(CNN)Without us perhaps quite noticing, much of what we place our hopes in will be ready for us in a very a long time indeed, in months or even decades from now (if ever): the successful completion of a novel, a sufficient sum of money to buy a house or begin a new career, the discovery of a suitable partner, a move to another country. In the list of our most intensely-felt hopes, few entries stand to come to fruition this season or next, let alone by tonight.
But occasionally, life places us in a situation where our normal long-range hopeful way of thinking grows impossible. You’ve had a car accident; a very bad one. For weeks, it seemed like you might not make it at all, now you’re out of a coma and back home, but you still have multiple broken bones, serious bruises and constant migraines. It’s unclear from here when you’ll be going back to work — or whether you ever will. When someone asks how things are, one answer seem to fit above all: we’re taking it one day at a time.
Or imagine that a person is 89, mentally agile but very slow on their feet and often in pain. They had a fall last month and their left knee is badly arthritic. Yesterday they did some gardening. Today they may go to the shops for the first time in a while. You ask their carer how they are: we’re taking it one day at a time.
Or you’re a new parent. It was a very difficult birth, the baby had jaundice and required a blood transfusion — and now, finally, mother and child are home. The baby cries a lot in the night and has to take some medicines that aggravate the stomach, but last night was good enough and hopefully today, if the weather holds, there’s a chance of taking a trip to the park, to see the daffodils. How is it all going? We’re taking it one day at a time.