The alarm blared through my phone and I fumbled for the snooze button in the dark. My head hurt. The world was blurry. Hazy thoughts run through my sleepy brain. ‘Was that the second time the alarm went off, or the third? Do I still have time to snooze? Should I make it a ponytail day? What is happening today?’
All at once a rush of stressful images entered my foggy brain. ‘Monday morning. Meeting at 9:00. Client lunch. Newsletter deadline. Budget worksheet due. Someone’s birthday this week – did I order a present? Who’s birthday is it again? And that happy hour for work. Is my red blouse clean? I think I have a prenatal doctor appointment this week. Do I need more vitamins? Okay, focus.’ Roll out of bed. Drink water. Brush teeth. ‘Darn it, we need more toothpaste. Start the shower. Ugh, those dark circles under my eyes. Holy cow. I just need to make it through this day.’
Never enough time. Rush through the morning routine. Put on eyeliner while I’m drying my hair. Put on shoes while I’m grabbing a banana for the road. Glance at the unmade bed. Toss the dog a few bones. Rush out the door. Hook up my iPhone. ‘Did I close the garage? Man, there’s a lot of traffic. Where’s my hair clip?’
Suddenly, through my speakers comes Oprah Winfrey’s voice. I’m listening to a meditation CD on my commute, because – let’s be real – who has spare time to actually sit down and officially meditate? Oprah says something like this: “How many times have you told yourself ‘I just need to make it through the day.’ But if that’s what you ask for, that’s all you’ll ever get. You’ll just make it through the day.”
It’s as if Oprah is speaking to me through a megaphone, and as they say, for a moment it’s like time stops. ‘I just said that to myself ten minutes ago! She’s exactly right – that’s all I ever say! I just try to make it through the days! What kind of aspiration is that? What am I doing? What kind of life am I living?’
I suddenly start thinking about all the things on my agenda for the day, and the stuff waiting for me at that elusive “end of the day” that I’m aiming for. My end-of-the-day will include some mindless television, maybe some popcorn or ice cream and a glass of wine. I know I’ll be too tired and braindead to work on developing that novel I always said I wanted to write, let alone even have an actual conversation with my husband that involves anything other than banal questions like, “What do we need from Costco?”
The goal I’m aiming toward isn’t a goal at all. The thing getting me through the day doesn’t sound all that fantastic. The thing getting me through the day is literally just getting through the day. It is just more of the same. Hurry hurry hurry so I can sit down and do nothing for a few minutes, procrastinate the endless projects I’m saving for Someday, put off going to bed so I can soak every minute of “relaxation” out of our busy night “catching up” on DVRed Top Chef episodes so we’re not too behind when the season finale hits next week.
Exhaustion, stress and overwhelm. Hurry up and get stuff done so I can sit around in a comatose state for a few extra minutes before I go to bed too late and wake up too early to do it all again.
Lather, rinse and repeat.
Just make it through the day.
Surely there’s more to life than that.
There was nothing special about the day that I heard Oprah say those words, and I don’t remember the exact words she used. All I really know is that it was my true wake up call that morning, and for once I did not hit snooze to make it go away. Her words ruminated through my brain all through the meetings and tasks I did, and they whispered to me as I drove home that night and reheated some rice or whatever boring leftovers we had in our fridge. Just make it through the day – just make it through the day … what for? What’s the point? Isn’t there more? There has to be more!
Something clicked in me that day. Slowly, over the course of the next few days and months and years, I started to change my outlook a bit. I deleted the 14 unseen episodes of whatever television series we had been saving off our DVR, and freed up 14 hours of our lives for something better. I said “no” to the happy hour I was dreading going to. I decided to join my husband on his mile-or-so morning walk to Starbucks. I started going to the gym I had been paying every month for the last several years but hadn’t actually visited in who knows how many months. I got a library card. I had a baby and decided not to go back to work right away. I dusted off my dreams of writing, and decided to start a blog. I stopped by my parents’ house and stayed to drink a whole cup of coffee instead of rushing out to win a neverending, unwinnable rat race.
I adjusted my goals. I started to reach toward something beyond just making it through the days, and started to make a life, instead.
It’s ridiculously clichéd for a woman like me, a Gen Xer who grew up watching people’s lives being transformed by Oprah Winfrey, to say that Oprah Winfrey transformed my life. But the truth is, she kind of did. She said something simple, something I had probably seen or heard a thousand times on magnets and greeting cards and motivational speeches, something that is probably posted on hundreds of memes floating around social media today – something so little and insignificant that it passed right through my brain with nary a second thought before that little moment on my commute. But that day, it hit me. That day, it planted a thought. That thought grew. It’s still growing.
I haven’t made grand changes in my life. I don’t solve world hunger or change the lives of children on a daily basis. I haven’t invented anything or solved any societal issues.
I have, however, started doing more than just making it through my days. And that has made a world of difference.