The Next Step

The best part about running in Nebraska is that it’s flat. And the worst part about running in Nebraska is that it’s flat. Often I can see a mile or more down the trail, the concrete path unspooling like an endless grey ribbon all the way to the horizon. And inevitably, when I look at all that unspooling trail, I think, “I’m not going to make it.”
I’ve been feeling a little bit like that with this 50 Christian Women book project lately. When mom-friends at school drop-off ask me how the book is going, I say, “Great! But relentless.”  At home, sitting at my desk in the sunroom, I look at the list, at two pages of names lined up one after the other in a column of black ink, tiny check marks penciled next to the ones I’ve written, and I think, “I’m not going to make it.”

I say this to Brad at least once or twice a week. It’s become a joke. Yesterday he came home from work to find me curled on the sunroom rug, my head next to a pile of books with titles like Sisters of the Spirit and Secretaries of God and Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World. “I have to say, it really does look like you’re not going to make it this time,” Brad said, laughing as he bent low to kiss me.
When I feel like I’m not going to make it out on the running trail, I rarely stop and walk. Instead, I set a manageable goal for myself, like running to the next telephone pole or to the tree with the red berries, and I tell myself that if I reach that milestone and I still want to quit, then I’ll allow myself to walk. Inevitably, I get to the telephone pole or the tree with the red berries, and I don't walk. I set another goal -- the stop sign at the cross street or the green park bench. And I keep going that way, taking the next step and then the next, until I’ve traversed the entire endlessly unspooling concrete trail and have landed breathless and sweaty and exhilarated at the end of my driveway.

This, I believe, is the key to surviving the days that make you feel like you’re not going to make it. Simply taking the next step.
So today, I scoot my chair close to the desk, place my water bottle and a bowl of salted almonds nearby and pull the 50 women list from beneath the stack of books. I look at the next name in the column, and I tell myself I will write 500 words. I don't think about the thirty more names on the list or the 2,000 words that will comprise this essay or the 100,000 words that will eventually, God willing, comprise the book. I only take the next step, because I know it will probably lead to a next and a next and a next step after that.

Do you have a strategy for getting through the times when you feel like you’re not going to make it?

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Gaby  – (November 16, 2012 at 6:52 AM)  

About every other day :). I do a number of things: plow ahead, talk my husband's ear off, talk God's ear off, cry, and then keep going. Like you say: take the next step.

Jillie –   – (November 16, 2012 at 9:37 AM)  

Yeah...I pop Extra-Strength Tylenol and take a nap.

Usually my long to-do lists are accompanied by a blazing headache. :[

Kristin Kessler Schell  – (November 16, 2012 at 11:23 AM)  

I use a similar strategy that most often works. But, when it fails my kitchen cabinets usually end up very clean. And the garage. Good luck, friend!

Martha Orlando –   – (November 16, 2012 at 11:32 AM)  

It is helpful for me to remember this saying when I'm feeling overwhelmed - How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. :)
Setting small goals, attaining them, and setting the next one is a great way to make progress.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 16, 2012 at 11:50 AM)  

Oh yes, the cleaning rampage...I'm familiar with that!
So glad you stopped by today, Kristin!

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 16, 2012 at 11:51 AM)  

I am eating an elephant indeed - that's a sweet way to get some perspective on this project, Martha - thank you!

Mary Bonner  – (November 16, 2012 at 12:49 PM)  

I use the strategy you've laid out here. Small steps on the way to, hopefully, completing the task. I've spent some time catching up on your posts...the Medusa mom...I have so been there, done that. And I am SOOO thankful that he loves us anyway and doesn't expect up to be perfect.

I am growing in my faith and your posts are very often just what I need.

Love you friend.


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I have used the elephant saying too. Or remember the scene at the beginning of movie, Contact, "small moves, Ellie" At a retreat once the presenter used that movie to illustrate the book, The Cloud of the Unknowing" I have loved some scenes from that movie ever since then.

Will keep you in my prayers while you slush through all the material. By the way, i am jealous of this assignment you have. I love this type of reading and just can't wait to read the finished product. I am sure you will do great!! keep us posted

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Love this post!! How amazing this book project is. I keep looking for the first announcement of this the only post on it?

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