How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.Annie Dillard
I’ve cultivated a habit I practice each day to readjust my thinking, reminding myself that my present moment is my only moment. Impermanence reigns regardless of how much I’d like to carve out an unchanging shelf of living for myself.
Permanent fixtures do not exist.
I cannot guarantee a certain amount of time with any one person, nor myself. I cannot cement the town I live in to never change or the land I stand on to never alter. As I live and breathe, I move closer to my end, an inevitability that each of us has in common.
That could be a sad thought, I suppose, but really it’s a sobering thought. It’s a reckoning of self and priority.
Where do I put my energy? How do I live my life? What are my thoughts tangled up in? How much time am I wasting by channeling my energy into what’s not important?
Am I overwhelmed with the future, trying to control it, manage it, get a guarantee of whatever I believe will make me okay?
The truth of life is I have this moment, and that’s it. I don’t even know if I have the next moment. I don’t know if anyone else has the next moment either.
So, how am I spending my days?
Checklists are good for me to keep track of goals and to-do’s, but is my focus more on checking things off than experiencing what I’m checking off? Living has a way of steamrolling into quantity rather than quality.
Reminding myself of life’s impermanence and that this moment is of high value, I can gauge the level of quality in my life rather than the quantity of what I’m doing.
If I review my day, can I recall what happened? Or does it all feel like a blur? Like everything moved so quickly I barely got a glance at what occurred?
Or maybe it moved so slowly I felt I needed to escape through television? My phone? Complaining? Judging others? Overworking? Over-exercising? And whatever else I can come up with.
I don’t want to stay too long in discomfort, so I can start wishing for the day when the difficulty is over. When I do that, I wish my time away. Every second is precious. Each second is one I will never experience again, yet my brain likes to tell me I have all the time in the world.
I can hear it in my excuses and justified procrastinations: I’ll do that tomorrow; I’ll call them in a couple of days; Right now is not a good time for a vacation; What will they do if I don’t show up and on and on.
Don’t get me wrong. Responsibility is important. Following through is one of my greatest achievements, and every time I follow through, regardless of what it’s for, I gain self-respect and the trust of others.
But I can easily sacrifice what I need for what I don’t need.
If I don’t like what I’m doing, am I willing to look at doing something else? And, maybe, what’s more important is, am I willing to let go of what I don’t need to make changes that help me live my life to its fullest?
At one point, it became clear I needed to change my diet for my health, but I threw out a bunch of excuses: too hard, too expensive, too time-consuming, etc. Of course, anything I try to change that involves a multitude of things simultaneously overwhelms me. I want to stay with what’s familiar, even if it’s wreacking havoc on my life, my health, my emotional well-being.
I had to break my health changes into bits and take things one moment at a time, one day at a time, and incrementally build up to where I’d like to be. The cool thing is now I practice a healthy lifestyle that truly benefits me. I feel better in all areas of my life. I’m not running from sickness to sickness, trying to play catch up with living a life of quantity that depletes and deprives.
I had to ask questions to challenge my thinking. How much did I pay to eat out the other night? How often do I eat out? How much is my cell phone bill per month? Does my cell phone contribute to my health? How much do I spend on coffee each month? Clothes? Tipping? Movie apps for my television? Are those things more important than what I need to live my life fully? Are they more important than my health? My emotional, mental, spiritual well-being?
It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time or money to make the changes needed. I wasn’t willing to make changes if I had to sacrifice something. By being willing to set aside what wasn’t “important,” I found a sense of quality in my life that continues to nourish me today.
When I nourish my well-being in all its facets, I become aware of those around me as well. My relationships with others improve and deepen. Joy is more potent. Laughter is more contagious.
When faced with difficulty, I’m more apt to move through it with some grace than to fall apart or to wish it away. I have the energy to feel grief or stress. I can make healthy decisions because I’m not in a continuous state of deprivation from living a life of quantity rather than quality.
Asking myself how I’m spending my days is a useful question because, as Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
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