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Reach your dreams with baby steps

Happy New Year! Welcome back from the holiday sabbatical. I’ve missed you all terribly!

In lieu of decking the halls, I spent the entirety of December crippled by a stomach flu of Biblical proportions, the likes of which I have not seen since the Great Norwalk Virus Debacle of 2001.

The flu put a halt to all activities except squirming in my bed, delirious with fever. Convinced I was dying, I mentally updated my Last Will and Testament, pondering which of my friends was best equipped to inherit my 8′ long boa constrictor.

(Luckily for my chosen friend and the boa constrictor, I survived.)

But the extended sickness left me exhausted, depleted, malnourished. My muscles felt atrophied and I was on the verge of bed sores. My metabolism reset to zero, I lacked energy even to hold myself upright.

Walking Small

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I felt more rest was not the answer. That it was time for movement, fresh air, and sunshine (good luck with that one, Seattle). It was time to get my blood flowing.

In my weakened state, I couldn’t expect to leap right back to my running regimen when I could barely pace the 30 feet from door to bed. So I started small: I decided to walk down to South Lake Union and back each day.

It’s two miles round trip. The outbound route is a scenic, leisurely stroll. Which almost makes up for the cardiac-arrest inducing return.

There is not one single step of the walk home that is not cruelly, unapologetically, up hill.

And I’m not talking “challenging incline.” It’s the kind of hill where you stand at the top and see only sky and water, convinced as you crown the edge you’ll find nothing but air beneath you. The kind of hill too steep to see the bottom, too steep to park a car on.

Too steep for someone who has spent a better part of the last month in bed.

But yesterday I set out for the first time. By psyching myself up for the climb, I made it to the halfway point before stopping. I fought to catch my breath, lungs burning. I gripped my cell phone, debating whether to call a cab or an ambulance.

At this point, an elderly man out of an 18th century London mystery novel emerged from a side street. Donning a tweed coat, he tipped his hat in greeting as his Springer spaniel investigated a tree trunk.

Pipe in one hand, gryphon-topped walking stick in another, he smiled as he watched my horror-stricken face surveying the remaining incline.

“I don’t think I’m going to make it,” I told him in defeat. He tapped his walking stick on the ground in front of me.

“Stop looking up at the top. Look here.” I followed the gryphon’s pointed glare down to the simple square of pavement before me.

“Just put one foot in front of the other.”

“I can do that,” I said, feeling a twinge of hope. One foot in front of the other seemed manageable. I put away my cell phone and stopped searching the horizon for the next bus stop.

I looked down at my feet. I focused. I stopped worrying about how far it was, how much longer. I stopped worrying about the violent climb ahead. I stopped worrying about speed. I just put one foot in front of the other.

And I got there. Granted, it took me awhile. But I had a real sense of accomplishment when I arrived home, flushed and gasping for oxygen. I felt good. The adrenaline had boosted my circulation, the air in my lungs made me feel heady and light. And I had followed through.

Resolute in the New Year

This time of year, many folks break out their New Year’s Resolutions, motivated and optimistic. There’s something refreshing about January — the holidays behind us, a new calendar, a manual reset. I am a lover of fresh starts, so the New Year unfurls before me like a blank canvas.

Making big plans is great. I believe in dreaming big. But when it comes to the daily approach, we need to break it down into manageable bite sizes.

We need to focus on what’s right in front of us and not worry about how far we have to go. Otherwise we get discouraged, we get overwhelmed. It feels like too much work. That’s why so many people abandon their sparkly-eyed intentions, feeling worse about themselves the morning after.

I thought I was breaking it down enough by starting small: one day, just a walk. But sometimes we need to take it down even further.

What New Year’s resolutions do you have that you can break down into bite sized chunks? The smaller you break them down, the more manageable they become. And then you have a better chance of seeing them through.

Get out your journal and write about one thing you’d like to accomplish this year. Then break it down into a month-long goal. Then a weekly, then a daily. Then break your daily down into a handful of tiny tasks.

That’s how we make progress: one foot in front of the other.

12 comments

  1. Welcome back! I’m glad you’re feeling better. I have to say, aside from the biblical painful terrible flu part I’m a bit jealous that you got to lay around and write. I don’t think I’ve sat down in the last weeks unless it involved driving, eating , or staring at a computer screen.

    As for goals or resolutions or whatever they should be called: I want to write and create more. Let my daughter paint and color more. We’re moving at the end of the month and I think that will be my first project – to find our “art studio” space.

    I’m glad you feel better. Awesome job with the hill climb. Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks for the well wishings, Kate! Writing, creating, painting and coloring — that sounds like a fabulous plan to me. I hope your move go smoothly and opens the door to many creative days this year. Keep us updated!

  3. I’m very glad you survived. I’ve missed your wisdom. The hill in front of me isn’t made of dirt and stone but it’s still steep and frightening. I think I too can take one step at a time. Thank you for the inspiration.

  4. Kristin,
    Also glad you are feeling better and are up and about again. I love your website and your wise words, quite quirky(whih I like!) – and Very informative. Love this post about taking baby steps again – yes, don’t we sometimes try and rush headlong back into ‘life?’
    I tell myself ‘I should be writing, should write more’ but then sometimes don’t even MAKE time to write in my journal! Well, I am going to start this year in ‘bite-sized pieces’ – even if like you say, 5 minutes a day, maybe it will grow to a poem a week, a story a month, but now I’m getting ahead of myself. Once again, LOVE the website and the journal prompts.
    Best Regards, Lesley 🙂

    • Lesley – thanks for the kind words. Remember that journaling and writing is a gift to yourself and you deserve that gift! Five minutes a day is a great start, and it will grow. All you need to do is show up.

  5. Welcome back to the online world Kristin, I did miss you! 🙂 This post resonates big time with me. I’m always thinking to big and then getting overwhelmed with how huge my tasks are, so I let them go and don’t do them… Bit chunks. Bite chunks. It’s my new mantra!

  6. Welcome back! I missed you terribly, but I am so happy that you are doing much better. I had a bout of kidney illness in October that lasted until around Christmas so I know how you feel; wasn’t able to do anything at all, including journaling which really hit me big time because now I’m in this not journaling funk. But I’m making small steps.

    I hope you continue to feel better, and thanks for the great advice. I needed it right now, with trying to accomplish too many goals at once.

  7. Welcome back. It is true, I missed you.
    Now, sing it with me:
    “Put one foot in front of the other
    and soon you’ll be walking cross the floor.
    Put one foot in front of the other and you’ll see
    Soon you’ll be walking out the door. . .”

    There is wisdom even in Rankin-Bass children’s specials!!

  8. Happy New Year, Kristin! Glad to have you back. I caught the norovirus about five years ago and I thought I was going to die, too. But I wasn’t laid out for a month as you were. Hope you’re feeling better. I’ve missed you here, you are such a great storyteller. Thank you!

  9. Hanna – I think we creative folks tend to bite off more than we can chew! It’s a sign of an active, eager mind, which is a good thing. But you’re right – breaking them smaller means we’ll actually be able to do them.

    Victoria – I’m glad you’re feeling better as well. The not-journaling funk will pass if you make yourself do it a couple of days in a row. It’s usually the inertia of not doing it – you know what they say about an object in motion staying in motion. Keep it simple.

    Trece – I need more children’s specials in my life. 🙂

    Leah – thank you for the well wishings! That norovirus was a real mess so you know how I was feeling.

    Happy New Year to everyone!

  10. You poor thing! Thinking of you and hope you have a great new year!