“Begin each day as it were on purpose.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher
I can think of many mornings in which I have awoken with the sincere thought, “I’m glad I’m not dead.” While that is a somewhat positive statement (more of a feeling of relief, really), it’s not a statement of joy in being alive — or even of intent or purpose.
Truly, it’s a hangover from the dread and panic from the previous night. For years I lived like this. And occasionally my nervous system still socks me in the stomach with a panic orb-blast and my morning thought is some version of a surprised, “I survived! I’m not dead!” statement.
While it’s an authentic expression of relief, it’s not the way I wish to greet my day each morning.
On a three-mile walk around Greenlake this morning, my partner Walter asked me what I considered highlights of the last year. I scanned the past twelve months and July popped into my head — a low month, a month in which I was so tired of dealing with my panic disorder that I wanted to die. I turned to Walter on the soggy path and said, “I’m glad I didn’t choose to die this summer.” It sounded stark against the gentle boot scuffs, tern chirps, mumbled conversations of Christmas plans, and kid giggles.
I stopped myself and allowed my words to sink in. Ugh. Wow. Not wanting to die was a highlight of my year? I guess that’s a big event. It’s certainly an important one, and I am grateful I am here to write about it, to shine some light on it, to share it with you all so you know that you’re not alone if you have ever experienced this type of despair, and to realize that you can feel differently. You can feel alive and purposeful again.
What has helped me to return to a place of feeling I have purpose as I wake each morning? Well, first lots of therapy. (If you need a referral for a great psychiatrist, I have one!) Also, lots of meditation, breathwork, patience, hugging the cat, writing, creating art, and truly being present and purposeful with each moment in my day.
I gave myself homework:
Deep belly breathing for five minutes x3/day.
A twenty-minute walk even if I don’t feel like it.
Run hard around a high school track to feel that my body *is* strong.
Drink green juice.
Create art in my art journal.
Notice colors and textures around me. Be curious about them.
Tell three close friends of my struggle and not be ashamed.
Complete three small tasks to completion.
Stay present. Don’t project into the future. There is only now.
Soon each day began with at least a hint of a purpose — at least a doable “to do” life-saving list.
Radmacher writes, “Life is the biggest schoolroom there is. Show up. Take notes. Notice the details so you gain mastery over the skills, talents, and abilities that all comprise your special purpose.” (Lean Forward into Your Life)
Ain’t that the truth: life *is* a gigantic classroom and showing up means waking up each morning ready to taste your purpose, your sense of self, your motivation to manifest.
For this Sunday Zen, I ask you to consider how you wake up each morning. What is your usual pattern of movement, thought, and feeling? What do you hear when you first wake up? How do you bring yourself into a new day? If you, like me, have struggled greeting a new day, what “homework” can you write on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself of your purpose, of your aliveness? I remember one morning, I wrote, “dance like you mean it.” Another mirror statement: “taste the sky and drink the sun.” Be practical. Be abstract.
Be messy. Be honest. Be clear. Be present. In all, be yourself. You are worth it. You are worth more than you know. Breathe this in: “I am a wondrous being who can enter this day with enlivened purpose and joy.” You may not feel it at first, but say it anyway. It may take three weeks to feel it. It may take your significant other or golden retriever stating it with you. It doesn’t matter. Do it anyway. You are worth it.