An every day to-do list I want to remember
Lately I’ve felt an urgency that comes with the sense of seeing the sky shift from light pink morning to deep blue darkness as fast as one of my breaths. There is importance right here, I think. In my house, out my window, in my kitchen there is more than what the world claims is trending or significant, I think. We each hold time right here in our bodies. We have time every time we inhale, each second we open our two incredible eyes, we hold our big heads up on top of our intricate spines.
And when I escape into the clutter of my day, tangled in dishes, forgettable texts, emails and boxes I’ve checked, that sense of time passing almost evades me. Our boxes should be bigger and better, I think. Our lists should mean more. They should say something true about the people around us, about the needs that must be met before another day passes over the fading hill.
If I were to make one simple to-do list, good enough for every day, here’s what it would say:
See people. Really, see them. I can’t check this box without studying the way my husband’s eyes are angled just right, just long enough so that he can take me in. I can’t cross this one off without understanding how every face and figure I encounter is an opportunity to know another soul, right there front of me. We call this deep thinking, but I can’t be bothered any longer to only see the shiny surface of my surroundings. I want to know you, I need to say. This isn’t pressure. I’d rather know a handful of people well than only knowing the surface of a hundred friends and family.
Hear the sound of the whole day. Today is much, much longer than I ever thought — if I listen to it. This day is every uncountable bird song, a rumbling tractor, my 12-year-old daughter rushing into my bedroom, asking me to borrow a necklace that my refugee teen friend gave me for my birthday. Please wear it, I say. It is a pendant, literally, of a silvering earth. It holds too many difficult and elegant days that have gone, but still twirl here reflecting the morning on the walls of my bedroom. This day sounds gentle like water trickling from the fountain I filled outside, covering louder sounds of the world I don’t always need to hear. This day is my trusty overweight hound Wagner moaning for a treat — my raggedy cat, pawing at the bathroom door to join me for a morning bath. This 24 hours is a whole house, alive in every creak, making odd music, intricate, flawed and longer than I ever heard before this day.
Love what is here. There is maybe too much that I long for — better health, more of my mother right here, less of this jab in my back, this one in my knee… more random conversation, more acceptance for every one who longs for it. I want less loneliness. More people surrounding each other with something good. Meanwhile here is my husband Lynn telling me something new about his work, telling me something possible about what we might do this spring, telling me something good he might do for someone else. There is my son, showing me a photo he took of the stars last night. And here is my other son, walking the dogs even if begrudgingly. Outside, the patio is old, but look at the new green points at the ends of the branches. Each one will become a leaf soon and the whole landscape will look less alone. Look at the layers of lake, hills, sky, and the white wings of storks waiting for more of this day. This is beyond enough, this day.
Believe that nothing is ever really finished. No list, no life, no accomplishment ends. Every bit of what we do, how we love, how we learn — continues. I cannot say I had three children, and so that’s done. My mother’s mother had her, my mother had me, my children, and all of this day. This whole world is within some space far, far bigger than any one of us. We have this time with each other, only now. We have this time, and this ‘‘having’’ is the thing we cannot overlook. Every day my kids show me little parts of myself. They also show me Lynn in their shy glances, in their eyes. They show me their grandparents, my sisters, and they show me gestures and jokes of each other. They show me all of their friends, all of their mishaps in their speech, in their questions , and in the sentiments they leave in the living room, on the table, on the floor of our days. Everything continues. Each checkmark connects to another thing, and another that must be done. An old cup is cleaned. It is sipped again tomorrow, holding another warm mouth. A dog is led down the path leaving an invisible scent for a different dog, then another. A child is picked-up from a school parking lot, and one more conversation about friendship and math tests begins on the highway home. A friend, a relative passes on, but daisies and daffodils lift up, below our siteline. They spread, never quite the same as any flowers before.