Next Thing Stress – How I Heart Attacked Myself

Next Thing Stress – How I Heart Attacked Myself, the story of my latest drama, begins quite undramatically, with me sitting in my office, making a list. I can’t remember what the list was specifically, and I’ve not been able to find it to satisfy my curiosity. What I do know is that, out of the blue, with my pen poised over the page, I had a heart attack. How do I know it was a heart attack? Let me tell you another story of another drama, this time from long ago.

I was nineteen and pregnant, and I had worries, as you might imagine, but one of these out-worried the rest. What if I had a labor pain and didn’t recognize it? What if I was in the aisle at the supermarket and, while contemplating the latest ground beef bargain, I missed the crucial twinge signal and delivered right there, between the produce bins and the dairy cooler? Every time I encountered a woman who had already reproduced, I would ask the same question.

“How will I know when I have a labor pain?”

Each of those women, all blessedly over nineteen, gave the same answer with the same kindly look in her eyes. “You will know,” they said.

My answer echoes theirs when it comes to suffering a heart attack. “You will know.” Like a labor pain, the sensation is unmistakable. I was sitting in my office, and I knew.

The more complicated question has to do with why it happened, and the answers are several and equally complicated. The one answer I’m truly certain of is this. I heart attacked myself by living, altogether consciously, under a load of Next Thing Stress. I may not remember what list I was making on that fateful evening, but if I were forced to guess its identity, I’d put my money on it being a To Do List. A compilation of the tasks I considered imperative to be completed because, as had been the case most evenings of my life, I had “miles to go before I’d sleep.”

For as long as I can remember, I’d been subject to the Tyranny of the To Do List. I kept daily To Do Lists and weekly To Do Lists, even annual To Do Lists plotted out each New Year’s season. They reminded me of everything I had on my plate, and my plate was always impossibly full. In workshops I had led and articles I had written, I’d long preached about how important it is to keep your psyche on your side and, also, to make sure your To Do List is on your side.

“That list is the monster you create for yourself all by yourself,” I would say. Yet, I’d allowed the same monster to consume me with Next Thing Stress. I hadn’t listened to my own advice.

Next Thing Stress. What is that anyway? In a clam shell (I choose this container because it is cramped and restrictive), Next Thing Stress is created by the mindset which tells us we must always be moving on to the Next Thing. You could also call it the Power Through Principle. When you complete a given item on your To Do List, you are admonished to continue immediately to the following item, the Next Thing. Even if you are tired, physically or mentally or both, even if you’re exhausted, you are expected to power through.

The Power Through Principle had governed my life for what felt like forever, and I prided myself on the productive result. Then I had the heart attack, just over a month ago, which brought Darly, the occupational therapist, into my life. Darly is firm in her convictions, and they carry the ring of authenticity when she passes them on, as she did to me. She is also wise, and presents those convictions as suggestions rather than ultimatums, definitely the better way to go with me.

“Activity, rest, activity, rest,” she said. “Activity, activity, activity creates too much stress.”

She was talking about pace, just like with storytelling. In a well-told tale, there are breaks, moderations of pace that allow what is happening to sink in and resonate. Tension, tension, tension exhausts the reader. According to wise Darly, this pacing principle applies to real life as well. Like with your reader, it is a bad idea to subject yourself to Next Thing Stress. In the wake of Darly’s words, another favorite workshop quip of mine returned to haunt me, as my most self-confident (as in know-it-all) assertions can sometimes do.

“We’re all destined to drop dead in the middle of our To Do Lists.”

It was a line that got a laugh, albeit a nervous one. I’ll say just about anything to get a laugh from an audience, but I’m not laughing now. I am aware that eliminating, or even diminishing, Next Time Stress will require a down-to-the-ground life change for me. The sound of which rings a bell in my own authenticity place and sets me thinking I might rest and allow this revolutionary (for me at least) concept to sink in and resonate. In fact, maybe that’s the Next Thing I will do.

Alice Orr –

– R|R

A Time of Fear & LovingMaybe your Next Thing should be to read Alice’s new novel, A Time of Fear & Loving – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 5. Available HERE. You can find all of Alice’s books HERE.

What readers are saying about A Time of Fear & Loving. “I never want an Alice Orr book to end.” “Alice Orr is the queen of ramped-up stakes and page-turning suspense.” “Warning. Don’t read before bed. You won’t want to sleep.” “The tension in this novel was through the roof.”
“A budding romance that sizzles in the background until it ignites with passion.”
“The best one yet, Alice!”

