Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Planning to Live Day-by-Day

Hello, my name is Pam, and I am a planner.

"Hi, Pam."

Yes, I love to plan. I start asking the kids about their Christmas wish list in June. I start researching summer camps in February. I make lists of items we’ll need to take on our Christmas vacation in August. (Although I have learned to not actually book the vacation until November). I keep a journal with pictures of places I’d like to visit, books I’d like to read, things I’d like to learn. And yes, I love to plan for our next home. As you might imagine, this habit does not play well with the military lifestyle.

(I could hear those of you who are in the military laughing after you read the first sentence).

I find myself constantly asking my husband about where our next duty station may be, as if he actually knows. I look at house listings, although after dealing with the expense and trouble of selling our previous home, I know that we have no intention of buying, at least until we know we’ll be somewhere for a while--whenever that may be. And although I realize it’s futile, I find myself always wondering what’s next. But, as everyone in the military knows, it’s absolutely impossible to plan. It’s unrealistic to plan--for next year, next month, or even for next week. But yet, I really, really want to!

Have you ever heard motivational speakers or financial planners ask questions such as, “where do you see yourself in five years?” I used to looove those questions. I would gleefully get out a pad of paper and start jotting down all of my plans, sometimes complete with a timeline. But, now, that question causes me to panic. I know where I’d like to see myself in five years, but the truth is that I have very little—if any—control over what actually happens.

Control. Yes, I guess that’s it. For me, planning is a way to maintain some shred of control in this typically uncontrollable life. (Yes, some may call me a control freak rather than a planner. But, I don’t think we need to resort to name calling). Planning puts me back in the driver’s seat, rather than hanging on to the bumper. But, it also makes me panic when I realize that my plans may not come to fruition.

But, as I think about it, if someone would have asked me ten years ago what my ten-year plan would be, it definitely would not have involved being married to a soldier, living on the other side of the country, and having three children. But, I really can’t imagine my life any other way. So, maybe that’s the lesson. Our plans aren’t always what’s meant to be. And sometimes life has surprises in store for us that we may not be prepared for, but that will bring us incredible joy. It turns out that being grateful for what comes is actually more fulfilling--and more realistic--than trying to plan for everything that may come.

So, rather than live in a perpetual state of panic, I think it’s time to shift my focus. I may not have control over what state we will live in, what my career will be, or whether my husband will be home, but I do have control over how I view my life. I can be happy and grateful for all that I have, no matter what our zip code may be. And yes, even if we are--heaven forbid--separated by a deployment again.

I am trying to learn, albeit with some angst, the art of taking life day-by-day. I’m learning to live in the moment and focus on now, rather than worrying about tomorrow. And, above all else, I’m learning to be grateful for this frantic, ever-changing, completely uncontrollable life. Because, even if I can’t plan it or control it, I love it. And if I have to keep hanging on to the bumper, I can at least enjoy the ride.

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