Thankful – for everything Unplanned

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I’ve gotten to kinda like the phrase, ‘Man plans and G-d laughs’, and remind myself of it more and more frequently. Where once I saw it as a warning of roadblocks ahead, I now read it as a reminder that possibility is so much greater than we dare to believe. The phrase, like so many things in our life, turns between good or bad based on how we choose to interpret it.

As a very strait-laced teen and twenty-something, I tried to control and master-mind every last bit of my life. I was reticent to leave anything to chance – and it was un-necessarily crazy-making. The idea that ultimate control was impossible was both scary and infuriating. I was 100% a chess-player of life (ironically, I never even took the time to learn the game), needing to lay out the next 6 moves in my mind before I’d strategically venture out.

Then real-life started to happen, as it does once you leave the predictable structure of the school years, and my straight-line path zigged and zagged as anyone (but me) would expect. Man plans, and G-d laughs… but I certainly wasn’t joining in on the joke. I felt defeated, and frustrated, and let down by the Universe… I’d worked hard as I’d cosmically promised to do, and the rewards didn’t come as I’d imagined them, which sometimes felt downright cruel. The plan didn’t go as planned…

Then, as so often happens if you’re willing to acknowledge it, the right person, place or thing showed up to teach me a lesson. In this case, it was 1 one-hour talk given at a seminar I was attending in hopes of recalibrating my straight-and-narrow path. In this talk, the speaker shared with us 2 wise ideas they’d been introduced to. The first was the idea that the next right move is often not the one right in front of you; the idea that while you’re focused on the goal straight ahead, you need to stay open to the possibilities in your periphery – sometimes they’re not distractions (as we often label them) but truly The Next Right Move. And the second idea was the jokey phrase, “when opportunity knocks… OPEN THE GOSH DARN DOOR!”

Why am I telling you about these life lessons in this month’s blog? Because over the last week, with the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (a time to take stock of who/how we were over the last 12 months) preceeding Thanksgiving (a time to count our blessings) by only a few days, I’ve been quite reflective. And as the affirmation I say each morning (“I am truly grateful for all I create and receive!”) reminds me, I have much this year to be in awe of – much more than I ever could have PLANNED.

Humor me as I recount one of this year’s biggies:

The beginning of August brings my wedding anniversary and, this year being a ‘special year’, my husband and I decided to splurge on a ‘bucket list’ vacation. Just as spring was starting, we made our plans to go to Alaska. Over the next several months, we found the perfect trip, the perfect week to go, and I researched and scheduled the perfect excursions to build a once in a lifetime trip. Then 2 weeks before we left, the cruise line we were sailing with wrote to say they were overbooked. Although they made a tempting offer to persuade us to give up our room, we declined – because we’d planned the perfect week, trip and excursions and it was our special anniversary year. The trip had to happen the way we’d planned! But, with one week left, they came back to us, renewing their request and offering an even better incentive. So, we took a deep breath, remembered to look for opportunity in the periphery and to open the door to opportunity’s knock, and let our ‘perfect dream’ go. And then the magic could fall into place. In essentially the next 4 hours (only 4!), after we’d let go of the straight-ahead prize, Alaska had been replaced by the Mediterranean (where we’d honeymooned), we’d been upgraded twice for free, ‘accidentally’ found the most wonderful unknown adventures, and set ourselves up for one of the most charmed trips of my memory… and we’re going to Alaska next year on a much enhanced trip compared to the one we’d been planning (thanks to ‘allowing’ the cruise line to bestow their incentives).

Man plans and G-d laughs, and, in this time of Thanksgiving, I’m celebrating being able to laugh right along as I focus on the goals in front of me, while being open to checking my blind spots too. And you better believe that I’m listening with my hand on the doorknob for the next time opportunity decides to knock!

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