What do you do when your plans fall apart? When unseen circumstances toss you and your life into a place that is nothing like you expected? The following is an excerpt from my book, Fear to Flow, which describes the beginning of a year that was nothing I expected it to be.
I was really excited for 2014. Not only had I finally rebranded my business and gotten myself to a place of truly knowing the type of work I wanted to do, but I was also allowing myself to give up the work I didn’t want to do and only take on that which fueled my passion. Or so that was the plan. The other thing that excited me about 2014 was I was turning 44. Four is my favorite number, and 44 would certainly be a doubly lucky year. I also declared it my “year of fun.” The prior December I was flying home from my final business trip of the year, exhausted after three months of lots of business travel and a hectic autumn. I decided I needed to start having more fun, and that 2014 was going to be the year to do it. This meant that anything I did, any goal I set, anything I said yes to had to include fun of some sort, either directly or indirectly.
Yes, 2014 was going to be MY YEAR. I could feel it in my bones. (Little did I know what that really meant.) There it is again: we make plans, and God laughs. When I say this, I don’t mean that God is literally laughing at our plans falling through. I mean that we plan, and God (or your higher power, the Universe, the Divine, however you choose to designate it) reminds us that there is a bigger plan at work; one that in our human form we are unaware of, but one that makes complete sense from a higher perspective. Our individual plans fall through because their timing is not in alignment with the bigger plan and/or the bigger plan is meant to better serve us and those around us. The dots connect when we look backward.
My dad had surgery to a remove the tumor in the tail of his pancreas and to remove his spleen on April 4th (4/4). Two days after my 44th birthday. Lots of fours. Surely the news would be good; a non-cancerous tumor was the only thing we wanted to hear. That day was one of the longest of my life as we waited hours for the surgery to be complete. My stepmom, my sister Debra, and I, among all our electronic devices, books, magazines, snacks, and bottles of water, tried to occupy ourselves as the hours ticked away. We watched people come and go, and doctors come and go informing families that their loved one’s surgery went well. “She’s in recovery.” “You can see him in another 30 minutes.” At one point I jokingly asked, “Wonder what they do if they don’t have good news to share?” My stepmom said, “Oh, I’m sure they take you somewhere else.”
At 2:30, my stepmom was paged to the front desk. They told us the doctor wanted to meet with us in a private consultation room. This was certainly not the type of encounter we were anticipating. We quickly gathered up our things and scurried along after the nurse. My heart was racing. What the fuck is going on? He didn’t die, did he? No. But this can’t be good news. Next thing I knew, we were crammed into a room that was maybe 6′ X 6′: my dad’s surgeon, three interns, Debra, my stepmom, and me. It was a tight fit. It was surreal. I don’t remember anything other than the doctor saying the word adenocarcinoma, and this was the most common and most aggressive type of pancreatic cancer. The rest of the words sounded muffled to me. I heard swooshing in my ears. I saw the doctor’s mouth moving, but the words were not clear. The room suddenly felt smaller than its already minuscule size. It was as if the walls were closing in on us. All I remember was a lump rising in my throat and the chatter in my own head: Does Daddy know? Who’s gonna tell him? Oh my God. My poor, sweet, strong, brave daddy. How is he going to feel? Is this real? This must be a dream. This can’t be happening.
I felt the ground continuing to shake and give way under me; another huge crack in my foundation began to spread, My plan for 2014 started to fall into that crack in my foundation and all I planned and hoped for suddenly didn’t matter.
What does it really mean when plans fall apart? What are we planning for anyway? We have no idea what a given day holds and yet we plan them out as if we know exactly what to expect. Most days go according to plan, but many do not. Our society is time-based; we make plans, dates, and appointments, keep calendars, and schedule most moments. We can’t function in our society without a plan. But there’s a balance between planning and flexibility. There’s also an underlying knowing that plans help us feel like we’re in control despite the fact that we aren’t. Most circumstances are out of our control, yet how we respond to those circumstances is always in our control.
And maybe that’s the lesson. Plan all you want, and when plans fall apart, choose how you respond. You can respond as if it’s the worst thing in the world or as if it’s a big blessing in disguise. I choose the latter. I might not always respond like that in the moment, but I wholeheartedly believe that when plans get interrupted or fall apart, it’s because we are being redirected. We are being led to something or somewhere else that is better – someplace we would not have gotten to if we had stuck to our plan. Stuff happens. People get sick, jobs get lost, marriages fall apart, and we take unexpected seemingly wrong turns – all that were not part of the plan but ultimately become the plan.
Fear to Flow will be available on amazon on July 11, 2016.