Whenever a new year begins it always seems like I am standing in front of an empty canvass, surrounded by pots filled with the most glorious colours. I visualise sticking my hands into the pots, applying one wonderful colour after another, creating a magnificent painting. I step back from it every now and then to see more clearly where the painting may need more attention - a little more blue in the background, a touch more green over there, perhaps a splash more red over here. What excitement, what fun, how wonderful to create something new - I love it.
Sometimes, though, I get into a bit of a painting frenzy. As I believe that I have the creativity to paint far more paintings than I’ll be able to fit into the remainder of my life I want to paint, and paint, and paint until I drop. This, of course, isn’t a good idea as I also need to eat, sleep, play and do the multitude of mundane things that make up life. So, what to do?
At the beginning of the year I set a variety of goals for myself and have found this to keep me, if not totally, then at least reasonably focused on maintaining a sensible balance in my life. Although some of my goals are simply a progression from the goals I had the previous year, others are quite different. As I was writing them down the other day it occurred to me that some of them might also be useful to you. Since each one of them is worthy of exploration, I'll share them with you one-by-one in one of our next blogs. The goal I am going to look at today is:
TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME
I don't know about you, but I have the tendency to think about a thousand and one things all at once - especially when I am excited about something. My thoughts might be running 5 minutes, 3 hours or even 2 years ahead, whilst at the same time I might stand in front of the fridge wondering what on earth I opened it for. Frustrating, isn’t it? And although I am sure that we all do this at times, if we do it all the time, it means that we aren’t really living in the ‘here and now’. We shortchange ourselves by not being in the experience, whatever that experience may be. If it's excitement about some future event that occupies our mind, we at least sacrifice the moment for something pleasurable. If, however, we are wallowing in concern, worry or dread then we really don't do ourselves any favours.
Whilst anxious feelings can be pretty difficult to let go of, they usually serve no purpose at all. How many fingernails do we have to chew in order to avert some terrible event? How many worry lines will ensure that the dreaded happening is not going to occur? You get my drift? Will one ounce of worry change what the ‘ex-wife from hell’ will dish up next? Will any amount of dread stop the stepchildren from running wild and leaving all their mess for you to pick up after their weekend with dad? No, of course not. And yet, we all do it.
Given that no-one is exempt from this rather bad habit, perhaps learning the art of taking one day at a time is a great goal for us all. How do we do that? Let me give you a few ideas.
1. We need to remember that this day, in fact this very moment, is the only time we REALLY have. As we all have a tendency to live life as though it were an endless journey, it's important to remember (at least occasionally) that in reality this is not so. All we have at our disposal is RIGHT NOW. So, let's make the best of it, whatever that means to each individual.
2. Although it's great and I believe, essential, to have long-term dreams, visions and goals we can go after, it's equally important that we don't only invest in the future but spend some of our wealth (our time, our energy, our talents, our finances, etc) today. It's not much good to plan taking the childless holiday you and your partner desperately need in order to keep your love alive 3 years from now because by then it may be far too late to rescue your relationship. It isn’t a good idea to put off communicating important things to the important people in your life. Say „sorry" to your partner now if you've hurt him or her. Tomorrow, the day after or a week from now the right moment may have passed and you may live to regret not having done it sooner. Tell your stepchild today what you like about him or her, you may not get another perfect opportunity like the one that presents itself TODAY. Call your parents and tell them that you love them when you think about it. Don’t put it off, you may miss your chance.
3. Don't allow fears of tomorrow to spoil today. Instead consider what you can do about the issues that cause your fears and tackle them head-on. More often than not it’s the things we feel are outside our control that cause us the greatest anxieties, insecurities and discomfort. Take charge of the things you are able to control and let go of the ones you are unable to control. Do something. Often any action is better than no action at all.
4. Take one step at a time. Yes, your progress may be slower that way but you can be far more certain that you won't run out of steam before you get to your desired destination. Often when we try to take giant leaps instead of getting to the ‘promised land’ fast, we end up in a soggy puddle. As everything in step-situations progresses by different time standards to what is usually considered the norm, TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME should be a daily mantra for step folk.
* Stepchildren very likely will not rush into your welcoming arms the first time you lay eyes on them. Take it one step at a time. To begin with just settle for connection. Allow them to get used to you before you start looking for more.
* The relationship with your partner will not follow the reasonably predictable path that your first-time married friends may tread. Take it one step at a time. Remember that he or she has appendages (kids) that take an important place in his/her heart who will, whether you like it or not, affect every plan, every decision and, in fact, everything that happens in your life.
* Even having biological children with your new partner will require a taking one step at a time approach. Think carefully before you take this mammoth step. Consider the effects this will have on everyone in your already existing step/family. If one of you may be hesitant about increasing the current mob, wait until you both feel happy with this decision. Raising a child on your own, as you may already have experienced in the past, is a difficult task. Raising a child on your own, even if you do have a partner but one who refuses to be emotionally or practically involved, is harder still. Don't take that risk. Take one step at a time - think about it, talk about it and make a mutual decision or wait, if that's what it takes.
5. Live in the moment. Because my head is constantly filled with a thousand new and exciting ideas, I find this to be a particular challenge but also know that it is of vital importance if I am to stay free of stress. Living in the moment means enjoying everything you do as you are doing it. Whilst you sit at breakfast allow your awareness to be on whatever it is you are eating and drinking. As you walk or drive your step/children to school use the time to communicate, to ask questions and listen to the answers, to encourage, affirm and to be fully there - body, soul and spirit. They’ll sense if your mind is on whatever you are planning to do next. When you are at work, immerse yourself. When you are at play, play with all your heart. When you are with people, be there with every fibre of your being. Remember, it’s every new moment linked to the last that ultimately makes up your life.
I believe that learning to take one day and one step at a time is a challenge to most people. Often it seems so much easier to live in the past‚ or to live in the future. There’s certainly nothing wrong with looking back or with gazing ahead. Remembering the happy times of our past can be very pleasurable. Remembering the difficult experiences of our past is sometimes essential in order to find emotional balance and healing. Dreaming of a wonderful future is important and becomes a powerful tool in purposefully pursuing a cherished goal. Neither of these places is bad and I would wholeheartedly encourage you to visit the past and to envisage your future. What I would strongly caution you against, however, is that you attempt to live in either of those places. Remember to CHERISH TODAY. YESTERDAY IS BUT A DREAM. TOMORROW IS BUT A VISION OF HOPE. LOOK TO THIS DAY, for it is the only day that IS your real LIFE. (modified).
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
*** Happiness is to be found along the way, not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it is too late. Today, this hour, this minute is the day, the hour, the minute for each of us to sense the fact that life is good, with all of its trials and troubles, and perhaps more interesting because of them. (Robert R. Updegraff)
***The key to change is to let go of fear. (R. Cash)
***It takes many inches to make a mile. We can only move by inches, one inch at a time. It's when we look miles ahead and wonder "how are we going to get so far?" that we fail to move forward at all. The paradox is that we can choose to live life "in the rear view mirror" and remain so far back that moving forward, even an inch, is most difficult. Most important, we must always keep in mind that anytime we suffer a setback while moving forward, it will always be just a matter of inches, and not miles. (Rick Beneteau)
*** Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. (C. Sandburg)
***It is each new moment linked to the last that ultimately makes up your life. Cherish the moment, for it is your life. (Sonja Ridden)