Every so often, I find myself in a bad place.

I’m not talking about a dark alley with flashing neon lights and a lurking group of terribly muscled motorcyle men with crowbars and gold teeth. I’m talking about a bad place physically, or a bad place emotionally, even a bad place financially.

Sometimes I find that I have to snag a few pennies from the penny jar just to make ends meet and pay all the bills for the month. And other times, I find that it is a struggle just to get out of bed in the morning. I would much rather turn over and pull the cover up just so I don’t have to feel those feelings again. And sometimes, I just wake up feeling like a sack of greasy potatoes because I ate too much the night before or had one too many sips from the old rum jar in the cabinet or maybe even stopped one too many times at the drive-thru this month and can’t fit into my suit pants for the wedding this weekend.

At times like this I sit there and wonder how I got there. What happened that I am stuck in this horrible situation? Has my luck run out? Did someone put a curse on me? Is God testing me like Job? When I get through feeling sorry for myself, and begin to think about it, it’s not hard to see the truth of the situation.

It was my own decisions that led me to that spot.

I chose to stop for fast food rather than taking the lettuce and tomatoes and broccoli already bought and in the frig at home and making a salad. I chose to spend two hundred bucks on that new little cell phone at best buy, rather than put it toward the car insurance payment that was coming up in a month. I chose to disregard my past experiences with certain women and tangled myself in the same hurtful situation again.

And it’s not just me. A lot of my friends find themselves in horrible places. As we get to talking, sooner or later it comes up in conversation.

One friend of mine wakes up tired every single day. Once I tried energizing her by telling her how pretty she looked. She smiled and then rubbed her belly, and said how nice it would be to lose a few more pounds though. I hardly notice, but to her, it matters. She’s in a bad place physically. When she gets home from work she takes a long nap because she feels so tired, pops pills for chronic back pain, and then stays up late into the night. She knows that she should get out and exercise, limber up her muscles and joints, start eating foods that heal and sustain rather than clog and steal and weigh her down. She knows it would make her feel better and more energetic at the same time it would slim her down. But she talks about exercising and eating better and chooses to sleep instead.

Another friend is still in love with a man who is physically out of the picture and won’t be again in the foreseeable future. She is in a bad place emotionally. When the topic of romance comes up you can hear the longing in her voice and see it in her actions. She talks about guys that interest her and for several days her steps are light and full of youth, but after a few dates she always comes back and says how she still loves Ronny, though it is only her hope alone that keeps that alive. In truth, she longs to have another guy come along and excite her in a special way and be the kind of guy worth falling in love with, but when one guy after another turns disappointing she keeps on going back to that emotional connection she has with Ronny, even though she can’t physically be with him. She is choosing to put her heart in a place where it continually gets neglected and battered by his absence. And she wonders why she feels so lonely and hurt. She might be better off pulling her heart out of that unsatisfying relationship, letting it heal, and investing her hope and energy in a guy that brings out the best in her and makes her feel safe and wanted.

Another friend lives in the big city and spends his weekend visiting bars, attending the latest concert or trying out the newest restaurant with his friends. He is in a bad place financially. He rents a decrepit apartment and lives with two other guys because he can’t afford to live by himself. When it comes time to use his vacation time, he can’t go somewhere nice and warm or interesting because he doesn’t have the money. He has hospital bills and credit card bills and car loans and school loans. Financial freedom looks a long way off. If only some of that money he spends at the bar or on the concerts or the restaurant went toward those bills.

What’s tough about these situations, even my own, is that we know what we need to do. Yet, too often we feel like we have to make one giant decision to rectify our bad place. Thinking like that is daunting, and rather than motivating us, it paralyzes. What decision can we make to turn it all around?

All the small ones. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Each decision we make is like planting a seed. One good decision won’t necessarily bear good fruit. But a series of good decisions will. And most of us know the decisions we need to make to.

We just need to realize the import of our choices, how they dictate the type of lives we live.

© Seth Crossman