Tuesday, January 17, 2017

One Day at a Time

One of my childhood friends developed a meth habit. Our teenage years in Los Angeles were a bright 80’s pop of sunshine and big hair with a side of underage drinking and a heaping dose of drugs. More than one of my classmates went to rehab. More than one faced an unwanted teen pregnancy. More than one, so many more, lost their lives because of drunk driving.

I caught up with my friend, B, the summer after Freshman year.

“I haven’t heard from you in months,” I said. “Where have you been?”

“I was arrested and then sent to rehab.”

“Arrested?” Rehab was no big deal, but jail time got my attention.

“I was using crystal meth. A lot.”

Half of the guys in my senior class dropped acid. Blow was in. Pot, mushrooms, peyote, even the occasional X. But crystal meth…that sounded like something a junkie would use.

“Wow, that’s heavy. Are you clean now?”

B nodded. “Did you know it takes 21 days to start a habit? The same goes for kicking one.”

I have kept that 21 days in mind for years when making New Year’s resolutions. If I can just (fill in the blank) for 21 days, I’ll be successful. Confession: I have rarely/never made it to the gym 21 days in a row. I have rarely/never hung up my clothes 21 days in a row. I have rarely/never used night cream 21 nights in a row. I have rarely/never gone 21 days without sugar or dairy or…anything else I should avoid.

Fifteen years ago, I was offered a terrific job opportunity. A position with great responsibility, autonomy, creativity. I said yes. It was a new position with no blueprint, no guidelines or advice on how to achieve an ambitious goal in a short timeframe. I was on my own. It was exciting, challenging, frustrating, exhausting, rewarding. A few weeks into my new job, a colleague was added to the project. He had a different area of expertise and authority, but we worked together to further our common objective. We were busily completing our work when a new, tighter deadline was dropped on us. We already worked long hours and now we were expected to pull off the impossible.

“We’re never going to make this happen.” We looked at each other in panic.

“We’re screwed.” We paced around our small office wringing our hands.

The scope of the project was daunting for just two persons.

“We can probably keep it together for tomorrow’s presentation.”

“And fake it til we make it for the following day…” I offered. “But after that?”

Each day we had a new objective to achieve.

“We just have to keep moving forward. Advance a bit every day.”

“Survive and Advance.” We nodded at each other. “Survive and Advance.”

It became our mantra. And survive and advance we did. Some days with flying colors. Some days by the skin of our teeth.

I have written before about the importance of mantras. I offered two that speak to me personally. Your Body is a Temple. and Be Impeccable with your Word. I think mantras are helpful to keep us focused when life feels overwhelming, in moments of doubt, when we have too many choices or seemingly none. They can give us strength in moments of weakness or courage in times of despair.

I was moved to hear from a reader (and friend) that my post about mantras inspired him to create one for himself. More good, less bad.  I can’t think of anything simpler or more essential. Thank you, Friend.

Beloved Readers, please share if you have a mantra that has helped you!

We the People have entered a time of great upheaval. Most days the news is too bleak to read. We are becoming despondent or, worse, desensitized to the suffering and hate that abounds. We live in anxiety. We fear the future. But Friends, the veil has been lifted. Now we know what’s out there: the bad, the ugly, but also the good. Our eyes have been opened, and while we might abhor what we see, this knowledge, this new insight gives us power.  Have you felt powerless lately? You are not. We are not. There is no going back to our cozy bubbles. We can only move forward. We have no choice but to advance. And survive.

I can’t tell you if it takes 21 days to form a habit, but I know for sure that we can get through this day, this moment, and then the next one and then the next one…

Repeat after me: Survive and Advance. 

We’re in this together.