One Day at a Time

There will be times when phases in your life will take a little longer or way longer than you had expected or hoped, but the truth of the matter is, while you waiting on the world to change, take the time to enjoy it, for tomorrow never dies.
11/12/2013 07:25 am ET Updated Nov 19, 2013

How many times have you had the feeling that it's all just a little too much? Too much to think about. Too much to conquer. Too much to change. Too much to try and stay the same. Maybe it's the approaching 30 thing for me, but there are often times lately that I feel like I have a mountain to climb to "figure" it all out -- right now, tomorrow, this week, by the end of the year, by my next birthday.

What's this emotional phenomenon about putting an arbitrary time stamp on things? Even me, a real hippie a lot of the time and a true optimist, finds myself haunted by my Type-A tendencies and before I know it, it's a Tuesday at 3 a.m. and I can't remember whether I haven't gone to sleep yet, or if I've woken myself up early from feeling like I need to "think" about things. If only clutching your pillow to your chest and staring at the popcorn ceiling of your apartment brought the clarity we so hope it would.

Maybe it's L.A., maybe it's my generation, maybe it's me, but so often I feel like I'm in first place to a race with no one else in it and with no finish line. I'm franticly trying to do it all in that way that can only be described in all upper case, bold and italics: find fulfillment, reinvent myself, be a good person, build a future, try new things, be vulnerable, let things go, hold on tight, and with all of that going on, I've somehow lost hold of such an important tenant in life -- curiosity. (Thank you Sarah Brokaw).

The truth is, each new day really is a gift -- a rebirth, a chance to start all over, a chance to do it the same because it felt right, too. And while we can control our output of energy, thought and influence on the world, we're all certainly aware that we can't control everything that comes back at us, so why not approach all that with a sense of intrigue, not fear? And perhaps the most manageable way to do that is to take it all just one day a time every once and a while. A lot can happen in 24 hours. I can remember several instances where for better and for worse, the person I woke as, was not the person I went to sleep as.

Your short-term and long-terms goals are necessary for (perceived) vital planning, but once you feel like you've got them pretty much sketched out for the time-being, roll up those plans and put them on the top shelf for a while -- they aren't going anywhere unless you want them to. If you've decided to want to be a famous painter, the only way to get there is by first just going to buy the paint. If Monday means just that, and Tuesday means buying brushes, by Friday you're fully stocked and by next week, you're starting a masterpiece... or not. That's the other thing, it doesn't always have to be a masterpiece. Enjoy the process of trying something new, seeing what comes and what that new experience holds for the moment -- however long that lasts. In this way, we stay connected to the joy in our lives.

It's a mental thing. If you decide Monday is about getting paints, maybe don't tell yourself you're getting paints today because you have to get brushes tomorrow. Tell yourself that all you have to do today is decide on which paints you might like to use and suddenly that trip to the art store is much more of a curious exploration, rather than a necessity.

The same applies for relationships or jobs. It goes without saying that making good decisions is always paramount, but beyond that, why stifle the whole exploratory process by putting parameters on things. If you want to get married, it's important to date someone who also shares that same interest, but do you have to choke the relationship with time frames and ultimatums and "next step" talks all the time? Today. No. In six months or two years, sure. If you want to be a lawyer, is it probably best to intern at a law firm? Sure. Is it necessary to stress about "making partner one day" when you're barely a grad school graduate? I'm going to go with no. Decide if you like it first. And I mean really like it because you like it, not because Mommy and Daddy paid for it, or that's what professional people do -- follow through and succeed.

You start to lean along the way that gold stars do come from promotions and big Christmas bonuses, of course, but they also come from moments of joy and curiosity -- when you learned something new about yourself. For those gold stars, you need time for those things to happen. Breath in time. Grace in time. Joy in time. Curiosity in time. It's so important to take the time to be surprised by life and the beautiful people we surround ourselves with, not to mention ourselves. How do you get to learn who you are, if you don't take to time to feel it out for a minute?

There will be times when phases in your life will take a little longer or way longer than you had expected or hoped, but the truth of the matter is, while you're waiting on the world to change, take the time to enjoy it, for tomorrow never dies.

For more by J. Kate Franklin, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.