Each day we spend accumulates to a life. One by one, the weeks turn into years. We look back and realise how much life we’ve already lived, how things have changed. How new problems have taken the spot of old problems. How life went on, even in our darkest days. How somehow in the moment it never felt that way. But then one day we blinked, and everything was different.
Annie Dillard, in her book The Writing Life, says, “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.” Reflecting on this fills me with a sense of existential dread and fear, but also a deep motivation to make my day, or my life, matter. It makes me want to show up for the things that matter to me and eliminate all the noise that pulls me in like a hypnotic spell.
Today I took some time away for myself, I rarely get that anymore because we have a small child whom I love more than anything but also takes up almost all of my time. Having time alone to walk, listen to music, and think feels self-indulgent nowadays. While my husband stayed at home with my daughter, I went out to explore my new suburb in search of a walking trail. I passed by the faces of hundreds of strangers and wondered what is a life? What does it mean to live a good life? It made me sad that so much of our life, for so many, is absorbed by a job that we dislike. I pass by a store and see a group of people huddled under a SALE sign, madly rummaging through discounted winter clothes and gloves. It pains me that so many people are forced to work in these jobs that squeeze them for as little as the company can pay. Then their free time is spent consuming, falling into debt. It’s like we’re these little meaningless ants working to make this giant machine run that allows only those on top of the food chain to genuinely benefit.
But do those on top really live a better life? Is living a life untied by monotony and floating in wealth and freedom really happiness? Is that really a life lived well? If it is, then where is their time being absorbed and stolen? Who is it taking away attention from? Because it must be somewhere, and something has to be sacrificed. As I watched in a documentary called Stutz, he explained that there are 3 things in life called the ‘Aspects of Reality’ that no one — really, no one — can avoid. Those three aspects are Pain, Uncertainty and Constant Work. If we all have these 3 things in life that we must deal with, no matter where we are or who we are, what can we do to make our life the best for us?
When I think hard about the way I spend I my days, which ultimately accumulates to my entire life, I notice how much of it is completely wasted. There are certainly good things like the amount of time I get to spend with my adorable daughter and a job that I absolutely love to do. But then there’s also the meaningless things like scrolling on Instagram and YouTube or watching something on Netflix. Then there’s also the time I waste worrying, comparing, planning, wishing. It’s like the Buddhist hungry ghost with its bulging stomach, long thin neck, and tiny mouth. Constantly wanting more and more, never fully satisfied.
I know that life is a mix of everything, the good days and the bad. There are days when I’m fully present, alive, engaged and in the moment, and the days when I’m not. I know that this can also happen within a matter of minutes. But I suppose this quote is more of a meditation and a reminder. Much like ‘memento mori’ – remember death. Life is not forever. Even if it isn’t death that takes something or someone away, life is always changing. We aren’t in control. No one and nothing is truly ours, everything is borrowed, even our time here on earth.
I take this quote as my own little meditation. A reflection to inject into the day when I happen to remember. When I’m laughing at something random with my daughter. When I’m having a delicious warm beverage. When I’m doing art therapy and my heart feels like it holds humanity in all of its depths. When it’s the end of the day and my husband and daughter are sitting in front of me having dinner. I take this quote as a reminder to sit presence, allowing life to be as it is. To feel the aliveness of the moment. At least until I’m distracted again.
This is really insightful. It reminds me of my article in my blog entitled “How to make life worth living.” Thanks for this!