Sunday, November 30, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude #27: Perfect Day

Today's Attitude of Gratitude blog challenge asks me to imagine a great day: "If you could bottle up the perfect day, what would it look like?" 

This question is harder than I'd expected. I have bits, bytes and notions about the elements of a perfect day - time with my husband, a good book, coffee with a friend, a delicious meal (or three), the buzz after a good work-out (not the work out, just the buzz), 

Teaching didn't make the list that first popped in my head. Yet that's precisely where I invest most of my time and energy, to my husband's chagrin. They say that where you spend your time and energy indicates our true values, the values we live. 

Reminds me of a scene from The Devil Wears Prada where the protagonists' boyfriend points out the gap between her stated and lived values. When Anne Hathaway's character and and her boyfriend Nate argue about her priorities - her job and their relationship - her cell phone starts beeping. After hesitating, she takes the call. Nate sighs,"You know, in case you were wondering - the person whose calls you always take? That's the relationship you're in. I hope you two are very happy together."

Nate's accusation stings. According to him, work is my real relationship, what I really idealize.  At least more than the romantic notion I have about the prefect day.

If I did have one of those perfect days I outlined above, I'd probably feel guilty for not devoting time to teaching. Or least, I wouldn't feel fulfilled. What satisfies me, in the real, includes the challenges and problem-solving I face when I teach.

So the fantasy of the "perfect day" doesn't capture what my "lived" experience of sustained joy and satisfaction manifest: a dynamic balance between my values and passions. And, with further reflection, I can see that the time I spend in recreation (reading, watching movies, hanging out with friends) actually "sharpens the saw", makes me a stronger teacher. There is a synergy between the passions I get paid for doing and the passions that I do outside of work. 

Instead of answering the question, I'm forced to recognize that experiencing joy is more of a dynamic process, a constant toggling back and forth between my many passions: teaching, learning, being in relationships. 

Sometimes that balance occurs in the space of a single day -  a bit of reading, quiet time my man, productive prep session for class, the after-glow of a challenging work out (after, not during!) and an inspiring meeting with my "genius buddies." 

But the truth is, that balance plays out over a period of days or weeks, some days spent primarily on family and friends, other days on health and wellness, others directly focused on teaching and learning. 

Equilibrium over time. How's that for avoiding answering the question?