It All Counts
It was 9:00am. Steve texted me a picture of the harbor in Gdansk.
His only comment: “What a lovely city.”
My response: “Gah. You’re there already? I haven't even left the house yet.”
As a quick afterthought, I added, “It does look lovely. Can’t wait to go.”
But, my thoughts weren’t in Gdansk—lovely or otherwise. They were rooted firmly here, inside my house. They were grounded in the fact that I still hadn’t made it out the door for the day. And, there was so much I wanted to get out the door to do.
Here’s the part that was ridiculous. I’m serious. Ridiculous. I was up long before Steve was. By the time he stepped into the shower, I’d already made a pie and put it in the oven. When I got his text, I had baked a pie, taught a class, got all the kids out the door for school, and started a load of dishes. So, why did I feel like such a failure?
Because I’m discounting all the things I do. I teach a class every school morning, so that doesn’t count for anything. The kids are so self sufficient that getting them out the door is more a process of sheppherding than corraling. What could that count for? And on and on. I’m the one discounting the pie I made, even though I made it for a young man who needed to be seen and celebrated, and that is exactly what that pie did. I’m the one discounting the dishes, because there will just be more this evening, anyway.
It’s not just that I’m underestimating the value of what I’m doing. I am doing that, but that’s a discussion for another day. What strikes me today is the fact that I’m forever doing this—distorting my estimation of what counts in terms of productivity in my day.
It’s as though, every day, I’m giving a certain amount that I can put on a scale. Once I reach that limit, I’ve used up my capacity (time, energy, attention) for the day. It’s pretty straightforward, and it’s quite exacting. There’s no getting extra time out of a day, no matter how much I cajole.
And yet, mentally, I am always trying to trick that scale.
I’ll just throw in a load of laundry. That doesn’t take any time at all.
I’ll check my email super fast, before I start writing for the day.
Sure, I can run by and drop that off for you, I’ll be out anyway.
I’ll peek in on Instagram, just see what’s new there.
I tell myself these things don’t count against my ledger for the day. Or, I place them so gently on the scale—sure that they weigh so much less than they do. It just takes a minute. I’m going out anyway. I’ll be on and off again in a snap. All these self-deceiving words that I say to myself, as I pile more and more on my scale.
Then, somehow, I’m baffled and frustrated when my scale is full and my day is gone and all the things I meant to get done are still sitting untouched. I told myself lies about what each thing weighs. I spent twice as much time on Instagram as I thought I did. That essay took me ten times as long to write as what I thought it would. Or, maybe I tried the oldest, sneakiest trick in the book: multitasking. That’s just the word I paste over it when I try to put two things on the scale at once and call it just one thing. I don’t want to see how much that second thing slows down the first thing. I’m like a toddler who thinks that if they keep their eyes closed, you can’t see them. I’m piling these things on the scale with one eye closed, denying to myself how much time, attention and energy they take.
But the scale is impervious to my theatrics. It is exacting and impersonal. It does what it was meant to do. It weighs and it measures, without reference to my obfuscations.
And that is why I will continue to find it full too soon every day. Until I start being honest with myself about what I’m putting on there every day, it will be a frustrating companion. Until I finally admit to myself that it all counts.