When I was a very little girl, I loved a book titled Apron Strings and Rowdy. The simple storyline had twin bear cubs emerging in the early spring from their dark cave and into the splendor of sunlight. There was something about the hopefulness, the playfulness, the newness, the adventure that captured my little girl heart.
We have surely all experienced that promise of the clean slate, the bright and shining beginning, the past left behind, the forward trajectory that a sunrise displays. Then, the day ends with a slow dwindle as the sun sets, a snuffed out spark of inspiration where only a sputtered memory remains. In contrast to the long and winding road of months or years of broken resolutions, a single day can bring a small but glorious piece of success into the otherwise disappointment of unfulfilled promises and elusive goals.
In this way, each of these small new beginnings presents us with a question: What should we do with this day? Do we begrudgingly stare down a routine of sloth? Do we wait for the inevitable torrent of emails, news, and to-dos? Do we let the day pass as another one filled with missed goals?
The magic of a day is how much can be done in those 24 hours. While we may often measure our accomplishments and milestones—career, education, marriage, and so on—in years, we can also measure much of our lives in more manageable days. How long will reorganizing the closets take? Probably only a day. How long will that dreaded appointment be? No more than a quarter of a day. How many days can that exercise streak or reading routine be maintained? Surely at least five, 10, or 20. These are the small tasks that compile to create the whole of our lives and can build toward larger milestones.
What is unique to life on a daily basis is each of these moment-to-moment experiences that make up the time between sunrise and sunset. The day dawns before us, and we fill it with what is simultaneously mundane and extraordinary. It’s easy to forget this, though. Focusing on the big picture at the expense of the opportunities each day presents leaves us missing out on the small, yet valuable, moments of life: dinner with family, chatting with friends, keeping our homes, providing for our families.
When we were kids, days loomed long, each one filled with food and fun and friends and siblings and stories and chores and homework. Waiting for the days at a cabin in the woods on a beach seemed an eternal time period. As we get older, those once eternal moments start to easily slip away from us, their potential forgotten.
So, what to do with this day? The options are limitless. Today is what we set our minds to. For me, I’ll listen to Mario Lanza sing “Be My Love” while I start laundry, make a grocery list, prepare for a client meeting, mull over my hair, walk five miles, make plans with one of my daughters. For you, life may look different. But these little moments we fill each new beginning with are what we make of them. Do we let life pass us by, or do we set goals, find contentment in each day, and build momentum toward those larger milestones? The truth is that no matter what comes, no matter the barrage of information or demands or stressors pouring at us out of a fire hose, we get to decide our souls’ response as we walk blinking into the sunlight that is today.
Image credit: Flickr-Art Therapy, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0