I love planning. In fact, I thrive on gathering info, figuring out details and making things happen. But I’ve learned over the years, that while planning is usually an enjoyable and critical component to living an intentional life, it can also set the stage for disappointment. But only if I let it. If I let my plans become expectations that things will play out exactly as I hope, that’s when disappointment has the potential to prevail.
After I ended last summer with some regrets, I made a commitment to myself that I would be much more intentional this summer (because summer in New England is short!). And here I am, in the homestretch this year, reflecting on how my intentional summer played out. Que the quote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
While I succeeded on some endeavors (focusing on my kids and being outdoors) and failed on others (keeping Facebook off my phone), my summer included some unexpected events that consumed my attention and energy. I’m not going to share all of the messy details, instead, I’m sharing what I learned (or was reminded of) as a result.
Here are the 9 lessons I learned when life didn’t go as expected…
- Receiving is hard, but it gives other a chance to experience the joy of giving. People like to give. Learn to let them. Even if it’s just a roll of paper towels, speak up about what you need then thank the giver graciously. You’ll have the chance to pay it forward another time.
- When you think you’ve exhausted all options, remember that you haven’t. Think outside the box. All of the dreams I’ve realized have been a result of things being done outside the box, sometimes really far outside the box. I come from a very analytical, logical background so I love following processes and rules. But that only gets you so far… Be creative, give yourself space to think, tell people what you’re looking for and be patient. The right option will present itself if you’re truly searching for it.
- When you just can’t imagine how things will ever work out, remember that they will. And they will be better than you can even imagine. (Why do I forget this?!)
- When you’re forced to let everything go, you discover what truly matters most. I guess I needed a reminder about this lesson that I learned so vividly from the tornado many years ago.
- Sometimes the journey sucks. Give yourself some space and grace to acknowledge this.
- Forgiveness is the key to moving on. You can’t control every outcome, but you can forgive and you can move on.
- You don’t need to go at it (whatever it is) alone. Someone else has gone through some variation of your situation. Hold your people close and let them be there for you.
- The simpler your life, the more resilient you can be when unexpected events occur. Being organized allows you to make decisions and change course easier. More on this in a future post…
- Simplifying and scarcity are two very different things. Simplifying your life by letting go of burdens and excess can provide freedom. But stripping away too much to the point that you’ve let go of necessities and things that truly make your life easier can have the opposite effect, resulting in stress and frustration.
It’s been nearly 5 1/2 years since we intentionally let go of nearly 75% of our belongings and I still have no regrets about anything we let go of. The key to this is that we took our time (a year and a half) and we made very intentional choices about every single thing we owned. We unexpectedly ended up spending a portion of this summer living out of suitcases with the rest of our things in storage. Many of these things make our lives easier and less stressful. This reminded me that sometimes our possessions can actually provide us with freedom. And it’s okay to acknowledge this. I don’t say this lightly. Things are just things and I fully understand where physical possessions fall in the big picture of life…
I’m writing this as we are experiencing one natural disaster after another in our country. It’s heartbreaking to see what others are experiencing and all that is lost. Having lived through a natural disaster myself and losing most of my belongings then, I find comfort in knowing that time heals. It’s been 27 years since that hot, humid day in August and my series of unexpected events this summer is nothing compared to what happened that summer. That experience shaped who I am and prepared me for all that I’ve experienced since. I learned many lessons that summer and for that, I am grateful.
My heart goes out to all of those in the midst of unexpected events. I hope what I’ve shared helps you on your journey forward from here.
To Simplicity & Joy,