Plans, Schmans

December 18, 2007 at 3:14 am 3 comments

One of my all-time favorite quotes is the John Lennon line: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” In fact, I use it so much I’m afraid it’s becoming cliche. I’m a big fan of questioning our “plans” in relation to our “presence.”

So, when I was home with laryngitis this Saturday indulging in a little daytime TV (while DH took the little one to the park), I was thrilled to come across a new quote about plans that I love.

I have to credit Dr. Christiane Northrup, who used this quote in her amazing PBS special on women’s health mid-life. (And, a tangent, she has an amazing, holistic, balanced and connected approach to health and I’m putting her books on hold at the library!)

Anyway, the quote is by Joseph Campbell, and he said:

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

Read it again. Do you relate? I sure do.

So often I have found that my and others’ biggest troubles stem from the frustration over things not turning out the way we thought they would. From the small expectations (like holiday celebrations or job interviews) to the big ones (like marriage and children), it often seems that the clinging to an idea of how things “should be” is the root of unhappiness.

I now consider myself blessedly lucky to have had my “big plans” dashed and heart broken at 22, as I learned young to let go as Campbell recommends. (And I made a public speech about letting go, at 23, that I still love — although that Campbell quote would’ve really made it!)

In short, I learned through a dark year and another year seeing with new eyes (and, of course, every day since those years as well) that, boy, the life I had planned was way more boring than the one waiting for me!

By boring, though, I certainly don’t mean that my life now is busier than it was in my East Coast post-undergrad days. Quite the opposite. That’s the other kind of “plans” I like to question. The cultural belief that we must be perennially busy to be happy, productive, or satisfied. My life now is quite slower and quieter than I had planned, but happier and more productive in a deeper way.

I still need to work on the “little plans” stuff, though — the everyday go with the flow. So, here’s my thought and challenge for this holiday season:

What if we, just for a week, took note of every time we got frustrated or felt dejected, then looked to see how those negative feelings relate to life’s circumstances not going as we planned or expected them to? In other words, notice how our bad feelings are related to our expectations of something, rather than the thing itself.

Try it with the holidays. Step back from ideas of what Christmas or New Year “should be,” how you planned it to be. And just be there for what it is. Does it look different?

This doesn’t necessarily mean don’t bake your pumpkin pies in advance. Just maybe see it differently if you accidentally drop a pie as you’re taking it out of the oven. Of course, it could mean really letting go of plans, if those plans annually give you heartburn. Use whatever part of the “plans” shackles have you stuck.

The idea is that, at a certain reasonable point for you, let go of your expectations, resist the urge to cling to your plans, and see what happens. Just release your plans.
Do the gifts take on a different (or lesser) meaning? Can you laugh about more? Do family dynamics seem clearer and less personal? Does the stress lessen?

I may be wrong, but I have a hunch this exercise can work wonders. I’d love to hear from you if you try this. Please let me know!


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Little Cousins, Big Salaries Obedience?!

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Melissa  |  December 18, 2007 at 7:20 am

    Oh yeah, I hear you. Expectations not matching reality gets me every time. I try to have desires rather than expectations (if I must have anything), but… doesn’t always work out that way!

  • 2. The Story Lady  |  December 18, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    How interesting that you use his quote and speak of your “failed plans” etc. You are fighting dragons, (and so are we all), and they are not outside of us.

    If you care to, please check out my blog post today on the Heroization blog


  • 3. Megan  |  December 19, 2007 at 2:52 am

    Yes, we are always battling our own inner demons, aren’t we?! But how fun to do it together…


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To spark conversation about redefining success (as individuals, families and institutions) and to counter "never enough" messages currently circulating in our culture.

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Megan Pincus Kajitani: Writer, Editor, Former Academic Overachiever and Career Counselor, Mom, Wife, Feminist, Gen Xer, Californian who believes that change is possible View Megan Pincus Kajitani's profile on LinkedIn

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