One Day at a Time...How to deal when the pressure is on
I've been quiet for a little over a week, but it's felt like much longer. I've known for the past few days that whatever I wrote next would be like pulling teeth because my prolonged moments of silence are not because I have nothing to say. My prolonged moments of silence arise from trying to shove 10 pieces of string into the eye of a needle at once: I have so much to say that it's all getting stuck and none of it is actually getting out to the other side. More string (and papers, and dirty dishes, and dirty clothes...) start to pile up, and when I let myself continue to go without sorting the piles inside of my mind, the stacks only get higher and more difficult to organize later. "I'm emotionally constipated," is how I've relayed my previous dealings with this specific affliction to my friends in the past. My insides get all messy the same way my outer environment then begins to. Instead of just starting somewhere, or finally just cleaning the dirty dishes, I go out and buy paper plates so I won't have to. I leave piles upon piles and create new ones until I'm totally overwhelmed and have no other choice but to start sifting through the mess I've made when I finally feel entirely incapable of doing so.
Among some of my more positive traits, I also have a debilitating tendency to let things pile up for no reason. I procrastinate to the point of unnecessary and prolonged anxiety, and I create "problems" for myself where there otherwise would be none. It's been suggested to me that this is some kind of coping mechanism of my mind - that at one time in my life, things actually were very chaotic, and in order to keep things comfortable for myself, I create chaos by delaying on important things because it feels familiar. I also read in this article today that regardless of what influences my procrastination (impulsive people tend to be bigger procrastinators, and procrastination is driven by perfectionism), that "chronic procrastination is an emotional strategy for dealing with stress, and it can lead to significant issues in relationships, jobs, finances and health." So, you know, that's just lovely...
Every once and I while, God speaks to me very directly about things. I see signs and messages from God all the time, but occasionally, I hear a very genuine and clear voice. A few mornings ago, I woke up thinking about all the piles waiting for me in my home office. My life was suddenly a big pile that I'd woken up underneath. The pressure was on and it all felt suffocating, and I didn't know where to begin. Then, I heard this:
Laura, you only have to do things one day at a time.
I realized, I'd forgotten.
I'd forgotten that I don't have to do everything at once. Everything worrying me that morning was very specifically about events or tasks that needed to or were occurring many days from the day I woke up in. In order to take the pressure off, I needed to recalibrate. I needed to remember that the only things I needed to take care of were the things happening in that day, or the things that really did need immediate attention. All of the days that would follow that day would be taken care of on their day too, and unless I needed to schedule an appointment for one of them or put something else in place. I could trust that on that future day, I would wake up capable of handling whatever needed to be handled. Why? Because on all the days before it, I'd been tidying up and getting ready.
Even when life is piling up, I can't forget what really matters either, and what really matters really isn't the deadlines and obligations as much as it's the time spent with people I love and enjoying the good stuff. The solution isn't to deprive myself of all of those things just so I can get a million things done that I've put off for ages. Instead, if I start with just this day, there will be enough time in it. There will be enough time to do what needs to be done, and to take care of the one who needs it most: myself. Because when I leave me behind, none of the rest of it really matters.
I didn't like the idea of living my life "one day at a time" the first time I heard it, but then someone described it to me this way:
If you live your life one day at time, then one day you'll turn around and your life will have turned into a string of beautiful days, and life will suddenly be beautiful too.
Start with just today.