Going With the Flow: Finding beauty when your day doesn't go as planned

I am a planner. I keep a detailed calendar on my phone with appointments, lunch dates, errands, and task reminders. It brings me comfort to organize and order my days and weeks, and when things don't go as planned, my peace of mind is interrupted.

I started the day yesterday with two short appointments on my schedule, one at 9:30 am and the other at 11:00 am. I had a couple of people to text, and I planned to write my weekly blog post in the afternoon. I imagined an easy, laid back pace for the day.

Then everything changed.

The phone rang at 8:30, just as I finished brushing my teeth. I glanced at the caller's name, Susan, and took a moment to switch mental gears. We spoke about an email I had sent the night before regarding the nonprofit I'm involved in. She wanted to meet to discuss her concerns in person. "Can I come over today?" I took a deep breath to process the request and agreed to meet at 12:30, thinking I can do one more appointment today.

I returned to my morning routine, and the phone rang again. It was Francie, a fellow nonprofit volunteer, with feedback on the same email. We chatted for fifteen minutes as I continued to get ready with one hand to my ear. When I hung up, I figured I had about half an hour to get dressed and eat breakfast before my first meeting.

I was just pulling a shirt over my head when the doorbell rang. I looked at the clock; it was 9:03. Crap! She's early! My dogs raced out of the bedroom, barking at the front door. I quickly put on my sweat pants, grabbed my walker, Herbert, and walked as fast as I could through the hall. I greeted Jessica and invited her in. As the nurse in charge of managing my ventilator, she had been to my house many times. She was here to grab the SD card for a data download, a task that takes less than ten minutes. 

Jessica asked, "Would you like a copy of the report? I can bring it back this afternoon." I had only ever seen a report in my doctor's hands, and I was intrigued at the chance to get a detailed explanation of the data. I mentally checked my schedule for the day and agreed to have her return at 2:00.

My commitments for the day had just doubled.

I grabbed a cheese stick and a glass of V8 from the fridge and sat down at my computer to send some emails for the non-profit. At 9:30, I exchanged texts with the Treasurer about getting a cash box for an upcoming event. 

  - BH: Can I meet you somewhere? Or can I drop it off at your house?  

Yikes! I can't do another meeting!

  - LM: Dropping it here would be great! Before 10:30 or after 12:30?  

I was hoping we could time it just right.

  - BH: I'm running errands. Can I leave the bag on your porch?  

Even better. One less thing to coordinate.

At 10:30, I put a collar on my dog, Nita, grabbed the leash, and drove her to the vet for a check up. The appointment went as planned (finally, something did!) and I was home by noon.

Susan knocked on the door at 12:30, and we sat in my living room for an hour talking about insurance for this year's planned nonprofit events. She was easy to work with and open to my ideas. I was grateful that she had requested an in-person conversation instead of airing her concerns in a lengthy email. I marveled at the beauty in resolving questions face to face and chided myself for doubting the value of the time commitment.

Jessica came back at 2:00, as promised, and sat next to me on my couch with a stack of papers. She described each measurement on the printout and explained the meaning behind it. I asked questions and she answered with patience and a depth of knowledge. As she flipped through pages and circled numbers, I felt ashamed of my prior judgment of her competence. I had been sure that she didn't know as much about my ventilator as my sleep doctor. Yet here she was, taking the time to share her expertise. It was as if she were offering it to me as an unexpected gift. It was beautiful.

I finished the afternoon with more work on a time-sensitive task for the nonprofit involving a series of emails and texts. At the end of the day, my legs and neck hurt from sitting so long. I looked at the calendar notification on my phone that read Blog post.

I tapped it and sighed. I don't think it's going to happen today. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. It's fine, Lisa. You can do it tomorrow. Your readers will understand.

So I changed the date on the schedule and went to the kitchen to help my husband with dinner. 

I let it go.

I try to keep the different facets of my life in separate lanes so I can be wholly present with each task. But yesterday, they all came crashing together as if they were bumper cars in a chaotic rink. I did my best to guide each car, jumping from Volunteer to Health Self-Advocate to Mother-of-Fur-Child to Wife. The car for Writer had to wait for another day, and that was okay. 

I am grateful that I had the energy and capacity to manage it.

Sometimes the beauty is not in orderly alignment, but in going with the flow of chaos. Of course, that's easier said than done, but you can do it one step at a time. Be open to a change in plans. Invite others in. Set your boundaries if needed. Give yourself permission to reschedule.

How can you find beauty in unplanned days?

What if you said yes to that unexpected opportunity, even if you're unsure of it's worth?

Some Doorways from this week:

  • We went to the museum this weekend and saw an exhibit about Genghis Khan's life, empire, and legacy. I learned that he was the first to implement passports, and that hamburgers, the phrase "hooray!," and the use of coal for cooking all stemmed from his influence. It was beautiful to think of the cultural impact that has endured nearly 800 years.
Mongolian Tsam Festival masks

  • My mom recently celebrated her 70th birthday, and she was shining with pure joy as we gathered with friends and family.


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