The Next Right Thing

If you’re new to this blog, you might not know that I created it with little enthusiasm back, oh, nine years ago, when the People Who Know Such Things convinced me that I, as an Author, needed a Platform.

Then a funny thing happened. I started to enjoy blogging. Especially since “Wing’s World” has remained fairly untethered to theme. What’s not to love when you can blog one week about kale salad, and the next about how many times you’ve run around Planet Earth? As a writer, I did try to steer clear of two topics: writing about writing—boooooring—and politics: divisive.

Then an unfunny thing happened: the last four years. And I’ve found myself increasingly drawn toward topics of justice that need addressing, and increasingly uncomfortable blogging with my usual whimsy. While I appreciate lightheartedness in the writing of others, for myself it feels too much like fiddling while Rome burns.

But who needs more blog posts about everything that’s dire? And so I respond with…silence. My posting has gone from a robust twice-weekly clip to weekly…to biweekly…to whenever the hell I feel like it. And I haven’t felt like it.

(photo by rbaez, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Can I get an “Amen”?

Then on a walk the other day, doing my Mary-Oliver-best to let the wild wind and whitecaps and dripping mosses capture all of me, I thought back to a podcast I’d just heard, which reminded me of a hackneyed but super useful concept I learned back in the 90’s. That concept: the Circle of Control from good ol’ Stephen Covey—remember the 7 Habits guy?

[Copyright Stephen Covey]

EVERYONE should be able to relate to this. Life feeling out of control? Too much, too fast, too hard? Well…what are you in charge of? Eating a healthy breakfast? Reading a book to a child? Do that. Start there.

Now that I think about it, it’s quite similar, in fact, to the Serenity Prayer. Probably smarter people than I have already noted this.

You know: this. (image courtesy Etsy.com)

Anyway, that podcast which started this train of thought? An episode of NPR’s Invisibilia featured an extraordinary woman in Scotland, Joy Milne, who discovered she has the superpower of being able to smell diseases in people. Terminal diseases. Which means she can meet someone and know how close to death they may be—even if they don’t know it themselves. Which means she can, in a way, see the future…without being able to control it. 

Talk about “too much”!

Along her journey of discovery—that is, science discovering this woman and putting her power to use—Joy befriended another woman, suffering from Parkinson’s, whose mantra for living with her disease seems to be actually defeating it. This woman says that, in the face of terminal out-of-controlness, she simply tries to “do the next right thing.”

I like that phrase even better than “Circle of Control.” It’s more humble, more tender, more…real.

Throughout most of 2020 (or COVIDCOVID if you prefer), my “next right things” included working on my book, and working to help save America from Donald Trump. [Pictured: my phonebank tallies. Including the calls for the Georgia runoff (which already feels like a year ago), I made approximately 3,000 calls.]

Since that time, conditions in our country and our world feel more out of control than ever–all the more so from having spun away just in the budding of hope. My back pain is not improving. And my writing project is stalled (yes, I WILL write about that when I am able).

In short, I need some new, modest enterprises to function as Serenity Prayer. So here are three:

–a local online tutoring project for kids in our community

–a phone-calling and letter-writing campaign to shut down private prisons in Washington State

–training our new big, overly-enthusiastic dog

Who, me?

Are these projects blogworthy? We’ll see. Of course they’re wildly divergent in scope and tenor. But they do have one thing in common: for me, in 2021’s crazy start, they all feel like the next right thing.

And what is yours? Please share.

6 thoughts on “The Next Right Thing

  1. One coping mechanism is guilty pleasures. Yes, I, over educated, supposedly intellectual, indulge in silly things. Things like: Archer, Joe-Bob Briggs, Little Debbie cakes, classic Warner Brothers ‘toons, Rammstein, Frank Zappa, random really silly things. Call it re-silly-ence. I cannot be serious all the time. God bless people who can be — just not me.

  2. About 25 years ago at Spectrum Glass Company, my boss (company president) and I carefully studied Steven Covey’s 7 habits, attended several seminars in Seattle, and met him
    We then adapted and applied these methods in a rather dangerous and dysfunctional factory environment.
    We had a lot of success with it but it took a lot of consistent, principled training, and honesty to gain acceptance and buy in
    It is a potent and effective philosophy of used thoughtfully!

  3. Gretchen, I like so much your idea of “the next right thing.” Now that my journey with my elderly parents has come to an end, I’m coming to a place where I will have more spaciousness. We have some big life decisions to make (where to live? when to travel? what to do now?) but I’m trying to just do the next right thing. Thank you for your very kind comment on our blog…I haven’t yet been able to play Orphan Girl without bursting into tears.

    I hope your back feels better soon. ♥️

  4. Oof, yes, I can imagine that reaction to that song, probably from deep inside the body. Now is the time for that, I’m thinking. And for small, right-feeling steps. Too soon for big stuff. Take it slow, my friend, and easy. Love to Eric!

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