1 Step One Breath 1 Day at a Time.
The road to “‘here” has either been long or short. If you’ve stayed in one place choosing never to learn grow and evolve, your road has been short. If you have chosen to never learn, heal the reasons you are judgmental or critical of yourself or others then your road has been short. Whether you have consciously chosen the short road or not is of no consequence. If you are reading this now it means you are willing to follow your curiosity. What would it be like on the long road? To be different, happier than you are now?
The short road is safe in that you always recognize your surroundings and generally know what is going to happen day to day. The long road on the other hand is full of questions. Where am I headed? What will I do when I get there? How will I be changed by this? WHY AM I DOING THIS?! Is it worth it? I’ll answer the last question now. IT IS ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT! The long road can be scary because the unknown almost always is. But adventure always has better rewards and is a hell of a lot less frightening, in my opinion, than a life that’s reached it’s end and the only question left is “What if I had tried?”
I am at the beginning of a new journey with all of you. Although this is technically my third try. Third time, I have found, really is the charm. I’ve seen it time and again in my daughter. She’s tried, failed, tried again, failed, and just when she says “I can’t do it!” I remind her “You can’t do it YET!” Then, magically, after taking a deep breath and calming down she tries again and SUCCESS! That is the mastery of childhood. That’s the reason the saying is “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” So here I am. Trying again. Working on the vision of helping people find what happiness means to them while working on it myself 1 step, one breath, 1 day at a time. I want to be a guide and a story teller. I want to be healed by reliving the things that tore me apart and what put me back together. I want to share the darkest dark and the brightest light. This is the full range of all life, including mine. My story is long and varied. Lows and highs. I won’t tell you the whole story today but I’ll tell you how I got through the lows.
1 STEP, ONE BREATH, 1 DAY AT A TIME
In 2011 the company I was working for went out of business. I had left a job of 8 years at a financial institution to become the manager of an independent bookstore. As far as I was concerned I was in heaven. I was working somewhere that celebrated creativity and authenticity in the products we sold. The woman I worked for was larger than life and her enthusiasm was infectious. I was allowed to be me and after 8 years in a suit and I could wear jeans! Unfortunately her business acumen was not enough to keep the business afloat and 3 months after leaving my previous job, I was unemployed.
So there I was at a fork in the road. Actually it felt more like a roundabout with about 8 different intersections coming together all at one point. It was time for me to pick a new direction. I decided to tie up a loose end and finish my college degree since I only had 2 classes left and at the same time focus on the very exciting business of planning my wedding. Theoretically this should have been one of the happiest times of my life. I was getting married, finishing college, and starting a new life. WOW! The wedding planning was going beautifully, my fiancé was taking care of things financially while I finished school, and the classes were a breeze. Everything was going great, until it wasn’t.
In February 2012 I was getting to the point where I could barely peel myself off the couch. Even with class to attend in the evening, I sometimes wouldn’t get dressed until 3 or 4 in the afternoon, right before I was leaving the house. I didn’t wear pajamas in public but I fell in love with my yoga pants for sure. I was the opposite of vibrant. I felt no energy or drive for anything but TV. The first week I managed to get off the couch and get to class. The second week however I had a dangerous experience.
On the drive to class I was going through a cloverleaf turn getting onto a highway and just as I was about to go into the turn I had a panic attack! I started gasping for air, burst into tears, and could not see where I was going! Because I was on an entrance ramp there was nowhere to pull off the road. In the middle of my deluge of tears I said to myself “This is ridiculous! Breath! Just breath. I’m ok. I’m ok. I’m not going to get in an accident! Just take a breath. Take a breath.” The tears were so thick it was like going through a rainstorm with no wipers. I was gasping for air until I took 1 slow deep breath. Then another and another. I went from gasping to breathing.
