Do the Next Right Thing

It’s been awhile, friends.

These last two-plus years have been rough. You all know; you were there, too. Add in the fact that my now-ex-husband decided to detonate our marriage and basically walked off, leaving me to do literally everyfuckingthing re the divorce. And I did it all. I arranged all legal aspects of the divorce itself, emptied/packed up a house with cellar with no help but what I paid for, and moved three states away so I could be home again.

I’m fortunate to have survived the pandemic unscathed, both health-wise and economically. People love me and gave me a place to land when I made the big move, and helped me again when I was able to stop taking up space in their home and move into a place of my own. I’m blessed to be able to afford to save to buy a place of my own again, if housing prices ever become semi-sane again. I’m close to my kids and the rest of my family again.

But it’s all been a struggle. My brain has been soup.

I sit at my desk to do my job. I open a piece of mail and pull out the paper and look at it and decide I have no  idea what to do with this and set it down. I pick up another piece of paper that I set down yesterday because I decided I didn’t know what to do with it, and decide I still don’t know what to do it and set it down someplace else. I click on an email and feel completely unable to deal with it and click out again. And the thing is, I know perfectly well what to do with these things. If I were training someone to do my job, I can give crystal-clear instructions and explanations. But at the same time, I somehow don’t know.

It’s the same around the house, which is not helped by the fact that I work from home (even before the pandemic) so I can never get away from the damn thing and go into another place that has actual cleaning staff. I’m it. I am by nature an organized and tidy person, except that for the last several months – I’m just not.

And this is how I go through my days. I feel like I’m getting the bare minimum done, just enough so that the sky doesn’t come crashing down on me later. And folks, that is not me. That’s not how I roll. Except, apparently, that’s how I roll now.

Nope. I refuse to accept this.

And so, friends, I give you the DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING list. It’s helped a lot. Maybe you need it and it’ll help you too.


  • Drink some water
  • Sleep
  • Five Objects*
  • Put on some actual real clothes, get reacquainted with hair brush and lipstick
  • Have a jammies day
  • Plan a trip
  • Curl up with a book and quality tea
  • Swim laps
  • Make your bed
  • Make the doctor/test/lab appointment/refill the prescription
  • Play a video game
  • Take out the trash
  • Treat yourself to something that will improve your life and enjoy that thing
  • Or don’t spend the money; move it to savings instead and feel virtuous
  • Go kayaking
  • Sink Zero*
  • Take care of the piece of paper/answer the goddamn email already
  • Help someone else out by donating to a worthy cause; even five bucks is five bucks they didn’t have before
  • Go for a hike
  • Write. Book review, flash fiction, a blog post like this one, whatever. Just write it.
  • Cook a healthful** meal, and make enough for two meals
  • Maybe it’s Treat Day – have some ice cream
  • Finalize a draft post and publish it
  • Movie or binge-watch
  • Put on music and dance around

You will note my phone, social media, and the news make no appearance here. That’s intentional! The world is on fire right now and there’s not a damn thing I can personally do about it, beyond voting and donating and being nice to other people. Ostriches stick their heads in the sand for good reason. Protect yourself. Be an ostrich.

Many things on this list contradict other things. That’s because the next right thing can be different at any moment. What thing will help me feel the opposite of whatever negative way I’m feeling right now? Am I overwhelmed and needing to check out, or am I overwhelmed and needing to check something off a to-do list? Beyond whatever depressive/scattered/anxious instinct might be telling me to do right now, what thing will do the most actual good for my body and my psyche? That’s the next right thing. (Although “drink some water” is pretty much always helpful.)

Today, this was the Next Right Thing. Maybe tomorrow it will be Sink Zero. Or not. (Author photo)

*Five Objects and Sink Zero are concepts I’m shamelessly kyping from Rachel Hoffman’s excellent They are:

Five Objects: Immediate environment is bothersome. Identify five objects that are out of place and put them where they belong. Just five. It’ll take literally three minutes and it will definitely help. (If you’re badly enough off that you need to count a pair of shoes as two objects, that’s fine. Whatever gets you there right now.)

Sink Zero: Getting to zero dirty dishes in the sink. Maybe they’ve piled up for three days, or maybe there’s only a coffee cup and two forks in there. Either way.

**I know “eat something healthy” has become standard usage, but it’s grammatically incorrect and drives me crazy and you can’t make me use it. Of course I eat healthy food; I’m not gonna eat diseased food (and let’s add “detox the fridge” to the above list). Eating healthful food is eating food that promotes good health.

If you’re reading this, that means at some point writing this post was my Next Right Thing and it made me feel better, and at another point editing and finalizing and publishing it was my Next Right Thing, and that also made me feel better.

And that’s my do the next right thing strategy. It’s been helping me a lot. I hope it helps you, too. We’re all in this together.


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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