Counting the Small Wins

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Claire Colvin -Counting the Small Wins3

A friend of mine graduated from university this month. She’s spent the past three years back in classes with people a decade younger than her, doing the work to get the degree she needs to make a major career shift. It’s been a long and hard and expensive road, full of sacrifice, and it is such a joy to celebrate this moment with her. On the day of her graduation she sent me a text that completely caught me off guard.

She was writing to thank me.

“Do you remember,” she wrote, “that night three years ago when you sat in Tim Horton’s with me for hours working on my application? I could not have graduated without you.”

I was stunned and so honored that she would say that. I had forgotten about that night in the coffee shop. Looking back on it I remember that it got late, really late for someone my age. I was tired and didn’t particularly feel like going through this long and complicated application. But I knew deep in my bones that she was chasing the right dream. This program was what she needed to do and as her friend I was happy to do what I could to help. This graduation victory is hers. But a tiny part of it is mine too.

It’s a small victory, but it’s worth counting. It’s easy to spot the big wins—weddings and promotions, graduations and babies and book contracts—and the big losses stand out too. The small wins can be trickier to see but it’s important that we don’t miss them. Most of us will not spend our lives skipping from one mountain top experience to the next. We will pass a lot of time in what can seem like ordinary days. If we’re not paying attention we can miss the little miracles when the truth is that God is saving us all the time.

When I stop noticing the small wins it’s all too easy to focus on the losses and start believing that I’m messing up my life. I start to feel that I am irreparably stuck and constantly failing. That’s dangerous ground to stand on. It leads to thoughts that nothing will ever change and that everything that’s happening—or not happening—right now is my fault. When I’m in a good place in my head I know that none of that is true. On the dark days it can sound like the truth and I’m learning that I need to take action to pull myself out of those thoughts.

There’s an artist named Hannah Daisy who’s done a series of pieces lately called Boring Self Care. They’re paintings done to look like the achievement badges you get in the Girl Guides. They celebrate things like doing the dishes, going outside, cooking a nourishing meal, and remembering to breathe. They are small and simple things but on the days when it feels like I’m failing, they are powerful reminders. Sometimes the days feel dark simply because I’ve forgotten to do any of the things that help. I get busy, or flustered, and don’t realize that I need to go outside, or stand up and stretch. You wouldn’t think that something so simple—so terribly ordinary—could make a difference, but it does. Every time.

As I write this, today has not been a particularly good day. It wasn’t awful but it has been stressful and hard and I could tell you a dozen things that went wrong. But when I take a moment to force myself to take an inventory of the good things that happened, there are a dozen things I could put on that list too. I want to learn to see the good things first; to go out searching for hope and love before I start counting off the disappointments.

Here at SheLoves we talk a lot about being women who love. I want to be a woman who knows how to love herself too. Not all days will be fixable with deep breathing and a good dinner. But maybe if we’re able to redeem some of the not-so-good days with good self-care we’ll be strong enough to handle those other days when they come.

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin

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