await your reply 5: parceling out your life

And you wipe the snow out of your hair and get back into your car and drive off toward an accumulation of the usual daily stuff–there is dinner to be made and laundry to be done and helping the kids with their homework and watching television on the couch with the dog resting her muzzle in your lap and a phone call you owe to your sister in Wisconsin and getting ready for bed, brushing and flossing and a few different pills that help to regulate your blood pressure and thyroid and a facial scrub that you apply and all the rituals that are–you are increasingly aware–units of measurement by which you are parceling out your life. (92)

This passage from Dan Chaon’s 2009 novel, Await Your Reply, reminds me of so many things:

Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  

  Mark Strand’s “The Continuous Life”: Say there will always be cooking and cleaning to do,/That one thing leads to another, which leads to another;”

the Zen saying: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

Michael Cunningham’s The Hours: “Laura reads the moment as it passes.  Here it is, she thinks; there it goes.  The page is about to turn.”

that surely there is more than this

and just as surely, no there’s not.

What are the units of measurement by which you are parceling out your life?

await your reply

~last in a series
~cross-posted at Contrary Blog

7 thoughts on “await your reply 5: parceling out your life

  1. I’m reading this as midnight approaches after a long day of cleaning out closets, packing boxes, and giving things away. For years, items stuffed my home that I did not remember were there. I figure, if I haven’t worn a coat, made ice cream in the strange-looking gizmo I’ve yet to figure out how to use, I don’t need it. The most shocking items I tossed filled two large garbage bags: makeup and facial cleansers and creams and youth serums that dried up in the bottle or flaked away. I don’t know if they were any good because I never used 99.9 percent of the products. So, at the moment, I am parceling out my life by whittling it down to the basics as I continue to edit my belongings and move back to the farm.


  2. A beautiful passage. Thinking about life in this way makes me a little bit sad, but sad in a sweet kind of way, for this passage is also a fine description of the beauty of the ordinary everyday life we all are living, most of the time, isn’t it?


  3. Darrelyn, I loved reading all these details of getting rid of things. I bet you’re going to feel so light and airy and free when you’re done. I’m so jealous. I try to do bits and pieces, but it’s not enough after twenty years of living in one place with more children and things than I know what to do with : )


  4. I totally agree, Sigrun. And well said–“the beauty of the ordinary everyday life we all are living.” Welcome to Catching Days. I look forward to visiting your blog.


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