Thursday, October 6, 2016

Just Do It

You don’t need me to tell you that some days are harder than others. It’s just a fact of life. Sometimes things go smoothly, and sometimes life beats you about the head and shoulders with a truck. A really big truck. For most people, there is a mix of the two along with everything in between, and, if you’re somewhat lucky, your collection leans more toward the former than the latter. Some days, though, it’s a really big truck.

On those days when it seems to be raining auto parts and your only umbrella is already torn to shreds, the only thing you want to do is hide in your room and wait for it to go away. If you can do that, it might be your best bet, or at least your safest bet. Those are not the best days for decision making, and it’s easy to do something you’ll later regret when everything already seems to be at its worst. Most of us don’t have that option, though, or don’t have that option as often as we might like. Bills have to be paid, jobs have to get done, and life has to be lived. Like it or not, we have to go out and do the things. We don’t have a choice.

So you do them. It’s as simple and as difficult as that. When your only choice is to do it, just do it. “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead,” so to speak. Just do it.

This was a trick I … I don’t want to say “mastered,” because I don’t think you can ever truly master this particular trick. You don’t master it, per se, you just get ahead of the averages. You get very good at making it work knowing that it either works correctly or everything explodes. There is usually no middle ground in this situation. So this was a trick I learned to use as carefully as possible back during the time when a stoic automaton was my default answer to everything. You shut down as many of the sensory input channels as you can get away with and just put one foot in front of the other, step by rigid step, until you get through.

It requires a conscious decision. I may not be hungry but I have to eat, so I eat. I may not want to get out of bed but I have to go to work, so I get out of bed. I have to recognize that these are steps I must take, so take them. Don’t stop and think about it. Don’t make excuses. Definitely don’t make excuses because once you make one, the second one becomes easier. Before you know it, you’ve lost count of the excuses and you’re still in bed. Things that needed to get done haven’t been done, and you still haven’t made it through whatever was causing the interference in the first place.

As Robert Frost said, “The best way out is always through.” I don’t know if I would actually go so far as to say “always,” but I do know it’s pretty common. Once you’re in the thick of things, you’re going to have to work your way out no matter which direction you go, so you may as well go forward and not lose the ground you already made. If that means gritting your teeth and pushing through then you grit your teeth and push through. Sometimes there is no other way.

There is a risk involved, obviously. If you’re pushing through just to push through, you’re almost certainly not going to be at your best. You won’t do your best work, you won’t give your best answers, and you probably won’t be your best you. Understand that and make allowances for it. If at all possible, try to limit your “just pushing through” actions to physically mechanical tasks that don’t require your best effort. Eat a sandwich instead of cooking dinner. Do your laundry instead of planning your budget. Work on solo tasks instead of chairing a committee. Know yourself and know your limits. Try to tell the difference between things that can wait and things that can, and don’t set yourself up to fail. Do what you have to do but, if you’re in that situation, limit it to what you actually have to do. Come back to the rest when you’re doing better.

Let me be clear here. I’m not saying you don’t ask for help. I am not saying you can’t take a break. I’m not saying you never back up and try a different direction. I have definitely said the opposite of each of those things many times, so this is not intended to contradict that. There is no One Size Fits All package for life. It’s a mix-and-match grab bag with just about as many tricks as it has treats, and you’re going to have to learn to recognize the different situations in order to best address those situations. If the situation requires help, or a break, or a new direction, or a bridge burned, or bug spray, or whatever that situation requires, face it with the best tools you can get to hand. What I am saying is, when a situation requires you to tuck your head down and step, tuck your head down and step. Just do it.

There are days when the alarm goes off and it takes everything I have to not throw it across the room. There are days when it’s just me in the truck and it requires an active decision to turn on the right blinker instead of the left. I’ve been there too often. I know all about that moment when you’re standing on the edge, less than half-a-breath from giving in and giving up. I have been learning to take corrective measures against those moments for more than thirty years now. I can’t tell you it gets easier, but I can tell you it gets better. That is so hard to believe when you hit the wall, but it’s true. It gets better.

When you’ve lost all hope, when you’ve hit the wall, when you’re about to give up, remember, it gets better. You don’t have to believe. You just have to take a step forward, then take another step forward, then one more. It’s always just one step. That’s all you have to do, from moment to moment, is take one step. Focus on that step and just do it. Look at the next step only in its turn. Do what you have to do then, and only then, do the next thing you have to do.

Some days there is no trick. Some days are going to be horrible, no matter what you do, regardless of therapy or medicine, with no remedy but time. Don’t forget, they’re only some days, not all. When nothing will fix it and you have to do the thing anyway, just do it. Take a break when you have to, but keep moving and you’ll get through.

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