I remember talking to a friend of mine a few years ago who was going through a really bad breakup. She was trying to figure out what it all meant.
- What if the failure of this relationship meant that she was on some fundamental level incapable of any kind of real stability in her life?
- Where had it all gone wrong?
- Would she ever find love again?
At the time, I was in the middle of preparing for my first marathon and I shared with my friend a theory that I like to call:
"THE NEXT LAMP POST"
While I was training for the big run I found it WAY too disheartening to think of eventually having to run 26.2 miles, especially when I was struggling to run just 3 or 4. Instead, I got into the habit of breaking each run down into smaller and smaller pieces. I might not be able to run ten more miles on any given day but I could always make it to at least the next lamp past. So I just kept moving forward, one lamp post at a time, and eventually I'd finish my miles (for the record, I lived in Brooklyn at the time - VERY good lamp posts and an endless supply).
What I told my lovelorn friend was this - from the sound of things she was at about Mile 3 of her breakup journey and she wasn't going to make it if she kept trying to imagine the big picture. She was in a "next lamp post" place and all she needed to concentrate on was putting her head down and moving forward, nothing else, until she got through the worst of it. (For the record, this September that same friend is marrying one of the finest dudes in Christendom, so happy that!)
Having my first child brought the "next lamp post" theory home for me all over again. When they first handed me my baby boy at the hospital I was, of course, elated and overwhelmed. But I must admit that by the time we got him home from the hospital those feelings had changed to deflated and overwhelmed.
Questions flooded my mind:
- How am I supposed to know what to do with this guy?
- How long can I humanly survive on three hours of sleep a night?
- What if I actually murder my husband one of these days for claiming he will be home at 7:00 and then actually arriving home at 7:07? WHO WILL RAISE MY CHILD THEN!!!
I was going nuts.
Until I remembered my beloved lamp posts. During night feedings, crying jags, and late-husband episodes, I stopped asking the big questions. Instead, I would simply say to myself, NEXT LAMP POST, NEXT LAMP POST, NEXT LAMP POST.
I kept this up, day after day, for eight weeks. And then, at eight weeks, some amazing things started to happen:
- The days began to get more organized, meaning I didn't have to breastfeed 86 times a day.
- The baby started sleeping for longer and longer stretches at a time so that I was no longer lumbering through life like a brain-starved zombie.
- And, folks, let's talk about the SMILES!
The smiles started and, folks, it was GAME ON! Suddenly this being who has been little more than a demanding and oft-crying MOUTH started making eye contact with me and just BEAMING as if to say, "Oh look! It's you! The greatest person EVER! I'm just so happy to see you!" And then he'd look away for a minute before looking back like, "WHAT? You again? I LOVE looking at you! How did I get so lucky!?"
And this went on all day. And it was freakishly awesome! And it all happened at around 8 weeks...
...so thank God I made it that long.