It’s still sunny here in California. But the weather is getting cooler—most noticeably when the temperatures drop suddenly and rapidly after the sun sets. During the summer, I get up from my desk, away from my computer, and outdoors at least once a day, sometimes more. I go for walks—I moved here to Pismo Beach a year into the pandemic, when going for walks was all I had, to make my walks more scenic and more pleasant. But I am not a fan of cold weather, and soon I’ll have to convince myself to bundle up and brave what are, to me, freezing temperatures, for the sake of my physical and emotional health.
The cooler nights have me thinking about how I spend my days. Writing and working with writers means a lot of time at my desk. My walks are crucial, and I try not to set them aside in favor of work. But a lot of other things are crucial too, things that are easier to put on the back burner, things that need to be made a priority if I am to live a full and satisfying life.
I cannot make my days longer, so I strive to make them better. —Henry David Thoreau
It’s not that I’m too lazy to go for a walk. In fact, it’s the opposite. I’m so not lazy that I’ll work from sunup to sundown if I let myself get away with it. I’m a person who tends to tell myself, “I’ll finish this one thing, and then I’ll go for a walk.” Then, five things later, the sun has set, it’s dark out, and I tell myself, “Tomorrow. I’ll for sure go for a walk tomorrow.” It’s easier to convince myself to get outdoors when it’s warm and sunny, but it’s a challenge every day because there is always so much work.
So, I’ve been thinking about the things I need to make my life healthy and full and satisfying. Things like walks, sure, but also things like taking my coffee and my laptop out onto the back deck to work. Things like busting out my camera or my easel, a blank canvas, and some paints and bending in a different artistic direction. Things like having breakfast or coffee with one of my children or one of my children-in-law, having lunch with one of my teenaged grandkids, spending the afternoon with my eighteen-month-old granddaughter, calling an old friend. Things that make me happy, things that get me excited, things to look forward to. Things that make my days better.
I often find myself wishing my days were longer. There’s not enough time for all the things I need and want to do. So it’s easy for me to immerse myself so much into work and things-that-must-be-done that I’m not living my life. I’m guessing it’s easy for some of you to do the same, dear writers.
As winter sets in and getting stuck indoors at my desk becomes an even bigger threat than usual, I’m thinking about all the commitments I make to others and how important it is to make commitments to ourselves. I’m committing to walks. I’m committing to doing something each and every day that brings me joy. I’m committing to spending time with the people I love. I’m committing to making my days not longer, but better.
Are you with me?