When the tears started to slow I yelled, “This is crazy! I could have died because of a panic attack while I’m driving! Why am I upset?! Why am I crying?! What is going on?! I am DONE! I’m getting help. This is no good,” I talked myself down through the tears all the way to the parking lot. But something amazing happened. In that moment I accepted responsibility for myself and my life in a way that I had never done before. Not only did I know I needed help but, for the first time, knew that I deserved help! I was worthy of it and I was going to get it as soon as possible. The next day I called my doctor for an appointment. This was the first time I took a step in the realm of emotional self nurturing.
I took the first step towards healing issues I didn’t even know I had. They came up at a time when they knew I was ready to deal with them. “Funny” how life happens that way. Ever been going full tilt for months and the moment you get a day off you get sick or injured? Happens all the time and for good reason. It’s your body and your spirit telling you to STAY STILL! In my case it was my spirit telling me to GET TO WORK!
The truth is, I’ve walked the short road and the long road. It wasn’t always by my own choosing. I’ve been told to stay when I’ve wanted to go. Been pushed out and told to go when I wanted to stay. Bullied, ignored, and pushed into the shadows when I wanted to shine and sing my truth. I’ve had a lot of people telling me what I should do. That what I was doing when I was living my truth was not acceptable.
In that moment of choosing to take 1 step towards my own happiness I claimed my life in the name of ME! I looked in the mirror and saw my misery and said I’m done with this. I held on to it long enough and wanted my happily ever after! I wanted my wedding day to be a joyous day and wanted my happiness to start before I got to the altar. I wanted to be the full expression of happiness or get as far as I could in the 2 months before the big day. Who wants to be miserable on their wedding day? NOBODY!!
My 1 Step was accepting I needed help. I took one breath, then another, then another until I felt like I was breathing normally and fully again. I took it one day at a time.
HOW TO DO IT 1 STEP, ONE BREATH, 1 DAY AT A TIME
One Step: New Year’s Resolutions are a double edged sword. On one hand you are filled with the promise of what our life will be like once you have achieved your goal. On the other hand you get overwhelmed by all the steps it’s going to take to get there.
“I want to declutter my WHOLE HOUSE THIS YEAR!” Ugh. No. Anyone else overwhelmed just reading that? I saw that very list someone made in her bullet journal as their goal this month. I begged her, “Please don’t do that to yourself! Take the year to do it. You’re gonna stress yourself out!” This is someone I’ve admired for a long time and I know how much she’s working on because I follow her on social media. I pay attention. I suggested she take the year to do it so she could have balance in her life. When you’re trying something new it is very easy to get overwhelmed by the whole huge project.
If she did one item on her list a day she would make great progress on her project. If she tried to cram it in to an already busy schedule she’d most likely be setting herself up for disappointment. Of course that’s just my point of view but I speak from experience. I’ve done that so many times! I wanted her to succeed so I spoke up. Whatever you want to succeed at just ask “What’s 1 step I can take today towards my goal?” Then do the same thing tomorrow and the next day. Want to declutter your house? Start with 1 drawer, one closet, in one room until you’ve done all of that one room. Then move on. One Step at a time.
“I want to meditate but I can’t sit still for 30 minutes a day!” Then take one breath. Take One More. Then take one more. When you take a breath that you are so focused on that the outside world disappears. The only thing happening is you breathing in as deep as you can. You letting the tightness in your belly expand further and deeper than you’ve done it in years. Have you been hyperventilating your way through life? Whenever there is a hurricane of overwhelm surrounding you, take a breath.
What does taking 1 deep breath feel like when you’re in the middle of the hurricane? Suddenly you feel your self within your body that is a shell surrounding you. The noises go outside yourself. The blood in your veins slows to a beat that’s calm instead of thumping like an over-bassed car screaming through your body. For just one breath you can tell everything else to “Shut up! I’m breathing over here!” And if you feel like it you take another and another. When I get “hurricaned” I take 5 slow deep breaths and it always brings me back to center, to calm. Just try it 1 breath at a time.
