For a while now, this Annie Dillard quote has been haunting me (in a good way) so I wanted to share it with you:
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing."
I love this quote because it feels so obvious and also so profound. Equal parts "duh" and "whoa." :) That's often how Truth feels for me.
I once heard a lecture where a woman claimed that in order to gauge your health, all she needed to know was what you did in the last four days. Not what you should or could have done. Not what you plan to start next week or your dreams for next year. What you are doing now. In the last four days: what you said, did, ate and drank, who you associated with, how much you slept.
The concept stuck with me as a self-gauging tool to monitor my own health. There is a big difference—as we all know—between wanting to run and running or planning to eat healthy and eating healthy. There is an equally big difference between wanting to be kind to your spouse or your colleagues and being kind to your spouse or your colleagues. Even the colleague who yells into speaker phone and constantly crunches chips two cubes over.
But how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. What you are doing with your time today—is what you are doing with your life.
What do you spend your days talking about?
At some level, I believe the conversations we consistently have inform our whole lives.
For six years, I spent a large chunk of my life discussing healthcare software, as it was my profession. But at some point (almost a year ago), I simply had to stop. Since I earned good money, my career was perceived as "good." And, for the last two years of this career, I didn't work too many hours, and frequently worked from home, so my job was also perceived as a "sweet gig." And yet, I was spending my days discussing things I didn't care about at all.
Healthcare software does not interest me. It does not make me feel alive.
So I had to spend my days differently, since I longed to spend my life differently. I know many people were not comfortable with me leaving a high-paying "sweet gig" with no plan. But as my friend Lacy (who now has a new Meditation app out!!) says:
"It is not your job to make anybody else feel comfortable about YOUR life."
I'm not only talking about career, of course. What do you talk about with your friends and family?
In the last four days, did you hang out with people who made you feel inspired or who made you feel annoyed?
Have you ever gone four days without complaining? (I, probably, have not.)
It seems many people crave big life changes—a new job, a new romantic partner, a new place to live, a more healthy body, etc.—but few are willing or open to making daily changes. Or to even acknowledge that big changes start with daily changes. But where else could big life changes possibly stem from?
You cannot change your life without changing your days. Change always happens in the present tense.
Usually when I share Rumi quotes, I share excerpts from his poems, but in addition to his poetry, 147 of his letters survive. So today I'll close with an excerpt from one of his letters:
"Before death takes away what you are given,
give away what is there to give.
No dead person grieves for his death. He mourns only what he didn't do. Why did I wait? Why did I not...? Why did I neglect to...?
I cannot think of better advice to send. I hope you like it. May you stay in your infinity.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. The only book I've read by Annie Dillard (who won the Pulitzer for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) is The Writing Life which is enjoyable if you like books on writing. My favorite books on writing are Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic (which is on creativity at large and, I think, applicable to all).
p.p.s. When changing your days, no need to start big. You do not need to blow up your whole life in a fit of rage. Start small. What's one thing you can do differently today? What's a single healthy decision you can make today that differentiates you from the you of yesterday? Is there one mean remark you can keep to yourself, one angry email you can resist from sending? As Lao Tzu reminds us:"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."