Sunday, March 4, 2018

Dailiness: Showing Up for Yourself


Dailiness: The fact or condition of happening or being done on a daily basis. 
Also: the quality of being ordinary, routine, or mundane; everyday character; 
reliable regularity. 

                                                                              (Oxford University Press Dictionaries Online).

            When I was nine years old, I scissored open two brown paper bags from the corner Acme. I flattened and ironed out the creases, taped them together and cut-off extra areas to form a rectangle.  Facing the word Acme toward the wall, I taped the paper to the wall next to the bed where grandmother and I slept.  Using her yardstick and a black marker that made my face burn with its smell, I drew a grid of 10 rows and 30 or so columns.  In the left row of lines, I listed all the things I wanted to do or achieve daily—nine-year old things such as Practice Piano, Wash Dishes, Feed Bookie, Iron Blouse, Polish Shoes, and Brush Teeth. At the top of the columns I wrote the date. With my weekly dollar, I went to the stationery store down the block to buy gold and silver; red, blue, and green foil stars.  This was in the days before self-stick, when the surfaces of the stars were raised, as if carved, and the backs were gummed for licking.  Whenever I completed one of my tasks, I gave myself a star—the color indicating whether I did it perfectly (gold), well (silver)…all the way down to green for decent.  At night, I loved seeing the neatly spaced stars sparkle with the lights of passing cars, the bright moon, or the dawning sun. I felt happy with myself, whether or not my mother came home at night, or my father kept my stepmother from hitting me.

            But the tasks on my list were adult requirements, and I tired of the growing blank boxes on my chart, the stars more like haphazard constellations, more silver than gold, and then more green than blue.  What started out as a creative act of self-care turned into another chore that made me feel trapped.

            Decades later, I opened a blank Microsoft document, formatted for seven columns for the days of a week and fifteen or so rows. Instead of listing items driven by other-directed requirements, such as work, meetings, laundry, I list things to help me keep focused on what I value—such as 20 minutes of home yoga, meditation, singing, writing three pages in my journal (which I call “Musings”).  It’s too easy to get lost in the undertow of Email, internet distractions, Netflix—so I include reading poetry as an item, cardio exercise, writing something new, revising something old. Instead of checking Pinterest or Snapchat, I check my check list.  And it’s not an incidental to-do list that changes daily (although I do write those in at the bottom of my list for the next day).  This is a deeper commitment.

Every day is a work of art—how we begin and end it shapes the between which is life, itself.  So I list a modest “Make bed” as the first item: I start my day on a note of clarity, accomplishment, investment in tonight’s sleep. Others might write “Pray” or “Run” or “Eat breakfast.”  I was always lonely as a child, so evenings were painful—it’s when I became addicted to television.  I make sure now to write reminders to myself of what’s healthier in the evenings—writing a daily list of gratitudes, reading more poetry or prose, cleaning around the house, phoning a friend—taking care of those teeth.

I use my week-at-a-glance lists to monitor my current devotions—as for example tracking weight.  I add, subtract, revise items according to how I trend.  My lists tell me if I’m keeping up with things that matter to me.  If not, I rethink and recast my whats, hows, and whens. My check marks are like gold stars, but I practice flexibility.  I play games with myself when needed: “10 out of 15 was great for today!” “Superstar day of 14 of 15!” After all, my li­­­sts are about shaping my day as I wish and acknowledging my progress-not-perfection.

What we do every day—the no-big deal twenty minutes of yoga, for example—is what will turn into the biggest deals in our lives. Anthony Trollope wrote for only an hour a day before his job as a postal surveyor on the railroad, yet he created dozens of novels, articles, plays.  Dailiness is what matters—for the Olympic gymnast who wakes up every morning at 4:00 AM to practice three hours before school; for the mother who tends her baby through diapers, fears, and joys; for the student who spends an hour before classes to work on her papers and revisions; for the writer to write every day. As Yogi Pattabhi Jois said, “Practice, and all is coming.”

At age nine, my lists started in exuberance but devolved into a trap.  Some mistake living by the whim of the moment, uprootedness with freedom. But, as Robert Frost said, “Freedom is moving easy in harness.” Now my weekly lists liberate me from distractions, keep me focused on how I want to grow, and offer me an overview of where I started, where I’m going. 

Have I been “reliably regular”? Have I showed up for what matters?

How might you shape and reward yourself in your dailiness?

