By Laura Day
Originally published in ASCP's Skin Deep, March/April 2008.
The single most courageous act anyone can perform is to take care of the day-to-day, moment-to-moment, sometimes monotonous tasks of living. Taking care of business requires discipline, consistency, delaying of pleasure, and having faith that it is all worthwhile. The small, faith-filled steps of daily maintenance of self, relationship, community, loving, and teaching take, at times, enormous discipline and generosity.
Life requires some basics from each of us. We can skip over them only by paying a tremendous price. A daily rhythm of joy and sacrifice must be maintained for life to be complete. Some of these things may seem meaningless: keeping receipts, eating well, doing homework, brushing our teeth, being gracious to our neighbors, exercising—but they are part of our life’s energetic fabric.
Keeping the Beat
The simple act of performing these rituals, day after day, decade after decade, provides the pulse of our lives. When you honor this pulse, a crisis may shake you, but you will not fall. Something so simple is the most difficult, challenging act of all. More significant than profound visions, realizations, or striking moments of good fortune is the ability to elevate the mundane acts of existence to their proper place.
If all you can do in certain moments is to maintain this beat or rediscover it, you will persevere, and in persevering, you will emerge triumphant. This pulse will keep you from allowing bumps to become mountains and valleys to become vortices. You will deal with reality as it occurs.
No New Damage
Part of the Hippocratic oath doctors take is “First, do no harm.” We would do well to follow this precept in our own lives. A psychiatrist introduced me to this profound concept: no new damage.
In crisis, you are coping with so much every day just to take care of what is already on your plate that it is important to be vigilant about not creating anything new to deal with or placing yourself in situations likely to create additional difficulty.
Notice the people in your life who cause you trouble or make you feel less than you are. With every situation, interaction, and even opportunity, ask yourself, “What is the potential for new damage?”
An innocent lunch date with a jealous childhood friend is an occasion for new damage. Not eating your breakfast if you are underweight is an occasion for new damage. Going to a mall and trusting yourself not to spend money you don’t have is an occasion for new damage.
For one day, keep a list of all the new damage you avoid; you’ll be amazed by the number of occasions for injury that occur.In crisis, we sometimes give ourselves permission to let things slide. If ever there was a time when we cannot afford that luxury, it is when we are coping with crisis. Remember, no new damage.