Have you ever found yourself thinking about a subject and then discovered that lots of other people are doing the same? For me that topic is: what is a good day?

Joan Didion’s words “Every day is all there is” came into my life via my daughter Kate’s business partner, Emily Levenson. She’s the one who created the image above.

My personal mission statement, inspired not only by Didion, but by so many other valiant writers and friends, is this:

“to prepare for the hour of my death one good day at a time . . . and to help others do the same.”

So the definition of a good day matters to me. Every day it matters more.

Joan Didion uses six words to say why: every day is ALL there is. We can’t relive yesterday and aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.

So this day must count!

Spend five minutes right now listening to these words from Brother David Steindl-Rast. I guarantee it will make your day better:

I had the privilege, while working at the Fetzer Institute, of meeting both Brother David and another advocate of the concept of the good day, Joel Elkes.

Joel will celebrate birthday 101 on November 12, 2014! He’s lived more good days than anyone else I know.

A pioneer scientist in the field of psychopharmacology, Joel has been thinking about the value of the good day most of his life. Since his father perished in the Kovno Ghetto during the holocaust, Joel’s dedication to the good day rings with the urgency of the human spirit to live on after unimaginable tragedy and loss.

I just finished reading The Spacious Heart: Room for Spiritual Awakening by Donald Clymer and Sharon Clymer Landis. The last chapter of that book contains a description of Don’s ideal day.

It starts with rising at 5 a.m. Then coffee, exercise, and meditation. It proceeds prayerfully to work. It ends with the simple task of drying the dinner dishes and reflecting on where God has entered or been blocked during the day.

That’s Don’s ideal day. What’s yours? Please offer one or two elements of a good day from your own experience. Next week I’ll add my own recipe, and it will benefit much from your thoughts, aspirations, and frustrations. All are welcome!

Shirley Showalter

24 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan on October 30, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Shirley — I oh-so-enjoyed watching and listening to the five-minute video clip, A GOOD DAY. Thank you so much for sharing this heart-based, refreshing gift.

    You asked your readers to share a few thoughts about what our idea of a good day is. Here’s a bit about mine:

    1. Before my toes touch the floor in the morning, I invite Divine Love (God) to use me as a channel for grace. (My definition of “grace” is “the immediate presence of Spirit”).

    2. I go to the bathroom and smile at myself in the mirror, usually triggering a laugh (if you saw me in the morning, you’d understand why).

    3. I give myself the gift of yoga. Because I practice restorative yoga, this includes meditation.

    4. Throughout the day I intentionally wear “observer lenses” — I purposefully look for things that might go unnoticed otherwise.

    5. At day’s end, I review what I saw. If I was fortunate enough to capture something on film, it may well get shared in the form of a short blog post.

    That is my idea of a good day.

  2. shirleyhs on October 30, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Laurie, I’m so glad you were blessed by watching the video. Because I knew that you watched it, I watched it again myself, with my own “observer lenses,” thinking of you and grateful for all I have learned from you this year.

    I love this list of five elements of a GOOD DAY for you. I think I remember one or two of these from some of your wonderful Tuesdays with Laurie posts.

    Thanks for adding your clear, strong voice to the GOOD DAY choir, Laurie. And thanks for starting the conversation here.

  3. Elfrieda Schroeder on October 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    It was sort of a grey and drizzley day weatherwise today, but I went downstairs to my office and got a lot of work done, and now when I came up I see the sun shining brightly and lighting up the golden leaves on the maple tree right outside my kitchen window. So, yeah, it’s a lovely day of work and play, of chatting with my sister on the phone, and of reading your blog and seeing that reminder on Youtube, that every day is precious! Thanks Shirley

    • shirleyhs on October 30, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Elfrieda, I like the part on the video where Brother David says that we have only two categories for weather — good and bad — but that even the weather of every day changes and deserves its own notice.

      You have made something lovely of your day. Sounds like one of the elements that makes a good day for you is getting things done! And another element is relationship with family and with nature. Thanks for these contributions!

  4. Don Clymer on October 31, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I simply love the Didion quote: “My personal mission statement, written in 2004, is “to prepare for the hour of my death one good day at a time . . . and to help others do the same.” I would like to make this my mission statement, beginning right now!

    • shirleyhs on October 31, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Thank you, Don, and thank you for writing the kind of book that helps fulfill that statement.

      I need to go back and make an editing change so that it becomes clearer that the mission statement is my own but that it connects to the Didion quote “every day is all there is.”

      The indent function in WordPress needs a little coaxing. Thanks so much for helping me many ways today. 🙂

      • Don Clymer on October 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm

        I originally thought that it was your mission statement. But when I scrolled back up it looked like you had quoted someone. It is now clear!! And am delighted to hear that it is YOUR mission statement. Now to keep each other accountable . . .

  5. shirleyhs on October 31, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Amen, brother. That’s one of the benefits of going public with our missions. And the thing that can scare us ___less too. I’m doing more monitoring than usual this week and finding it fascinating.

    Do you think the devil could be in the “monkey mind”?

  6. Marian Beaman on October 31, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    My good day begins with a back rub by my husband, a pleasant introduction to a fresh, new day.

    I determine to view dressing as an act of meditation, beginning with looking in a hand mirror, a gift from a friend inscribed with the words You are Beautiful on the frame. I don’t grimace.

    Reading Psalm 103, I bless the Lord and forget not all his benefits. I write in my gratitude book.

