“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” —Annie Dillard
The baby had gone down with relative ease; I’d just finished an episode of the deliciously entertaining first season of Unreal; and I was ready to collapse in bed with a book and a mug of tea. As I rose from the sofa, my husband asked me if I wanted to play a round of the new nerdy board game he’d picked up earlier that day. “Are you kidding me? I’m so exhausted. Ugh. Just let me go to sleep!” I snapped back at him, instantly annoyed. “Okay, I understand,” he said, tidying up the living room before heading down to the basement to grab the last load of laundry from the dryer.
As I headed for the bedroom, it hit me: This is not who I want to be. This man will do ANYTHING for me. Earlier that day, I dragged him out to run errands for five hours in heavy traffic. He sat in the car with our napping baby while I spent 45 minutes browsing at ULTA, and when we arrived home, he immediately started doing laundry. And when, after this long, girly day, he asked his wife to spend an hour doing something he wanted to do, she not only turned him down, but acted offended that he had even asked. He wanted to spend some time connecting and having fun with the woman he loves.
I met him at the top of the basement stairs. “Let’s play the game!”
“Really?” he asked, his eyes lighting up. His genuine surprise at my spontaneity sparked something inside me, a feeling I want to chase. This moment seemed to contain a thread of commonality with the other important areas of my life.
As a parent, it’s so easy for me to slog through each day without making any progress toward my goals. There is always another task in the never-ending march of childcare, and at the end of the day, I’ve accomplished the goal of keeping my daughter alive for another day but often little else. I have big dreams for this little life of mine, and I want to continue growing into the person who can achieve them. I want to be healthier. I want to write more. I want to be fully present to my family. I want to give back to our community and help make the world a better place. But day after day passes by, “busy” days in which I actually accomplish very little toward achieving my goals and dreams because having a child keeps you busy enough to feel productive even when you haven’t been.
I’m not saying savoring time with my girl isn’t a worthy way to spend my time, and we have countless wonderful moments together every single day. I’m talking about all the truly WASTED hours in my weeks. I could tell myself things will be different when my daughter is older, but that’s not true: Older children still need lots of attention, and hopefully Lyra will have a sibling in the future. It will never be easy to carve out time. These days will string together until they become my entire life.
I spent an hour concentrating on a complicated and slightly boring board game even though I was tired because it meant a lot to my husband. I know that time was better invested than if I’d scrolled through my social media feeds yet again before falling asleep.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the trend of picking a phrase or theme to define the coming year rather than a specific resolution. I’ve decided that, in this vein, my phrase for 2016 will be, “Make it count.”
Our modern world is burdened with an insidious threat, offering countless distractions to occupy our minds and divert us from what is truly important. This year, I want to ask myself every day what I can do to take steps toward being the person I want to be. The present is all we really have, and I don’t want to regret how I spent my one precious life.
Do you have a phrase for 2016?