One Inch at a Time


This week marks the start of the spring semester, which means that I've been finalizing syllabi for my four classes, learning rosters, and handling other back-to-campus odds and ends.  Of course, because I'm exceptionally well balanced, this week I also decided that I should start meal planning better, clean the basement storage closet, finish two books that I started reading over break, take down the Christmas decorations that I didn't remove earlier because we were traveling, sort through my children's wardrobes to see if they've outgrown anything, find a better way to arrange my socks, and perhaps, if I'm really good, edit and print some pictures that have been languishing on my phone since the last time I printed pictures, which, for the record, was two years ago.

Then I hyperventilate just a bit.  And after that, I take a step back and remind myself, "Self, not all of those things need to happen at once.  Just do the one thing that needs to be done first.  That is enough."

It reminds me of an excerpt of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird that I read to my students each year about writing small assignments.  She tells us the power of using a one-inch picture frame to envision a singular moment or concept: "Figure out a one-inch piece of my story to tell, one small scene, one memory, one exchange."  Then, write that.  Just that.

This works.  Whether in writing or in life, one inch at a time works.  Sometimes, it's all you can muster.  And sometimes, that first inch gives you the push to travel feet, and then yards, and then miles.  For me, this blog post is "one inch."  Taking down my Christmas tree might be the next inch.  (In my history of adulthood, I've never kept a tree up beyond January 1.  The ceremonial removal of the Christmas decor -- which looks so charming in December, but then morphs into unnecessary clutter in January -- makes me feel like my house instantly lost 10 pounds.)  And I'll tackle the photo printing eventually.

One inch at a time.  It gets you where you need to be.


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