I’m not a fan of catch phrases that enter the popular lexicon and then take off into all directions.
Too often they reduce complex emotions or situations into a few words that folks find convenient to banter around in the hopes of sounding wise or “in the know” without any genuine attempt to understand what’s really going on.
But sometimes there IS a phrase that accurately summarizes choices or circumstances and is helpful in guiding a heart in the right direction.
“Do the next right thing” is one of those.
As far as I can tell, it was coined by someone (or many someones) who participated in twelve step programs (think AA) and meant that you don’t give in to the temptation to feed your addiction but instead head to a meeting or rendezvous with a sponsor or other safe person who will help you avoid falling back down the rabbit hole.
Grief is definitely a rabbit hole.
And there are lots of times I need someone or something to distract me from the siren call of despair that would lead me right back down to darkness-even eight and half years later.
So how do I manage to shake it off and move forward? It’s really pretty simple: I do the next right thing.
One day it might be getting up, making coffee and going for my morning walk. Another day it might be taking a shower, getting dressed and heading to a doctor’s appointment.
Most days it’s some form of the regular chores that have outlined my life on this piece of property for the past quarter century-feeding horses, cooking meals, tidying the house, sweeping porches, making necessary phone calls or tracking down some important piece of information we all store in the one location that will most likely be here long after I’m gone.
I’ve written before that just changing my physical position when I feel anxiety creeping up my back and taking hold of my brain can help ward off a full blown panic attack. If I’m sitting, I stand; if standing, I walk; if walking, I sit down. We are complex creatures and the body keeps the score (also a title of an excellent book!).
Feelings aren’t JUST feelings. They are neurotransmitters, muscular contraction, heart rate and blood pressure wrapped up in thoughts.
So when faced with a wall of overwhelming and cascading feelings, I do the next right thing-whatever that may be-and often find it breaks through that wall so I can see a sliver of light.
I follow that light like a candle in a cave until it leads me to a way out of the darkness.
Little by little, decision by decision, I move forward.
Some days it’s easy and some days it’s hard.
But it’s always possible.