For list makers, goal setters and other planning nut jobs, this time of year is especially wonderful. I start making my yearly “Goals Program” in December and hit the ground running in January. I charge into a new year determined to be the Worlds Best version of myself. It’s big fun. I recommend insanity. But there are millions of posts this time of year about goals and resolutions, so I won’t bore you with the details of mine … this post is about the things that happen that have nothing to do with your plan ….
The idea of “unplanning” my life a little bit came to me when I ran into an older lady at our church. I don’t mean I saw her and approached her calmly because I hadn’t spoken to her in a while … I mean I ran into her. I wasn’t paying attention and I almost knocked the poor woman over. After I grabbed her to keep her upright, laughed, hugged her and sincerely apologized, she said something really wonderful to me.
“Oh, I’m so glad you weren’t paying attention! It gave me a chance to hug you and say hi! I haven’t seen you in forever!” What a sweetheart. Also, what a fabulous perspective on mistakes, detours, derailed plans, life. I really needed it.
So I am switching my thoughts on goals and plans. I will still make them, obviously, but here are things I’ve decided to do when they go awry. Also a few thoughts on when something unexpected comes up that wasn’t even a missed plan, it wasn’t on my radar at all.
1. Remember that most unplanned things aren’t a problem until we make them a problem.
Of course there are exceptions to this, disease, car crashes … those sorts of things are a problem in themselves. I’m talking about roadwork, getting cut off, traffic delays, missing a meeting, smacking face first into a 75 year old lady in your church hallway. Your attitude determines whether or not these things will ruin your day. My dad used to call them “adventures”. If you see your life as an adventure, having to make a detour won’t upset you so much. Life is what you make of it. So make it great.
2. Most mistakes can be fixed with just the right word at just the right time.
I have a problem with my mouth. It is always opening and saying things. I have learned that, while words spoken can’t ever be taken back, there are ways to mend the things you broke when you opened your mouth. Recently I was on Facebook and in a super bad mood. As a side note, it’s always a good idea to get on Facebook when you’re ready to spit nails. I was following a thread about something non-important and noticed a friend’s comment had been taken poorly by the group and people were reacting negatively towards her. I went into attack mode, defending my friend while eviscerating the person who had been unkind and thereby started an entirely new war. Really. Nothing is more vicious than a group of mommies with nothing to do but follow pointless Facebook threads. The next day I noticed that the thread had exploded thanks to my hostile comment and one lady was even considering leaving the group. Sigh. I apologized on the thread, promised them that I now had my head on straight (and had drunk several cups of coffee that morning, improving my outlook on life) and begged the poor woman not to leave the group based solely on my stupidity. She accepted my apology, stayed in the group and I think she might even like me now.
If I had waited one more day to try and make amends, I doubt the story would be the same. Sometimes everyone needs time to cool down, but sometimes the situation needs to be diffused immediately. When broiling over words and tempers are involved usually a soft word is what’s needed, not days and days for the problem to fester and grow. Stop the madness! Apologize quickly and completely (even if you were partially right, now’s not the time!) and let everyone move on with their lives! And when in doubt … just keep your mouth shut in the first place and stay off the internet when you’re a grouch.
3. Have a positive default setting for when things go really wrong.
Ever heard the phrase, “Bad hair days are good hat days”? We all know that things are going to go wrong in our lives eventually. If you plan your immediate reaction to the negatives in life, it will make them a bit easier to deal with. For instance, when something upsetting happens to my mom, she buys chocolate for us all to eat. No kidding. Who doesn’t win in that scenario? There are doctors who would call that an unhealthy relationship with food. I call it delicious.
When Jason and I were first married we had two miscarriages in one year. I took every test the medical world could offer and they all had “normal” results. When I got pregnant for the third time, I made a plan for how I would react if I once again lost the pregnancy. I actually made a list of the things in my life that would still be good even if I couldn’t have the baby I desired so desperately. He was a boy. Sometimes you don’t have to put your default setting to use. That’s always nice.
4. Use the opportunity to help someone else.
This entire world is broken. That is just a fact. I love to see the positive and silver lining, and I wear rose colored glasses on purpose, but sometimes even I have to get real. People need help, healing, love, hugs … us. If you’re thinking, “How am I supposed to deliver healing when I’M so sick?!” I have some fabulous news for you! God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the things that are mighty. It’s awesome. So many times the things we look at as a struggle and a heart ache, someone else can look to as a light at the end of their very dark tunnel. If you have health problems, use them to help others with the same problem. If you’ve lost a parent, you can now reach out with empathy to others who have suffered the same loss. If you have a child who is making terrible choices, other parents may one day look to you to figure out how to live through their own precious child’s crisis.
Many of you are probably well aware that the current and effective “Amber Alert” system grew out of the greatest tragedy imaginable. I was a teenager when the beautiful little Amber was snatched from her street by a psychopath and the manhunt that ensued was brutal and heartbreaking. On the other side of it, Amber’s parents took their horror story and turned it into something that has given hundreds of parents back their children. Can you imagine that? Heartache will happen anyway. We might as well help each other through.
I do realize this isn’t a typical “Happy New Year!” post. But since our year definitely will not go as planned, we might as well have a plan for it … see what I did there?
And really, Happy New Year! I hope all of your lists work out.