We mark out our lives with the big events, both good and bad. A birth, a wedding, a holiday, a new job… a death, a divorce, a lockdown, being seriously hurt or unwell. We measure our lives in the befores and afters of these events, these moments in time that seem so big, but really make up such a small percentage of the time we spend on this earth.
We spend most of our lives in between the big events. Most of our days don’t individually become long term memories, rather they fade together as being a particular time in life, after one big event and before another. Yet this is the time that actually is our life.
It’s so easy to let the big moments, particularly the hard or negative ones, take control over how we spend a ‘normal day’. It’s so easy to fill in the time with things that are inconsequential, things that we likely won’t remember. It’s easy to just sit back and ‘zone-out’ of our own lives.
Let me give an example of what I mean. Let’s say I’ve had a particularly stressful day. I come home and see that the kitchen is a mess, I look in the fridge and see that some vegetables are starting to go bad so I don’t know what to have for dinner and it all feels like too much to deal with. So I ignore it and climb into bed with some chips and watch a TV show on my laptop. When I get bored of the show I don’t stop watching, I just play a game on my phone while I watch. While there is nothing wrong with me wanting a break, after a couple of hours of this, I don’t feel any better than I did before. The only thing that has changed is it’s now late, I feel lethargic from eating junk food for dinner and I’m wishing that I had used my evening differently. I go out to the kitchen to get a glass of water before getting ready for sleep, and one (or more) of my cats comes up to me for a cuddle. I pick her up reluctantly, thinking ‘I don’t have time for this’. But as she nestles into my arms, I already feel happier than I did after hours of laying around doing nothing. I wish that I had spent the evening around my cats instead of alone in my room. Motivated just a little, I tidy the kitchen bench up, and feel as though I have accomplished something, and therefore my mindset is just a little more positive as I head to bed.
I have nothing against television, but in this scenario, it only provided a temporary reprieve from a negative feeling. All that happened was a progression of hours, time in my life that has been used for nothing. It did no good for myself or for anyone else. A variation of that evening might go like this: I come home from work after a particularly stressful day. I notice the kitchen is a mess, and it feels overwhelming. I take a deep breath and decide to deal with one thing at a time. I go switch on the television and put on a TV show that I like in the background, and I eat a muesli bar because I’m hungry and dinner seems too hard to tackle in a messy kitchen on an empty stomach. I feel a little better after my snack, and decide to take it one step at a time. I pack the dishes on the bench into the dishwasher and wipe the benches down. The pantry still needs organising one of these days, but the kitchen seems less overwhelming than it did before. I look in the fridge and realise that the vegetables that I had planned to make a salad with have started to go bad. It’s a bit frustrating, but I realise that I can make a stir-fry with them instead. I take my time cutting the bad spots off the vegetables, I enjoy the time cooking because I’m not too hungry and I’m watching a show that I like in the background. I sit down to eat and after dinner one of my cats come up to me for cuddles. They each have a turn being petted and brushed, then I switch the TV from a show to music. I go get my Bible, or the novel I’m reading, my sewing, my colouring in book or some other project and do this activity until it starts to get late and I’m ready for bed. When I’m going to sleep that night, maybe some of the day was hard, but my evening was pleasant and I feel positive about the next day.
What you will notice about both these scenarios is that I dislike quiet and like background noise, but also that the day and the issues that I faced were the same, but the way that I responded to them was different. All of it is based on things that I have actually done, and how I have actually felt and reacted at various times. There is a saying, ‘choices become actions, actions become habits and habits become our way of life.’
I want to enjoy and feel good about my way of life. I want to like my life in the in-between times. I don’t want my life to be mindlessly existing in the time between big life events. Not everything is in your control. I know that I have days where it seems like everything is hard, or I make mistakes, someone does something that causes me difficulty or things just don’t seem to be going my way. What I can control is my reaction to these times. I can choose to sit in the frustration, or I can choose to create joy where I can from the small things.
Written by: Lauren Mead