What’s the Plan?

Plans aren’t everything, and they change all the time, but it still helps to know what the current one is.

The most extreme example I can recall of needing to remember the plan was when I jumped off a 200-foot-high bridge. I was bungee jumping, which of course I had decided to do, but a large part of my brain did not care about that as I stepped to the edge. It was screaming “No!” on every channel.

I just had to tell myself that this was all part of the plan – the plan being not to hit that river down there, or those rocks, or to injure or kill myself, but to tie myself to a big rubber band under professional supervision, then jump, then bounce and swing around, and in theory to enjoy myself. My mantra was “I am on a ride, attached to gear, and in the hands of professionals.” All part of the plan. I’m not sure “enjoyed” is the right word for what happened post-bridge, but I was able to jump, anyway, and the plan worked out just fine.

Lots of stuff doesn’t seem to make sense at the moment, or is difficult or confusing, and at such times it does help to know what the plan is. The gym may suck, but the plan is to get healthy. Talking about my own death is a bummer, but I need a Will. Working my ass off is no fun, but if the plan is to achieve greater success, wealth or comfort, then working hard makes sense.

When I hit this world, like most people, I was handed a plan: do well in school you can get a good job, so you can make enough money for the house, the wife, the kids, the cars, and the annual vacation. Then when the kids are off, work some more to assure maximum comfort, then you can kick back and enjoy yourself. It happens that I rejected that plan and the values driving it, which led to a lot of inner turmoil, which I medicated with drugs and alcohol, which nearly wrecked me, and then I landed in 12-Step world, where I learned to make my own plans with the help of a higher power which was not my addiction or society. All that was unplanned, at least by me.

I have always valued flexibility and openness, rather than the security and continuity I was told to value. I see life as a series of waves coming at you, and rather than build a seawall to contain them, or a boat to stay on top of them, I’d rather learn to surf and see where they take me.

I was, however, a total mess for years, and it’s only in my 50s that I have come up with a set of plans that actually make any sense. Messy people make messy plans, and I am lucky to still be around and able to make new, better plans.

Those waves keep coming, in other words, and each one seems to require at least a tweaking of the plan. Making plans is a great idea, but tweaking them is a necessity. So getting attached to plans is a bad idea, in my experience. They can become another hiding place where I retreat to so I don’t have to face something difficult. Or they can be an excuse, giving me permission to not change my behavior because, hey, I have plan! I can also still make messy plans, so I need to stop occasionally, look around, check in with other people, see if the current plan still makes sense, and then adjust as needed and move forward.

I need constant reminders of why I should do stuff like go to the gym, talk about things that are uncomfortable or scary, and work hard – because in my natural state I don’t want to do any of those things. So I need my plans. I also need to let them go sometimes. And I need to evaluate constantly, like I’m keeping my balance surfing an ever-changing wave.

And sometimes, when I am way up high or way down low, and feeling scared and confused, I need to remind myself that I am learning how to surf, doing my best to execute a plan while under the care of something bigger and better than myself.