24 comments:

  1. Hi Dr. Rich,

    I really loved reading the story about the brown paper bags and your check lists. The story opened my eyes more to who you truly are. Honestly, I assumed that you probably woke up one day and decided that you needed start "showing up" more and began organizing your time better, with your daily lists. It was fascinating to read about how you were almost born to make your time meaningful!
    Your story has inspired me to make my moments meaningful, to use my moments to make me a better "me," daily. With this, I also recognize that it is important to allow time for pleasures in my making-myself-better-everyday list. The time designated for simple pleasures, however, should be pleasures that enhance my being, such as my yoga class. I could practice 20minutes of yoga every morning and I will start tomorrow morning. This will be part of my new daily routine... It's official.

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  2. Dear Amanda, Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. I am so very glad that you are inspired to have what you have--your daily yoga. Pattabhi Jois said, "Practice and all is coming." I'm going to revise that into the post. Namaste

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  3. The star reward molded into Susanna’s superstar students.

    You were formulating the matters and doesn’t matters of teaching from that moment that you created that list.

    It was probably when you realized ninety percent of it all is bullshit and refocused to clarity and art and ditched conformity.

    My emotional dissolving is my checklist. I dissolve the bad and then create into the world a lightness. It is my check and balance to make sure I’m happy so that I can make others happy!

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    1. Tina, you think, and write, and live as a poet, activist, humanitarian. I am so grateful that we had time at Kean to study together, and that now we are forever friends. Thank you for your response, here, and for your loving attention.

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  4. I love this! I was recently reminded that even the sun is mundane; it rises and sets every day, yet there is still glory in it. My habits should be the same, and I should not neglect creating daily. You’ve inspired me to add art back onto my lists. I’ve done better this year about regular journaling. I can plan time for colorful creating too!

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    1. Laura! So happy to hear from you! Thank you for relaying the sun metaphor! Wow! The most obvious of-course. Do send images of your artiful explorations!!!

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  5. Dr. Rich,

    For as long as I could remember, I have always had poor time management skills; without a doubt, this has affected me in ways more negative than positive. My sleeping schedule has been inconsistent, and it has played an impact on my health, all because I do not use my time as wisely as I could. I have always looked at people who do use their time more productively, and wondered “How on earth do they do that? How doesn't their time fly like mine does? There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” I am always convinced that I cannot be like one of those people.

    Lately though, I have been reevaluating how I spend my time, and I have realized that my time is not flying; but rather, I am allowing it to fly right past me. I look for things in my surroundings that help to serve as distractions. That is why oftentimes, I find myself spending, for example, an hour on an assignment that should have taken half of that time. That is also why I find myself getting five hours of sleep when I could have had eight.

    I have realized that I do not value my time enough and that I can be much more focused than I am now. I agree with Amanda in the sense that you are such an inspiration, Dr. Rich; not only do you teach full-time, but you are productive outside of the classroom, as you do your musings, complete your daily yoga, and even have time to star in plays!

    It is easy to get carried away with wanting to be perfect, but it is not about being perfect; instead, it is about taking small steps every day that would allow me to accomplish much more with my time. I aspire to have a deeper sense of commitment to the things in my life that have great meaning to me. In acknowledging this, I am likely to create some sort of routine, some “dailiness” to my life that helps me achieve the tasks I need to complete.

    Nada Amer

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  6. Hi Dr. Rich,

    I always appreciate the honesty behind all of your posts, and the way you provide us with real life advice. I think it's great that at such a young age you were able to find comfort in taking control of your own life, which has also followed you through adulthood. I too thrive on being organized and making lists in order to help achieve my daily goals. As I got older I felt overwhelmed by my busy schedule and found solace in writing out a weekly schedule- highlighting daily and weekly goals. This currently hangs on my wall above my desk, and I find comfort knowing it is always there. I try not to be too hard on myself when all of my daily goals haven't been achieved, but I can attest to the satisfying feeling I get when I am able to check off even the simplest task of making my bed in the morning and taking time to stretch and practice yoga.

    Ever since I have adapted to a more organized lifestyle I stress less, and actually show up for the things I say I will.

    Thank you for teaching us so many things that most professors don't take the time to.

    -Jessica Jardonoff

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  7. Hi Dr. Rich,

    I'm guilty too of filling up my calendar with lists of things that slowly become more chores than fun, life-affirming things. Lately, though, I've been trying to change that. Instead of just filling my personal calendar up with meetings and assignments, I'll write a reminder to go to the library and look for books or I'll make a note to spend time with my Mom or write a thank-you card (even just a text, sometimes). These are small acts of attentiveness for me. I mean, it's important to get my due dates straight for assignments and to plan time to work on them but not more important than spending time with myself at the library or time with my Mom, getting a meal or seeing a movie based on a book we both read. Those are important things too. They make me happy.

