Whose Plan is it, Anyway?
“…You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.
That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!…”
–To a Mouse, Robert Burns
I’m going to get a little off track here, and a little personal, and a little brutally honest. If that’s not your cup of tea, this is your cue to exit.
It’s no secret to most of our friends and family that we’re in a hard place right now. Again. But I mean “in a hard place” as in my girls’ Christmas gifts are all coming from other people, our rent is uncertain past January, and one car repair over $40 will sink us.
And that is so hard- anyone who’s been broke, really broke- do-I-buy-toilet-paper-or-laundry-detergent-broke, not guess-no-Starbucks-this-week-broke; understands how incredibly stressful and frustrating and, also, downright humiliating it is.
This round, it’s even worse. Because we’re on the other side of our plan to get out of it, get going with our future, and it’s not better. Financially. Well, slightly, in that there’s no credit card debt this time, but that’s a story for another time. It’s been replaced by more student debt from Ryan’s master’s degree he spent the last 2.5 years working through.
I know- I know there’s whispers in the families; people saying “Well, that’s why you get married after college.” “That’s why you don’t have kids until you’re financially stable.” “That’s why you X and don’t Y.” Thinking surely; there’s something we’ve done wrong, some miscalculation or error in judgement that’s put us here.
They might be right- but as far as I can tell, they’re not. Trust me; I’ve gone over it in my head a million and one times- what if this, that, and the other thing- and the only conclusion I can come to is that things go wrong for everyone.
It is possible to play the game according to all the rules and still lose.
And then, in one of my little late-night pity parties (the insomnia has hit me hard, accompanied by my 11-month-old’s stubborn refusal to sleep not attached to me), I had a revelation.
I need to preface it with the fact that I believe in things greater than myself, and that we aren’t the ones running the show. Again, if that’s not your cup of tea, so be it. It’s mine. I happen to prefer a wide variety of teas, personally, but…I digress.
It burst into my head like a cold shock of water- how very arrogant of me.
How selfish, how brash and childish of me to expect that my plan is THE plan. How could I possibly- how could anyone who possibly believes in a higher, guiding power- have the audacity to think I know best?
It’s not all about me, or you, or my children, or anyone else in our lives. We are, I believe, part of a bigger picture, and what we think we need, what we want, what we are certain should be happening- is not necessarily what is going to happen; what needs to happen.
Often, as a writer crafts their work, they will go back and delete a line, a paragraph, perhaps even an entire chapter. They will shift words around, events in a story- they will annihilate entire characters and scenes that were carefully crafted -because it’s all part of a bigger picture. The final work may look nothing at all like the project the author initially embarked upon.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’ve become miraculously content with our circumstance. It still sucks. But I am…less anxious; less disappointed, and much more prepared to accept that what I wanted and what we’d planned just isn’t, well, the plan. Everything happens for a reason- the optimist would say that you haven’t gotten what you wanted because there is something better waiting; the time isn’t right, but it will be. There are scores of tales of heroes and great figures of history metaphorically forged in the fires of misfortune, and I’ve been honored to know personally several fantastic people who’ve grown strong through hardship. And who knows- maybe I’m raising one or two of them. Maybe all of this has nothing to do with us at all- maybe it does.
I don’t know- and how could I expect to? Occasionally, sure- one gets those flashes of clarity, where we know, beyond a doubt, that we’ve been clued into The Plan and what we’re meant to do. But we are small, finite creatures against the Infinite- even that flash may not be meant for the precise moment we receive it. All we can do is plan our best, act our best- and accept that ultimately, we don’t have the final say.
“No” is an answer. “Not yet,” is an answer. And, as I’m endeavoring to teach my 3-year-old, pouting about it does not change the answer.
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