when life gets in the way ... but of what?

The quality of your life is determined by who you are, not by what you accomplish. We are, after all, human beings, not human doings. ~ Nancy Daley

when life gets in the way ... but of what?

I was tired when I went to bed last night, and I was still feeling a little lousy when I woke up this morning. When the alarm went off, I tapped it off and slid back into the covers, wanting to sleep some more. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, experience has taught me that it is a recipe for disaster.

So I pulled myself out of bed and created a very lean schedule for the day. I was only aiming to write in the early hours after finishing my Morning Pages and before D woke up, and I planned to keep the rest of the day free to attend to a lot of stuff that has been pending for a while but can't be put off for much longer. I was pretty happy with myself for the choices I had made so far.

Funnily, this morning, I had not even finished my Morning Pages when D woke up and we decided to go down to play. Normally I manage to get both my Morning Pages and some fiction done before he wakes up, but today was different. We had almost three hours of time at our disposal before he needed to get dressed and go to school.

Not too long ago, I'd have been fuming at the inevitable loss of work time, but today I was determined not to go down that path. After playtime and breakfast, we still had another hour to go, so we opened up some scented play-doh that was left over from all the stuff we had bought earlier this week to make Halloween treat bags for his friends at school. Goodness! I think the last time we played with play-doh was several months ago. We had such a jolly good time.

When it was time to leave for school, D asked me if I'd come to drop him off today. Usually it's KrA who drops him off and I go to pick him up, but D has been asking me to come along for drop-off of late. And since my schedule for this morning was out of whack anyway, I thought, Why not? and all three of us made our way to school.

Big hugs at drop-off, and then KrA and I started on our way back home when I asked him if he'd like to go to the beach. A little dithering and both of us made our way to the beach! The waves crashed. The wind tousled our hair. I collected shells from the shore. We weren't there for long, but long enough to soak ourselves in the magic of it all without wishing we had more or less of what we received in those magical moments.

Back home. Got some writing done. Not as much as these past few days (nowhere close to yesterday's output), but enough for me to feel happy about being able to keep up with the daily streak. Then I attended to all the other stuff. I didn't linger on FaceBook. KrA helped with the cover design for my upcoming novel. And before long, it was time to go pick up little D, and both KrA and I went together. (I love that KrA gets to work from home. It's one of the best things that has come about as a result of the pandemic!)

So yes, I could say that today life got in the way of writing, but even as that sentence popped into my head, I couldn't help but ask myself this: why do we say that life got in the way? Got in the way of what? Of itself? Because isn't this what life is?
All these things that we wish did not distract us from our 'work', they are the things that make up life, isn't it?
A child waking up earlier than he usually does.
A child seeking out his parent – for play, for conversation, for belonging, for company, for love.
An unexpected walk on the beach with a loved one.
Moments of rest and recovery when our bodies feel tired and want to slow down.
Not lamenting all the chores that need to be taken care of – the countless little things we can afford to do only because we are able to, physically, mentally, financially, emotionally.
When I slow down and adopt this perspective, even doing laundry becomes a joyful task. Understanding that this activity does not get in the way of life but in fact facilitates our life changes the quality of our doing it.

Yesterday, after picking up D from school, I needed to go grocery shopping, so the two of us made our way to a store that was on the way from school to home. While I was focussed on not getting hassled about this additional item on our to-do list, D made it such a fun event. Even grocery shopping becomes such a fun thing with that child.

It makes me wonder why, for so many years, I had looked at the necessary activities of life as meaningless and futile. All the life hacks that are sold to us too perpetrate the same message. Automate everything else so you can claim your life back.

A landscape design company that provides weekly gardening services to our neighbour every summer has a tagline that says something like "Take your weekends back!" What is that supposed to mean? Outsource gardening to someone else so that all you need to do is sit in your beautiful yard and sip a cool drink in the afternoon sun? That sounds fun, yes, but after a while even that becomes monotonous and we start looking for something else to fill our time, to fill the void we feel in our life.

Don’t equate your self-worth with how well you do in life.  You aren’t what you do. If you are what you do, then when you don’t, you aren’t.
~Wayne Dyer

I found the above quote attributed to Wayne Dyer in a beautiful post on Tiny Buddha: "Measuring the Quality of Your Day with a To-Be List (Not Just a To-Do List)" by Nancy Daley.

In her post, Daley says:

What if you and I ignored the urge to check out the check marks on our to-do lists before getting into our PJ’s and brushing our teeth? What if we sat quietly somewhere before bed and reflected on how we were that day; how we felt and how others seemed to feel around us rather than on what we accomplished and who we did more than? Would the quality of our day change?

In outlining steps to take towards making this change, she says:

... write a to-be list instead of a to- do list, for tomorrow. It may look something like this:
Tomorrow I will be:
a person who seeks reasons to smile and laugh
a person who simply wants to be
The quality of your life is determined by who you are, not by what you accomplish. We are, after all, human beings, not human doings.
Let’s base the value of our day on that small bit of wisdom and live accordingly. Just be.

So I'll leave by saying today was a day that entailed less doing and more being, more living. And because of that the day so much richer, full of life and its very essence.