Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Just Do The Next Thing

Oldest son on his 206 mile journey
Ryan and his support team
He took it one mile at a time.
Those words, "Just do the next thing." have been given to me as advice twice this week.  When I hear something new, something I have not heard before, I always sit up and take note.  Sometimes, I don't even know that I need to hear something until I hear it, then the soundness of the tidbit of wisdom being imparted in just a simple phrase will resonate with me for days.

I love plain, uncomplicated, straightforward advice.  I love phrases that stick in my head, guiding my way through a jungle of mixed up emotions, reactions, thoughts and concerns.  I tend to use these simple instructions, such as "Just do the next thing." as my go to guides when I am navigating unknown territories of life.  They become a mantra in my head.  They guide me forward when I don't know what to do and want to crumble into a heap on the floor.

When I was working and faced with bins full of journals to read, stacks of essays, research papers and book reports to be graded, and a blank lesson plan book that need to filled with lessons for the next week, and long range goals and objectives to meet, I would get through it all by listening to my father's words that lived in my head, "Just get through it one paper at a time."

Recently, nearly fifteen months into my journey through grief, I asked myself how I would ever keep on this road of recovery.  It seemed the journey had gone on way too long.  I looked down the road that spanned through the rest of my lifetime and asked myself how I would ever go on feeling this hole in my heart that seemed would never be filled.  The road before me suddenly seemed way too long.  It seemed like a much longer journey than I had anticipated.

The answer to how I would travel that long road came to me this past Sunday when I attended a grief recovery support group.  It came, almost as an afterthought, the last item on a list of seven suggestions for living with grief.  A brief phrase was given: "Just do the next thing."  That certainly doesn't seem like some powerful, life changing adage, but it was for me in that moment.  At that moment, that statement did become a simple expression of a general truth on how to successfully complete my journey through grief.  I came away from the meeting feeling renewed and inspired.

The next day, I had an appointment with a spine specialist.  The news was not good.  My problems with my lumbar region and my cervical area on the spine are worse than I thought.  Injections are the only answer for my pain and mobility.  I have tried everything else; there is nothing else to try.  There is nerve damage.  That can't continue.  If the injections don't work, I will most likely be looking at surgery.  I just could not take this news in.  I was overwhelmed with the thought of what was ahead when it comes to living with this literal pain in my backside and in my neck.

The next day, my wise counselor said, "Sally, when you are looking at such medical issues as you are, you can't look too far down the road.  You must just ask yourself, "What is the next thing?  Then do it."  I must have looked a bit shocked because I remember just staring at her.  She went on to say that MRIs and X-rays always look worse than symptoms might be.  She encouraged me to just do the next thing.  Have the injections, then see what happens from there.  Take it one day at a time.  Just do the next thing. Finally, I told her that this was the second time in three days that I had heard that advice.

I am listening.  I am incorporating that phrase into my response to the issues of life.  She reminded me that in my professional life, I was a planner, one who got things done, one who looked down the road and anticipated what must be done and did it.  Life in general cannot always be lived that way.  Life happens.  We suffer loss.  We deal with health issues.  We get hit with things we never dreamed would cross our path in this life.

Today, I go in for another health related test.  I will have my second GI procedure in a week.  I am just taking it moment by moment.  I must rush off now because I must do the next thing: take a shower.  Then I will take the drive with my husband to the medical center.  When I get there, I will do the next thing.


LC said...

Thanks so much for sharing these words. You are in my prayers during your health issues and journey through grief. I have inadvertently been focused on "doing the next thing"during my stroke recovery and leaving my personal big picture in God's hands.

Last week, however, both my hubby and i tumbled into an emotional and energy slump simultaneously. We have worked our way out for the most part, and your timely post has pushed me the rest of the way up the slope. It has reaffirmed my sense of hope.

KathyA said...

Sally, This is wonderful advice. I wish I had thought about this while I was recuperating from my surgery this summer as I tend to get really impatient with myself.

I hope all goes well for you with your other testing. Keep me posted.

Linda Myers said...

"Just do the next thing." That's three!

Words for me also this morning. Seasonal allergies hit my ears so I'm a bit spacey and I have vertigo. I wake up in the morning and wonder whether I will have this forever, and I want to curl up under the covers.

If I can remember to just do the next thing, I'll get up, take the allergy and vertigo meds, feed the animals, feed myself, and get going on the part of my day I can do. Makes it easier.

Thanks for your wisdom, Sally.

Thisisme. said...

I absolutely loved this post, Sally.I continue to pray for you and your journey through your grief. Just do the next thing - such good advice for all of us , especially when we reach setbacks in our lives.

Olga said...

Simple concept, yet profound in its wisdom. Now I know how those people of whom I think "How does she do it?" do it.

Olga said...

A simple concept that is profound in its wisdom. Now I know how the people of whom I think, "How does she do it" do it.

gigihawaii said...

Chronic pain is a terrible thing to deal with. I know, because I suffer from colitis and one of the symptoms is abdominal pain and cramps. Not fun!

Good luck and best wishes to you!

Beth said...

Wonderful advice Sally. I have never thought of it exactly that way. I certainly will remember this.

You will be in my thoughts and prayers Sally as you do the next thing.

