Sunday, May 24, 2009

Contingency Plan

It was on an episode of 30 Rock that Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) turned to Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and said, “What is your contingency plan for a crap storm of this magnitude?”
Or words to that effect.
Most people become aware that life is full of surprises. You know the famous quotes: “Life is what happens while we're making plans.” “When we make plans, God laughs.”
It isn't that setting goals or making plans is wrong. It's just that we never have sufficient information in advance to know what to plan, or whether a goal will be attainable.
Lovers leave, toddlers throw up, cars break down, someone we love becomes physically ill, or mentally ill, or dies. Our house turns out to have rats, or burns down (well, at least that takes care of the rat problem). Many of us have life histories of which we hope our children will never learn the whole truth, and our children grow up to have lives of which they hope we will never learn the whole truth. A drug dealer moves in next door, or maybe we end up becoming the drug dealer. None of us talked about that career track with the guidance counselor, did we? How many of us planned to get fat, or become addicted, or disabled, or to love someone who turned out to be unfaithful?
Sometimes we make plans and they do come to fruition and we realize, hey, this isn't what I want. Then some wise ass will come along and say, “Be careful what you wish for.” Then we have to resist the urge to whack said wise ass a good one up the side of the head.
So life is not perfect; in fact it is quite challenging at times. We get used to that. We learn to live life as it comes at us, and we try to acquit ourselves with grace and integrity. Most of us. We still make plans, but life happens, and we have to change our plans.
The peculiar thing about hardship and adversity is that it can lead us to faith in something greater than ourselves. How many times have you heard people say something along the lines of, “I never would have asked for this to happen, but it has made such a positive difference in my life?”
It's true. There's nothing like a really horrible turn of events to open your eyes to how you are surrounded by love, how noble people can be, and how precious life is. Your priorities get shuffled, and you realize that what you thought was important was getting in the way of what is important. What's important? Your relationship with the infinite; the love of friends and family; the joy in your heart when you wake up and think, “Wow, I'm still here.”
It might seem like a stupid idea, having to suffer to appreciate what is important and real. I bicker with God about this: “OK, I learned a lot, but couldn't I have learned it from a less painful experience?”
Apparently not. Life is a harsh but effective teacher.
So make your plans. Set your goals. Just don't get too attached to them. Be prepared to become educated. Have a contingency plan for crap storms. My number one contingency plan is to close my eyes, bow my head, breathe deeply, and pray: “Help.”
I've read organize-your-life gurus who seriously ask, “Where do you want to be in five years?” and I can only seriously answer, “I have no idea.” I have vague ideas. I'd like to be alive, and at least as healthy as I am now, and able to enjoy a slice of marionberry pie, a good read, a good laugh, and the love and companionship of my friends and family. Not necessarily in that order.
I can get along without the marionberry pie. I just don't plan to.

PLEASE NOTE: I am assuming that the photo of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin is an NBC publicity shot. I found it on the Chicago Tribune site. If anyone wants me to take it off, please let me know and I will. FYI, I am not making any money off the blog or the use of this photo.


The Crow said...

Good post, Mary! Much to mull over.


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