Really taking a day at a time

Sunday, July 4, 2010

We've all heard the advice. "Take one day at a time." That's great counsel if you can recognize and implement its actual meaning. As I attempted to live one day at a time, I scrutinized that guidance and learned that it's much easier to say the words than to genuinely perform the action. What are the connotations and ramifications of truly taking one day at a time?

If one decides to consciously take one day at a time, he can do it reluctantly or joyfully. Sometimes small, seemingly unimportant adjustments can be the most difficult. One can merely get through the day or try to find pleasure in his tasks. Often filling time with valued activity can be difficult. You may feel you're treading water.

Different seasons, days of the year and vacation times require changes in your lifestyle, but most people are comfortable with their own structure. Weekends are when I must seek some order. Everybody encounters some unfilled hours he must simply endure. If ambiguous weekends, illness or problems cause your stress, you have to tolerate them the best you can -- one day or one hour at a time.

Three ladies who teach had different opinions of their summer time off. The views of two were similar, but the third was entirely different. The first woman said, "I don't like summer. There's nothing to do in this town." Another said, summer was boring. Her work filled her life. The third woman had an entirely opposite perspective. She avidly looks forward to summer. She can perform tasks and pursue her interests. It's a time of freedom and excitement for her.

Regardless of what your situation is or which season you prefer, you have to develop a strategy to cope with what you dislike. My favorite times are private times -- to meditate, write or do whatever I choose. Consequently, I'm often forced to take one day at a time because such moments are rare. I have to modify and determine to make the best of my circumstance knowing I can survive anything for a while.

Despite what people must bear, everybody experiences unpleasant situations. It's a choice how to cope. Make yourself miserable every day or live it only one day at a time. Sometimes holidays, summer or winter months are hard to fill. Normal daily activities and expectations are changed and you must seek new ways to fill your days. That can be stressful.

Famous speaker Dale Carnegie said to "live in day-tight compartments." Jesus said, "Have no anxiety for tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34). Although it's certainly easier to resolve to take that approach than to do it, if you genuinely adopt the practice, you may be surprised to find that you'll learn to enjoy making the best of life. You'll tackle the challenge of doing what you must until you can do what you want. Perhaps you'll even discover you're learning from, and can even like, your present circumstance.

Summer isn't my favorite season because I like what fall and winter bring. I enjoy the temperatures, holidays, coziness, clothes, structure and lifestyle in general. Nevertheless, I've learned to dress more appropriately for summer weather, find activities I can enjoy and attempt to tolerate the lack of structure that's prevalent in those leisurely months. I have chosen to at least try to adjust to what I must and know that it won't last forever while realizing that "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). That means doing what I must until night falls.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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