How I Spend My Days

by Rachael on October 1, 2015

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
— Annie Dillard (via Brain Pickings)

For years I’ve done my best to log my working time, and apparently my best isn’t very good, because usually by the end of the working week I would find that I had stopped recording my working hours at some point on Tuesday afternoon, or that I had kept records in two or three different places, at least one of which I had deleted, recycled, or otherwise lost. Last week I started logging my working days from beginning to end, and it seems that if I want to log my working time, that’s the way for me to do it. Apparently, if I’m going to do something, I have to do it obsessively or not at all.

I’m logging my time mainly because I want to find a place in my daily and weekly routines for the things I most want to do (write, read, take better care of our home). I also want the evidence I need to be ruthless in cutting out all other commitments — real or unconscious — from my life. Also, I’m just curious.

So far, I’ve discovered that all of my weekdays are more or less the same as all of my other weekdays. This discovery was oddly liberating. Perhaps I’m not so disorganized as I thought I was?

And then sometime between last Friday and this Sunday, I lost the sheets of paper on which I had logged last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Ah yes, there it was again: chaos.

Chaos — and shame. Where had I lost those papers? Had someone else seen them, or actually read them? Why am I doing something so silly as writing down my days? And what is wrong with me, anyway, that I think so goddamn much about my life and how to live it?

And etc. Clearly the shitbird is after me — which means that clearly I’m on to something.

So for now, I’m fully committed to the silliness of logging my days: I’m writing them all in a composition book.


Vast Emptiness

by Rachael on September 24, 2015

High-Energy Particles in Milky Way Black Hole (NASA, Chandra, 11/20/13)Our home is cluttered, my schedule packed, and my inbox filled with unanswered emails. Even my ambition is overfull: I wish to pursue far too many career goals. Thus, during morning zazen, my attention on the breath is often obscured by a swirl of concerns, as I keep trying to work everything out. When am I going to do this? When am I going to take care of that?

The great mystery is that I appear to be the one who is cultivating this disorder. Confusion and anxiety are as familiar as they are painful to me — and therefore paradoxically comfortable.

Recently, I cleaned off the top of my dresser, which involved getting rid of many things (jewelry, old hand lotions) that I don’t use anymore. I was so pleased with the result: a tidy, open, calming space . . . which of course in a matter of just a few weeks I’ve managed to fill up with other things. The same happens again and again: on my desk, the kitchen counter, the coffee table, and so on. However much I dislike the clutter, apparently my horror of emptiness is greater.

This horror runs deep. L has a book titled How to Bicycle to the Moon, which provides instructions for bicycling to the moon on 238,900 miles of garden hose. It doesn’t matter how silly or cartoonish the instructions are, while reading this book to the children, I have to avoid thinking too much about the vast emptiness between Earth and its moon, lest I start panicking. It’s not just that I can’t bear to imagine a place where I cannot breathe. It’s also that I can’t bear to contemplate an emptiness so large and complete.

And yet, this emptiness is alive. Particles burst in and out of existence there, in a creative chaos that I suspect has an analogue deep inside of me. Isn’t it this deeper chaos that I fear, and keep trying to cover up with busy-ness and surface clutter?

Photo credit: “High-Energy Particles in Milky Way Black Hole” by NASA,
via Flickr Creative Commons

{ 1 comment }


September 17, 2015

She had always known a thousand ways to circle them all around with what must have seemed like grace. She knew a thousand songs. Her bread was tender and her jelly was tart, and on rainy days she made cookies and applesauce. In the summer she kept roses in a vase on the piano, huge, […]

Read the full article →

Vacation Reading

August 14, 2015

If the best part of summer is reading, the very best reading is vacation reading. On vacation, the worlds on the page — Toronto, New York City, wherever — are infused with sunlight, the lapping of the lake waters, and the distant presence of the mountains. This year I read only two books — How […]

Read the full article →

The Best Part of Summer

July 14, 2015

Welcome to the July 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Summer Fun This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month participants talked about getting out to enjoy the warmer season as a family. *** No matter how many times I have […]

Read the full article →

To Myself on the Last Day

June 9, 2015

Welcome to the June 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Talking to Yourself This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month participants wrote letters to themselves. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival […]

Read the full article →

in Just-

March 10, 2015

We are not quite “in,” but with the return of Daylight Saving Time, warmer weather has come, and with it, many puddles. L and the Gnome do so love the puddles, but for some reason the uck of mud troubles L. As for me, I love the squash of luscious mud underfoot and to gaze […]

Read the full article →

The Pleasures of Childhood

March 3, 2015

The pleasures of childhood should in the main be such as the child extracts from his environment by means of some effort and inventiveness. Pleasures which are exciting and at the same time involve no physical exertion, such, for example, as the theatre, should occur very rarely. The excitement is in the nature of a […]

Read the full article →


December 25, 2014

It’s been a difficult December, and difficult for reasons other than the usual holiday madness, though truthfully the madness felt even more maddening than usual this year. But yesterday I thought, for perhaps the millionth time so far in my lifetime, at least I have poetry, and language. And, of course, these guys. Many blessings […]

Read the full article →

Don’t Steel Yourself

December 18, 2014

On the day my mother died, one of my cousins drove my sister and me from New Haven to the house where we grew up. “Don’t steel yourself,” he told us that night. I don’t remember anything else he said then, but that one sentence has been a mantra for me in times of sorrow. […]

Read the full article →