When I'm busy, I get destination-oriented. "I have to finish this newsletter before I can read the book." "I need to weed the garden before I can sit down." It probably arises from childhood. We needed to learn to be responsible. We couldn't play until homework was done, or the dishes were done. Fair enough. Dad was a good example of responsibility. I used to watch him push the lawn mower long after he was too tired to continue, yet he did anyways because it needed to be done.
What he didn't teach us was that we could be content while doing the dishes, or homework, or shovelling the snow from the driveway. All I saw in him at the time was sweat rolling from his forehead, the tension in his face, and the satisfied plunk into his chair once the lawn mower was put away. He didn't look happy in the doing, but in the finishing. All he saw was the destination.
Enjoying the day is about letting myself be content with the mix of things I have to do, and the time it takes to do them: work or play. While it might feel good to reach the front of the line at the shop, I can enjoy the wait by watching my breath or listening to the voices around me. Even as I approach the deadline to get out a newsletter, I can find elegance in the language and take joy in the sharing. While fixing the kitchen tap may be mandatory, I can enjoy the pleasure of problem solving and working with my hands while I do.
If a necessary activity is difficult or painful, I can find joy by pacing myself. Dad didn't do that much. For him it was all about being able to rest afterwards. I think he was afraid if he didn't do it all at the time, he wouldn't finish it. Lately I've been resisting weeding the garden because of arthritis pain. So rather than let it become stupid, I take a kitchen timer with me. I can do 10 minutes. In fact I can do 10 minutes each morning after my prayers. So that's what I have been doing this week. Knowing that the job is not going to be painful makes it a lot easier to laugh at the black-flies trying to bite. It makes it easier to stop and enjoy the exquisite beauty of a tulip. Or the green scent of a May morning. And it brings enough joy to the doing that I know I'll be up for it again tomorrow morning. Or maybe even this afternoon.
If a necessary activity is frustrating, I can find joy by stopping long enough to get out of my head and back into the present moment or by laughing at how absurd it's become.
Enjoying the day means being where I am wholeheartedly. There is joy to be found all day, not just in those destination moments, whatever life gives me. I can be contented as I struggle to put up a bird feeder, as I unwind in the tub, as I rush to be at the appointment on time, even as I recover from bad news.
I need to remember this though. I'm a lot like Daddy - I tend to push past my limits so that I can bask in the glow of a job well-done. Especially when I'm busy, it helps to settle back into my body and notice what's going on around me. Then I can enjoy the day.
First published June 2017 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.