One Day, Not Day One

by , under Thoughts on This and That

By now I should know to laugh at myself when I make plans. I am famous in my family for my detailed “To-Do Lists,” but in recent months – years even – the quiet moment in which I actually write the list is followed by a storm which blows the ambitious slip of paper right out of my hand. The most important tasks do end up getting done somehow in stolen moments, but my grand plans become outdated before they ever start. I am tired of saying, “when life settles down;” tired of starting “Day One” of a new plan; tired, in general.


We, as a family, have weathered some terrible storms. In the face of the tragic loss of my beloved nephew we have had to learn how to take each day as it comes, one day at a time. Each day has its own challenges. We have had medical crises, emotional abysses, physical challenges. Through it all we have learned to nurture ourselves and each other, even to laugh again, and we have received loving support from everyone we know.

 

In the quiet moments between the storms, though, it is sometimes hard to move.

 

It turns out that I am good in a crisis. In an emergency I am good at focusing on what needs to be done. In hospitals, ERs, doctors’ offices, during moves and mourning, I am 100% there. But in those days and months after the storms I sit surrounded by the debris of life and I cannot move. That is when I make those To-Do Lists, and then listlessly pick up the TV remote, or curl up with a book.

 

Today could have been one of those days, but recent health scares have gotten my attention: I need to exercise. So today I made a promise to do one active thing for myself first, before doing anything else. Today I would go for a swim.

 

I did it. I got myself to the gym. I remembered to bring my swimsuit. I asked to share a lane with the least intimidating swimmer. I slowly, steadily went from one end of the pool to the other. I reminded myself that the first six lengths are the hardest. I promised myself to do twenty. I kept going. I stopped at thirty when I remembered that I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my face. Two steps forward and one step back in the “taking care of myself” journey. But I did it and I felt good. I even felt good enough to write, a goal that had fluttered away on a To-Do List long ago.

 

I am not making plans to swim every day or to write every day. I know to laugh at those kinds of plans. I do promise to do what I can, when I can, to take care of myself so that I can weather the storms.

 

Today is not Day One of a new plan. Today is just One Day, one good day.

 

 

  1. Katalin Preier Joseph

    Wow I can relate to those detailed “to do” list. I read this just as I finished mine which consisted of carrying over most things from yesterday – and the day before that……..And after putting off a lot of things for so long – I have found a pool a good place to start to clear the mind and exercise the body. If I wait for life to fully settle down I will never get off the chair! Great essay Ellen……Kathie

    Reply
    • Ellen

      Thank you Kathie. I think so many of us struggle to have some illusion of control over life with our To-Do Lists! Keep swimming. Much love.

      Reply
  2. kmkoplik

    It was so good the read this, Ellen. I actually felt as though I could hear your voice. I think of you often and send lots of warmth and love to you.

    Reply
  3. Mary Stemmler

    Attagirl! I think the great luxury of retirement is the ability to try to focus on just one thing at a time. I think this is harder for women. Our reality as professionals, wives, caregivers, mothers, partners necessitates multitasking on an ongoing basis. LISTS ARE A NECESSITY!!!. And yet…just one day at a time. Focusing on whatever needs to be done (OK, the list is still there), Realizing that taking care of yourself is NOT a luxury, and it needs to be done first. And the rest? There is, hopefully, always tomorrow!

    Reply
    • Ellen

      Thanks Mary! You are my inspiration in both List-Making and learning how to take care of ourselves while taking care of others. It is not easy. Much love to you both!

      Reply
  4. Linda Lenyo

    One Day, not Day One – I love it! I have several notebooks of handwritten to-dos, some done, some not, and I have spent hours searching the internet for the best app “to-do” list, when probably a simple excel list would do. My younger sister says I overthink everything instead of “just doing”. I’ve been thinking of you and your family and I’m sorry to hear of your recent health scares. One breath at a time, one minute at a time, one hour at a time…..
    Personally, I think of reading as exercising the mind and watching TV as giving the brain a vacation, unless you’re watching CNN or the news, then it’s like watching a car accident happening and not being able to do anything about it…in which case, I suggest switching to HGTV and watching House Hunters and Beachfront Bargains! 🙂 Take care of yourself!
    Linda

    Reply
    • Ellen

      Thanks Linda! I love the idea of reading as exercise and TV as a vacation – and I am a big HGTV fan 🙂 Hope all is well with you. Much love!

      Reply
  5. Melanie Vesser Moondaggerz

    One day at a time. Today was a 2 meeting day for me. Good for you Ellen getting into that pool. It sounded really inviting. And it’s true we got to take care of ourselves. Nobody else can do it for us. 🙌🏽💓 I love you heaps !!

    Reply
    • Ellen

      Love you too Mel. Hang in there. Find a pool! One day at a time indeed. Much love.

      Reply
  6. Henrietta Hall

    Oh, M’nin……that essay is simply beautiful…..and as you might suspect …’I cried me a river” when reading it……….Thanks for being who you are!!!!,,,,,,Love you…M

    Reply
  7. Andi cohen

    Beautifully written. We need to remind ourselves that it is ok to just be and live in the moment.

    Reply
  8. Kristin

    Tears…because I miss you. Tears…..because I wish I was closer to you so that I could help you and give you hugs. Tears….because I feel like you wrote exactly what I am thinking about my own life. It took me a week to find the strength to even open your blog! Thank you for sharing such beautiful and honest words. I wish you and everyone reading “One Day, Not Day One” much peace, happiness, and their own “pool” to find….one day at a time. Hugs and love to you, dear LN. <3

    Reply
    • Ellen

      Oh Kristin, thank you so much. I feel the hugs and love and send you tons of them too. Be strong and kind to yourself and let’s all swim a lap or two. Much love.

      Reply

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