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.