Wednesday 24 February 2016


Sometimes the best-laid plans fall apart.  And life feels very, very unfair.  
I remember once, my husband was travelling on business and we'd arranged that I would have a nurse live in for a week so I could join my spouse for a rare and exotic break abroad.  I had dreamed about this holiday, shopped for special clothes, packed, booked my flights and spent many hours daydreaming about this week away.  As the departure date drew near, I tried hard to deny the evidence that our son was unwell.  Trembling in his body and stiffness in his left leg prompted me to call the neurologist.  An examination of his spinal cord pain pump confirmed the worst: the catheter delivering medication to his spine was blocked and emergency surgery was the only recourse we had to correct it.  Travel was out of the question.

At first, I didn't have time to be disappointed.  Adrenaline kicked in and I rose to the occasion.  But afterwards, I felt sad and exhausted.  For a few days, I was even bitter that my holiday had been cancelled.  But I knew that those negative feelings would just multiply if I let them and so I decided to do two things: accept what had happened and make new plans. 

I knew that travelling abroad wouldn't happen again; that opportunity had come and gone.  But a weekend away with my husband might be possible if our son could be cared for in a respite home and our daughter could stay with relatives.  I remembered reading a quote from an article about street people that had stayed with me:  "You can live without money, but you can't live without plans."  I decided to make plans. 

Nowadays, my Mom and I make plans.  When they fall through, we make new plans.  There is no denying that Mom is bitterly disappointed when she can’t join us for a family dinner.  She despises her infirmity, especially when it interferes with special occasions. But my experience of disappointment has taught me that planning anew is a tonic for that particular brand of frustration. It's hopeful and it's action-oriented.  My Mom is 94 and frail, but we're getting her a passport.  She wants to see to her old summer home of Kennebunk Port in Maine, so we’re planning an overnight stay in a nearby country hotel as a trial run.  Reservations can be made, changed, and changed again.  In the meantime, we can sit together poring over guidebooks and reminiscing about summers at the Narragansett Hotel in the 1920’s. Planning can take many forms, even if it means dreaming without leaving home.

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