TAGS: Mentors, Attitude, Stress Management, Time Management, Fear Management

13 thoughts on “Next Thing Stress – How I Heart Attacked Myself

  1. I really appreciated this post and found it beautifully written, Alice. I’m a member of MFRW, and I remember seeing your post about the health challenges you refer to above go through the Yahoo Group loop. Though I didn’t reply on the list, I took note of it and was wishing you the best. I still am.

    I am actually an MFRW staff member, too, and I just got done editing the pages assigned me from February’s MFRW Magazine. Your article was included, and I’m happy to take this opportunity to say I found it well-written and compelling as well. Thank you!


    1. Hi Emerald. Thank you so much for your kind wishes concerning my health, and also for your kind words about my article for the new MFRW (Marketing for Romance Writers) magazine, about how to craft an effective story opening. I enjoy writing for that publication, and being involved with MFRW in general. What a wonderful organization. I am now working on my article for the March magazine issue. I hope you like that one as well. Alice

  2. Alice I’m so glad you “just knew,” as that isn’t always the case. My labor pains were so inconsistent that I had to watch the monitor to know when to push—never once had the urge. So if I ever suffer a heart attack, I hope I recognize it and get quick care as you did. So happy you’re still with us!

    I once read that if we ever fully complete our to-do list, we’ll be done living. So I guess the trick is to make peace with its length, and be grateful we can turn to it again tomorrow. Much to think about here.

    1. Hi Kathryn. How good it is to hear from you. And it is very good to still be here too. I don’t know if the length of our to do lists corresponds with the length of our lives or not. My concern is that so many of us, especially the women I know, overburden ourselves with anxiety regarding what we manage To Do in a given day. And also that we tend not to include activities on those lists that nourish our souls and add to the quality and pleasure of our lives. Work, work, work can perhaps do worse than just make Jane a dull girl, as the old saying goes. Take care and be well and keep on writing whatever may occur. Alice

    1. Hi Linda. I love your post. You have carried the to-do list theme a step further by reminding us to replace those lists with time and spirit wasters we intend to eschew. My list would be pretty much identical to yours, by the way, especially the items that involve paying much more attention to what I am truly feeling and truly thinking, instead of to what I believe I’m expected to be feeling and thinking, and doing as well. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us. Blessings. Alice

  3. Thanks, Alice, this insightful gem resonates with ‘get ‘er done’ culture. Such a gift you are and I’m grateful for all those who care for you in body and soul and, of course, I am grateful for you. Keep on keeping on as so you wish in a very chill kinda way.
    Much gratitude to Darling Darcy, whose sage advice is meant to be shared! Go, OT!
    Blessings to you and your family ~

    1. Hi Victoria. Yes. We have all been deeply immersed in the get ‘er done way of thinking, or so it seems to me. Yet, once we get ‘er done, she is immediately replaced by another task and the same admonition. I know that has been my downfall. Now, as I pull myself back up, I contemplate where I shall walk and at what speed when my feet are firmly beneath me again. I hope I will take a wiser path this time. Meanwhile, thank you so much for your kind, caring words. I wish you all good things as well. Blessings. Alice

  4. HI Alice:

    Great blog! I loved the phrase I heart attacked myself” I think I did too, and for about the same reasons.
    I hope you received my book and it proved helpful. ‘I’d love to hear from you about your recovery. I continue to work as an advocate for support for heart patients – and it is a slog to get people to pay attention.
    I burned the candle and did the Tara chanting – I hope you felt some energy.



    1. Hi MaryLou. Thank you for your book and for your kind thoughts. Thank you especially for your work with those of us who struggle to recover from such a devastating experience. I learned in the hospital, from other patients who were back there after a second heart attack, that if you don’t change your ways this thing will likely happen to you again. I am truly trying to change my ways, and I am most grateful for your encouragement. Take care of yourself. Blessings. Alice

  5. Amen! Well said, Alice. Yes, I do have goof-off time. I play games on the computer, do puzzles, watch Judge Judy, read, take walks and go to movies. All inbetween writing, editing, and marketing. It’s what keeps me sane.
    I’m betting when you find the middle ground, you’ll actually achieve more by taking time off. I’m so glad you made it and are still here with us. You’re such a valuable friend.

    1. Hi Lita. I am also glad, overjoyed in fact, to be on the mend. Thank you for your caring encouragement. And for reinforcing my message about slowing down and enjoying life. I hope you are doing exactly that and flourishing as a result. Blessings. Alice

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