They say that it’s what you do every day that matters, so on the tough days I like to remind myself of what I do every day.
And these days are as tough as any I’ve ever faced.
It’s easy to say “it will get better.” Every time I have hit what I thought was my “rock bottom,” I’ve said to myself: it can only get better from here. But lately, each time I’ve hit rock bottom, the ground has opened up and pulled me down to a new depth I didn’t know was possible. And I’ve started to wonder: will it really get better?
I remind myself of what my friend and mentor Mastin Kipp says:
You are not your circumstances.
I believed this is truth. I want to believe it still. And, yet, I hear another voice that reminds me,
Environment is more potent than willpower.
I believe this is also true.
Right now, they are in conflict.
And I wonder: what if I am my circumstances? What if there is no digging out of this one?
I am not good at asking for help. I’m not good at letting people in. And so, when I hit tough times, I tend to isolate. I try to forge the path on my own. It’s lonely. And it compounds everything.
The past few days, I have struggled to get out of bed in the morning. If you knew what I was going through, you wouldn’t blame me. I sat down to journal and write out the list of challenges, as a way to get a handle on the discrete issues. I came up with a list of ten. Ten significant issues swirling in my life right now. I won’t get into them here; each of them deserves its own treatment.
Trust me when I tell you that not one is a small issue. Any one of the challenges that I’m facing right now would be enough to choke most people. Any one of them would cause most people to fall into overwhelm, to constrict in anxiety, to consider ending it all.
I can’t say I haven’t thought about it. That doesn’t mean I would take such drastic measures. Trust me. I won’t. For many reasons, not the least of which is this: I’m not confident in my ability to execute it successfully. And if there’s one thing I don’t need in my life, it’s another mess. I’ve got enough of those right now. This thought will just go in my big file cabinet of Unimplemented Ideas. It has good company.
It’s not easy to share this, yet I feel compelled to because I know I’m not alone in having thoughts like this. And if that’s you, or that has ever been you, I want to share what I’ve done instead.
What I’ve done instead is this:
I have pulled myself out of bed. Every day. Even on the days when I don’t want to. Even on the days when I can’t bear to tell myself “today will be the best day ever” because my heart knows that this is a lie, and I can’t lie to myself anymore.
Every day, no matter what, I get out of bed, I put on my sneakers and I put my fitness first. Every day, no matter what, I sit for meditation practice. Every day, no matter what, I have found a way to complete my 10,000 steps. Every day, I have sat down to write. Every day I have completed my day with my Daily Recap, a journaling practice I created for myself 3 years ago (more specifics on that another time).
Every day, I have sustained my rituals and kept my streaks alive. As of yesterday, here is where they stand:
Meditation: 490 days
10,000 steps: 350 days
Fitness First: 1359 days
Daily Recap: 1218 days
I am super proud of myself for this. Even more, I am super grateful to myself for this. And by the way, please don’t insult my accomplishment by calling these “habits.” None of these are habits. They are not automatic. Each is something I must choose to do, each and every day. Each is a practice.
It would be easier to roll over and stay in bed. It would be easier to give in to the fear and frantically check email first thing in the morning. It would be easier to do a lot of things.
Sustaining these rituals isn’t easy. But it’s necessary.
If not for my rituals, I would easily fall victim to the overwhelm and chaos that threatens to choke me. I would crumble under the weight of the challenges. I would be catatonic.
I do not exaggerate when I tell you that my rituals have kept me alive.
As much as I sustain my rituals, they sustain me.
It doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments of doubt and despair. I am not a robot. I am a human being. It happens. And when it does, I remind myself:
Any one of the challenges I am facing would be enough to crush most people.
But I am not “most people.” I am strong. I am resilient. I am persistent.
I am powered by rituals.