Have you ever had a powerful dream? A recent dream reminded me that all I can do is live life one step at a time.
In the dream, I was on vacation in Italy. Even though the coronavirus is running rampant, I flew halfway around the world. I was with an older woman, also named Barb, and her grandson.
We watched a parade, social distancing of course (yes, I social distance in my dreams now too!). Then off we went on a scenic adventure to climb a mountain. We started our ascent. Step by step, I climbed. It was very steep. I didn’t have a harness but it didn’t bother me.
One step at a time, I slowly rose.
I felt strong and confident. Older Barb, who was carrying her grandson, appeared to be getting tired. I offered to take the child.
With the boy in my arms, I continued to rise, one careful step after another. I felt my muscles working. Flexing with every step. I was aware of every inch of my body.
I slowly started to feel my body tire. That is when my mind stepped in with its activity: This is a high mountain. You have no business climbing it. If you let go or even have one misstep you could fall. You are tired. You aren’t going to make it.
My body reacted in step with these thoughts. My heart started beating faster with anxiety and I started to perspire. Until my mind started with the negative thoughts I had felt strong and assured. I’d been enjoying the physicality, the challenge and the adventure of the experience. Now, I was scared. I was no longer enjoying the moment. Inches from the top of the mountain, I was doubting whether I would make it.
With that fear in my heart, I jerked awake from my slumber.
Lying awake, my heart was still beating fast from the effects of the dream. I recognized the familiar pattern that pushed its way to my consciousness.
It’s easy to let challenges in life feel big and insurmountable if I think about them that way. As I’ve learned, my mind loves to dwell on the past and jump ahead to the future at any opportunity I give it. When my mind becomes active this way, my body reacts in lockstep. There is a physical response. This is why stress can wreak such havoc on our health. The wonderful thing is that once I am aware of these thought patterns and reactions I can begin to control them.
So now that I am aware of these thoughts, what was my dream telling me?
One step at a time
When I had the dream I was wrapping up a two-week Christmas break. My boys were heading back to school and me to work (both online). After recently publishing Good Morning, Life!, the break gave me some time to work on book promotion. I love this book and my hope is for others to be aware of it and hopefully read and love it too! But book promotion takes time and hard work. Now, I was going to be juggling work in addition to kids, book promotion, and household chores. My mind was getting ahead of itself and stress was creeping in with anticipation. The dream was a reminder to stay focused in the now and take things one step at a time. The only time I can take action is in the present moment, so that is where I must stay and live. That is where happiness lies.
That is how I was able to write a book in the first place – one step at a time.
I recently received an email from a colleague and friend titled Congratulations Wonder Woman! It was a lovely note congratulating me on writing and publishing a book while parenting in the midst of a pandemic, and finding happiness at the same time. It made me smile with gratitude and I was also aware that my ego got a little boost before I checked myself.
I received similar sentiments from other friends. But the reality is, while I’d love to claim Wonder Woman status, it’s not true. Anyone can do it. Whatever your goals may be, trust me they are achievable. It just takes one step at a time. At a point in time, it may seem like a lot, but by breaking it down and not getting overwhelmed with thoughts of the future, it is more than doable.
For me, the actual book writing process started over three years ago. I started writing my journal more than five years ago. On vacations and weekends, I wrote a bit at a time. I also had the benefit of a super supportive partner, who is a major contributor as a parent and to household duties. But it’s true, at any given time, I could have easily listened to those negative thoughts that love to arise: What business do you have writing a book? What do you know about publishing? This will take you way too long! I could have given up and been derailed by these thoughts.
But I had a dream. And I had support. From my husband, as mentioned, and I also had an important coaching discussion with the great Kristen Harcourt. She helped me clarify for myself the importance of this dream. She also pushed me to set a tangible, realistic deadline. With a goal in place, all I could do was take one step at a time.
That is all we can do: Take one step at a time.
One Step at a Time: Living in a Global Pandemic
Living one step at a time is how we can stay sane while dealing with a raging pandemic. We are in another lockdown. Kids are at home learning virtually, while many parents are still working from home. The fear of contracting the virus underlies daily life, along with worries about family and friends. We are missing face-to-face social interactions. These are all realities that are becoming familiar, but in the schematic of our lives, they are new stresses that we generally haven’t experienced in the past.
It’s natural that my mind will try its usual tricks of taking future uncertainties and building stories and worries. My throat feels sore this morning, do I have the coronavirus? What if I do, will I have to isolate from my kids? How will I help them with their virtual learning? What about work, how will I get my work done and support my team?
I stop myself before my body starts to react to these stressful thoughts. Thanks to mindfulness, I’m aware of what’s happening with my mind and body. “Nice try mind, I know your intentions are good and you’re trying to protect me, but it’s not helpful being pulled out of the present moment.”
I’ll use my dream as another reminder to live one step at a time. After all, that’s where I find happiness – in the present moment.
I hope my dream can be a reminder for you too. Have a lovely week, one step at a time!
We’ve got this!