Milestones with a small “m” by Nora Slattery

woman with notebook

Recently, I overheard the casual greeting “Have a great day” responded to with: “Any day I wake up is a great day.” I was struck by this simple truth. Yes, it is a good day when your eyes open, and you can start anew. If this sounds a little a sugary, I agree. But any day we wake up in recovery is a win. It’s also an opportunity.

We all have some Big Milestones in our lives—events, deeds, relationships—that signify progress. These are the milestones we place in capital letters and document with a diploma or marriage certificate, a photo album or candles on an AA cake. But also consider milestones with a little “m.” Every day we wake up, we have a chance to do something better, to cherish a tiny moment, to see something fresh, to say thank you. These are often the subtle steps that make Big Milestones possible, and we ought to remember them, too.

I teach my journal writing students to use their all senses when they write—smells, images, tastes, textures, sounds—to deepen the reflection and to hold the moment with vivid words. Then, I ask them to pick just one tiny detail in their life, the best good thing that happened that day—the extra long walk with the dog, that wave to the neighbor, the seat given to a stranger on the bus—and fully mark that as a significant event worth writing down. When my students first get this assignment, I see eyes roll a little and hear a few muffled laughs. But, as they write I see focus, I hear pens quickly scratching against paper, little sighs of satisfaction. When they read back their writing, those moments captured in detail are much more meaningful than they expected.

When we capture the best moment in our life just that day, we create tiny shrines to the greater good in our lives. Milestones with a small “m.” By writing the moment down in the fullest detail we can muster, we make these milestones real, and we build on them. We take cameras to the big events, but for the smaller ones, we have to be the camera. Writing our new life, one good moment at a time, is a milestone in itself.

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