Monday, September 01, 2014


The sound of water, be it from a stream, a fountain or waves lapping at the shore, has been an integral part of my well-being from the start. There's nothing so soothing to me as being within earshot of running water, nothing that relaxes me more than watching it move. My mind is released to contemplate, for quiet reflection, even to momentarily go blank.

The sound of the water in the video above isn't very loud, but go ahead and listen to it anyway, watch the gentle flow of water as it leaves Round Lake for the next lake down, while you think about this post from Austin Kleon's blog. It really struck a chord, this idea of what do you want your days to look like. I think most people don't feel they have a lot of control over that, what with making a living and keeping family happy. We allow others to structure what fills our days. Then there comes a time when we may find there is more latitude, more freedom to choose how each day plays out, or more radically, we defy being swept along and start making conscious choices. Either way, we may feel glad for the chance, but lost as to what it is we've been waiting for the chance to do. 

For a long time now, I've been at liberty to pretty much fill my days as I choose. Some days I do better than others, some months or years are more clear than others, some stretches feel like absolute success while others feel like absolute failure. In the rough patches I find myself longing for things I don't have, as we all do. Yet my propensity for analyzing everything soon finds me imagining what it would really be like should I get my wish, thinking about what the days would actually be like. Life is nothing if not a constant compromise, a constant weighing of the good and the bad of nearly every situation.

So as Austin says, “'What do you want your days to look like?' forces you to imagine the day in, day out realities that making such choices will present you with." Lovely to dream of living out your life on a south sea island, but in fact, would lying on the beach with no responsibility grow old sooner than later? What things would one have to fill one's day with there in order to feel happy and fulfilled? Is what we wish for in our lowest hours a reality we would truly want? It very well may be, as long as we remember that even success has its ups and downs.

Austin's reply to the question, "What is your definition of success?" is pretty spot on in my estimation: “I suppose success is your days looking the way you want them to look.” And I would add that not all days are going to look like you want them to. Some will get away from you. Some will not play out as well as you thought with what you planned to fill them with. Some will surprise you with how well they went. But isn't it lovely to turn that question of what to do with one's life (huge topic implying major decision that will make or break you) into a more immediate and fluid muse of what you want your individual days to look like?

What is your definition of success? What do you want your days to look like?


Sherrie Spangler said...

Good food for thought.

Olga Norris said...

It is interesting Sheila that you pose this question right now, because in a way that's the background quest I have for my own days. For more years than I care to calculate I have been first and intensively a daughter, and after my mother died not only did I have to ask what I wanted to do, but also had to take into consideration my husband who has retired. We have different approaches to time management, so the selfish freedom I had anticipated at no longer being a daughter is engaged in working out compromises as a more intense wifely companion. In many ways the definition of how I want my day to look is derived from examining the successes and failures of days as they pass - increasingly all too quickly!

The Inside Stori said...

Good discussion, bringing an opportunity for reflection.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Olga, yes the days are passing more quickly it seems. I've hit that age when life no longer stretches near infinitely before me and it makes me feel like I can no longer afford to fritter away my time. Yet this is also the time of life when I can most enjoy some of the frittering.

And to be doing that without a built-in companion to share certain things with is bugging me more and more. Yet as you note, bring another person into your living situation and your freedom is not what you thought it would be. I know, or think I know, how my days would change then, how they would be filled based on when my husband was still alive. Some of it would definitely be for the better. Would that outweigh the things that might not improve, the things compromises would have to be made over? It would all depend on the person pulled in, wouldn't it?

All I know is that at one time I thought I could fill my life with my quilting and be happy. Now I know that isn't true. My equivalent of dreaming of the south sea island life. The quilting isn't enough. But it does represent a big part of how I want to fill my days.

Michele Matucheski said...

As soon as I saw the water scene, I remembered canoeing with my old friend, Sandy. We came to a shallow quiet spot like that, and there was a family of wood ducks there we were lucky enough to see. Talk about a scene etched in my memory!

What would you want your days to be filled with? I had that angsty question at work a few years ago when I was considering a career-change. I decided to start a few projects then that added meaning to what I did, and brought me back to the Mission of why I do what I do ... I started an oral history project with the nuns who founded my hospital (and many others). Their retirement home is only 1 block from my hospital. I put the idea out there, and happened to meet the right people to make it happen. Once a month (or so), I sit down with one of the nuns, and let them talk about anything they want--remembering their lives (Think Story Corps), their childhoods, why they became nuns, the work they did through their lives, the miracles they'd witnessed ... We just finished the 37th interview. Talking with these marvelous ladies never fails to cheer me up, and I know I'm doing my part to preserve this little bit of history. :)
On another note, this last August when my boys went east to visit Christian's Dad for 2 weeks -- I usually have a whole list of things I want to do while they're gone, but not this year. It was strange--I missed them more than other years. Hmmmh ... When they are here, I retreat to my spaces (sewing room) and create. When they're gone, I can stay in the common areas -- but what to do?