Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans…

Never assume.

It’s one of the rules I live by. Never assume. It has served me well. But now and then, I forget that dictum that’s opened doors, helped make wise decisions, and kept me a little more prepared for an unknown future.

John Lennon has given us more than a few lessons in lifeAfter all, the future is always unknown. John Lennon said it: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

Yes, indeed. I’ve moved my tidy lists and planning documents to the “Pointless File,” the bright red one that stares me down from time to time, peeking out from an impressive stack of other color-coded folders in the corner of the den. It’s a sort of teaser, as if to say: Forget it. You’re long past plans and you know it, so go with the flow!

Choices

Those who preach that everything is about choice, that we can “take control of our lives and succeed” offer a wonderful panacea, part of our “Positive Action Culture” (a term someone mentioned recently). It’s like putting on the perky face when loneliness or isolation is dragging you down. It’s about acting upbeat so you can feel upbeat, and not alienating those who might help.

But that attitude is overly simplistic. It plays well to a crowd, but let’s get real. Some things are genuinely beyond our control – the behavior of others, natural disasters, unexpected illness or injuries – all of which can influence our lives in dramatic ways.

Opportunities

When you’re tired, distracted, or stressed, you make more mistakes. Opportunity may be knocking and you don’t hear it through fatigue or the noise around you. You may not recognize something terrific – or problematic – standing right in front of you. And opportunity to act in a positive way evaporates.

If you miss an opportunity, there will be another. It will be a different opportunity.

Hardship vs. Tragedy

A couple of years ago, my son and I were in a car accident on the way to the neighborhood library. Our car was totaled, I was injured, and not a hair on my teenager’s head was touched. But he was driving the car; he felt guilty – of course.

The year that followed was difficult. We had no real income, no car, and much to process. I had physical healing to work through, and we both had images of the other car barreling down on us at high speed, and of course, the impact. I was all about trying to ease my son’s guilt, and I also had to deal with memories of my father’s death – in a car accident.

I knew we were exceptionally lucky. I was GRATEFUL. This was hardship, not tragedy.

Opportunity, again and again

There's always another door to open.I had a job interview scheduled for two days after the accident. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to go, and it was a position I was well qualified for. But two months later, something else came up – the result of a seed I’d planted a year prior and a confluence of circumstances that had nothing whatsoever to do with me.

The pay was terrible, the logistics (without car) complicated, and the work itself turned out to be life altering; I couldn’t have imagined how much I would learn from it, love it, or the people who would enter my world as a result. Surprise, surprise. Life was happening, as it always does.

Knock knock. Who’s there?

Even without planning, opportunity knocks. A referral you don’t expect, a chance meeting, an online hello. It may be professional. It may be personal.

Sometimes opportunity knocks when we’re awake and we hear it. Better still – we respond, and give it our best shot. We ask “who’s there,” never assume it won’t be someone interesting, and we open a door. We listen, we talk, we share – that “friend model” that the online world encourages, which can be so powerful in our lives.

Positive after all?

As for planning, I haven’t really stowed it in the “Pointless File.” But I’ve put it in perspective, recognizing that there’s no crystal ball, nor coverage for every contingency. I can take initiative and planning only so far. Then I need to stay attentive and nimble when events hit hard and fast.  If I fumble – and I do – I remind myself that it’s not tragic. It’s human. I try to learn from my mistakes, and that is a choice.

I also look for lessons to pass along to my sons. They’ve come to understand that guts, persistence, and creativity can grow from everything. So maybe I am part of the “Positive Action Culture” in my own way.  Because when life happens, you go with it.

Comments

  1. John Lennon, and the Beatles, what can I say.

    I loved the picture of the Beatles playing “Get Back”, on the rooftop of Apple Corps on Saville Row on January 30, 1969.

    Who knew that would be their last performance together?

    “Strawberry Fields Forever”

  2. One of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite poets.

    And yes, SO TRUE!!

    I believe we can plan but we have to stay pliable – which is my, and probably most people’s, biggest challenge.

    We just have to plan but not attach ourselves to the results. You never know… maybe your plan wasn’t as good as THE plan.

  3. Great post and so true. Such is life.

  4. So I’ve been seeing your comments at MindyMom and Singlemommyhood, and finally clicked on the link!

    Personally, I believe in the Power of Negative Thinking. When something is coming up that I know will be hard, I put a lot of energy into whining about how much it’s going to suck. Then I come out of the event, saying “that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!” Other friends have tried it, and now swear by it, too.

    This is not to say I have a pessimistic attitude towards all of life. I can look forward to things, too, but I just try not to put too much energy into thinking it’s going to be the best thing ever because then you’re bound to be disappointed.

    See, aren’t you glad I came by :)

  5. BigLittleWolf says:

    Delighted you stopped by! (Made me laugh!) Yeah – the it’s-gonna-suck whine… very effective technique. As long as you don’t do it around your kids, or they start doing it and that’s too horrible. They’re better at it than adults.

  6. Great post. Opportunity indeed comes knocking, and it’s up to us to go with it. We can’t force stuff to occur, but we can choose to act when it does.

  7. Oct 9th is John Lennon’s birthday, nice coincidence!

  8. John Lennon didn’t even say this first, Thomas La Mance did. John Lennon obviously heard it before, but definitely does NOT deserve credit for it.

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