“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” sang John Lennon in his song Beautiful Boy.
Or, one of my favourite sayings, an adaptation of a line by Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.
Two lines that have stuck with me since the first time I heard them. I think both lines have gotten it right. I don’t know what it is exactly. The universe has many mysteries and I am quite certain I have yet to unravel even one of them, although, I think both lines have hit the nail on the head when it comes to life and how we quite foolishly attempt to plan for it. Life, is a mess and since this post is largely about life, I suspect it may become just as messy and disjointed. For any discomfort caused, I apologise. Although, who ever said life was meant to be comfortable…
From a young age we are conditioned to start coming up with plans for our future. From the college we will attend, the job we will obtain or the location of our dream house. Although I have always noted the futility of making life plans, I must confess that I have always found myself caught up in them. They are the little day dreams that get us through our days and secret wishes that we cling to at night.
I remember when I was a girl and like many, dreamed of living in a castle. Of course, my castle was somewhere in Europe or the United Kingdom, overlooking a cliff with sweeping waves that smashed against the rocks. Knowing that dragons were indeed in short supply, I settled on having some dogs, a tiger and an elephant. If I were to live in a castle I would obviously have room for some animal friends. I pictured the grand library with multiple floors filled with more books than I could possibly hope to read in a lifetime. It may surprise some that I never dreamed of a Prince Charming to share my castle. It wasn’t that I had any problems with sharing. To me, boys were friends and I had not yet made the leap that would see them as anything but friends. I watched Disney movies and read books and could never understand why all of these girls were trading their freedom for a man. I suppose it can be said that I never fully bought into the whole princess concept.
When I was 20, as mentioned in earlier blogs, I married and attempted to play happy families. Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers probably had quite a bit to do with the perpetuation of this particular fantasy. My parents had not had the easiest of relationships. Quite frankly, my mother should have asked for a divorce years ago although she never did. I had this plan in my head that I could have a successful relationship. Build a life with somebody who loved me and once a couple of things settled down within our families, we could travel the world for a couple of years and then start a family. Man was I wrong. To date, I am divorced (quite happily in fact, now that the initial shock of my failure has worn off), I have yet to leave Australia and I do not have children. My castle, is a rental and although it is quite near a creek and the tail end of the Brisbane River, it is in by means perched upon sea drenched cliffs and my pets consist of a couple of pythons. Yes… I said pythons.
Why is it that we feel the need to make up these stories of how our lives will be? Is it due to the fact that we want to inject some organisation into the chaos that is life? I am a relatively organised person. I love making lists and I think one of the greatest inventions ever is the humble post-in note. I have quite a collection that I keep updated across my desk at work and no work space ever feels complete without those adhesive beauties lining my desk.
With planning comes the creation of goals. Carefully constructed little nuggets to guide us on our way. How do we decide if our goals are even obtainable? Should we rate goals based on how much time they will take? How much luck? What about the level of input required by others? Sure, I may have been able to have my castle and animal menagerie if I had settled for marrying a millionaire, although I have never been that interested in money. For me, I think that with most plans comes the element of daydream and it is within these dreams that we can lose ourselves. Dreams can become a drug that are far more addictive than any narcotic being peddled on a street corner. Within dreams one can get lost and, one can be found. When the bubble bursts, we are left with our own version of reality and we get to see what all of our planning and scheming has amounted to.
I am currently in the process of writing a novel that I started 5 years ago. Over the last couple of months while I was between jobs, I rewrote the first quarter and the book is essentially about a woman wondering about the plans for her life and what they amounted to. I find myself unable to finish this story at present for a number of reasons. Firstly, because with a new job comes the stages of learning everything from scratch and the brain overload that is involved. Secondly, because I do not yet know how Maggie’s story ends. It seems weird to me at times to sit down and plan out a characters life when I am unable to plan out my own. I don’t know if this is the same for everyone, however the more I write my characters, the more I breathe life into them. And with this life, comes all the complexities and intricacies of what we face each day. I cannot make my character fall in love with somebody else, or move to another country just because I will it to be so. Plus, if I start arguing with my characters out loud, as I admit I have done in the past, I am likely to be carted off to a loony bin.
I like to float around in water at times and surrender to the cosmos. When I say water, I generally mean a swimming pool. Plenty of chlorine to keep germs at bay and comfort me with the thought that a shark or other creature isn’t going to come up from beneath me to take a chomp out of my arse – those thoughts are hardly relaxing. It is only usually when I am floating like this that I can relax and let go of the lists that are being built in my mind. I let go of the insecurities I feel and the judgement I face. I know I am my worst critic and always have the niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I am wasting my life. I haven’t seen other places, I haven’t lived my dreams. What am I doing with my life? I grow jealous when I see social media posts splashed with holiday snap shots from exotic places around the globe and know that I am 30 and don’t have a passport. I have had the paperwork filled out for years. I know the application form is in my filing cabinet, so old that the information on it is long out of date.
Who ever really wins in a battle of wills? You may think yourself the victor for but a moment before a curveball is thrown your way and you are knocked off your feet. A large part of me tends to think that I should just wait for the next curveball to change my trajectory however, am I willing to give up all semblance of the notion of free will?
I wish I could look at the book that is my life and flick forward a couple of chapters at times. Take a peek at what lies ahead. It may be good, it may be bad. I have no way of knowing until I reach that page. I suppose, at the end of the day, the only real perks of not knowing what our story will bring is the ability to sink into those lovely dreams once more.