This is called mindfulness. Being mindful does not mean you have to be sitting on a cushion in a zen temple, although this is where I deepened my understanding of it. Being mindful is witnessing with all your senses what you are doing. When you are washing a dish you are noticing how the water feels over your hands, sounds going into the sink, and seeing the color of the soap bubbles. You’re only breathing and washing. When you are solely concentrated in a moment like this, everything else falls away. You have quiet and space within yourself no matter what is going on in the hurricane around you. Athlete’s and Creatives call it “the zone”.
One Day at a Time
“Tomorrow is another day!” My mother was a huge fan of Gone With the Wind when I was growing up. For a long time I thought the last scene was a bit of a let down. Scarlett’s husband is leaving and she asks him, “Where shall I go, what shall I do?” He says the classic line “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” After she closes the door she rambles on about how will she get him back? “If I think about it I’ll go crazy.” While she’s crying in a puddle of taffeta on the stairs she hears her father’s voice in her head talking about her family home Tara. It’s where she gets her strength from the land. She sits up with tears in her eyes and says, “Home. I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all tomorrow is another day!” Cue grand sweeping music and me rolling my eyes as a teenager.
Now that I am older and wiser I get that last line, “Tomorrow is another day”. It’s really quite brilliant if you take out all the dramatics that comes before it. Here’s what it breaks down to. Today happened. If it sucked, what am I gonna do about it? Start again tomorrow. I’ve done this many times in my life. Today was a wash. I’m going to bed and trying again tomorrow. If we treated EVERY day like New Year’s Day just imagine. You have the beginning of a new possibilities every single day of your life! What if we woke up every day and asked “How will I work, play, and love today to have the life that I want?” What answers come to you? It’s something I’m still working on and last year I did it by starting my day making the bed, doing a load of laundry, and getting dressed first thing in the morning. It was amazing what that did for my pride and confidence in my new role as a full time stay at home mom. And if some days I didn’t get the dishes done or even get outside like I wanted I would say, “It’s OK. I’ll try again tomorrow.” Last year my goals were very domestic but it’s what I really needed to learn. This can be applied to whatever you want to go after.
If your day was unbearable and you feel like you can’t go on just keep trying! (*If you’re really struggling like I was, please ask for help from a medical professional.) Do what you can to make it through the day, cry yourself to sleep if you need to, then in the morning get up, take a shower, get dressed, feed yourself and get out a sheet of paper and a pen and figure out what you need. What can you do for yourself to be gentle, kind, and healthy?
Start with the basics. Do you have food and clean clothes? Yes? Go you. Are the clothes put away? It’s really simple stuff that will make your life so much happier. I learned I had to learn how to take care of myself. It had to start with me. One day at a time. What’s worked for you? What is really not working? Figure it out one day at a time and DO something about it. You can do it.
I’ve been there. That’s why I’m writing this. I’ve been depressed, suffered from anxiety, and deep soul wrenching feelings of aloneness. There are scars you can see still to this day and emotional wounds that have started to fade through work and learning about self care and self love. I still have work to do. The journey is just that. But if we take it 1 step, one breath, and 1 day at a time we can make progress. My happiness vision is coming to fruition. I’m loving my life as a mother which was not always a big dream. I wanted to get myself together before I became a parent and an example to someone else. I wanted to be the best person I could be before I brought another person into this world. What I didn’t know is the amount of love she brought with her has been the single greatest healing influence in my life. I realized my strength when she was born. My happy picture is writing and watching her grow together with my husband in the home we’re creating together for the family we have created. I laugh every single day and I am grateful for every single day. Two years ago I became vegetarian again and I have more energy than I have every had. I still have work to do but I am happy in the doing of it. My dreams are clearer than they have ever been. My purpose and goals are big but I no longer get overwhelmed by them. I know I can do it because of what I’ve already been through. This is the happiest time of my life and I want to help you get there too.
What is your happiness? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Where are you? What are you doing? Are you willing to try? I will be happy to walk the road with you.
Have a beautiful day.
*If you are suffering from depression or are feeling suicidal please seek help from a medical professional. This article and blog should not be a substitute for professional medical advice. I’ve been there and asked for help. It made all the difference in the world. Help is out there. Just ask.