The mind often bucks against the idea of taking things one day at a time. It cries, “There are too many unknowns in life to do this! Working harder to find clarity is the only way to feel less powerless!” But what if taking one day at a time actually makes the clarity show up more easily?
I woke up this morning and heard the words, “Emily, you only need to take it one day at a time.”
For a moment, part of me bucked against it. It argued that there are too many unknowns in my life right now to simply take things one day at a time. But I could also feel that it was a nudge of knowing from my Inner Compass.
I mean, let’s face it. When we find ourselves in chaos or crisis, such as the one we are currently in with this pandemic, our default modes naturally kick in. They say to us, “Attention! Attention! Immediate solutions are needed NOW! This powerlessness is unbearable! We’ve got to find the fixes asap! ”
Do you notice how your body feels when this alarm sets in? Tense. Tight. Stressed. Panicked. Exhausted. Your nervous system kicks into its Fight or Flight response. You startle more easily. Your sleep is impacted. Maybe your mind spins as it searches for the answers and the fixes. Or you up the activities that help you numb out, like watching endless tv or youtube, scrolling social media for hours, drinking more or increasing weed use, etc.
And you know what? It makes SO MUCH SENSE for default modes to show up right now! This experience we are in reminds us of our powerlessness. It puts it in our face. And powerlessness can feel scary and even dangerous. Of course we want to find the solutions and the fixes so we can feel in control again.
But this morning called me back to an easier way to find the solutions. One Day at a Time.
There’s an experience I had with a neighbor and a dead tree a number of years ago that reminds me of this.
There was a tree adjacent to our property that began dropping large, dead limbs on our driveway, where we frequently parked the car and walked with our kids. I called the landlord and owner of the house next door to let her know.
When she came to look at the tree, she told me it was on my property. We discussed it and I shared my understanding that it was on her property. She said she would investigate the property lines and get back to me.
Weeks and then two months went by. Limbs continued to drop so we stopped accessing the driveway. Each time I called her, she either ignored my calls or said she was still working on it.
I became increasingly angry and I started “going all New York” on her. I mean, I AM from New York and I KNOW how to get feisty when I need to! She would stop at the house and we would argue. I would argue back, clearly stating the need for the tree to come down.
Then I would go inside and realize that as good as I was at “going all New York”, I was always left shaking, with my heart racing a million miles a minute.
My mind was CONSUMED with figuring out how to fix this issue. I lost sleep over it. I stressed over it. And I constantly planned what my next steps of action would be.
And then one morning I woke up and heard my Inner Compass say to me, “Wait another day.” I was annoyed! But I was also a little curious because it was a different approach from the one I’d been taking that was CLEARLY not getting me anywhere!.
So I waited another day. And then I woke up the next day and heard the SAME thing! I was annoyed again, but still curious, so I waited some more.
Well, this daily message to wait went on for close to two weeks. A part of me continued to argue against this approach. At the end of those weeks, I was leaving my office for the day and I thought to myself, “That’s IT! I’m not waiting ANY LONGER! I’m going home to take action!”
I drove home, got out of my car, and nearly fell over! The surveyor had come while I was at work and had marked all the property lines. The tree in question sat clearly on our neighbor’s property. And within five days, the tree was taken down.
This “wait one more day” quietly brought me back into the present moment so that I was taking things one day at a time during a frustrating experience of powerlessness.
And this created space. It loosened my grip on the unknowns of which I was trying to feel less powerless. It made more room in my brain because it was spending less active time worrying.
And the solutions showed up with more ease. It turned out I didn’t need to spend so much energy trying to figure it all out and make it happen because there were solutions being worked out under the surface that I couldn’t yet see.
I think of how this applies to our current state of affairs. We are in the depths of so many unknowns with a great lack of clarity.
Taking it one day at a time doesn’t mean we stop thinking about the future altogether. It means we get to take it in one-day bites instead of the large, future-sized bites that are so overwhelming. It means we get to decide what action can be taken today and keep our focus on that.
Your Inner Compass has got your back. It’s got wisdom and clarity that it wants to share with you. When you take one day at a time, it creates more space inside your mind and soul that are often cluttered with thoughts, worry, planning, future-tripping, and incessant searching for the fixes. And guess what happens when there’s more space? You’re able to more easily hear, feel and notice the nudges from your Inner Compass that are offering guidance on your next steps.
When you find your mind taking large, future-sized bites as it tries to find the clarity and figure out ALL the solutions in one fell swoop, invite yourself back to this day, or even this moment, and ask yourself what action you can take today and then take it. And then approach the next day the same way.
Powerlessness drives us to try to figure it all out NOW. But the fixes, the solutions, and the relief really DO show up and we often can’t see all the ways the answers are taking form beyond the reach of our current vantage point.
So what are YOU finding right now? Have your default modes been more present lately? Do you find yourself taking large, future-sized bites that feel overwhelming as you search for the clarity and solutions to the uncomfortable unknowns in your life?
If so, I invite you to play with taking one day at a time. Even just this day. See if it creates a little more space in your mind, body, and soul so that the wise nudges from your Inner Compass can more easily make your next steps clear.
And as always, if this feels tricky or even impossible for you to do right now, but you know you want relief, let me help you. Shoot me a DM or call my office at (828) 505-0402 and we’ll find a time to connect virtually. You can fill me in on what you’re dealing with and we can talk about what it would look like for me to support you in finding relief. I’d love to connect. ❤️
P.S. If you’ve been enjoying my weekly blogs and are itching for more daily inspiration, friend me on Facebook (Emily Colwell) or follow me on Instagram (dr.emily_colwell). I post frequently and humor leaks into most of my posts!
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
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