Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Trouble With the Back Up Plan

The Trouble With the Back Up Plan - A Simpler Grace

There are two types of people in this world. There are those who have a plan B, C, and D for every circumstance in life and there are those who just wing it.

Two years ago, I'd have said I was the former. I had a plan for everything with subsequent plans filed away, just in case. I spent most of my adult life plotting out every possible scenario, worrying about the 'what ifs' and devising ways to get around them. Prevent them, if you will. Because somewhere inside my head, I had convinced myself that you can keep bad things from happening to you if you devise a way to stay two steps ahead.
To give you an example of how bad I was, I'll tell you about a vacation my then-husband and I took one summer about eight years ago. I'll preface this by warning you of two things. One, I have obsessive compulsive disorder. I'm not the girl who stands at a light switch and flicks it on and off fifty-eight times, but this disorder shows itself when I am forced to step outside of my comfort zone, a la road trip. Two, I suffer from pretty severe anxiety. Social anxiety, mainly, but situational anxiety is present when I am not in control of things.

So, in preparation for what should have been a fun, relaxing week of camping by the shore, I packed and unpacked and packed again. I made lists of the downright awful things that could happen while we were on this trip. The car could break down, so I'd need a full emergency kit in the trunk, just in case. Our wallets could be stolen or lost, so I figured out various places in my luggage where I could stash extra money, just in case. I had covered all the bases, even down to the minute details such as packing disposable toilet seat liners for the bathrooms at the campground. Yes, I am THAT girl.

The morning we were supposed to leave for said trip, I woke up SICK AS A DOG. I thought it might have been food poisoning or a bug that was going around, and after a pretty rough morning, we finally got on the road around lunchtime. When we arrived at the campgrounds, it was a very humid 100° and the mosquitoes were feasting on me. I felt so exhausted and weak from being sick all morning and riding in the car for over four hours, that I slept in the front seat with the air conditioning pumping while my husband put up the tent, blew up the air mattress, pulled out the camp grill and made himself a hot dog before taking one look at me and packing everything up and driving me into town to get a hotel room for the night.

I would come to realize over the next several years that it wasn't food poisoning I had, it was an anxiety attack and this was how these episodes presented themselves. I had planned for every detail of the trip but had ruined it by worrying so much that I made myself sick. I often found myself experiencing jealousy when I saw friends tossing clothes in a bag and hopping on a plane without a care in the world. That would never be me, I'd thought.

I've only recently discovered that it can be me and it would have to be. One morning, about a year and a half ago, I woke up to find myself staring into my husband's eyes as he told me he didn't want to be married anymore. Within an hour, I was packing a bag and moving out. I had no plan for this. Truthfully, no back up plan could have saved me from losing my family, my home, my world. Life pulled the rug out from under me and flipped me on my head. It took away my control, pushed me out of my comfort zone and locked the door so I couldn't come back. I was forced to wing it.

Friends, I'm telling you this out of love. Being a back up person is tiring work. You can plan all you want. You can make lists and think of all the 'what ifs' and devise as many back up plans as you can, but it's not going to keep you from disaster. If anything, it's going to exhaust you and keep you from living life. The trouble with the back up plan is that it holds you back from experiencing spontaneity and leaning into the curves of life.

We are a resilient people, us humans. We have the innate ability to bounce back when life tosses us down like a ragdoll. We are built to pick ourselves up, dust off and keep going when we fall down unexpectedly. We've been doing it since we were babies, so why do we fight our natural tendencies toward spontaneity? If you've ever ridden a subway, you'll know that it's easier to sway with the moving car rather than holding yourself rigid and trying to refrain from moving.

Two years ago, I would have told you I was the person who had a plan B, C, and D for every scenario. I had the safety net. I tried to stand still in that subway car. Now, not so much. It's taken a lot of self-reflection and growth, sometimes painfully so, but I'm ok tossing away the plans and leaning into the curves that life throws me. Are you?

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  1. Sounds like you have grown SO Much these past few years!!! Good for you.

  2. At least you were able to come out the other side of it and recognize the situation! It sounds like you are in a much better place with it.

  3. I am a total Type A who likes to have everything planned and figured out and in place so I know what step and move to take. It can be hard and I'm learning the lesson of a plan that didn't go out as planned but I know it's just making me stronger and helping me learn that sometimes you have to take things for how they are!

  4. Oh I'm so there with you. I'm the anxiety girl, I had panic attacks off and on throughout my life. I so feel you! All I know is that it does get better, it surfaces its ugly head and then it goes away. We are a resilient species indeed!

  5. It definitely has been a year of growth for me. Thanks for stopping by Chelsea!

  6. It's a good lesson learned but it is still very hard sometimes for me too!

  7. I'm sorry to hear you've had these struggles before but also kinda glad I'm not the only one in this boat. Thanks for sharing your experience! <3

  8. Wow! Thank you for sharing your story! I am a back up plan person by nature, but with my impulsive husband and his job that has us going places with information at the last second, I've had to loosen up A LOT. It's been a rough transition, but I am proud to say that last month we planned a last minute vacation to Myrtle Beach. I was super stressed because we only had two weeks to find a location and plan... and we didn't have time for that second part. So we got there and planned as we went. And you know what? It was one of the best vacations we've ever taken. I'm going to have to remember that in the months to come when his job is going to completely turn our lives upside down.

  9. It's amazing how much lighter you feel when you let go of the plan and enjoy life as it comes. I hope the upcoming changes go as smoothly for you! <3