As I was driving, I heard a whisper: the plan is that there is no plan.
No plan? I thought, what?! What is life without one?
I don’t know if I can even answer this question at this time, but at least I am now open to thinking about what that whispered advice means.
When things appear in patterns in my life, I tend to listen. I suppose it’s a way of getting my attention, and it’s the way I do legal research. It’s the way I validate a suspicion, a belief, or the answer to a question I have a hunch for. I listen to patterns.
But some patterns take longer to convince me. Especially those patterns that, if I were to believe them, would require me to make some serious life-altering shifts in my thoughts and behaviors. But those patterns, I’ve found, are the ones I need to listen to the most.
A recent trend in the self-care sphere is storytelling. It’s personal; it’s unique; and people can identify with genuine human stories about the glamorous and not-so-glamorous aspects of life. But I’ve found a sub-theme running throughout this recent storytelling trend, and that is the rewriting of stories’ ends.
When I was in first grade, my teacher advised my mother to buy me more erasers so that I would learn the value of rewriting, editing, and correcting mistakes in my grammar and penmanship. My mother told me this story as an adult several years later as I started my legal career. Instead of erasers, I was trying to become more comfortable with the idea of using “Track Changes” and the backspace button on my keyboard.
The thought of rewriting the ending to a story had never occurred to me. As a young woman, since the time I became literate, I was writing stories. And stories had a cadence: they had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Teachers always taught that the plot developed throughout, and that it was important to have an ending in mind once you started writing a story. Otherwise, you didn’t know where you were going.
I recently finished reading a book in which the premise is to prepare a person for long-term travel, but it focuses more on leaving time open for exploration and adventure. It minimizes sight-seeing lists and warns against the tendency of packing a schedule with too much. This has been the story of my life.
What’s a trip without a plane ticket, an itinerary, and a return trip home in which I’m looking at pictures of my experiences? What’s a story without a foreseeable ending?
Until tragedy hits, or we experience an unexpected turn of events, such as a job change, transition, or loss, or the death of a loved one, it’s difficult to imagine our much-anticipated story – or what we expect to be our life experience – ending any other way than how we had originally envisioned. We’re supposed to do this; we’re supposed to accomplish that. Expectations beget planned endings. Planned endings are comfortable. I’m confident when I know the ending to my story. Like everyone else, I like the control and assurance.
But when faced with unmet expectations or a drastic change in events, the ending is torn to shreds. It’s dismantled and frayed. It’s fragmented.
The problem with planned endings is that they are no ending at all. They’re a cheap, calculated confirmation that only includes our current worldview. This is because they lack the luster and brilliance of all that life has to offer if we were to consider it from different perspectives.
I can’t promise you a happy ending with whatever personal or professional challenge you may be facing. But if you knew that you could rewrite the ending to whatever struggle that may be, you might face that struggle head on with a sense of hope and encouragement that you might not otherwise have. You might embrace the opportunity to edit, erase, redline, and redraft your document again and again until finally you’ve stared at the beginning and the middle long enough and accepted it. And then, you just might rewrite an ending more beautiful than the one you had originally planned for yourself.
No matter what’s happened, your story isn’t over, and you still have an ending to write. Start writing.
© 2016 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved.
First image above: Shutterstock.