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Posted Sep 17 2010 7:28am

In my journaling group after Labor Day, I had everyone journal about, well, labor. What did labor mean to them? What was the toughest labor they’ve ever done? The answer—unanimously—RECOVERY!

Recovery was seen as the toughest thing they have ever done. And it is. And I understand that. But it is worth it!

Around the time of this group, a couple of things happened which helped clarify the importance of pursuing this tough challenge. One was an e-mail about a skating party to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer to honor a teacher at our school who is battling a heroic fight against her cancer. The other was the death of one of our patients who lost her heroic fight against anorexia.

Life is unpredictable. We are all given challenges and we have to learn how to tackle them. Can we get around them? Can we stand still and hope they’ll go away? Sometimes those tactics work. But most of the time, we have to go through them. We have to face them head on and battle them. But we don’t have to do it alone. We gather tools. We find supporters. We obtain knowledge to understand what we’re up against and then we gather more tools. If one tactic fails, we try something else. Sometimes we have to take a rest. Gear up again, gather more strength and ideas, but then we have to start again.

That is where the day by day comes in the title of this blog. Yes, one day a year we celebrate labor, all the hard work that it has taken to build and sustain our country. But actual living, labor and recovery, happens day by day by day. It does not happen in one day and then it’s done. That’s the hard realization. The good news—not everything has to be done in one day. Small steps can be taken towards the challenge, towards recovery each and every day. Break it down and it can feel less daunting. You do not have to labor in this one day and get everything done! You have tomorrow and tomorrow. But….and that’s the second part of the realization. Life is limited. As much as we would like to believe it goes on forever…it doesn’t. Illnesses and deaths around me force me to realize that I need to live today with passion and vigor and tackle my challenges little by little because who knows what will happen tomorrow. I’m sorry if that sounds depressing. But it’s not meant to be. It reminds me to prioritize what is important to me. It reminds me to tell my children I love them because one can never do that too much. It reminds me to create and inspire and try to help heal others because that is what I am here to do.

What I want to remind you is—recovery is hard, but it can be tackled in small steps day by day, but it needs to be tackled. Don’t think—I’ll deal with it tomorrow—start today. Even little steps add together to create bigger gains. Little steps take you up the mountain of recovery and as one patient wrote—from up there you can see the sun.


· Journal about what labor means for you. What is the hardest labor that you’ve done? If it is related to recovery, what does recovery look like? Can you break the challenge down into little steps? For me, working on my novel can feel daunting, but if I remind myself that it is just page by page, that feels easier. Or just paragraph by paragraph. Sentence by sentence. Word by word. Sometimes that’s as far ahead as I can look.

· Journal about what is important in your life. Are you including those things in each and every day? What are you leaving out? How is that impacting your recovery? You might say, when I’m recovered, I’ll….. But what you may have to do is find a way to include that in your life now. You need to include something that you love or dream about or feel passionate about. That can help fuel your recovery. Do you have a creative pursuit that you’ve been putting off? Something that you’d like to study or learn? A friend of mine is studying Chinese. She’s busy, but she is making time for that because it is something that she’s passionate about. It helps fuel her busy days.

· Journal about what tools you need to help climb the mountain of recovery. If you’ve slipped, journal about what happened and what tools you need to try again. Do you need to take a different path up the mountain?

· Journal to remind yourself about the beauty of life—why it's important to tackle this challenge. Can you start a gratitude journal? Record a few things each day that strike you and that you are grateful for? Today, I am already grateful for my family waking me up. That sounds strange, I know. I am not an early morning person. I am often still in bed as everyone else gets out the door. But this morning everyone wanted to talk with me, check in with me, share some information and tell me that they love me. That was worth waking up for. And I’m grateful that my dogs are sleeping and not barking like idiots. I’m grateful that I’m meeting friends for lunch. I’m grateful that I can pursue writing which I love. And I’m grateful for this blog and my clinic because they offer me the opportunity to try and offer tools of healing to others.


Now, go, go Write On!

Martha Peaslee Levine, MD


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