    Next, I enjoy a breakfast at leisure, savoring the quietness, and thanking Him “Who satisfies [my] mouth with good things.”

    My PowerPump instructor asks for a ride home. I volunteer though this is an unplanned detour in the day I envisioned. I see her giant dog, 120 pounds of him, and get to know her better.

    At the College, I pick up Joel’s artwork from the alumni display, thankful I have a responsible, creative son.

    In my kitchen, I stand before my altar of stove and countertop, thankful I have the energy to prepare a meal and offer it to loved ones.

    My writing chair beckons and I thank God for this outlet for creative expression, anticipating my right and left brain hemispheres will talk amicably with each other.

    I look forward to spending All Hallows Eve with grandchildren, exulting in the knowledge that “the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting . . . and his righteousness unto children’s children” (17).

    Shirley, this is my good day, not just my idea of one, a day that touches both the temporal and the eternal.

    Way more than 1-2 elements though. I guess I got carried away!

  7. shirleyhs on October 31, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    I LOVE when you get carried away, Marian. What a vivid set of descriptions.

    Choosing not to grimace when we look at ourselves in the mirror is truly a grace-full art these days. I speak only for myself of course. 🙂 But what a good practice at any age.

    Starting the day with a back rub instead of ending with one. Another novel idea.

    You embody “everyday sacred” — tasks that might be called “chores” you magnify with a wonderful level of spiritual perception.

    You have the gift of gratitude and “lectio divina.” You chew on scripture until it enters your body as food, and you scatter the abundant leftovers for all of us.

    Thank you!

  8. Lois J. de Vries on October 31, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    As a cancer survivor, every day I wake up and discover I’m still here is a good one. So many of my peers complain about bad days, bad weeks, a broken arm, a sprained ankle. I just want to shake them by the shoulders and shout, “You could be dead!!! How bad can it be?”

    Thanks for sharing the lovely video and the Joan Didion quote.

  9. shirleyhs on October 31, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Lois, your words really underscore the connection between the good day and the fact that one day will be our last. Cancer survivors have the incredible gift to offer the rest of us. Thank you for making this post even more real.

    Glad you enjoyed the video and the quote. If you haven’t read Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, I highly recommend it. I think the quote comes from that book, but I didn’t check.

    Thanks for the visit! You are welcome any time.

  10. Kathleen Friesen on October 31, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    Life is short. But the great news is: life is good, especially today: I love and am loved. I choose to be present with whatever comes, to offer grace to others and myself, to be grateful for relationships and their gifts.

    I have deeply resonated with Didon’s last two books, “The Year of Magical Thinking” and “Blue Nights.” I’m happy to know that you connected strongly with her words too. This quote from the 2005 New York Times article says it very well,

    “In a commencement address at the University of California, Riverside, in 1975, Didion offered a general imperative that still illuminates her own disposition, even in the darkest times: “I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package,” she said. “I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.””

  11. shirleyhs on November 3, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    So sorry, that I was evidently on the road and didn’t see this comment a few days ago, Kathleen, but I want you to know I love it. Thank you so much for finding those words and adding them here. Not sure what lies beyond the grave in terms of embracing, but one thing is sure: the embrace of this day is our only given. I plan to touch as much of it as possible, thanks in part to your encouragement and these words. Wishing you the same!

  12. […] my last three breakfasts have started a good day with a bang. Here’s the table setting: Breakfast at "Tiffany's" otherwise known […]

  13. Tina Fariss Barbour on November 5, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    I’m so sorry I’m so late in reading this, Shirley. I love our mission statement, and I love that you were inspired by Joan Didion, my very favorite writer.

    Good days for me are not the exciting ones or the frantically busy ones. Good days are the quiet ones where I do a variety of things: a few chores, writing, photography, reading, a walk in the neighborhood. I’m not in a hurry. I move from task to task. Larry is doing his thing, but we come together periodically to share a meal or activity. Those are the good days.

    • shirleyhs on November 6, 2014 at 7:56 am

      You know, Tina, I think you are touching on a very important dimension of my own being. I especially feel this when I travel so much, as I have done this year. I need to remember not to pack too much stimulus into my life without enough time for response. Would you like to elaborate a little more on this idea for a guest blog post here? If so, I think you have my gmail address? You have given me an idea, and I’d love you to be the first person to describe A Good Day for you. Would you consider 500 words and at least one photo on that subject? Thanks for thinking about it.

  14. Tina Fariss Barbour on November 6, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    I’ll be glad to ponder this some more, Shirley. I’ll be contacting you. Thank you.

  15. Tracy Lee Karner on November 9, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Thank you for this reminder. I love the video. What more can I add to respond to the gift of this day, as if it is the very first and the very last day of your life. Gratitude makes this day a good day.

    I wanted to watch, again, the video of your friend (I think you met her when she was a student at Valparaiso?) talking about friendship…. can you help me find it, please? I will be grateful; I am grateful…
    <3

  16. shirleyhs on November 10, 2014 at 5:23 am

    Hi Tracy,

    Glad you love the video. And that it helped you remember this one, another favorite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YQ0bB0jaBI

    Blessings on your own good day.

    • Tracy Lee Karner on November 13, 2014 at 7:32 am

      Thank you, Shirley.

      Blessings on your good day, today. <3

  17. […] I’ve been on a quest lately to deepen my understanding of what its like to have a good day. […]

  18. […] was in the Farmhouse of the Whidbey Institute that I started on the path that led to my mission statement in 2004. I had returned to the same place and knew it again for the first […]

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