Friday, July 22, 2011

When Plans Blow Up

A few months back, my summer-to-come looked about the same as the previous ones: teaching two six-week classes with a semester break before and after. Then my classes were canceled.


In addition to having all the time I wanted to write, work in the garden, and jettison some of the detritus in my workspace, I envisioned a glorious three months of camping, canoeing, and riding around on the tandem with my husband, who has his summers off from teaching.

Then he crashed his bicycle, breaking three ribs and his right hip socket. After spending a week in the hospital and undergoing surgery to repair his hip, he's home now, recovering nicely but hampered a bit by the crutches he'll need for three months.

My plans? Revised again. How? Here's what I told myself:

1. Count your blessings.

2. Take stock. Look closely at that To Do list. Decide what’s doable and what’s not really so important, and prioritize the important stuff.

3. Define minimum requirements. Simplify. Lower your standards. Recognize your limits. In other words, do what you can. Work around the edges if you can’t plunge in. I had planned an ambitious monarch butterfly study project that just isn’t going to happen this year. Instead, I hung a mosquito net from the side of the garage, and I’m protecting a few, watching them grow, taking pictures when I can, and hoping to figure out what I want to write about them.

4. Let everything else go. In the long run, a whole lot of effort turns out to be busy work. The garden is thriving without much attention from me. I wish I had taken pictures of the anemones waving in the wind on the top of our front hill. And the peonies! O, the peonies! Now we have day lilies, monarda, and daisies. From across the street, you can’t tell that yellow coneflowers are taking over, crowding out the smaller plants beneath them. I bet they’ll be pretty, too.

5. Take care of yourself. Don’t skip the walk to do the dishes. Write a snippet in a waiting room. And as April says, remember to breathe.

JoAnn Early Macken

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