alchemy

What I can do today

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If you didn’t receive a text from me last Sunday, you’re not alone. I didn’t send any … not because of a purposeful or even conscious decision, but because the time slipped away before I could attend to what was important to me.

This has been happening a lot lately. The ragged last few months have found me between jobs as well as in the midst of a household move, leaving me scattered and unsettled in my new home.

I’ve made a list of what I need to do around here – everything from sorting the blue lids for those plastic food storage containers to setting up my entire work-from-home office – a list that overwhelmed and discouraged me as it exploded into two columns on two separate pages of notebook paper.

Then I thought maybe it would be easier to break these tasks into a room-by-room inventory. Yes, you guessed it … same list, more pages.

It’s also always been my habit on Monday mornings to make a “Week of …” list, such as sending in change-of-address forms, making a dentist appointment or reaching out to friends. But, distressingly, I’ve recently ended up transferring many, if not most, of these items onto the following week’s list. Or the week after that.

That’s why I’ve decided, finally, that I have to both get ahold of myself as well as let go of these mammoth lists. In this spirit, I now begin each day with a decision about what I believe is realistic to accomplish on this day.

I admit I was overly optimistic that first Monday – not many to-dos crossed off, and some marked for Tuesday or even later in the week.

(I fudged that first Friday, though. I didn’t write anything down until later in the afternoon, when most items were already done and I could gleefully cross them off.)

Now, however, with each successive day, I am more able to identify, prioritize and focus on “what I can do today.” And if something such as laundry gets moved out, that’s okay because maybe I’ve selected my writing class over my washer and dryer today.

Unexpectedly, this “what I can do today” mindset also has an additional benefit that helps me grapple with the immensity of struggles going on in our world, our nation, our communities.

For example, as we continue to toil through the pandemic’s impacts, what I can do today is wear my mask, keep my distance and be COVID-aware in all circumstances.

Amid the shock and horror of the Boulder massacre, what I can do today is make a donation, offer my support and take a stand against gun violence.

What I can do today is be kind to kids, dogs, elders and servers.

Such an aspirational approach not only helps calm my scattered and unsettled emotions, but also centers me on what is truly possible, what is realistically achievable in the 1,440 minutes of the day.

Can’t we, too, as a larger society, recognize not only our trials, tragedies, and disputes but also prioritize what is possible and achievable, right here and now? There is much each one of us can do today.

And for my part, if laundry skips from today to tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, well, that’s a purposeful decision.

What I can do instead today is use the time to respond to emails, return phone calls … and maybe send some texts. 

Andrea Doray is a writer who responds to emails at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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