“We all imagine what our life would look like – that white picket fence, happy family, everything perfect – that is Plan A. But we find along the way that things don’t work out like Plan A for most people, and we must learn to be content with Plan B.” It is how we adjust to Plan B that makes all the difference
Recently my sister, who is living in a very difficult Plan B, and I discussed this statement. How is that some people are rocked by life’s events and others adjust and move on. I guess if I knew that I would not be writing just a simple blog. I certainly don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t mourn our circumstances, or be very sad when things turn upside down, for to me, that is healthy and so necessary. It is what we do with that in the long run that makes the difference.
Some days I think I am on Plan X !
So as we talked about our Plan A, and what actually turned out, we also talked about why we actually survived and are happy and normal. Some don’t. But somehow, throughout twists and turns in life, I have seen that life is good. Not always what I expected, but life is good.
I guess the first thing I must look back to was the year that I turned 16. Turning 16 should be that happy wonderful sweet time of high school, friends, and carefree life. But for me, the summer I was about to turn 16, I found out that my mother was very ill with cancer and would’t make it. She died on September 15th that year.. just into my Grade 11 year. This shocked my world, as my father, somewhat uncommunicative and overwhelmed, didn’t really let us know how serious it was – and it was a friend of my mom’s that actually told me.
Tough years followed, but my high school years were filled with great friends, fun and an A+ average. My sisters ( 18 and 13 ) had similar struggles, but managed to learn that although life wasn’t fair, and life was tough, we shouldn’t be bitter. Somehow I was given the role of ” head of the household” with duties I was very ill prepared for- shopping, cooking, ironing, and watching over my younger sister. I was told I was strong and to help my Dad out. This statement has given me a lot of expectations of myself all my life.
Bad enough.. but I took to that in my ” take control” type of attitude ( that attitude can get me into trouble but worked then). Then, without any notice at all, I was asked to ” cook dinner for a lady, Marie” who turned out to be the lady my Dad had been dating for several months… and who soon became his wife. Eight months didn’t seem to be a very long time to ” replace my mother”.. but I soon realized that Dad was very lonely and felt overwhelmed in thinking of how to parent his teenage daughters. Unfortunately, neither was my new step mother ready to be a parent to us, nor could she look after the home as well as I thought I was doing !! Plan B continued. I had to start my life again with a new parent, and lose all my responsibilities. ( I heard later that my ironing left a lot to be desired! ) This take charge person had to take a back seat – and eat a lot of Shake and Bake !!
The next few year seemed to follow the new Plan B. Nurses training, Graduated, Met the man I loved ( though another story- that wasn’t always smooth), Got great jobs, thrived in the nursing profession, married, house, moved, new house. Not a lot of concerns there. Of course like most marriages the ” happily ever after” takes a lot of work and involves a lot of misunderstandings and stubbornness. God gave me a mother in law and father in law who accepted me and treated me with the same love as their own children. I found that mother love that I so craved since I was 16.
Then we decided it was time to add to our family. First child, a tiny somewhat premature, breech born boy, but despite all that, his birth went fairly smoothly. Then due to medical problems , supposed infertility and undiagnosed incompetent cervix, we went through two years of pain. Our infant daughter was born at 26 weeks and her 23 hrs of life were a huge struggle. Being the strong and determined person I was I wanted another pregnancy soon but when pregnancy #3 turned into a twin pregnancy, I became a huge high risk patient. Our twin boys were born and died the same day, tiny 23 week babies with no hope of survival. Sometimes the future didn’t seem like something that I even wanted to contemplate.
But the desire to continue my family was the driving force, so we turned to Plan D. Our lovely adopted daughter came into our lives the following year. So in 2 years, we had buried three children in tears, and welcomed a 4th into our home via adoption now in tears of joy !
Well a funny twist of life ( not sure I found it so funny at first ) found me pregnant 3 months after our adoption. This time the doctors recognized and were proactive about the problems. Couch – rest was my life for nearly 5 months. This taught me dependency, as there was so much I couldn’t do. So 1 year after adopting our daughter, our second son came into our lives, a big, full term baby . I was finally freed from my couch. Never had I imagined two children 15 months apart, but that is what Plan E was, and I was able to cope just fine. With Plan A, I had never imagined one child in Grade 1, one 15 months old and a newborn.
Our family looked much different than what we had imagined, and we grieved our little ones never given a chance at life, while jumping into life as busy parents.
We were business owners at that time, and a few short years later it looked like that business would not survive. So though not in my plan – I went back to work full time while my dear husband became stay at home dad and substitute teacher. Plan F began. To get a 12 hr shift pattern I opted for a job in Intensive Care and found skills and abilities I didn’t know i had. This lead later to a career in management and much satisfaction.
Fast forward through child school years, graduations to children in College. Life was hectic, and far from perfect but seemed very close to that picket fence dream. We were healthy and able and making good salaries and the children were doing very well.
Other life changing events allow grief to enter our lives in that time. The death of my dad in a car accident, my step mother and my beloved mother in law passed away both in the same year, and my father in law not many years later. We felt like orphans and didn’t feel prepared ( at 50 !! ) to be the HEAD OF THE FAMILY. How we missed their advice and phone calls and love. We also had experienced the pain of a cancer death of our young brother in law, the completed suicide of another brother in law, and of a beloved nephew. Life didn’t seem all that fair – but our God sustained us, and held us tight.
Around the same time, my very healthy athletic husband discovered he had high blood pressure while at the blood donor clinic, and shortly thereafter discovered he had an auto immune kidney disease- one that nearly always ends in dialysis. In 2004 the doctors and nurses started talking that ” D” word, and our plans for a healthy retirement travelling to places we dreamed was halted. A kidney transplant in 2006 put us on Cloud 9 but unfortunately, that freedom was short lived. Certainly our picture of our life in our 60’s did not include finding dialysis units and paying some pretty atrocious fees in some countries, so that we could travel, or a life with a dialysis machine in the spare bedroom, and beeps and noises every night. Nor did we imagine that he would be going home from our lake cabin most mights to do his dialysis treatments.
Several times in this dialysis journey, my husband has been critically ill. This make me wonder whether any of our dreams and plans would be possible. I had to face that I would be okay – no matter what happened. Not because I am strong, but because I have learned to lean on people when I need to and be strong when I need that too.
This is life today as we know it… We have had our share of sorrows. We have managed to survive but more than that- to thrive. Most people would never imagine what sorrows, and changes of plans that have happened since we dreamed that dream of picket fences, a perfect family , a perfect marriage and perfect life.
I thank my father and mother for the upbringing that didn’t allow us to wallow in sorrow, a loving God who has carried me far too many times, and my husband and children who are always there when I need a shoulder or just a listening ear. I am so thankful for a husband who doesn’t gripe about his nightly trek to his dialysis machine, and I am thankful for my new definition of strong.
Somewhere in there, a verse became my stronghold, and I remembered it in times of uncertainty. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
No, life isn’t all roses, but the wildflowers smell pretty good most days.
Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos