Monday, 2 January 2012


I’ve always loved the saying: Want to make God laugh? Tell Her your plans. 

And since September when my plans – all of them, along with my illusions – have taken an ass kicking to end all ass kickings, I’ve been learning to live without plans. Not easy for someone like me who has always had a project or a plan on the drawing board or in progress. 

A subtle shift has occurred in the way I handle life. 

For example, New Year’s Eve, after a terrific dinner of lasagna, salad and a creamy lemon dessert, Wendy, Heather and I are comfortably ensconced in Wendy’s living room, reminiscing about old times, when the phone rings. Wendy’s friend, Janet, has just lost her husband to congestive heart failure. She is calling to ask Wendy to make phone calls to other members of their circle to tell them this very sad news. Around the same time, Heather’s daughter reports in on a serious falling out with her boyfriend. It’s as if the very air in the room has changed. Wendy is distraught; Heather is worried –all of us are thinking of how empty and alone Janet must feel. 

Sadness and trouble is with so many people lately that there’s barely time for a deep breath in-between tragedies and foul-ups.

Later in the week, I am talking to Ilga, whose life has been continuously disrupted by one emergency or another for months on end. We are talking about meaning in life – whether there is any, or whether it’s all just a meaningless crap-shoot. 

And that leads to discussion about living in the present moment and how suffering comes from wanting the present moment to be something, anything else. Ilga says, “I know this. I just don’t know how to do it.” It’s then that it occurs to me that I’ve begun to transition from a comfortable experience to a painful one (or vice versa) with much less resistance than ever before. 

It’s all about plans and expectations. Take away any notion of how long you’ll be on this earth, add to that the way the medical system springs schedule changes at the last minute and otherwise claims a large percentage of my time, and throw in the fact that I never know, day to day, whether I’ll be sick or well – and you have boot-in-the-butt practice in living in the Now. 

If I was healthy and expecting to live a long life, I could sit on a meditation cushion for the next ten years and conceivably never lose my impatience with change. Change would be disrupting my plans and believe me, it would piss me off. It would seem like the universe was out to get me. I would hang on by my fingernails, hating whatever was overturning my idea of what should be happening. And I would be miserable. 

Why is it that we think we have a right to be happy and untroubled. Why do we think that’s the norm and anything dark or painful is an aberration? Surely it isn’t because life experience tells us that.  It’s the hopeless clinging that causes us to suffer. It’s killing to think of the years I’ve wasted in pitched battle against the inevitable slings and arrows of life. 

Rumi said:
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

On a lighter note, Ilga once told me,(rightly) when she had edited a particularly bad essay of mine, that I “stink at polemic.” So this entry might, in fact, stink – but I wanted to get the thought down, so I beg your indulgence.

Now you can get back to your plans.


Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

Hmm. And today, how ironic, my only plan is to see what the universe is throwing my way and deal with it as best I can. Not my usual plan at all, but that's it, today. Thanks for the reminder that I'm not alone in that plan - and the hug that comes from sharing it.

Roberta said...

I think it is something that comes along with aging. My good friend had a dream about me the other day. She said that in her dream I was young and happy. I had a smile as wide as my face. Those days are few and far between now.

Callie Mitchell said...

Your words remind me of John Lennon's wonderful line about life being what happens while we're making other plans. I suppose life is an unending ballet of adaptation, and you remind me of how much less alive those are who never need to adapt.

Howpublic said...

Roberta - in some ways, I agree. Passing by the radio the other day, I heard a sentence (disconnected from whatever context)- "Adults are defective children." True that just by virtue of living longer, more trauma is bound to occur. And no one wants to be heartbroken, scared or bereaved. My point was simply that we need to feel what we feel - whatever it is - and let it pass through us. And that applies to happiness too. It's the clinging to our idea of how it should be that hurts the most.
Cynthia - I know it's been a long hard couple of days. I'm glad the wheel has turned.

Pat Barber said...

Ahhh ... now your post title makes perfect sense! But only after stopping my struggle to understand it long enough to actually read your post.

Hmmmm ... did I just repeat what you were saying in your post, only differently. :) Love and hugs to you, Linda. Love and hugs.