4, promoting some of our writers to take meals outside and others to remark on the unseasonable warmth—though, interestingly, without directly evoking climate change.
“It’s actually nice with the breeze and not too sunny, though unexpectedly in the 80s today,” writes Diarist C46. Later, she finds herself sweating while snuggling in bed with her wife. “86 in October. Ridiculous!”
According to the National Institutes of Health, insufficient sleep is a “public health epidemic.” It would seem that such insufficiency is normal among our writers, whose sleep was interrupted by kittens and colonoscopy preparations and limited by late working hours, baseball watching, or random early waking.
“Woke up 7:15,” writes Diarist A02. “Too early—I was up too late last night after working until 9 and slow to fall asleep. Groggy Day ahead.” At the day’s conclusion, the writer finds himself repeating the cycle. “I read until 11:30—later than intended. I should have gone to bed sooner. My sleep habits are getting bad.”
With a “TMI” disclaimer, diarist A23 shares details of his first-ever colonoscopy, including some risqué joshing with the medical staff. Diarist C46 recounts a day in the midst of managing her elderly mother’s recovery from an injury and fall a few weeks ago. Others went for routine blood draws or vaccinations—again, interestingly, without anything but the most matter-of-fact allusion to the pandemic.
Something completely different
While we welcome submissions in various forms, a large majority of our volunteers’ contributions are written diaries. (So much so that we frequently call them “our writers”). Language is as good a way as any to record our days, but it is worth noting that everyday life doesn’t take place in language—or, rather, not entirely so. Physical sensations, memories, perceptions, feelings—all of these exceed or precede our translation of them into words.
The words of a diary create a representation of the day that transforms and, necessarily, reduces it—selecting from countless perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and random occurrences a very small number to report.
In this light, we found Diarist B37’s submission interesting. While it contains some words, it seeks to represent the day obliquely via the two drawings B37 made during the day. It doesn’t tell us what we’re used to learning about “our writers’” days. But it tells us something else—something uncanny and perhaps untranslatable, and, for that reason, perhaps more (or differently) true.