Annie Dillard once wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” When I read those words, my thinking, practical mind is apt to frame it in a way that puts the actual tasks on the day’s list at the center. The emails I send. The sitting I do at a desk. The way the computer dictates the work flow. When I look at it through that lens, how I’m spending my days is not how I want to spend my life. I want to be roaming a woodland glade, or diving into a pool of cool water, or watching the sunlight dapple my daughter’s cheeks as she laughs. It’s quite easy to let myself become dissatisfied with the day to day things that punctuate life.
And yet. If I look at Annie Dillard’s words through a lens that looks deeper into how I am showing up to my daily task list, the picture changes. What energy went into that email, or that message, that got sent? Who was on the receiving end? Did I rush through the process, trying to do three other tasks at the same time, or did I put the whole of my focus on the words going out into the universe? How am I sitting in my chair? Do I slouch forward, or do I stay mindful of how the chair feels against my back? What am I allowing my computer to take hold of? Am I scrolling through acres of needless information, or am I being intentional about using technology as a tool to help me live my values?
A wise colleague of mine recently said, “It’s the results of those daily tasks” – the people we speak to, the question that pierces what matters, the way listening without judgment shines light down another path – “those are the moments that show what we do with our days.” And consequently, our lives.
So when I can remember that presence is, above all, the most rewarding part of my daily practice- whatever the task list-I am able to find satisfaction in how I am spending my life. I may still prefer roaming woodland glades to tapping a keyboard and will do my best to make that part of my days, but I can find solace in the good that comes from recognizing that life is more than what we see – or perhaps even what we do- on the surface. It is how we are being that matters at the end of the day, regardless the tasks on the list. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Indeed.