Thursday, January 21, 2010

Plan B

(thanks to Susie A. for this posting idea…)

Does anyone really have a Plan B for their life? Based on my own day-to-day existence, it’s a wonder that I can make one life happen, let alone an alternate.

There’s an ad airing on tv right now that shows a woman, probably around thirty, getting up in the morning, then the frame is chopped to her eating breakfast (in a gorgeous, modern kitchen), then riding the escalator on her way to work, then at work, at her desk, then after work, in gym clothes, heading to a yoga studio, then back home, to her living room, on a couch, then back to her bedroom at night, and turning off the light. There are no other people in the ad, (I think it’s for yogurt but I can’t be certain) and her large double bed is empty when she goes there in the final night scene, but I thought to myself, as I saw the ad the first, second, and third time, oh my God, that is my life, or has been my life, for approximately twelve years of my adulthood, give or take some minor details. (Despite my profession, I have not yet attained a ‘gorgeous’ kitchen. The shoemaker’s children..)

You get up in the morning, focus on getting out the door to work, or caring for children in the home in some cases, and you zoom through the days, zoning in and out of the places you have to be, of what you have to get done, and what you are crossing off your list, and then one day, it happens. It being something completely unplanned, completely unexpected, and I do not mean something wonderful like winning the lottery. Your life changes in a way that you did not expect. You feel differently towards something that always made you happy or fulfilled you. A choice you made ends up costing you a huge amount of emotional energy. You’re the victim of a crime, or a divorce, or you realize you’re not in love anymore. With your career, your home, your self. And you don’t know what to do about it.

A favourite expression of someone who was once very dear to me, someone very wise, was this:
“It’s not What IF, it’s What IS”.
So now this unexpected thing has removed you from what is, because what is no longer applies in this transitional state, and you focus all your energy on what if, because it’s easier than dealing with how you have to make the journey back to what is.
The expression is trickier than it sounds.
What IS are the people in your life right now, today, sharing your struggles, your ambitions, your day-to-day glories right there with your day-to-day grind. What IS is the mortgage, the paycheque, the new couch, the due dates, the milestones, the birthdays, the vacations, the commitments, the substance.
What IF can be the past, your longing for someone who is never coming back, a set of circumstances you once found yourself in that you can’t revisit.
What IF can also be an outcome you want for a situation that has already been decided, that you can’t accept. It can be a wish, a dream, a desire, and it tends to lurk more in the realm of then, or later.
So how does one reconcile these two polar states?
Well, they don’t necessarily have to be polar. I think that What is can co-exist in a strange twosome with What if. You can deal with your day-to-day existence while planning your next move, like a chess game. Your next move may take much maneuvering, but it will play out eventually.

Your next move is your Plan B, whether or not you realize it at the time.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year....New Post

I promised in my last post that it was "to be continued". I guess I have to now live up to that.
Not that I don't want to, or can't, but lately (as you can see by my blogging), I've had a lot of thoughts that I need to put down.
I went to church on Saturday. Oddly, the mass was centered around the concept of Faith, which I found strangely coincidental, based on my last blog post. The priest, at one point, quoted a line from a biography about the former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, summing up his views on faith;
"There is no final answer...Faith is a continual search".
I thought (I think) that these are prophetic words. And also very truthful. There IS no final answer. Perhaps that's the trouble modern humanity has with faith--we all desperately want answers, despite the fact that said answers may not be sure, true, real, or worthy. Just give us something to go on.
Something to go on is often, if you work at it, something you can create from within yourself.

I'm sitting at my sister's kitchen table, on New Year's Day, talking with my sister, exchanging thoughts, ideas, things that sisters do, conversations that sisters have. My four-year-old niece has finagled a chair at the table, quietly, wearing a party dress and a tiara in the middle of winter, her current idea of what it means to be female. She is picking at a muffin, her head turning back from my sister, to me, to my sister, back to me, as the conversation progresses like a tennis match, each person getting a chance to speak, to communicate. I catch her watching and she looks at me, returning my gaze with a slow smile.
I ask her, "Do you like listening to girl talk?"
She nods, sagely, shyly, seriously.
I touch her cheek, affectionately.
"One day you'll do your own girl talk".
Big smiles. This must be the part of girlhood, and future, eventual womanhood, she looks forward to, the way all girls do, the make up, the hair-care, the dresses, the tights.
Isn't that part of faith? The faith in the future, the faith OF the future, that it will come along, whether we want it to or not, life running along, with or without us, mostly with us, and even then, when it's without us, we're somewhere around, observing, listening, sending signs when we can, letting people know where we are.

I left an event today, and I headed back out into a snow-covered city, icy-cold, wind blowing from every direction. In the Spadina subway, a determined (cold!) busker was singing along to his guitar, a beautiful rendition of "Imagine" a song I always associate with death and sadness. (I had just left the viewing for a friend's father moments before). He sang the line, the tiles in the subway station wall reverberating the sound;
"Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.... Imagine all the for today..." It was as haunting as it is when I always hear that song and stubbornly respond to that line in my head---No; I can't imagine, and really, to me, that has nothing to do with living for today.

Because, as a favourite journalist of mine once wrote: "Living's the thing".