What’s Your Little Miss Sunshine Van?

What are your quirks? Are they harmless idiosyncrasies or unhealthy habits that have grown so familiar that you don’t even notice them anymore? Here’s how you can tell the difference and lead a more conscious, healthy life—without becoming “normal”!

Have you seen the movie, Little Miss Sunshine? It’s that rare gem of a film that manages to be simultaneously uplifting and depressing, twisted yet heartfelt. There are so many wonderful things that I could write about this film, but I want to focus on a detail that reveals a lot about personal growth and conscious living: the van.

(If you haven’t seen the film, don’t worry—I’m not giving any spoilers beyond what you’d see in a 1:30 trailer.)


(Van scene at 0:38!)

In the movie, the family has to start their semi-broken van by pushing it, getting it into second gear (around 10 mph), running alongside and jumping in.

As weird as this situation is, what’s weirder still is how quickly it becomes “normal” for the family—and, in turn, starts to seem normal to us, the viewers.

Where are your “vans” hiding? (Probably in plain sight!)

Ever since my wife, Jodi, and I watched this movie, we’ve been on the lookout for our own “vans”—those bizarre parts of our lives that we’re so used to that we barely even notice them.

Sometimes we can spot them while they’re happening, and sometimes only in retrospect do we realize how odd a situation really was.

Crawling under the table

We didn't realize how cluttered it was!

The other day I came across this old photo of me and Jodi working at our craft business, and we remembered an old “van”: In our old house, we had our workroom packed so tightly that in order for me to get to the far end of the room, I had to crawl under the table.

Like the Little Miss Sunshine van scenes, I looked pretty silly doing it. And I felt pretty silly the first few times I did it. But, just like the movie, before too long it started to feel so normal that we didn’t think twice about it anymore. If I needed something from the far end of the room, I simply crawled under the table. Perfectly normal.

Now that we’ve moved, we have plenty of space to walk all the way around our work table—and we realize just how strange it was that we didn’t before!

Although “vans” are easier to spot in retrospect, sometimes you can spot them while they’re still in your life. Here’s one that we still deal with every day:


Cats in the Tub

Shortly after we got our kittens, Biddle and Buncom, we noticed that they were fascinated with dripping water. So sometimes we’d put them in the tub and leave the water dripping for their entertainment.

We soon realized, however, that not only did they like to watch the dripping water, but they also liked to drink it. They liked drinking it so much, in fact, that soon they refused to drink out of their water bowls. Instead, whenever they got thirsty, they’d sit in the tub and howl until we turned on the water.

BuncomAnd, taking a page from the Textbook of Bad Parenting, we always did it—just to shut them up.

So it’s no big surprise that, to this day, they still only drink out of the tub.

(By the way: our third cat, Elsie, only drinks from her water bowl—so it can be done!)

Some vans are harmless. Others aren’t.

Not all “vans” are as innocuous as crawling under the table or as cute as kittens drinking from the tub. Often, they’re not just quirky or weird—they’re unhealthy or even dangerous. And we’re often too close to notice them, much less realize that they might be a problem.

Very dysfunctional or toxic situations and environments can seem perfectly normal if they’re part of our everyday lives. This is especially true for children who grow up in an unhealthy (or downright crazy) environment. Because they have nothing to compare it to, they think might think that their family’s bizarre behavior is normal. Even as adults, however, we can get into patterns that become so ingrained we cease to notice or even think about them.

So, how do you spot your vans?

Here are 3 tricks that can help you:

  • Your Life: The Movie – Imagine that your life were a movie—like Little Miss Sunshine. What scenes do you think the audience would find laughable, weird, or even disturbing?
  • Under Surveillance – Let’s indulge our most paranoid conspiracy theories for a moment and imagine that you were being watched 24/7—that “They” saw everything you did (but without your knowledge, so you couldn’t “pretend to be normal”). What do you think would stand out as odd or unhealthy?
  • Ask a Friend – If you honestly can’t think of any “vans” in your life, ask a friend (not a spouse, partner, or roommate—who might also be too close to the vans to notice them)—someone who knows you beyond your surface “representative,” someone who knows your dirt!

After you identify your vans, ask yourself if you’d be closer to your ideal life with or without them. Which ones might be red-flag symptoms of larger issues, and which ones are merely harmless eccentricities—amusing quirks that make you you?

It’s NOT about being “normal”!

This process isn’t about trying to be “normal”! (Who wants that?!) Quirks and eccentricities make us unique individuals. They make life colorful and fun. They give us a good laugh—frequently at ourselves!

The point of spotting your “vans” is to become more aware—to live consciously, identify possible red flags (or even yellow ones), and get into the driver’s seat of your own life.

Even if you have to jump into the seat while the van’s moving!

What are your vans? Are they simply funny quirks and weird habits you’ve gotten used to? Or do you have any that you’d like to change? Feel free to share them in the “Comment” box below. I promise not to judge—although I can’t promise I won’t laugh!

P.S. There’s still time to join A Month of Meditation—a free online group that supports your meditation practice, whether you’re a beginner, enlightened master, or “halfway up the mountain”!

4 thoughts on “What’s Your Little Miss Sunshine Van?

  1. Another great post, Dan!
    I love how each of your posts get us thinking a little more deeply about our lives and the habits and patterns that we can subconsciously create. I’m so grateful and blessed to be able to take in and soak up your wisdom each day. I love you!

    • Thank you so much, Jodi! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed this! You’re right–we really do have so many subconscious and semi-conscious habits of thought and action, and I know that the first step is becoming aware of them. So if any of this can get us thinking and help us become more aware, I’m happy about that! I LOVE YOU, TOO! Thanks for being such an inspiration to me and so many others!

  2. Great post and I will have to go and have a close inspection of all my ‘vans’ – think it will end up being a bit like a second hand car lot! Thanks for your support and encouragement with the meditating.

    • Thanks, Claire. Glad you’re feeling good about your meditation and that you’re taking a look at your “vans”–I know I’ve got a whole lot more than the couple I mentioned here! 🙂 I hope it’s enlightening going through the “lot”–or at least gives you a good, light-hearted smile! Thanks for visiting, reading, and commenting–swing by anytime!

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