Learning How to Do ‘The Next Right Thing’

Katie Griffith avatar

by Katie Griffith |

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Hello, and may I be the first to wish you a happy fall!

Of all the things I find pleasure in, pumpkins and changing leaves are close to the top. Even if fall isn’t your favorite season, I hope you can find some joy in the beauty that nature brings in shades of orange, yellow, and red.

Growing up, I had big dreams for my future and plans for who I would become. I would graduate from high school and college, get married, have healthy children, and we would all live happily ever after. As occurs with most dreams, they don’t usually turn out at all like we think they will. Life happens, and things quickly seem to slip out of our control.

It wasn’t the first detour from the path for our family, but it felt like a big one when my son Noah was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia in 2018. To be honest, I’m not even sure we were on a path at that point. 2017 had proved to be one of our hardest years yet, and so when this news came so soon after so much change and loss, I was devastated. We all were.

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I had always been taught to make good choices, and I remember learning a Robert Frost poem: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” And yet somehow in that season, my life didn’t feel like I had any choice at all about which road I was on. It felt more like being lost in the woods.

Honestly, I am not much of an outdoors person. I grew up living in the woods but was happy to observe them through the window. I laugh as I remember a time when my sister and I got our tent set up in the front yard with all the “essentials,” including our TV with a cord stretching to an outlet. If my memory serves me correctly, we didn’t stay out there too long and ended up coming in and spending the night in the comfort of our beds.

Isn’t that just like life? We want just a bit of adventure, but above all, we want to be connected to comfort and safety. But how much adventure can we truly have if we never leave our safe places, if we are in our tents watching TV instead of exploring in the woods?

Author Steve Goodier offers some insightful words:

“I have not always chosen the safest path. I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I’ve learned something important along the way: I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart. I’ve learned that the safest path is not always the best path, and I’ve learned that the voice of fear is not to be trusted.”

Life will definitely take me places that are scary and where I wouldn’t choose to go on my own. I may look around and feel completely hopeless and lost. What can one do in these sort of situations?

I won’t give any spoilers, but one of my very favorite scenes from a Disney movie is from “Frozen 2,” when Anna has faced great loss and is seemingly all alone. She definitely has reason to despair but instead chooses “The Next Right Thing.” A line from that song is powerful: “But a tiny voice whispers in my mind, ‘You are lost, hope is gone, but you must go on, and do the next right thing.'”

So, I ask again, what can one do in these types of situations, when life is scary and completely overwhelming? The answer is simple but profound: the next right thing, whatever that thing may be for you. Don’t think about next year or even next month. Just do the next thing that needs to be done today. And if today feels too big, then focus on this hour or even this minute.

Take a breath. Eat a meal. Call a friend. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Do the next right thing and then the next. Life will keep going even though you aren’t sure how. I can say from experience that one day, you will wake up and things will seem a bit more manageable.

Each of us deserves a chance to have a meaningful life, no matter our circumstances. This can happen when we realize we cannot control most of what happens to us and our loved ones, but instead are open to where the twists and turns of life will take us.

One step at a time, one right thing at a time. Adventure is out there!

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Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.

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