Advice From a Wise Man…”Lil’ Sis, Toss Your Planner”



I am a bit slow or maybe a bit of a procrastinator. Or both.

I had a long “bucket” list of things I wanted to do the year I turned 50. Publish my novel, learn to surf, swim with wild dolphins, humpbacks, and whale sharks. Hug all 740 champion trees, see bears in the wild.

My birthday is in January.  Last May, we  moved into a new house. Fixing it up prior to moving was much of the excuse reason for not knocking stuff off the list.  A friend (also turning 50) stopped over on his Harley to tour the new place. While we were visiting in the garage, I said the house was great but had really slowed me up on the bucket list. I’m not where I thought I’d be.

This hot-roddin-harley-riding-womanizer narrowed his eyes, shook his windblown head, took a drag off his heater and uttered these words of wisdom ” Lil sis, who is?”

I don’t know what was on his turning-50 list,  but since that day  he has become a grandpa and now works for the government.

faces hidden to protect the goverment
faces hidden to protect the government

Is he happy with this? I’m not sure.  I know he wouldn’t trade his grandson for all the Harleys in the world, but I’m still not sure about the other.  Working for the government?

The part that stuck with me was “…who is?”

None of us seem ever to be where we planned to be, where we thought we’d be, where we want to be.

I’m almost 51 now.

Have I been surfing? Only if you count the internet.

Swimming with marine mammals? I guess we swim in the same ocean. And, I got a 9 gallon aquarium. Does that count?

Hugging ancient trees?  Not the ones I had planned.  But I spent a lot of time this past summer talking to a 99-year-old cottonwood that I call Grandpa and I just planted a baby Buddha Belly Bamboo.

Many of my plans didn’t work out or only kinda-sorta worked out.  Many of my prayers went unanswered.  And this was a good thing.

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers ~Garth Brooks

I didn’t know that after the chaos of moving died down I would feel like I’d finally come home, that I was where I’d always belonged.

I didn’t know morel mushrooms grew wild in the yard and wood ducks nested in the trees near the deck.

I didn’t plan on getting to know my “adopted nephew.”  On acting goofy over Chinese lunches with him, then watching him explore college and play in a state football championship. I didn’t plan on being so proud.

How could I have planned for my Spanish friend to find me again after 25 years? He googled me.  Then he walked up the new driveway and literally found me in the yard wielding a pruner. So much for not liking drop-by company.   I couldn’t ever have imagined, much less planned, meeting his sons.

And, just like that Harley-riding new grandpa, I wouldn’t trade any of these surprise experiences for the grand things I had planned, the ones I thought I wanted so badly.

….well…geez…Humpbacks?  That might make it close.  Maybe I could have given up the Chinese lunches for a swim with them. But. No. Still no.

2014 isn’t the first time that plans run amok have turned out to be blessings.

I never planned on a divorce.  It’s certainly not something I want to repeat.  Sometimes, when I’m laughing with Rollo, want to send my ex a thank-you card.  He probably feels the same.

But, it wasn’t just him I separated from. I  lost a family, a mother, father, brother and sisters and nieces and nephew.

I lost track of what my “story” was for awhile.  But I found myself in the woods behind the house, in the long quiet hours, the time alone with my dogs, in photographing tiny everyday miracles.

I found strength.  I hauled wood and carried water.

I learned my own company wasn’t so bad.   I learned the parts of that story I had liked, things I thought were ours, were really mine all along.  I still had them.

But I didn’t make quite as many rock solid plans after that.

I’m always torn between making a plan and trying to go with the flow.

I listened to a program on NPR recently that talked about how we have lost our openess to happy accidents.  We check reviews on TripAdvisor before making a vacation plan.  We go to Yelp to see what our friends are eating before making dinner reservations. We read all the reviews before choosing a movie or a book.


Why why why do we do that?


Why do we stuff our day-timers, planning every minute?  leaving no space for daydreaming and breathing?

Why are we planning our next vacation when we are still on this one?

Why are we thinking about next Saturday right now, on this Saturday when we will likely be looking back on this Saturday when we get to next Saturday?

Why follow a map rather when you can amble?  Ambling might take you to Plains, MT where you will eat the best-ever pecan caramel rolls?

Why order the latest best seller online when you can wander into a bookstore with an ocean view and choose one of the best books you will ever read because there is a crow on the cover?

Why hang on so hard to our plans when by happy accident we might end up exactly where we need to be?

Don’t get me wrong.  I still like my plans.

It’s just now I try to make them “tentative”.  I try to wander in a general direction and see where the side roads lead.

I plan to be surprised and delighted and disappointed.  I plan to dance and sing and have my heart broken again and again.

I plan on abundance and peace and anger and love.

I want to wake up every morning excited to see what will happen today. Where will I end up? Maybe something I planned will happen and I’ll end up at the destination I had in mind. Maybe not. Maybe it will be something or someplace better.

I know it will be exactly where I need to be.

**disclaimer** although these are links to real places, I am no Tripadvisor or Yelp.  Maybe theses experiences wouldn’t give you the  joy they gave me.  Maybe you don’t like caramel rolls or crows. I’m not recommending them.  I recommend you wander in your own directions.







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