The next step
’Just do the next right thing..and then the next and then the next..’ I saw an interview with the writer Glennon Doyle Melton, who told the story of her rock-bottom-moment and how she got out of addiction. And that she did it by simply doing ’the next right thing’, because that was the only thing she was capable of. To think about coping with even one, whole day was too much at the time.. And she has kept on doing that ever since, with fairly fantastic results, you might say..
Something in what she said in that interview really hit me. Like a revelation. Because, for quite some time, I’ve felt somewhat lost. And feeling like I never, ever do enough. There is always more and so many things I could do that a lot of days I’ve ended up feeling totally overwhelmed. The attempt to do everything at the same time often results in getting nothing done.
Sometimes it feels like I’m in a maze. Getting some clues and hints, slowly moving forward, but.. still, in a… maze. I have so many, seemingly conflicting, passions in me that seem to pull me in different directions. And all the while I feel this strong pull from something deeper. Like I’m here to actually do something. Not ’special’. Not like I’m more special than anyone else. Just MY thing. That thing we all have. And because it is our unique expression, it’s special. And for me, it seems like that thing might be something that needs me to take up a bit more ’air space’ than I’ve allowed myself before and require a lot more courage than I’ve mustered so far. It’s like I need to break through some invisible barrier that I feel is in front of me and above me.. Like a giant, transparent….something… And beyond that barrier I’m unprotected. On my own. Scary. Like going straight out into the wilderness without any map or compass. How do you meet that challenge?
As it happens, last week, I discovered one way to look at it and in quite a surprising way.
I went out for a run around the small lake behind our house and ended up on a ’quest’.
I got the idea in my head to turn my, normally, short and innocent run into an attempt to go around the lake. Ever since I moved in to our house two years ago, I wanted to see if there was a path all around the lake. I’ve always been like that. Curious. Inquisitive. (Ask my dad..;) And stubborn. Always wanting to know what’s ’beyond’.. The pale. The hill. The next bend in the road. So, I wanted to see how it would be to run around the lake. I mean, how far could it be? It is a very small lake after all.. It couldn’t be that far. So off I went. Trailblazing.
And the whole thing turned into a huge metafor for life. Every step I took became a symbol. It was almost cliché. The impenetrable bush. The fallen trees across the almost invisible ’path’ that soon disappeared completely. Nature throwing down roadblocks, barriers and challenges in front of me..
I went out into the wilderness without any path, map or compass. Well..almost.. (I just had to write that sentence. It sounded cool.. ) OK, so, it isn’t really The Wilderness and I did have my phone with a GPS.. but I didn’t look at it until I was way out on, yes ON, the LAKE, trying to find my way through reed that reached higher than my head. All the time thinking I was going forward, but I actually ended up going in circles and then ending up at a fork in the road way back towards my starting point…hm… Did I mention it felt like a metaphor for my life? I have to say it’s quite an interesting experience to finally consult your GPS and realize that the tiny, blue dot representing YOU actually is some distance out IN the lake on the map..According to the GPS I was walking on water! Huh! :)
Well, anyway, Standing at that fork in the road I really didn’t have much choice but continuing in some direction. So I choose forward. (I hate the feeling of going backwards in life, don’t you?) And it was actually just as far to turn back. But I chose to turn in a different direction this time; away from the swampy reed on the lake, where the ground actually was a quagmire, and instead went further away from the lake shore for a while. BUT I continued.
The next phase of the journey entailed crossing a river by balancing on a fallen tree and then promptly being scared half to death by a wild bore. Who thankfully was even more scared of me and ran in the opposite direction with a loud grunt. And right after that I saw a large animal, very much resembling a moose, moving through the forest (also, I’m happy to report, moving away from me..) I started to understand how it might feel to really be cast out into the wilderness. How utterly vulnerable you can feel. (At least if you’re like me, with next to no wilderness-skills at all..)
Finally, after over 3 hours of walking (instead of a short run for 20 minutes) I stumbled out on the road leading back, soaking wet (did I mention it started to rain halfway through?) and bruised, almost crying with happiness when I felt the asphalt underneath my feet. I guess I wouldn’t be eaten by a wild boar or drown in a quagmire after all! I was on my way HOME. Dead tired, but somehow the thought of a hot shower and a fire gave me the energy to finish my round running. (It might have been a bit of stubbornness as well..)
And I couldn’t help but think about how symbolic it all felt. My surprise adventure didn’t feel like it happened ’by accident’. I felt like Life thought I needed an overly educational lesson about the Journey of Life. Since I have a tendency to overly complicate things, Life probably thought it best to keep it simple. ’Make the lesson about an actual walk. In the ’wilderness. With ACTUAL physical barriers. Make her have to WALK ON. ONE STEP AT A TIME. Land her in the middle of a lake-quagmire-ish place, so she has no choice but to keep on walking, if she doesn't want to sink and get stuck in the mud forever. LITERALLY.’
It feels like my team of angels sort of had a meeting and decided: Make it real. Specific. Physical. And just a LITTLE bit dangerous and scary, to keep her body moving and her head quiet.
To teach me to just take the next step. And the next. And the next. No matter how hopeless it feels sometimes, and confusing. Because eventually all those steps will add up to an adventure, a path and a life. And maybe even lead you ’home’. To yourself. To your ’Thing’?
I just have to take the next little step.. and the next.. Do ’the next right thing’ and hopefully, eventually see a pattern and be able to look back and see my winding path and what it was all for.
So. I have to keep showing up. And allow myself to move slowly. One step at a time. (And trust that my Angel team has a better GPS than I do... ;)