It’s easy to let the days go by, unchecked, unnoticed. But the days become years, and the years become your life. Take a moment to consider what you want to look back on in a week, a year, a decade and start living that life today.
For one month during the autumn of 1995, the first thing people said to each other when they arrived for work on Monday was some variant of “Did you see Pride and Prejudice last night? Oh my God, Darcy in the lake!” Other than those unforgettable few weeks, when every British woman’s Sunday evening was brightened by Colin Firth smouldering around Derbyshire, the most common Monday-morning coffee room question has to be: “So, what did you do this weekend?”
Just another manic Monday
It’s a perfectly innocent question, but it can feel so probing. It’s fine when you’ve been out and about, visiting family, a museum or a stately home (keeping an eye out for signs of brooding, muscular, white-shirted lake-swimmers, of course). But when you know the most action you saw was when you punctuated your busy day of watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother with some short bursts of standing in front of the fridge wondering what to eat next, the question is less welcome.
Lazing on a Sunday afternoon
Most of us get two days off work a week and, in 2011, there are 105 weekend days. What we choose to do with the 2520 free hours we have this year makes a statement about who we are. Obviously, we all need to recuperate from the working week; we also need to shop, iron, wash clothes, etc. And we all need a certain amount of time for what my friend Charlotte calls “slobbing”. But, in all honesty, can any of us really say that we make full use of every Saturday and Sunday? Maybe thinking about what we’re going to tell colleagues we did with our days off by the water cooler on Monday morning would motivate us make the best of the time we have to ourselves.
It was a very good year
It’s easy to fritter weekends away, but the days add up, and soon a year has passed. I’m currently approaching my next birthday and as a result, am prompted to think about all that’s happened in the last 12 months. I’m thinking about what I’ve achieved and experienced, and people I’ve spent time with. Invariably, I see my birthday as a kind of personal Day of Judgement, where I am held accountable for how I have chosen to spend the precious time I’ve been given over the last year. And the question I always ask myself when I’ve finished evaluating the past is an extension of the Monday-morning office question: “How do I want to be able to say I spent my days, this time next year?”
Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end
As the years turn into a lifetime, that question becomes: “How do I want to say I spent my life?” Do I want to look back on my weekend/year/life and feel that it sort of just went by without me noticing? Or do I want to be able to say that, for the most part, I kept my eyes open and drank it all in? Do I want to take stock and say I was generally there for people who needed me – that I showed up for the important moments, or will I have to face the fact that I didn’t really make enough effort to see people I loved? Do I want to have to admit that I spent a lot of time sulking, or shouting, or being angry? Or do I want to tot up the hours and find that, by and large, they were spent in happiness?
The question, “How do I want to be able to say I spent this weekend?” is nothing to do with wanting to brag about all you did/saw/bought. It’s about reminding yourself that how you spend your days is how you spend your years and, ultimately, how you spend your life. So, when your Saturday-morning sluggishness makes you want to skip your jog, cancel your lunch plans, not bother going to the new exhibition you had wanted to see, and just slouch in front of The West Wing, remember that no-one’s last words were ever “I wish I’d spent more time watching TV”.