Spending My Days

Consider the essence of magic as the enchantment of the unknown, a paradox that in the words of the Tao is the “named and the nameless.” Magic appears throughout this blog so similarly to its appearance in my life or to borrow from Annie Dillard:  “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

What if we spend our days creating and re-creating our lives as works of art rather than scheduling our lives by the hour, defining ourselves by the number of tasks we accomplish. Only late in my life did I come to this magic, this nuance of routine. Now, I spend my days in the experience of each moment where every minute is a way of life and not a moment on a timepiece or a task on a list.

I am not without day-to-day demands—mine is chronic illness—nor am I without the gifts that life’s demands provide, and chronic illness has its gifts, too. Of course, it took me more than thirty years to notice there were any gifts from any demands. We just don’t look for these gifts. We focus our attention only on the demands, maybe even calling attention to ourselves. Mark Nepo says “the threshold to all that’s extraordinary in life is when we devote ourselves to giving attention, not getting it. [That’s when] things come alive for us…[we] find our place in the beauty of things by the attention we can give.”

Perhaps the best measure of giving attention is how we live the routine of our days. Of late, I’ve been experimenting with routine in the larger context of creating a resilient life, which is, among other attributes, a work of art according to Dr. Symeon Rodger in The Five Pillars of Life. The process is a simple one. I record the moments of my day as they occur and not as a schedule of what must occur. There are requirements for each day—some specific tasks must be done–but there is not a plan. Within a week, I discovered a natural flow to how I spend my days as I watched them unfold, regardless of the interruptions and the unexpected. Most important, I discovered resilience and flow reside in the creative unknown.

Here is how that translates in my everyday life. The day-to-day unpredictability of my dis-ease as well as Cooper’s does not change nor does it require any more attention than juggling finances, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, writing—all requirements of my days. In focusing on each moment, I not only accomplish what is required but I complete tasks and chores that have been waiting for months. Furthermore, there is energy in everything I do as I immerse myself into each task and only that task. There is no multi-tasking for each moment belongs to itself completely. Not one day is like another nor is any day exhausting. I schedule nothing and record everything.

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I am quick “to soar with the oversoul”—Louisa May Alcott’s phrase regarding her father and the transcendentalists—and like Thoreau, I have built my “castles in the air” but few times in my life have I put “foundations beneath them” that did not crumble. Yet, in living a routine as a work of art and embracing the enchantment of the everyday, I have a foundation for my current castle in the recording of how I spend my days.

The role of voice recognition software  in my routine is nothing short of finding a new energy source.  Once I began using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I realized how much physical energy I was expending in typing, a necessity for a writer but  one I had overlooked. Ironically, I had spent considerable time, money, and thought in creating a comfortable work space. I work from an adjustable bed that supports my entire body, and my laptop rests on a spacious tray designed for use with adjustable beds. I believed I had a comfortable way to continue writing, and it was just a matter of settling into a writing schedule but those were days devoid of enchantment and full of design.

There never was a consistent writing schedule, and increasingly, neuropathy limited the length of time that I could use a  keyboard. Finally, I took a three-week hiatus from blogging and from scheduling my days. I knew I would no longer write as I had–I didn’t know whether I would write–yet, I knew I would continue to create and re-create, and that was enough as I explored the moments of my days. Then, I discovered Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and in the initial moments of using the software, I knew life was about to change even more, and so it has. Within two days, there was also a marked decrease in my physical discomfort.

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For me, dictating my thoughts is quite different from typing thoughts on a screen using keys on a keyboard. Dictating is sending thoughts through speech; typing is the tactile sensation of selecting keys to produce words. The awareness involved  in each process is completely different, and I am allowed another perspective on creating. I find the combination quite freeing. I focus on the writing before I bring it to the screen through my voice. Then, with my fingers on the keyboard, I edit and shape the words on the screen, creating and re-creating yet another perspective on the story of how I spend my days.

10 thoughts on “Spending My Days

  1. In my job as a writing tutor, I find I am often helping students to learn effective proofreading strategies for Dragon. The initial results are often hilarious, and sometimes working together on the humorous side of things breaks the ice a bit with students who may be shy, proud, or resistant to using the technology. I’m impressed with how rapidly most people learn to get the program to work for them, how quickly the error rate declines.
    Punctuation seems the most challenging thing to “fix.” And I do observe that people who dictate to write tend to lose structure of the overall composition–so that becomes a second form of proofreading (really, it’s more like editing). Working with people who use voice recognition software has taught me so much about how human beings THINK!
    Best of luck–good to see you blogging again more regularly.

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    1. Hi, Ann!

