Planned or Unplanned Life?

I always felt a plan was the better route to take in the avenue of life. You know, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” Yet, experience has taught me that my type of planning might also be a form of failure. I would carefully plot out the plans, but then find that I almost always detoured to oil someone else’s squeaky wheel. I found myself left flat on the side of the road many times afterwards. My estimation of my own plans were that they did not deserve priority, while other’s “needs” always did. The trouble with my sort of thinking was the weakness of correctly assessing how the distracting “need” truly merited the detour. I found out I was badly in need of what the Bible calls “wisdom”. I needed the ability to properly discern the priorities and responsibilities that were given me.

I still love a good plan. Although I have not created a strongly formed set of resolutions for the year, I had such a clear vision last year that this year is a continuation of those plans. They still guide my thinking and choices, but I find that the lessons of this part of life are in the necessity of grabbing opportunities as they arise, even when that means living outside the plan…entering the no man’s land of the unplanned life! I have come very slowly to this type of thinking.

Some people say yes too much, but because of my desire to stick with a plan I always said “no” too much. There was always a reason “why” to put off opportunity. The kids, the husband, the mother, the father, the time of life…. all sorts of reasonings to put off dreams and hopes, and let opportunities pass on by. But certain circumstances have changed me… changed my outlook. Now I understand that some opportunities never come again, and that the “reasons why” were not to be a concrete prison of denial… they were to be more like guidelines. (as the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ are prone to say;)

The first time I faced off this conflicted form of plan versus unplanned was when my son married his beloved wife in Brazil. I knew how very important it was to him for me to be there, but I excused myself on many good reasons, until I woke up to the fact that given our convictions this was a one time deal. His marriage was the high point of his life, more important to him, and in the stream of things than even graduation from Georgia Tech. I decided to move all other plans aside, financial and obligatory, and I have always been so very glad to have done that. It was a gift to him, but also a gift to myself… and it has freed me to take opportunity when it strikes, such a hard lesson for someone like me. It is a lesson that God has been slowly carving into my life. When we are so full of our own plans or tied to other’s plans for us, we are not ready to respond to God’s plans, oftentimes. We have to maintain the flexibility of faith.

This is true in so much of life. The housework is always there, but a child, and time for that child is an ephemeral and fragile thing. How often do our plans and schedules edit out relationship and the joy of experiencing life? We blame it on having too many things, or the fast pace, or the information age tyrannies, but really, it is simply our attitude of what matters most in life.

I read a complaint about Americans uttered by a European, perhaps someone French (I don’t remember), but the complaint ingrained in my brain due to it’s truth: We[Americans] are always too busy to enjoy our lives… we put off everything to some future “retirement”. True, that is part of the American work ethic, and the way we get lots of work accomplished, but something has sapped out the joy in modern life . It is often accomplishment without satisfaction , and – even more often- we misread the time and paint the future in a rosy glow. Who says we will be healthy? Or that our circumstances will allow our carefully made plans?

Once, Burns poem observing “mice and men” was well-known and cited, but now, who understands its wisdom? We have become mini-gods, makers of our own destiny, Ayn Rands, all.
Too bad life doesn’t recognize us or our power. Only so long as it does not call for the cards on the table are we able to maintain our bluff.

Oh. where was all this philosophizing going? Yes, I remember. I was going to announce the great good fortune of an opportunity to visit friends in Maui with my daughter. I am going to Maui, Hawaii !!! which wrecks havoc with my plans to blog more assiduously this year, some of my home organizing, and breaks into the budget. But the plans have given way to opportunity, and though I am apprehensive as always when I do something as serendipitous as this, I believe it will prove a very happy opportunity realized. It will be in March, so I have a month to buckle down and try to be as diligent as possible in the daily life of working the original plans.

Both the planned and the unplanned portions of life are to be embraced, the only caveat being moderation in all things. I have chosen this trip and this road, and that means other ones are deleted. What’s left to muse about? The two poems of plans, and choices.

To A Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell-
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

5 thoughts on “Planned or Unplanned Life?”

  1. One of the biggest pitfalls, with being a planner-type, is missing out on opportunities simply because they did not fit within your idea of what the plan was. However, one of the biggest benefits, with being a planner, is that when all is said and done, you got more said and done than the shoot-from-the-hip crowd! ;^)

  2. Right you are- but wouldn’t it be a perfect world if we could somehow work off our respective strengths?

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