Chronic Illness · Chronic Pain · Grad School · Mental Health · Personal · Recovery

Finish Each Day and Be Done with It

“I will learn to love the skies I’m under.” – Mumford and Sons

This lyric has been stuck in my head a lot recently. I’m starting to realize that it’s not just because it’s from one of my favorite songs at the moment, but that it’s both my daily reality and one of my most desperate prayers. It’s a liminal time in this way. There are moments that I’m excellent at accepting with palms wide open the life that the Lord is giving to me, moments that tears practically fall just from the deep gratitude of all that has changed and will continue to change in me. There are also moments that I ball my hands into fists and reject in part or (practically) in whole what’s happening in, around, and through me.

Transitional days and seasons like these bring the greatest potential for excitement and joy, but also with that territory comes much space for anxiety, depression, and quiet, numb loss or the kind of loss so loud that it could shatter glass. I both love and despise change because of its potentials and risks. There is beauty and pain (literal and figurative) all at once these days as I continue to live out my new, healthier life after my month at the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center. I sometimes have marvelous successes and, other times, what seem to me to be colossal failures, but are in fact just hiccups if I’m willing to look at them head on, both realistically and compassionately, and learn from them quickly. This post is how to let hiccups just be hiccups, not the beginning of a backslide or a new set of reasons to fight against yourself.

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[image description: me wearing a black sash that says “most understanding” in handwritten, glittery capital letters.
Fun fact: Understanding is my middle name. Literally. Ferstandig is an Americanized form of a German verb for it.
Second fun fact: For my senior superlative in my sorority, I was given this title. It was a beautiful coming-full-circle moment.
Third fun fact, except this one isn’t so fun at all: I am pretty terrible at offering understanding to myself. I, like many people, am my own worst enemy. I make one mistake and expound on it for days. I accomplish something on the larger side and practically discount it.
Fourth fact, no judgments about its characteristics: This tendency to not offer myself much self-compassion makes hard days harder, especially when I’m transitioning. Because it’s easy for me to identify what I can be doing better, which is not a bad quality at all if done within reasonable limits, it’s also easy to overlook much of the progress I’ve been making already.

So, how do I deal with these moments? As much as I would love to tell you that they stop the more you move forward in your recovery journey, they just don’t. But, as with most anxiety-related things, you can work to make them quieter and less frequent. I have a little process for going about this.

  1. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day identifying what’s worked and what hasn’t worked about the day. As much as I can, I keep these impersonal and short-term – that is, I don’t label myself because of them. Examples:Leaving campus at 8 PM made it so that I wasn’t too tired to drive home. 8 PM seems like a good limit.
    Listening to an audio version of the Bible while also reading the text helped me to stay more focused. Perhaps I should try to keep combining audio and visual components of learning whenever I can.
    I didn’t like sitting in the library for 4 hours straight. I don’t think I was as productive as I could have been. I need to break things up more next time.
    I want to spend more one-on-one time with people and less time in groups because I felt a bit lonely today. I will reach out to _____ tomorrow.
  2. Forgive myself for what I think I could have done better.
  3. Praise myself for what I have been doing well.
  4. Accept the unchangeable things exactly as they are. For things that are especially hard, I have to do this on a daily basis. It’ll always be somewhat frustrating to have lower energy than the average person my age, but I can be grateful for the fact that I have so much more energy than I used to have because I’m willing to work to make it as good as it can be. If you’re curious about the difference between unchangeable and changeable things, check out this post.
  5. Tell myself, “I will try again tomorrow”, knowing that I’ll be able to do it better because of what I’ve learned and I’ll be able to keep moving because I didn’t knock myself down in the process of gleaning information.
  6. Thank God for all of it.

 

This simple process is helping me to learn and grow. However, it’s not perfect. If I’m having trouble being at peace about this after I go through these steps, I’ll reach out to a trusted friend who knows me well so I can have them provide an outside view on the situation.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…” Philippians 3:13, NIV

Friend, whatever it is that you’ve learned today, be grateful for it, whatever form the lesson came in. Be ready to apply it tomorrow. In regards to the mistakes you’ve made and the negative thoughts you’ve labeled yourself and your life with, let them go. Walk (or roll, or even crawl if you must, but no matter what, keep going) on with your heart full of hope and just enough of an empty space for the mystery of the new morning that is always just around the corner.

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[image description: a view of the sky and a bridge leading to palm trees, grasses, and a lake at Green Cay Wetlands, Florida].

“Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

3 thoughts on “Finish Each Day and Be Done with It

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