    Writing in my journal, too, is a daily act I make sure I always have time for. Though I don't write it in calendar (maybe I should start!), every evening finds me with my journal, writing about a poem I've fallen for or about my day and what I felt living it. It's another act of dailiness that gives my life more happiness--which really matters.

    Another thoughtful and touching post (really, I felt your intro like I was the little girl tucked into her bed, looking at those stars and longing)~

    ~Kelli (another Stargirl)

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  8. Dr. Rich,
    I am absolutely guilty of not managing my time throughout day. I never realized, but I do spend a big chunk of my time on my phone. If I have some time between classes I will sit in my car on my phone and look through social media, instead of sitting in one of the buildings maybe talking to people around me. I really think it is awesome how even from a young age, you were interested in managing your time and making the most out of your day. I am 22 and still do not manage my time that well. I really like the idea of making a list of things you can do throughout the day that occupy your time much more effectively than social media or Netflix does. I think I might have to try it sometime and maybe stop binge watching shows on Netflix!

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  9. Dr. Rich,

    Are you, by any chance, a fan of bullet journaling? While reading this, all I could think of was my own, woefully empty bullet journal burning a hole in my vanity drawer... I give in easily to the temptation of nonexistent time management - while I find consuming content to be enriching in its own way (I love nitpicking series I enjoy and seeing how real world issues play out in and impact my favorite games and series) I definitely find myself more days than not falling into the endless scroll. Sometimes, it's productive. I'll read articles, blog posts, hell, even dissertations on humans and how we become attached to our Roomba (it was a good read!)... Other times, not so much.

    I think the checklists you mentioned can serve as a way of bringing me out of that feedback loop. Just like with my own mental health journey, baby steps are often the biggest and most challenging.

    I hope I'll have the same success with my own lists - and I hope I can put that bullet journal to good use.

    xx
    Naomi v.

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  10. Dr. Rich,

    I am not going to lie, one of the first days in class when you gave us the print out of the things you do during the day made my head spin. I was thinking, "How the hell does all of this get done in one day in this exact order!?" But now, here we are almost through the end of the semester I realize that so much can get done during the day if one puts their mind to it and puts the phone, TV, and internet down for a couple of hours.

    I would spend hours on my phone when I was "bored" or procrastinating to do an assignment for school. I still catch myself doing this, but when I realize it I put my phone far away from me and get the tasks done I need during the day. Just like you the very first thing I do in the morning is make my bed. Once I make my bed I feel like I can do/accomplish anything for the rest of the day. It might be something small, but it makes a difference.

    I make my own lists and I check them off everyday with each task I accomplish. I do this especially with homework, I put a check mark next to the assignment I finish and once I finish the whole assignment for the specific subject I cross out the subject that way I know everything is done. It makes me feel accomplished and have a sense of relief once I finish something.

    Kristen Calderoni

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  11. Dr. Rich,
    I really loved this blog. Out of all of them so far this is my favorite. I really appreciate how open you are with all of us, welcoming us into your life. I think it's great that you were able to take control of your life at such a young age. When I was younger, my brother and I made similar charts to yours. We made columns for the seven days of the week with different chores for us to complete. We had things on our list such as making our bed, brushing our teeth, keeping our room clean, feeding the dog, ect. It's nice to know that we weren't the only children to do something like that.
    As I got older, I started to drift from this idea. I'm so busy with sports, class, and taking care of my family that I don't have time to take for myself. I'm always going to practice, doing homework, taking my grandma to the doctors, the list goes on. This blog has encouraged me to start off doing one thing a week for myself and build up from there. Thank you yet again for opening my eyes to something I've never noticed before. I really appreciate your knowledge and that your willing to share it with all of your students.

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  12. Dr. Rich ,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I love your wonderful story about the brown paper bags and the checklist. I must say I do checklists all the time... go to work , school , finish h.w etc. and it helps me keep track of what has to be done daily. I have never thought about creating a checklist for the things I enjoy doing like painting, reading, or zumba etc. If I were to create a checklist of all the things I enjoy doing ...I'll probably would get more things done instead of sitting on the couch watching t.v. after I finish my "to do list". Your story is inspiring and your energy is contagious. Thank you Dr. Rich !

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  13. I find it super inspiring that from such a young age you had so much discipline and organization skills which explains your character today. When I was 9 , I’d do something similar on computer paper, but the truth of the matter is that I never ended up finishing my to-do lists. So from a young age, I’d gotten very comfortable in not showing up for myself which turned to a habit that would later follow me into my adult life. Though I’ve tried to remedy this issue by assigning myself daily tasks, I believe that I’ve fallen short.

