“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” -Gretchen Rubin
I’m outside walking as often as possible these days. It’ll get the baby moving, they say. All I feel moving is my squished down bladder screaming for another bathroom break. But as I walk I look. Every day there’s a new sign of spring quietly announcing the arrival of life. A bluebird on the fence post, a green leaf, a tiny pink bud, the call of the mourning doves. A month ago it felt impossible that we would ever be done with winter, but slowly, day by day, spring is coming. Not all at once, of course, but steadily, quietly, one green shoot at a time, it will come.
I re-read a novel over spring break, something I rarely do. I read novels for their compelling plots and believable characters, and then return them to the library – promptly forgetting everything about it, including the name of the protagonist. But this one held me so tightly that, even two years after reading it, I still thought about it regularly. I thought about the way it made me think about my own life, about the passage of time, and about the person I want to actively become.
(It’s called What Alice Forgot by the way, and is about a 39-year-old woman who loses a decade of memories and can’t figure out how she turned into a crusty, uptight mom going through a divorce when she was so happy and excited about the future ten years ago.)
It’s the question I have to keep asking myself, the question we all should be asking, if we care at all about the way we’re living our lives.
Who do I want to become?
I’m days away from the birth of my first child. For years I’ve thought about being a mom, about what it would be like to hold my very own child, about the wonderful mother I would, of course, be. I’ve been observing (judging?) the moms at playgrounds, airports and restaurants and I’ve been determined to not be that yelling mom, that frantic mom, that uptight mom, that constantly-checking-her-phone mom, that scolding-with-no-consequences mom. I’ll be calm and collected, I’ll be patient and present, I’ll be firm but light-hearted.
But then I’m with the kids that I nanny or teach, I’m throwing dinner together after a busy day, I’m juggling logistics with my husband. And I see this crusty lady who lost her temper over spilled Cheerios and sighed heavily when asked for something outside her agenda and I embarrassingly realize the reason there’s so many yelling moms in this world.
Someone asked me the other day if I intended to make my own baby food. I’d like to see myself as someone that does that sort of thing but the reality is – I probably won’t. I say I value healthy, whole eating – but then I’m also sitting here at the coffee shop next to an empty muffin wrapper whose contents I called lunch. Surely my avocado and eggs balances out this leftover cinnamon roll and handful of Hershey’s kisses. Eating well is hard enough, let alone thinking about blending organic fruits and grains up into consumable mash for a small child who will spit most of it down his front.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was seven and wrote my first book called Lost Puppies. (That was before I knew about copyright laws and thought 101 Dalmatians could use a rewrite.) When I think about my future self I see someone who opens her laptop and sits in a quiet office (preferably on a remote beach somewhere) stringing words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs for hours on end. I see someone with her name on an actual book sitting on the shelf in Barnes and Noble. I see someone who has deadlines and word counts and readers.
And then sometimes I realize I haven’t written, really written, in weeks. Maybe months. Life got busy. I was distracted with other things. I didn’t have the energy. What kind of writer am I becoming?
It’s the question for all areas of life, for all the daily decisions we are making.
Who do I want to become?
Who do you want to become?
It’s the question we need to ask when we’re starting to overreact out of stress, when we realize we haven’t gone to the gym in a month, when we find ourselves opting for another Netflix episode over sitting down to create something meaningful.
Because we can have a vision for where we’re going and we can have big dreams and we can hope we’ll be the best moms and world-famous writers and healthy marathon runners. But it’s not going to happen all at once. We have to become.
Spring doesn’t come suddenly one day without warning. It becomes, slowly, day by day, bud by bud.
And we become too, slowly.
So, who are we becoming?
I returned that novel to the library, but I keep thinking about the story. I keep wondering if I woke up with ten years of my life unexpectedly spent, would I recognize myself? Would I question my decisions? Would I be happy to see who I’d become? Are my daily habits, my reactions to hard life circumstances, my routines, and my choices leading me to who I want to be when I grow up?
It doesn’t matter what you think you’ll do someday. The thing that matters is what you do today.