Grandmother said...

A dear friend advised me when I was inconsolable with grief and didn't know what to do: "Show up, pay attention, tell the truth, let go of the outcome." I wrote it down and put it on my refrigerator where I read it daily. I did it because it was doable for me. Your advice is similar. I'm so grateful for friends in our lives that tell us how to go on when we think we can't. You have enough, you are not alone, just do the next thing.

Mage said...

It is "suggested"....just that word makes me smile, that we "do the next indicated thing." Sometimes we can hear the suggestions, usually I can't until hit with a 2x4 or city bus. Sometimes, for those of us who keep on moving, staying in the now is too much. But that suggestion looks just enough into the future to leave me smiling. I had my second shot in the hip yesterday. :) You are not alone. We care.

troutbirder said...

Good advice. For me the fact that some still depended on me kept me going. What else could one do?

DJan said...

Yes, Sally, it's the old "one day at a time" and when that is too much, "one hour at a time" that gets us all through. You are not alone, and I think you can see that from all the sensitive and caring comments. I certainly care about you and your journey, and I feel privileged to follow you.

Jeanie said...

You always have such good advice to share, Sally. I am, right now, facing nothing like you are dealing with, but "just do the next thing" applies well to all levels of difficulty.

Arkansas Patti said...

What wonderful advice and it was given to you enough that it would register.
I think we all sometimes get overwhelmed by the hugeness of a task and if we would just take it one step at a time, it would be accomplished with out all the stress.
The nurse is so right and I hope "just doing the next thing" will get you to a better place soon.

Jeanie said...

First of all, I send you wishes and prayers for healing and I hope the treatments will be helpful and lasting. It sounds as though you have a strong support network and wise professionals and caring people in your orbit. That's a real blessing.

Just do the next thing. I need to remember that during these days of professional stress and often feeling overwhelmed. I always think "one day at a time" but sometimes even that list is too long. Thank you for these words.

#1Nana said...

Such good advice and appropriate to so many situations. It's taking one day at a time to the next level. The other thing you need to do is remember to take some time to do nothing and just enjoy the moment. Sometimes the next thing is relishing the blessings...and you have many!

I'm sending positive thoughts your way as you face the medical issues.

Dee Ready said...

In reading the comments for your powerful and candid posting, Sally, I was struck by how your words touched every reader and could be used in some aspect of their lives.

We all have to deal at some time with too much work or ill health or grief or depression or emotions that overwhelm us. And you've given us the lantern that can shine on the dark path we walk at times.

Thank you. I needed to read your blog today. It has helped me know how to deal with a problem that has niggled and nagged me all morning.

May your health improve, Sally, and may your grieving bring you finally to a place of peace.

Kimberly Kaye said...

Oh, Sally. It's weird stumbling upon good advice just when you need it most, but also a blessing. And I don't use the word "blessing" often.

I've been sick with an immune disorder since I was 17 and can tell you that the best advice has already been given to you. When you just "do the next thing" it's easy to forget to you're infirmed at all. Yes, injections and pills and doctors appointments. But in between all of those are "make tea, reply to email, buy sandwich fixings, laugh at what the dog's doing, make a date with XYZ, tweeze eyebrows, apply make-up, write blog post, take a shower, go back and re-edit blog post, inhale, exhale..." and on and on and on. Eventually you realize there's more to the little things then there is to that big thing, like not feeling well, or missing someone terribly. It all adds up, and now you're noticing--a blessing.

Sandi said...

As I read your post, after dragging home a cart full of papers, journals, etc, I felt peace at the notion of just "do the next thing". For me, it was to sit, relax and catch up on blogs I love to follow. The next thing is to respond.

I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers as you seek treatment for your back. Unremitting pain is bad enough, adding grief into the mix can make facing life intolerable.

Taking what life dishes out moment by moment seems the right thing to do. Thank you for sharing this treasure with us.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

That's such a simple, yet incredibly wise piece of advice, Sally! It applies to anything we might encounter in life that makes us feel overwhelmed with grief or anxiety or exhaustion. How wonderful that you've been hearing this from a number of sources! That's a bit of wisdom we can all remember and apply to our lives.
My love and best wishes to you as you continue to deal with so much emotional and physical pain.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...


Thank you so much for sharing this post with us. I am taking your words to heart, though I am not in the midst of upset or health issues right now ... I've just been wondering what I am supposed to do next. I have things that I need to move forward with, and have been hesitating.

I hope that the shots will control your pain completely, and that you enjoy your blogging break.

God bless,

Kathy M.

Mare said...

Great phrase...reminds me of my father's take-away phrase from a conference. It was, "Do it now."

Deb Shucka said...

These are such powerful words - a phrase I'll be using often in these days of my own grieving.

I'm sorry to hear about your medical stuff. Sending love and light and prayers your way.

Barb said...

Such simple, good advise! I'll remember it. I often worry over problems that never materialize. If I could just learn to do the next thing and not look too far down Life's path, I'd be better for it. Thank you for sharing this advise, Sally.

Kay said...

We've been thinking along the same lines over here too. Just figuring on getting the next thing done. We just have to deal with it. It hasn't been easy... but we're focusing on the next thing...