    When you assigned us the marble notebook and asked us to merely read a poem a day and write down our thoughts initially, I struggled with it greatly. Taking time out between school work, class, work, and dealing with personal and family issues left me drained without even having energy for myself. BUT I found that when I’d taken the time out to meditate for 20 minutes in the morning , or write a poem for a day, I had mor peace of mind and energy to face my daily stresses. I definitely believe that showing up for yourself is the most beautifully selfish thing you can do even if it’s just for a moment a day.

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  14. Dr. Rich,
    I truly enjoyed this personal piece. I saw a lot of myself within this blog and It truly kick started my thoughts. I've always been an advocate for writing down things such as your dreams and goals so that they become more of a reality rather then just an idea. I also try to list different things that would allow me to reach such goals in increments instead of leaps for it is all a process. I firmly believe in the famous tortoise and hare quote "Slow and steady wins the race" and constantly apply it to my everyday tasks. Feeling as though you are trapped within your own routines has got to be one of the worst feelings and that is why I accept change in my life 100 percent. I love that you took it upon yourself to go out and purchase items that would help bring your concept to life, that is being self sufficient! Meditation has been something that I've been wanting to add to my daily regimen however, I simply have not found the right moment yet. As of now, that release for me is music. Music will always be the air that I breathe and it has truly saved my life!

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  15. When I was younger I would spend my time doing two things: reading and writing. When I started to feel a ‘block’ in what I was writing, I would then switch to reading to refuel the writing gauge. As I got older, I was given my very first gaming console, the PlayStation which then became a part of my little circle of joy. Now in college, in my head I feel like I am way too busy to focus on things that I like to do. Which I found out that I was wrong. Instead of drowning in work and finishing feeling completely wiped out I insert treats for myself to keep me motivated. This semester I am continuing my studies of learning Chinese, and so when it is time to work on my Chinese homework I would complete three pages on my homework and treat myself to 15 minutes of a popular Chinese movie. That way I am enjoying myself but keep the topic alive in my head and my homework, possibly even adding in the new words I learned in the movie.

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  16. Good Morning Dr. Rich,

    I think one thing you would like is bullet journaling. If you search it up, it's like daily tracker where people can posts their monthly, weekly, and daily schedules, all while personalizing it to make it more artsy or more formal. THe purpose of it is to get things done and track things that are important in daily life such as: budgeting, water intake, calorie count, your exercise.

    It may seem like a lot of work, and it is but it's also therapeutic. When I used to bullet journal I got a lot of things done. I was able to do what I needed to do and add extra things in when something simultaneous happened. I also had friends with me to create spreads and share ideas so it was enjoyable time.

    In this day and age there's more time wasting and I've noticed it, even with myself. People waste valuable time doing stuff that won't benefit them. Like smoking, it's so useless and people spend the majority of their time doing it. It bothers me to no end. I think people should adapt more hobbies to occupy their time well.

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  17. The media freeze that we did at the start of the semester got me thinking about topics just like this, and I love to read your insight on the subject. Taking the time away from playing games on my phone made me more conscious of how exactly I was spending my free minutes here and there, and how that impacted me when those minutes added up. Not playing games on my phone meant that, come the weekend, I had already finished that week's school assignments. Paying more attention to how I spend those spare twenty minutes a day led to me getting up just a smidge earlier to practice yoga every morning. The downfall? These practices lasted about a solid month. Life gets exhausting, responsibilities pile up the moment you try to take a breather. I think that what I'm slowly learning is that practices such as these, while they seem time-consuming and tedious on paper, in reality are what gives you that sense of ease and fulfillment in life.

    I think that what I need is a stress-free, more flexible length of time in which I can start to practice these better habits. Luckily for me, the semester is wrapping up and the coming of summer means a world of opportunities are ahead of me. Some things that I'd like to start adding into my daily/weekly routine include my morning yoga, reading a psych journal article a day (when possible), cooking a meal a day (when possible), and taking the time to actually floss these pearly whites. I know that my life could be so much less stressful if I just picked up some better habits and dropped some time-wasting ones. It's all about taking the initiative to get started!

