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.