This year, I am in my car more than I have been since we moved. I don’t particularly enjoy driving; it feels like a waste of time. I can’t do any work but I’m not resting either. Nevertheless, depending on if it’s a day I go to the church office or not, I spend between 45 minutes to 2 hours every day driving. Don’t roll your eyes if that’s a low number to you. I used to drive a lot when we lived in Kentucky but I am out of practice and turns out, I liked being out of practice.
The amount of time that school drop-offs and pickups takes disrupts my ability to gauge the productivity of the day. Because it is so glaringly new, when I consider my day what stands out is the massive amount of time I spent in the van, using up the gas I just bought. I quickly realized that I was going to need a new metric for knowing if I had lived my day well.
I needed a new question to ask and after some reflection I found it.
Did I give what I have to the day that was given me?
1. This frames my work as a response to God’s gift. This day was given to me. God moves first. Everything I do in a day is a response to God, but it’s easy for me to forget that. This question forces me to notice the gift that a day is first. I’m accepting that gift and stewarding it.
2. This metric prevents me from having unrealistic expectations. I didn’t claim that I needed to give my best every day. There are many days when I cannot give my objective best: perhaps a kid is sick, or I am sick, or I am under stress, or fill-in-the-blank with a myriad of possibilities. I don’t bring 100% every day as if I were a machine. I am a creature, affected by many things beyond my control. I didn’t ask if I gave my best; I ask if I gave what I have. That difference acknowledges my humanity, my lack of control over the world, my creatureliness.
3. This reflection is broad. I’m not asking strictly about work. How many lectures did I watch, terms did I memorize, words did I write. I’m not asking how much money I made or awards I won or people I impressed. Reflecting on the whole day allows me to ask if I woke up and went to bed well. If I honored my husband, my children, all the people I met, myself? If I upheld the boundaries that are essential to my flourishing and the flourishing of others? Did I make hard decisions with wisdom? Did I experience delight, wonder, awe, gratitude? Did I engage with good art? Did how I spend my hours reflect my understanding of what it means to be human? Of course, I do care about my work. Did I engage with my work in the hours I have allotted it? Did I lay something I can build on tomorrow?
Life shifts. Responsibilities change. Demands change. Sometimes our metrics need to change too.