Are you used to the idea by now that your days aren’t long enough?
My father once asked me this during a week when I’d just moved and was still unpacking boxes. I was also in the middle of putting out an issue of dirtcakes the literary journal I edit, finishing a poetry manuscript, writing an essay collection, and baking cookies to take for an overnight visit to that same man who’d just asked me if I was ready yet to bow to the superior strength of time’s speed pitted against my endless to-do list that stretched like one of Jack Kerouac’s legendary giant paper roll manuscripts.
I almost said no, my days are never long enough. And then I paused.
Every single day there’s time for meditation and prayer, for long dinners with my husband, conversation with our parents and children, my sisters and neighbors, friends and strangers. I have all the time I need to hike with my dog at least for a bit and toast small discoveries like the way the afternoon sun slants golden in the living room window of the new house.
Every day is exactly as long as it needs to be when I take time to write and teach and breathe a prayer of gratitude for living with the kind of mind that dreams up all the things that fill my days. That to-do list only feels like it stretches to eternity, but in fact it’s filled with tasks that will hardly outlive my body the way love will link my life to others in ways that will continue to give long after I’m gone. There’s never enough time to say no to what matters.
So, yes, I said, rather surprised at myself. Every day is exactly long enough, I told my father. Yes, this day is the perfect length, as will be the one tomorrow when I come visit.
What, what did you do today? My monkey mind can’t help but ask this persistently during the daily hour when I finally concede surrender to the uncrossed off items still standing under the to-do heading. My answer today? I wrote you and I feel great. And now it’s time to go get busy in the kitchen.
With all the time in the world,
p.s. If reading lists brings you pleasure, one of my all time favorite books is Journeys of Simplicity: Traveling Light edited by Philip Harnden. It’s a compilation of lists from writers, poets, even an arctic tern.
RAYMOND CARVER’S ERRAND LIST:
What will you pack into your day? What are you willing to let go?