Thursday, November 6, 2014

One meal at a time

I had a conversation last week with one of my coworkers, Kevin, about death. His mother is quite ill and Kevin thinks the end of her journey may come soon. It is an unfamiliar and extremely difficult situation for him because it is the first time that he has had the privilege of being with someone during his/her last days, and he doesn’t really know what to expect.  I’ve been in this situation many times before, and although that doesn’t make it any easier, I have come to realize that I am stronger than I knew; that God is always present, even in the midst of heartbreak; and that God gives us all that we need to do all that He asks us to do.  I shared with Kevin some of the experiences I’ve had as I sat vigil at the bedside of my own friends and loved ones.

 Last week was the death anniversaries of both my Grandma and Grandpa Brinkmeier; yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of my friend/neighbor Bob Humphrey. Later this month we will remember my father’s death as well as the first anniversary of the death of my cousin Bridget who died in an auto accident. So many of you are in the same situation as you grieve/remember losses. Perhaps you wonder how you will get through the coming holidays.  These kinds of days are part of life and they can be a time of great temptation to us on our journey as we seek to comfort ourselves….someway.  Be gentle with yourself if you find yourself in this situation, but if you find yourself wanting to go back to your old way of thinking/eating/acting, remind yourself that even if it seems to distract you from the pain today,  it will likely only make things worse.

In the course of  my conversation with Kevin, I was telling him about the final hours of my grandma’s life. I shared how the entire family….I think more than 25 or so at that time….were gathered around her bedside as we prayed and sang one of her favorite songs, One Day At a Time.  It truly was a blessed moment and I felt a sense of peace as I recalled that time with Kevin. The rest of the day…and for the past several…. I have had the words of that song in my head……“Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine. Lord, help me today; please show me the way….ONE DAY AT A TIME” and so forth. If you are not familiar with the song, check it out on YouTube: Christy Lane made it famous.

The title…ONE DAY AT A TIME…..pretty much sums up my journey.  I’ve never been a part of any of the wonderful 12-step programs (like AA, Overeater’s or Narcotics Anonymous….and others) but I am familiar with some of their spirituality and principles. If I am not mistaken (someone correct me if I’m wrong) I think they use the motto…One day at a time.  So much wisdom in that philosophy….especially when we are struggling to change our lives. Getting through each day is really all we can hope for.

When I began my journey a few years ago, and I realized that I needed to lose more than 200 pounds just to get below the 200 pound mark, I became a bit overwhelmed.  HOW…..ON …..EARTH…..would I ever do that…seriously….who loses 200+ pounds without surgery?  It’s just too much; it’s impossible….for heaven’s sake, I can’t even stand up long enough to brush my teeth. These, and other negative thoughts flooded my mind and just made eating a bag of chips even more appealing.  The task just seemed to be too big to even comprehend….and honestly, the reality of how much weight I really needed to lose very likely kept me from beginning this journey in the first place. How many of us really ever want to even try to do something that we think is impossible? I tend to keep putting things off that I know are going to be a really big job, rather than doing the wise thing and doing a little bit every day. My friend Bob has the right idea about tackling big projects ….he will take a large task and break it up into small sections….and do a little each day: not me….at least in terms of house or yard projects. This explains why I have boxes piled up to the ceiling in the garage and about 25 other projects on the “to do list.”   And yet… setting small goals is exactly what I did on my journey! 

I’ve shared multiple times that I set little goals…..10-15 pounds at a time….and when I reached that goal, I set another and then another. In the beginning, I didn’t even think I could make it through one day, let alone a lifetime, and so I had to cling to the ….One day at a time….mentality.  If I could get just get through Monday, then I would start a new day on Tuesday and try to get through that one without giving in to temptation.  Some days ONE DAY was too long and it was just one morning….or even one HOUR.  At night when I was hungry or wanted to snack, I would often tell myself that I just needed to wait for ½ hour…..and then….if I was still ‘starving and 100% sure I’m going to die I I didn’t eat’…(quit laughing…you know what I mean!)…in a ½ hour then I would find an acceptable snack. I would then do something else for that ½ hour….and more times than not, the feeling would pass and I would be okay. Often just drinking a bottle of water helped.  One day….one hour….one half hour….at a time, sweet Jesus is all I’m asking from you…..and so the song goes.  Before long the one day turned into one month….and then one year….and now three and half!

I had the same mentality when I was trying to regain my mobility. I knew I couldn’t walk a mile when I couldn’t even stand up for more than a few minutes, and so, after losing the first 100 or so pounds, I began the process of walking again. One step….then two….and eventually I was able to walk to the mailbox!  Then I walked to the neighbor’s mailbox and then to the next one….. and now….well now I can walk a few miles at a time on most days (depending on the RA).  One step…one yard….one block…at a time.

If you are contemplating beginning a journey….or are struggling to stick to your plan…. I encourage you to consider the “one day at a time” approach.  Try to get through the morning…..or a meal….or an hour at a time….and keep reminding yourself that you don’t have to do it all at once. It is a LIFE-LONG journey, remember???   Don’t worry too much now about how you are going to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas….just try to get through breakfast without eating that big honey bun…..and remember that EVEN THAT is cause to celebrate!!!!  Every temptation you resist is a change in the right direction.    Don’t worry about trying to rid yourself of EVERY SINGLE negative thought…..every lingering bit of grief or anger or resentment all at once….just try to get rid of one…to get through one conversation without being rude or lashing back….to get through one ‘obligatory’ situation where you have to be in the presence of one who drives you crazy…..and then the next will be easier.  Trying to focus on what seems humanly impossible…whatever it is that you are trying to do… will overwhelm you …instead…..just get through the day.

One day….one hour….one step….one thought….one meal…. one pound……one chemo treatment….one test or project……one holiday……….WHATEVER…….at a time.  The most important thing for me to remember is to cling to the words of that famous song… “Lord help me today….Please show me the way…One day at a time”…. because without God’s grace and mercy.…..I know….for certain….even one minute is impossible, because I know that I can do NOTHING on my own, but with God….ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!!

Make today a great day!