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Something I never used to give a second thought to has become the bane of my existence (and my dog’s) lately: the stairs in my apartment building. The overhaul of the building elevator started January 3 and won’t be finished until early April. April! That means three months of going up and down the three long, steep flights of stairs to my apartment.
Normally I’d run up and down and consider it good cardio, an add-on to what I do at the gym. But I’m in the midst of a frustratingly long rehab after reconstructive knee surgery and going down stairs is still tricky. I have to hold the railing and step slowly and carefully.
And my poor dog. Winky is in amazing shape for an 11-year-old. Still she is a senior citizen in big-dog years and I can really see her age when she’s climbing the stairs. She starts at a decent clip but by the top of each flight, she’s making a real effort to pull her hips up the steps. Sometimes she slips a little, which breaks my heart.
She pauses on every landing and looks pleadingly at me as if to say, Mom, I’m tired. Can’t we just take that magic transporter with the sliding door? Or can’t you carry me? (As if I could carry my 60-pound dog even with two healthy knees.) Usually I keep plodding up the stairs and she gives a doggy sigh and follows.
Not this morning. She got to the second-floor landing, stood there and wouldn’t budge. Not when she saw me waiting at the top of the third flight of stairs. Not when I jingled my keys. Not even when I said, “Want breakfast?”
I took a few steps back down toward her. “Come on, Wink,” I coaxed, beckoning with the hand that wasn’t holding the railing. “You can do it.”
She looked at me and put a paw on the first step. “Good girl,” I said. Another paw on the second step. “Keep going.” Then the third step and the fourth. “That’s how you do it. Step by step.”
Winky was panting by the time she got to the top but she made it (don’t worry, I rewarded her with a big breakfast and a bowl of fresh water). And it occurred to me that what I told her is the positive thinker’s way to approach any challenge where there seems to be no end in sight—whether it’s doing months of physical therapy, climbing a mental mountain or making a real and lasting change in attitude.
Step by step. That’s how you do it.
Amy Wong is the executive editor of Guideposts and was a founding editor of Positive Thinking. She lives in New York City with her adopted dog, Winky, a natural-born positive thinker who believes that everyone has a treat for her and every day is the best day of her life. Amy hopes to be that optimistic someday (she’s working on it!).