Walk to the End of the Driveway

Soccer players kick the ball just like DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley did in post

My dad spent over four decades working as a doctor. Most of those years were spent in my hometown in Oregon. It’s a small town, and so my dad saw all sorts of people in his practice. But the life of an internist is not glamorous, and while my dad had a number of great stories when he was able to save someone’s life, usually his days consisted of seeing people with mundane problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Often, he had to talk to his patients about losing weight. “You just need to eat less and exercise more,” my dad would say.

“I’m trying,” the patient would often say back, “but it’s tough to get out there and exercise most days.”

“Okay,” my dad would say, “then here’s the plan to get you started with exercising. For this week, I want you to walk to the end of the driveway. You have to do that every single day this week.”

“But Doc,” the patient would often say, “that’s nothing.”

“No,” my dad would always reply, “nothing is what you’re doing right now.”

I mean, my dad and the one-liners.

But I’ve thought about this conversation many times over. My dad used to use it to motivate me as a kid. “Just do ONE math problem,” my dad would say to me before dinner, “and then you can stop for now. But you have to do one.”

When his patients would ask him what they were supposed to do after the first week, he’d tell them to spend the second week walking to the end of the street, and then the third week walking around the block, and then finally they could start walking around the neighborhood. But my dad never told them to just start taking 5-mile walks right off the bat.

Instead, he told his patients to start their exercise routine by walking to the end of the driveway.

It’s a great metaphor for life, really. And recently, I’ve been thinking about how it might apply to my life now.

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a group of my friends on a Friday night. They are close friends, and they know that I’ve struggled recently. I was crying (again, ugh!) and my friend Justin turned to me and said, “okay, we need to get you out of the house doing things.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Well you said your soccer team was playing tomorrow,” he said, “so tomorrow you’re going to get up, put on your shin guards, and play some soccer.”

“Okay,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I really felt like it.

“Then we can all take the kids to see a movie,” he said. “Also, we go rock climbing on Sundays with the kids, and you can join us.”

“I’m not sure if I can handle all of that,” I told him.

“I know everything is hard, but I think you’ll feel better if you keep moving,” he said. “Start with the soccer game.”

I did. Our team lost, but I ran hard and even managed to kick the ball a few times. Afterwards, I sat around in the sunshine with our rag-tag group of middle-aged soccer players. We all joked about our losing streak. I think I even smiled a few times.

It wasn’t a cure-all. I still had many moments of deep sadness over the next few weeks.

But it was a start. Over the next few days, and then weeks, I kept moving. I found a therapist. I made plans with friends. I wrote. I went on bike rides with Claire and got hot chocolate with Austin and danced with Tommy in the kitchen.

The grief remained, and it remains today.

But in those days – the worst ones in early March when I thought I couldn’t go on – I heard my dad’s voice:

“Walk to the end of the driveway.”

13 Replies to “Walk to the End of the Driveway”

  1. OMG. SO so so true. I also call it doing “just one thing.” I use this all the time with my therapy clients. You wrote about it so beautifully! Keep going. 🙂

    1. Yes, just one thing! The driveway, the soccer game…..just one thing!

  2. I needed this today. Thank you. Even my usually helpful question: “Are you doing okay right this minute?” is not getting a “Yes” answer this week, so thanks for the reminder to keep the demands on myself small and manageable (but not nothing).

    1. I get that. I’ve certainly had days when I didn’t have any moments when I could say I felt “okay” but I’ve learned to at least remember that things might be okay going forward. I’m actually working on a blog post about this right now. It’s so hard. But yes – keep the demands small and manageable!

  3. The one constant demand I’ve made of myself is to get to the fitness center every day. I always feel better after I’ve gone. Some days it’s for Zumba class where I have to interact with other people (even though I may not feel like it) and other days it’s only to use the elliptical, but just the act of going is important. When I retired, I made this my “job,” but since my husband died it’s become even more vital to my well-being.

    1. That’s a really great “job” – so vital to your well-being! I love it.

  4. Marjorie, you’ve been on my mind a lot this week. I think I might have mentioned at some point that the teacher next door to my room found out at Christmas that her husband has esophageal cancer as did my husband. Initially thought to be at an early stage, he underwent neoadjuvant chemoradiation with surgery scheduled for April 3rd. Unfortunately, a pet/ct scan 4 days before surgery revealed stage 4 metastatic cancer, advanced to 3 other organs (liver, kidney, lungs) in spite of the chemoradiation he had received so it is terminal and consequently, surgery was no longer an option. My heart broke for her as she explained everything Tuesday morning, and she had that punched out of reality look I know only too well. She, like you, has young children, 2 boys aged 6 and 9 right now who go to our school. They don’t know that their dad has cancer, just that he’s sick, but they’ll be telling them in the next week or so. The long road she has before her is daunting. She has only begun her first steps down this path, and I believe her “driveway” is miles long. So much to bear for a 38 year old woman. So much to bear for any of us, and wow, did it ever dredge up some buried emotions and memories. At some point, I will likely let her know about your blog if that’s ok with you.

    Keep up the baby steps, Marjorie, and do what seems comfortable for you. I’ve learned to say no to things too when it was just too hard. Adjusting and grieving takes a lot of energy and time. Thanks for listening to this story.

    1. This is such a tough story – especially the part about how her journey will progress. It’s just awful. But of course you can share my blog if it seems appropriate. It’s all so difficult. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Last post was mine. I misspelled my own name!!! Yikes!!!

  6. Michael Zoosman says: Reply

    Sage advice from a wonderful man I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Walk on!

    1. Yes!

  7. Love it Marjorie. My motto, these past few months, is “one thing at s time”. If I can just take my time and effort and concentrate on doing one task at a time, I am going to be okay. It takes a lot to be in the present and take time to small things that can bring you a little joy.

    1. I love this – ONE THING AT A TIME! It’s so simple….and so difficult to actually do!

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