      Your point about dictating to write is not the same as typing to write is exactly what I’ve been trying to express. Thank you!

      In dictating with Dragon, I do lose the structure of the overall composition, as you say, but for me that is a plus. Dragon allows me to express all of my thoughts–I cannot type as fast as I dictate even with typos–when I’m finished with the initial dictating, I use a combination of dictating and typing for editing (as opposed proofreading) into a first draft, probably very similar to your students. Because Dragon saves me so much physical energy, the quality of my initial drafts has improved for I have more energy to edit. For me, proofreading is the final step of a final draft.

      Using Dragon has revealed a great deal about my own thought processes, much more so than the more physical act of typing or handwriting. No doubt, it is providing you a wealth of information! Always great to have you stop by, Ann.

      Karen

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  2. I also use the Dragon. I’ve been steadily losing my hands to carpal tunnel. Yes, the fluidity of talking and having the words appear is miraculous. The Dragon also has a mind of its own, a nonsensical mind, but still… Proofreading is always required.

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    1. Hi, Adrian!

      Dragon does have a mind of its own, doesn’t it? In addition to pointing out my errors in grammar (actually, I am correct sometimes), Dragon lets me know when I need to rest. All I mean by that is my voice gets quite raspy and I don’t enunciate clearly; in the last 35+ years of illness, my voice has been one of the first red flags to wave. You know me and the sentience in all things…. I am finding that personalizing my commands and adding in vocabulary has cut down on some of the “misunderstandings” that Dragon and I have but not proofreading it is never an option, just as you say.

      Karen

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    1. Hello, Lura!

      I happened to notice your comment as it posted to my blog; truly, I was thinking of you in that very moment, wondering how you are. Do know I think of you often and with great fondness. Someday, there will be an e-mail. Thank you for your kind and always generous words.

      Love and peace,

      Karen

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  3. I’ve worked with Dictate, Dragon’s Mac counterpart to NaturallySpeaking, and have developed a love/hate relationship with it. For me, it’s getting used to talking a story versus writing one. The software is right 95% of the time; it’s the 5% that drives me nuts. I’ve been meaning to sit down with it and work through it very slowly, because I get tired of typing one-handed.

    Anyway, best of luck with ROW80.

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    1. Hello, John!

      I look forward to being in the next round of ROW 80 with you. ROW 80 has done so much for my writing and for my blogging.

      As for Dragon, there is a distinct difference in how story unfolds–as you note–it is a difference unique to each writer, I suspect. Recently, I noticed my accuracy was not what it had been so I ran some checks to see what I could do to improve it. As so often happens with me, the obvious seems so easy to overlook, meaning my microphone volume line was on mute, although the master volume overrides that to a certain extent. I know this because of other programs I use that require a microphone. That one change significantly increased my accuracy but not as much as when I returned to speaking clearly as I did when I first started using Dragon. In other words, the software is so comfortable for me that I slid into sloppy speech, an age-old habit of mine.

      Good luck in the ROW 80 round and with Dragon.

      Karen

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  4. Dear Karen,
    I so much enjoy the wisdom in your writing.

    This spring Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” made it possible for me to discover a new path in my life (for my life). Cain made me finally realize (at the age of 45) that its quite all right to be an introvert… Her book even made it possible for me to start enjoying my own personality instead of trying to fight it. In short: “Quiet” lifted tons of bad conscience from my shoulders!

    My next step was to discover mindfulness (as I have mentioned for you before 🙂
    And when you say: “I spend my days in the experience of each moment where every minute is a way of life and not a moment on a timepiece or a task on a list” – it is a perfect description of how I try to live my life, being mindful and present in the moment, every moment. I understand that changes take time, and also know that new paths are full of challenges. But I have gotten in contact with a new kind of inner peace I never knew before. It’s not there all the time, but I know how to get in contact with it, and I believe the awareness of the moment can be cultivated.

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    1. Oh, Sigrun! What a lovely compliment. Truly, thank you.

      I so agree regarding mindfulness. As you say, there is an inner peace that I have never known, and from time to time, I’ll recognize that I have moved away from it, inadvertently–this occurs a lot when I fall into an old habit, even a good one–it just doesn’t feel like me anymore. Like you, I center myself and begin again. I remember you mentioning Susan Cain’s book, Quiet; it is on my list of books to read. Although most people who have known me previous would not see me as an introvert, I am. In my own way and for most of my 60 years, I lived every life except life as a work of art. No more. I understand perfectly when you write of enjoying your own personality, and I read it in your blog posts (http://omstreifer.wordpress.com).

      It is so great that you and I have met along the road to mindfulness. Again, thank you, Sigrun.

      Karen

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