I’m reading a science fiction book about people being able to step from this Earth into multiple other Earths, as if all possible Earths were stacked together like a deck of cards, and people could go from one to another.
At first, it was kids who found a way to step, and suddenly, kids all over the world were disappearing. The cops didn’t know what was going on. Terrorists? Aliens? One young cop asked the sergeant-in-charge what he was supposed to do, and the sergeant relied, “Do the job in front of you.”
It’s funny how in a story about strangeness, such an innocuous remark should have caught my attention, but it seems to be good advice no matter what. For example, landscaping a yard and creating garden spots in that yard can be rather overwhelming. It’s not something that can be done in a season or even two or three. I’m starting my fourth season, if I counted accurately, and despite how nice some parts of the yard are, other parts are still quite wild and weed-infested.
I’ve never had much patience for such long projects — I’m more of a do-it-and-get-it-done sort of person. Or at least I was. Apparently, I am now someone who can embark on a project that will never be finished. Almost by definition, a garden is always in progress. Volunteer plants show up. Long-standing plants die. Weeds take over certain areas. The only way to deal with such a long-term, unending project, is to do the job in front of you.
This change in me, from wanting things to be done to being able to deal with things that never are done, is a holdover from grief. Grief is one of those things that are never finished, though oddly, grief comes about because a loved one is finished — finished with their life here on Earth. But for those left behind, it’s never finished. At the beginning, especially, it seems impossible. Not only are you going through the most horrendous pain and most confusing time of your life, you are faced with a never-ending list of end-of-life chores. A person who dies doesn’t just disappear. The body has to be dealt with. Their things have to be dealt with. The government has to be informed and dealt with. Banks have to be dealt with. The only way to get through all that is to do the job in front of you.
It’s the same way with writing a book — during the course of the months and sometimes years that it takes to complete a novel, there are thousands of decisions to be made. Some people can sit down and simply write, without a plan, without agonizing over every detail, but for others, writing is the details. And the way to write for those people is to do the job in front of them, whether a paragraph, a page, a chapter.
I suppose life is the same way. I tend to try to look into my future, to see what I can do now to prevent some possible effects of old age, but in the end, no amount of projection will protect me (or anyone) from the vagaries of life. All any of us can do is the job in front of us, and the job — the life job — is to live the best we can today.
Luckily, we are all (or at least I think we all are) dealing with a single Earth, which makes things just a bit easier to do the job in front of us.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.