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  18. Dear Dr. Rich,
    I found this blog to be very powerful. I would remember back in middle school and high school, I would have this dry erase board calendar I would use to write down my assignments. I would always check them off when I finished and erase them completely when the next week began. I enjoyed it at first, being able to use different colored markers, feeling accomplished after I checked something off, yet looking back on it I never valued my own time in my calendar. All I had were homework assignments, never anything that mattered to me. Sure it is important to get certain things done such as studying and homework or washing the dishes, but if I only focus on chores then I will never have time for what is good for me. Reading this has made me want to make a list, only with a twist. Perhaps I need a reminder to take a walk outside, or make a sculpture, or cook something different. I need to value what is good for me, not just chores that have to be done. This post has made me think about what I should focus more in my life.
    Stephen Corrales

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  19. I'm currently at a point at my life where I am just not happy. I'm not happy at my job, so I am letting it effect everything around me. It's not healthy, I'm picking fights with my boyfriend or being lazy about my own health that I've had this "don't care" attitude.

    I know it's hard, but I've been in such a funk that I just can't seem to get out of it. This post really inspired me to think and get my life together. I realize I'm going to have stressful and really low points in my life, everyone is. But this isn't an excuse to let things go.

    I really think I'm going to start doing something a day for myself. Even if it's a simple bubblebath, going for a run, or buying myself a special something - hell I deserve it! I work like crazy to build a future for myself, but that doesn't mean I do not get to enjoy things here and now.

    Thanks for this inspiring and motivating post. I can't wait to see what "Me Things" I come up with!

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  20. Dr. Rich,

    Thank you for sharing your story and it really opened my eyes and made me see the person you are. It also made me see that this is something that I actually need to start doing. Because yes I really have a little bit of free time since I'm graduating and just working. So there has to be something to do with that free time and using the week-at-a-glance list will really help. Because of course I want to better myself and my life. I've always been the worse with starting something that I want to do and then I will just stop and theres no reason for it but I just stop doing it. Its as if I make up excuses for why I'm not doing and I keep telling myself that I need to start again. I really think that following this list with help me with this problems. I also think that it will help me feel better about something that I want to do for myself. Thank you so much for sharing this idea.

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  21. Hey Dr. Rich

    Keeping a list as a means of focusing on goals to accomplish and ways to grow is an excellent idea. In the past, I used to keep a mental checklist about things I wanted to do: It never stuck. Actually keeping a physical list, and even writing down what I could and couldn't do actually helped me focus on how I can improve and what changes I could make for the next day. When I used to go to the gym, I would keep a physical list of the exercises I could do (how many reps, sets, and weight I could lift), and as the months went by, I could see the improvement over time. Now, because I never made it a priority (and because I failed to include it on my list of things to do for far too long) I have fallen off the wagon so to speak, and haven't gone in a few months. Refocusing on myself, I plan to put together a physical list (possibly even an inflated poster) on my achievements and goals for the day. Allotting time for the gym, meditation, and learning a new language will be top priorities. As long as I continue to do these tasks, even if I have to start from zero, I know that I'll see progress, and that it will be worth it.

    - John P.

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  22. Dr. Rich,

    I was very excited to see that you have a blog written about the needs of self and prioritizing them rather than what is expected of one by others. Growing up, I, too, was a part of society who felt that being a people pleaser and accommodating everyone else was the only way to do things. I went to school because all kids had to. I did sports because mom said I had to be active (and shedding a few pounds of baby fat wasn't so bad for me, either). Things were done out of responsibility.

    I encountered a book in high school that changed my life. "The Fountainhead" was a novel that most of my class could not appreciate. They despised the character of Howard Roark, yet I loved the book because of him. People saw him as a narcissist whereas I saw him as my hero. I decided to do some more research on Ayn Rand and her thinking. I found myself mesmerized by the objectivist theory and came to love it. I realized that Roark was not terrible as everyone said. Rather, he did for himself, neither helping nor harming anyone along the way. And that is also when I realized that people did not like him because he did not conform to society's expectations.

    So I became the Howard Roark in my own life. I started to do things because it would be good for me. I started doing things for enjoyment. As unorthodox as it may sound, if I help someone, it is only because I either expect that in return or because it simply betters my position. For example, I go to school because I want a good job. I have friends so that I am not lonely. I only work when I want something and am paid a good deal. I shake down my bosses for every penny I can get, not caring if I rub people the wrong way. Because I learned that no matter what you do, you can't make everyone happy. So why not make the most important person happy, yourself? I love because I get love in return. I put in effort because I reap the rewards of that hard work. I stay involved and busy because then I'm not bored. I go to school because I have a hunger for education, not because my family forces me the way other students' families might. I have a great relationship because I love my person and because I like the company. People like me are often ridiculed in the world, but I have a more fulfilling life than those who live life in obligation and am not ashamed of that the way they might be, so who really deserves the speculation?

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