Monday, September 10, 2012

According to Plan

A couple of days ago , I was following a thread on the FB page of the Awesome MAMD about helping kids out the door in the morning by providing a list for them to follow.
Since the whole notion of time management is kind a new country to me, I was pleased to be able to add something of use to the discussion.  The last few years, we have made a Morning Steps List that includes not just tasks, I said, but also the times each thing should take.

It is now 7:52 a.m. The note says "7:45 To Bus Stop" but the bus just went by without my son on it.  In fact, he is back in bed after an episode of the pukies. (Due, most likely, to some undetected food allergy, a subject which probably deserves its own post one day.)

I did not add to that helpful FB thread that in the past, I have only included what E needed to do on the Morning Steps List.  This year, I also wrote down the Morning Steps that _I_ need to complete in order to get two dogs ready for the day, a boy to school, a wheelchair guy to his desk and a pastor to the church.  The list was completely ridiculous.  When I actually WROTE DOWN everything I thought I should do in the morning, I realized it was actually not physically possible.   So, I decided to think of my little schedule as a work in progress.  During the first week of school, I've been gamely tweaking, moving stuff, taking stuff away, and making lunch the night before in order to get Mommy's Morning Steps List down to something manageable.

But today is the kind of day that makes me want to scrap the whole thing, or maybe have a list, but have its only word be Whatever.  I mean, I don't mind making plans.  But then I start to think of the Plan as something with a capital P.  Something that Must Be Followed At All Costs.  Then, it takes an effort of will to derail myself from The Plan when someone can't breathe, someone can't find her keys again, someone throws up, someone gets into the garbage at night and spreads it all over the house, someone falls, someone did not put the wet clothes in the dryer last night, someone forgets his homework/lunch/favorite eraser, someone has a toothache/headache/stomachache/heartache, someone takes longer in the shower than planned because muscular dystrophy just makes people slow sometimes, someone has to have a little weep - or a big one, someone decides she must write in her blog instead of eating breakfast at the appointed time... In fact, the effort of will that it takes to step away from the plan the approximately 50% of the time that Stuff Happens makes me seriously wonder if the plan is worth it in the first place.

In my work, I sit sometimes with people who are dying.  Perhaps it's as dangerous to generalize as it is to make to-do lists, but it seems to me that the people whose deaths are the gentlest when their time comes are not necessarily the ones who have the best plans, but instead are the ones who are able to let go the easiest. I'm guessing that letting go is not something you can master at the deathbed, but is something you have to practice all along the way. The Plan, I'm learning, is not just a first-of-school work in progress, but a rest-of-my-life work in progress.  The trick, it seems, is to neither despair and completely scrap The Plan, nor cling to The Plan like the gospel truth but to find contentment in doing what I usually do because I have to - muddle along as best I can in some middle way, letting go of the things that can be let go, one by one.


  1. As a famous muddler through the middle, I support you in this.

  2. Well said. My morning list has 3 things on it: Phone (remember). Pills (take). Lunch (pack). Anything gravy. :)

  3. The connections to this blog continue. Yesterday I wrote how powerfully this writing touched me as I read it on September 11--the day 11 years ago I told my dad he was dying of cancer. He lived three more weeks. Dad was a list maker who liked everything-- from finances to his bowels-- to be on schedule. But in those three weeks he let go of one thing after another in the most amazing way. It was powerful to witness.
    That comment disappeared in cyberspace... Today I was hesitant to return to write again because this morning's list is overwhelmingly too long.
    The journey continues. Thanks Jennifer for exploring this topic.

    1. Nancy, thanks for coming back and for sharing some of your story, esp something so fierce and tender. And ESPECIALLY when you have so much else on your list :)