UnPlan for a Happy Life

Somehow, I’ve made the switch to “want what I get” from “getting what I want.” I wasn’t getting what I (thought I) wanted, whether it was a stable, loving, romantic relationship, to a blender that came apart so I could wash it properly.

Along the way I’ve finally realized that hard work and “deservedness” play no part whatsoever in the obtaining of material, or even spiritual, benefits. If so, I should be the wealthiest guru on earth. (Can gurus be married? If not, then I’d start my own cult that allowed it.) I know of few people who have worked harder for so little than myself.

Yet, I’m happy. I’m poorer than I’ve ever been in my life; indeed, I may as well be a nun in an order that has taken a vow of poverty. When I start feeling despondent, it’s because I’m listening to others. I’m listening to those who can’t believe someone in my situation –poor, unemployed, “dis”abled — could be happy. I have to shake myself and realize that the people who say this are actually talking to themselves: he thinks he couldn’t be happy in a wheelchair; she thinks poverty would be unbearable; they don’t know how I can live without a car or TV. Surely no one deserves to live like this! Surely a Plan of some sort is in order? Steps to take to change things?

An Irish friend of mine used to say, “We make plans, and God laughs.” Although I still chuckle when I think of it, I realize now its truth. We only think we have control over things. We don’t. I’ve noticed that no matter what I plan — going to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, say — it does not work out as I intended. The phone will ring, or I’ll trip over a shoe, or someone will come to the door. Try it yourself! Go ahead. Plan to do something right now. Anything — anything! Good luck having it turn out exactly as you imagine it shall.

The trick lies in not planning. “UnPlanning” brings a great degree of freedom, and no end of excitement. My life careered through so many changes this past week that even I’ve been left gobsmacked. One day I have a job: Yay! The next day I don’t: Yay! The next minute, I’ve got a place to live: Yay! An hour later, I don’t: Yay! Now I’ve got a decent internet connection: Yay! The next second, I don’t: Yay! Now my wheelchair’s stuck on the lightrail tracks: Not so “yay” at the time, but I “yay-ed” as soon as I got home and realized I wouldn’t have to make that scary trip to West Valley again. A message on my phone assured me I’d be going to DeKalb after all: Yay!

People wonder at my ability to cope with the barrage of change in my life, wishing they could find the bright side of situations and revel in life’s volatility. I wonder myself! It may derive from this knack  I’ve picked up (I certainly wasn’t born with it!) to want whatever I get. I suspect it stems from embracing Byron Katie’s principles; doing The Work, though difficult at first, has become second nature. Questioning my every thought and belief means I end up with all sorts of options. Doors slam, and windows open. Walls crumble, and ramps appear. The process’ rewards are self-generating (in the truest sense of the word). We all need rewards to keep us going. A dieter will treat herself to a day at the spa when she reaches a weight goal; a smoker trying to stop will buy a new gadget with the money he’s saved. The process is its own reward. The more internal the reward, the better; reliance on material goods or money can backfire big time.

Whenever I’m miserable, it’s because I’ve succumbed to the lure of wanting, of thinking I need something, of imagining I can control reality, of Planning.  I’m not “getting what I want,” so there must be something I can DO. I disagree with Yoda: There is only try, not do. Do implies that our actions can change Reality, when only our minds are capable of shifting perspectives and viewing Reality another way. Switching into UnPlanning Mode not only changes our view, but also brings almost instant gratification, funnily enough. “Wanting what I get” results in joy! Instant and complete; in the moment (which is all we have anyway).

It’s not magic. It’s not even “positive thinking.” It’s both an innate (as in natural) and a learned process. We learned to kneel at the altar of Planning; we learned to worship Money and Success. We learned that “x is good, and y is bad.”  If we learned it, we can unlearn it. Anyone can! I would venture to say that there are as many ways of turning our thoughts around as there are humans.

It strikes me that many people believe in God, and moreover, that they believe God has a certain Plan for each of us. Then isn’t it God’s business to do the planning? Need humans do anything but gratefully accept it as it unfolds? Think about it: is there anything more frustrating than having plans change and hopes dash? The frustration and disappointment come not from the Plan, or from outside forces and people, but from our own inability to step back and let things unfold. If you believe in a loving God, doesn’t it make sense that He/She wants to spare you the agony of plans gone awry?

This inability to leave well enough alone affects not just Christians, but those of any “ism” who believe they have control over life’s events. The people who can say, “It is what it is” — and really mean it — are the most relaxed, and probably happiest, people you will ever meet. Why? They don’t argue with Reality. Such a waste of good energy!

And once you experience the joy that derives from wanting what you get, whatever that thing is, you’ll be able to number yourself among those happy people. You’ll marvel that you ever thought life was hard.

You’re not in charge after all! What a relief…now go and enjoy yourself!

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