Step One

Just keep showing up, no matter what, with an open mind and a whole heart. -Joan Sutherland

Step One: Get out of bed.

When your baseline mood is hovering around zero, energy minimal, motivation non-existent, Step One is the step that matters. When you wake up at 5am and want to call out of work so you never have to leave your bed, when you want to hide in the safe cocoon of blankets, when the world feels too harsh, when the pain of being alive is palpable, when your alarm goes off and you tear up because it’s time to start your day, Step One is the step that matters.

This morning, initially, the Old Voice pops up:

“I hate everything.”
“I don’t care.”
“This is stupid.”
“There’s no way out.”

The Old Voice is automatic, but that doesn’t mean I need to listen to it. I pause, then find my quieter New Voice.

I remind myself, gently, that anything can change in a day. I just have to get out of bed to find out. That’s it, Step One. I am in a low mood. I don’t feel well. I’m feeling sadness. It’s okay, no judgment. I try to welcome my low mood, acknowledge that it’s here, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I remind myself that we moved the clocks back two weeks ago; it’s getting to be the darkest time of the year; my mood often dips around now; all these thing are okay and do not mean I’m a Bad Person Who Deserves To Be Punished. I’m just me, and I deserve to be taken care of when I don’t feel well.

I gently remind myself that if I stay in bed, chances are my mood will stay the same, or worsen. Bundling up in blankets seems safe, but doesn’t let any light in. Maybe it would be cozy, but history tells me it will become isolating, and even harder to get up and engage the longer I stay hidden. If I get up and go to work this morning, maybe I will feel a little better. Maybe I won’t, but I can go ahead and see what happens. Safe baby steps, no huge overwhelming commitments. And the first baby step is Step One.

After all, once I’m out of bed, I can decide to put on socks. And pants. And a sweater. Once I’m out of bed, I can get a glass of water, pack my lunch, and wash my face. Once I’m out of bed, I can take a leap of faith that anything can change in a day and I can choose to put on my shoes and walk out the door. It’s okay that I’m ten minutes late and moving slow. It’s okay as long as I take one step and then the next. Now that I’m out of bed, I can choose to keep going. If I stay in bed, none of these things could happen.

Today on the train I ride with a friend; we have a similar commute a couple days a week. We are both ten minutes late today. What are the odds? By the time she gets off at her stop, I have a little more energy and my mood is a little lighter. By the time I get off at my stop, I am committed to getting through the day. I’m still a little teary, but I know I can do it today. It may be hard, but it’s just one day.

Step One. Anything is possible if I can do Step One. Just keep showing up, no matter what. And stay open to the possibility that maybe my day can improve. I just have to show up to find out.

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2 Responses to Step One

  1. anne says:

    Thank you for this. I think I need to print it and tape it to my bathroom mirror.

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