It was a productive day. Starting out in the morning with list in hand, I plowed through every errand without distraction, was home in time to make dinner, and still had time and energy to fold laundry and read.
In the moments before sleep, I thought, “this was a good day”.
It happened again, a few days later, after running around from sun-up to sun-down, crossing items off my to-do list with efficiency.
After several more “good” days, I noticed a pattern.
My definition of a “good” day was strongly linked to how much I accomplished.
You would think the occasional days of self-care, in which I nurture and indulge myself with naps, lunch with friends, reading, or any other favorite activity, would also be worthy of a “good” day designation. I realized, however, that their enjoyment was diminished by a hint of underlying guilt at chores relegated to the sidelines and left undone.
Interesting. And sad at the same time, because this pattern must say something about my priorities.
I started to wonder if this tendency said something about me or was typical of other people in my age group, other working women, or if it was a reflection of a personality type.
So I began to survey my friends and family.
I asked my sister what she considered a “good” day, and her definition was the same as mine. Certainly our upbringing, with parents who both worked two jobs, taught us a strong work ethic. But how else did it influence our priorities?
I asked my stepson, who is in his early twenties, and his answer surprised me. Any day in which he conquers a fear or completes a difficult task constitutes a good day.
My nephew, also in his early twenties, said when he thinks back on his conversations and interactions and is pleased with everything he said, he considers it a good day.
My daughter, in her middle twenties, said a good day was tied to productivity when it isn’t a workday, and whether she let the things people say or do “get to” her when it is.
All so different than my definition and very interesting.
My eighty seven year old mother-in-law said a good day is when everything goes smoothly and “everyone is happy”. Knowing her, it’s no surprise that her happiness is contingent on the contentment of her family.
A friend around my age said a good day is one in which there was balance. Must-dos and want-to-dos in equal measure.
Certainly, this isn’t a scientific study or even an adequate sample, but it seems to say something about where we put our energy at different phases of our lives.
First, in becoming an adult, we measure our interactions and try to stretch ourselves in new ways.
Then, in the thick of adult responsibilities, we are busy trying to do it all and yet enjoy the view along the way.
Later, our focus is more on family and relationships, and less on getting things done.
I suspect personality also plays a role in our priorities, because I know for certain, that conquering a fear or completing a difficult task never felt as satisfying for me as for my stepson, no matter what my age or stage in life (so far).
In the bible we read:
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
I think God’s telling us they’re all good days. And I’m trying to listen.
For me, this means letting go of guilt and realigning my priorities.
Like relishing the five hour lunch date with my dear friend and letting go of the errands I’d planned to do on the way home. They can wait. Time with my friend can’t.
Like listening to music in the car and singing along instead of rehearsing my shopping list so I can write it down when I get home.
And it means sitting on my deck and listening to all the different bird calls in my neighborhood without berating myself for not vacuuming the cat hair off the floor or emptying the dishwasher.
It means considering any day I can be with family and friends a good day.
We’ve all heard the quote:
Nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.
Rabbi Harold Kushner
Well I’m fairly certain no one ever lamented not keeping a cleaner house, cooking more meals, or putting the laundry away faster either.
Maybe it’d be helpful to change how I think about each day and refrain from using the term “good” since there is inherent value in whatever we deem to be “good”. And any days that are not, become less-than.
Instead, maybe I should think of each day with terms such as “productive”, “rewarding”, “exhausting”, “relaxing”, “stressful”, “fun”, “balanced” or any other term that is more descriptive than evaluative.
I’ve written about taking time to enjoy everyday because tomorrow is not guaranteed. I’d never want to spend my last day prioritizing a trip to Shoprite over a few moments to relax, catch my breath, and say of prayer of gratitude. And I won’t.
But I’m not ready to give up my to-do list just yet.
So what constitutes a “good” day for you? How can you expand that definition?