Sunday, November 3, 2013

Five Year Plan (edited)

My whole life, I have been filled with plans.  I have written more five year plans than I care to count.  I have planned the big picture, and I've planned the small picture.

I used to believe that I would die at the age of 100 in Bryan's arms.  I thought I could will that wish into being.

Few called me a realist for that one.

Right now, my life is up in the air once again.  Or is it still?  For aren't all of our lives up in the air?  The diagnosis that changes it all, the phone call, the indiscretion (yours or someone else's), the bank statement, the job offer, the loss, the gain, the children or lack of children, the lovers or lack of them....aren't all of our lives whims of fate, out of our control?

The best laid plans of mice and men...

We can plan.  We can save, and plot, and strategize, and ration, and spend, and sometimes our plans come true.  But ultimately, fate plays a hand, and it is a rare soul who lives out his or her five year plans, one after the other.

I no longer know what my five year plan is.  It's terrifying.  It's liberating.

I think I am slowly, uncertainly, hesitantly coming to peace with the idea that it's okay that I don't know what my future holds, and that what I can do to influence my future is limited and imperfect.  That perhaps it is not a failure on my part, but simply the impossibility of prediction...and that maybe, just maybe, it's okay.  That perhaps things will turn out far differently than I plan, but that maybe that will be okay, too.  Or maybe better than okay.

I've definitely believed in the idea that our actions shape our lives, and I like that idea: if I work hard, behave nicely, and make smart decisions, then things will turn out well.  But we all know that sometimes it doesn't happen that way, that bad things happen to good people, and that there are no guarantees.  If I could figure this one out, I'd be much wiser than I really am, and I haven't figured it out.  But maybe I can reach tentative peace with it.  Maybe there are forces bigger than myself - God, the universe, fate? - and there is some bigger picture that I am a part of, even if I can't see it.

There is freedom in turning that over to something bigger than myself, to admitting that I am not in control.  I can steer the wheel, I can make decisions, and those decisions matter....but what happens on the road in front of me is not mine to command.

I don't "get it."  I do not understand why I needed to have cancer, divorce, or now unemployment, in order to progress through this life of mine.  But I know that cancer taught me about strength and resiliency that I did not know I possessed; I know that divorce has freed me not only from a marriage that hurt me more than it helped me, but divorce also freed me to become a person I should have been all along.  What is it that unemployment must teach me?   Whatever it is, I'm open to the idea that there is a silver lining to it, that perhaps this is yet another metamorphosis, and that maybe I will come out of it better than ever if I only heed the lesson.

We can't choose our lessons, they come to us.  But what we do with them is our choice, and that is where our plans kick in: we alter course, we learn the lesson, we try a new direction, better than before.

Here's what is ON the five year plan.  You don't expect me to stop wishing, dreaming, you?  Just because I know it won't happen the way I plan, doesn't mean that I don't know what I want.

- Employed with work that makes my soul sing, because it is meaningful to me and to the world.  (Not other people's opinions, but the world itself.  I want my work to change the world.)

- Financially self sufficient, responsible, with enough left over for some extras, including travel.

- A happy, well adjusted daughter, who will be in high school, getting good grades, with good friends, moving towards college.  She and I will have a solid, loving relationship, based in trust and humor.

-  I will remain a runner, with lots of half marathons and a few marathons under my belt.  A quick ten miles will be within reach on any day.  I will be healthy, strong, and well, and cancer will remain in my past.

- I will serve on boards and committees to volunteer for organization(s) that touch my heart.

- I will travel the world.

- I will do all of this with a man of integrity, humor, intelligence, compassion, and good looks at my side.  When he walks in the room, my eyes will light up.  When he sees me, his smile will reveal how smitten he is in return.

So many things to want, to wish for, to plan for.  I have some control over my career, and I continue to plot, to network, to interview, to learn.  I will be the best mother I know how to be, and hope that my relationship to Katherine is a reflection of that.  I will commit to those early morning runs that keep my body strong and potentially keep cancer at bay.

But love?  Success?  The future?  It is not mine to predict, nor is it anyone's.  And yet I try.  But I'm also trying to let go - to accept it as it is, even as I try to move along my path.  I shape my five year plan, knowing that it will change, that it will appear differently as it unfolds, that there are things in my future that I can't possibly imagine, no matter how hard I try.

I won't give up on my five year plan.  But I'll try to keep adapting it, accepting the inevitable changes, hoping that even the twists and turns lead me to a good place.

One foot in front of the other.  Lots of deep breaths.  Leaps of faith - so many that I feel like I'm flying, or sometimes freefalling.  Accepting this is a challenge, and it's one I'm working on.


How do you deal with uncertainty?

Do you have a five year plan?  Have your five year plans come true?

1 comment:

  1. I've never had a 5 year plan... maybe that's my problem! Even in the last couple years I only had a one-ish year plan, which I adapt to along the way.

    Btw: you really think you can find a job that will make your soul sing? I don't think any job will do that for me... even the best job would lose some of it's luster when I'm forced to go to it 5 days a week for at least 8 hours a day :)