“One step at a time, one day at a time, it will all work out.”
This is something a mentor…er, friend….er…you know what, I’ll just be honest–This is something my therapist, whom I saw for seven years, used to say to me. You’ll meet my therapist “Ramona” in my upcoming memoir, Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts. For now I’d like to reflect on her comforting words.
So often I would fret to Ramona and worry that things wouldn’t go as I hoped or something catastrophic would happen. Very often, I worried about things that either never ended up happening or could be avoided or abated if I stayed calm and clear-headed. I spent my present moments making myself miserable about what may or may not happen in the future.
More often than not, those things I worried about did, in fact, work out. My impatience and anxiety kept me on unnecessary edge.
There are things that happen beyond our control, and there are just as many things that happen within our control.
I want to focus on the things that are within our control: our mindset, choices, and actions.
Each “step” we take–how we choose to respond, how we choose to act, what decision we make–can affect what happens in our future. When things get overwhelming, it can be helpful to just focus on taking that proverbial “one step” to build confidence and faith that we can set the tone for what will come next.
Here’s the thing…I literally can’t take “one step.”
I mean, I can, but I can’t walk down the stairs the way I used to before my knee surgery. I have to carefully step down onto a stair with my injured right leg, step to the same stair with my stronger left leg, pause for a moment, and then do the two-step down each stair again. My right knee is so inflamed and tight that it won’t flex enough to allow me to lower my left leg to the next stair on its own.
It’s frustrating, painful, and makes me worry that my long-term recovery will be compromised.
This past week my regular physical therapist was on vacation, so I saw two other therapists for my weekly treatment. During Wednesday’s session, after a lot of stretching and massage, the therapist working on me released me to do some range-of-motion exercises on my own. At first I resorted to a regular strength-building exercise: stepping up onto a box, but then I thought about where I was really challenged with range-of-motion outside the clinic: stepping down, as if I were walking down a set of stairs.
I re-positioned myself on the box and very carefully, and a not without wobbles, stepped off the box with my left foot. It was only a few inches from the ground, but it was a strain on my knee. I tried it again. Still wobbly and a bit tight, but I did it.
I did ten step-downs with my left leg, then twenty, and ultimately forty off the box. Eventually my right knee loosened up, and I was able to try “bigger” steps (i.e., I moved to the middle then back of the box so I’d have to take a larger step to get onto the ground). That gave me some much-needed confidence and evidence that I could work through the inflammation that’s been plaguing my leg for the last several months.
Eventually, I’ll be able to walk down the stairs as I did pre-injury. It’ll happen. My physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon are both confident that I’ll be able to do that and many other things. I am too.
There are a lot of things I want to be able to do as I continue to recover, but for now, all I need to focus on is one step.
There’s some comfort in that simplicity.
One step leads to the next step, and each day you take a few more steps. It can be helpful to focus on that one step rather than the hundreds or thousands of steps we’ll need to take.
Eventually, one step at a time, one day at a time, you’ll get where you need to go.
Just keep moving forward.
Stay tuned for my upcoming book– “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!
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