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Life is Unpredictable

Some people like to have a plan. I’m one of them. To be completely honest – I’m a control freak. I thrive in a nice, predictable, routine life. A life I can plan for and control with control being the operative word.

There’s an old Yiddish saying – Man plans, and God laughs. And the adage, the best laid plans of mice and men…. Both point to the fact that life is unpredictable. I’ve learned to have a certain tolerance and acceptance of the unpredictable nature of life. Most of the time, I can see that it’s my thinking about the change in plans or lack of control and I quickly recover. But the events of the past weeks have tried my patience and sent me into a bit of a tailspin. And it didn’t look like thought had anything to do with it.

Here are a couple of examples:

Last Wednesday afternoon, I stopped for a few groceries to beat the weekend rush, except the weekend rush was in full bloom. It felt like a Sunday morning on a New England Patriots game day. There was no toilet paper and I was actually out. I was instantly shocked and annoyed, and it looked like these feelings were coming from the ridiculous people shopping on a Wednesday afternoon and hoarding toilet paper.

Here’s another example. The weather in southern NH has been beautiful this week. The schools are closed, people are working from home and taking breaks getting out in the fresh air. There is conservation land near my house where I like to walk my dogs off leash. It’s totally my happy place. Only everyone was out there walking and all those people freak out my dogs. GRRR! Not happening this week. OK, plan B. Wait until it’s raining, and no one will be out. Phew! I actually enjoyed walking in the rain because I was in control of the people problem. Of course, it won’t be raining every day, so soon I will be back to square one..

I realize these are silly examples, but they make a simple point. My careful “planning” (controlling) was upended by the fact of the coronavirus, a real circumstance with real consequences. It looked to me like this circumstance was causing my upset. My thinking did not seem to be a part of the equation. As the days went on, I progressed from annoyed and frustrated to angry. It looked like the lack of control was making me crazy!

Then I remembered what I knew about thought and feeling. When I realized the one and only source of my feelings, I settled down. From a more settled state, I had an idea. Why not focus on what I can do, what I can control? I now have a list. I have a plan – it’s my work plan and do-nothing plan. When I don’t feel like doing anything, I think that I’m on the sabbatical I’ve always wanted to take. When I’m working, I write, catch up on professional reading and check in with clients. Or I do one house-related project like pack up one trash bag of junk from the basement. I’m also preparing to have a dumpster come next month. I’m going through old boxes and lining up junk in the garage to move to the dumpster. I’m actually very excited about the dumpster!

The unpredictable nature of life is sure to toss more change and uncertainty my way. Maybe next time I’ll be ready for it.

Cheryl Bond