Today I’m excited to feature a guest post from author Karen Beattie. She’s really great, you guys. Check out her fabulous book, Rock-Bottom Blessings: Discovering God’s Abundance When All Seems Lost (Loyola Press). Without further ado, here’s Karen.
I was wearing red cowboy boots the day I got laid off.
It was February of 2009, the beginning of the recession, and I wasn’t the only American getting canned. I worked as a writer for a small creative agency, and the brutal financial decisions of CEOs in our clients’ corporate offices were trickling down to me.
I was glad I wore the red boots. I always felt a little more confident in them. Powerful. More myself. Now I looked at the red tips of the boots as my boss told me the bad news. I felt a knot forming in my stomach. My husband was in school earning a second graduate degree. He had six months to go before he finished and only had time to work one part-time job. We were in the midst of attempting to adopt a child from Ethiopia.
As I packed up my things and boarded a frigid EL train car to go home, I started to panic. How much money did we have in the bank? Where could we live if we couldn’t pay the mortgage? What could we sell to make a little extra money? How many cans of beans did we have in the cupboard?
The following weeks I frantically sent out resumes and obsessed over the balance in our bank account, projecting my worries into the months and years ahead.
One day, my husband, David, and I were on the couch talking about our situation, when he said—rather flippantly, I thought—“Well, let’s just take it one day at a time.”
What the heck was the matter with him? He seemed so Zen and peaceful. Didn’t he care? Why was I the only one worried about our situation?
“What do you mean take it one day at a time? That’s such a cliché! You can’t fix our problems with a platitude.”
I got up and stomped away.
I was angry because he wasn’t worried about our situation (as if his worry would fix our problems), but I was also mad because I was supposed to be the more “spiritually mature” person in our relationship. I had grown up in a Christian home, attended a Christian college, audited a few seminary classes, and written articles about God and faith for national magazines.
David had been raised in what seemed to me a nominally Christian home, left religion for a long time due to what he felt was the hypocrisy he saw in many churches, and only returned reluctantly and slowly, after hitting rock bottom and finding help through Alcoholics Anonymous.
When we got married, he had been sober for six years. I dragged him to church. He invited me to come to AA meetings.
But now he was the one who seemed to easily put his trust in a Higher Power. He knew we could only do so much to fix our situation, and the rest was up to God. I, on the other hand, had my doubts. Where was God in all of this?
One day, I was in knots trying to figure out how to “fix” everything. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating. I was exhausted and sick with grief at the dying of our dream of becoming parents. Some part of me knew that I couldn’t go on like this.
I didn’t tell David, but that day I secretly decided to “take it one day at a time.”
The idea seemed too simple. Then again, if it works to help alcoholics stay sober, why couldn’t it help me stay “worry sober”?
What did I have to lose besides my pride?
From then on, I tried to get through each day without allowing my mind to travel weeks, months, or years into the future. I repeated to myself: Today we have enough food on the table. Today we have a place to live. Today we are healthy and the sun is shining. Today.
“Today we have enough” became my mantra.
All of my life I have been a follower of Christ. But it took my recovering alcoholic husband to remind me to “make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him” (AA’s Step 3), and take it one day at a time.
Soon, taking it one day at a time became more than just a platitude. It became my lifeline.
Nine long months after I was laid off, I found a new job, my husband finished school and started a new position as a psychotherapist, and we gradually climbed out of the financial hole we were in.
I still find myself being sucked into a vortex of worry and panic at times. But I catch myself. Today we are healthy. Today we have a place to live. Today, we have enough.
Recently, David shared with me a Sanskrit proverb that hangs on the wall in many AA meeting locations:
Look to this day,
For it is life,
In its brief course lies all
The realities and verities of existence.
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power.
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness.
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
My name is Karen, and I’m not an alcoholic. But I’m learning to live my life one day at a time.
Karen Beattie is the author of Rock-Bottom Blessings: Discovering God’s Abundance When All Seems Lost (Loyola Press). She has a master’s degree in journalism and has written about women’s issues, the arts, and spirituality for several publications including Christianity Today, Today’s Christian Woman, and Midwest Living. She currently works as writing director for a digital creative agency. She lives with her husband, daughter and geriatric cat on the north side of Chicago. You can learn more and read her blog at www.karenbeattie.net.