Shielagh Shusta Hochberg, Ph.D. - Personal Growth Throughout the Life Cycle
Meditations and Reflections

When Life Doesn't Go According to Plan (with UPDATE)

How often we plan
only to find things unfolding contrary to our intentions.  What do we do when we didn't consider that things might not work out as we designed? Do we respond in anger? Many do, finding themselves feeling thwarted by persons unknown (or perhaps specifically suspected). If so, the tendency is to massage that sense of injustice or persecution, leading perhaps to the toxic energies of resentment, accusation, retaliation and worse.
These deviations from our plans happen in all our lives with such regularity that, were we more accepting of life's unpredictability, we might even welcome them as opportunities for growth, change,  enlightenment, and perhaps even abundance.
I am enjoying such an
opportunity now. We are blessed with a community garden in which to grow organic vegetables, and having received word that the soil was prepared and watering system ready, we went to a local garden supply store and bought heirloom tomato, basil and parsley plants as we have done several years now. I loaded my old tomato frames and stakes and garden basket into the back of the car and drove to the garden. It consists of many raised beds and is fenced against deer and other hungry garden thieves, and is equipped with a watering system that makes sure that, rain or shine, we have enough water for abundance.
The raised bed plots 
were all ready for planting. Our names were taped to each one to avoid the trouble of folks mistaking someone else's plot for theirs and digging in, as has happened before. I set down my tray of seedlings at the edge of my plot and trudged back to the car for the other supplies. When I returned I realized there were no hoses hooked up to the faucets. What to do?
Having brought along my iPhone,
I scrolled through emails to see the one from the garden leader, and sure enough, there was supposed to be water today. I then decided to try the spigots and perhaps get a little water for my efforts this way. No go. So I sat on the edge of the plot and sent off an email alerting the leader to the problem. Then I set my large supplies across my plot and took the plants and basket of tools back to the car.
Upon returning home, I took the plants out back and watered them well, leaving the tray in the shade. Soon I had an email response from the garden leader telling me that the grounds crew had discovered a problem with the water line, and saying that one of the spigots was working and the whole set up would be repaired in a couple more days. She encouraged me to call her cell if I couldn't get the water flowing.  So later today off I will trudge to give it all another try.
How was this a positive experience?
  • First I learned how rewarding it can be to let go of worry and irritation over a change in plan.
  • Second, I learned that when obstacles arise, they are rarely about me, and rarely are they intended to cause anyone distress. As we know, life happens. It just does, good, bad or indifferent.
  • Third, I was reminded that when distress arises over thwarted intention, after taking whatever action I can, I can retire to my meditation cushion to practice my breathing, letting go, and asking blessings for loving kindness.
    Nothing works better
    to soothe jangling nerves and risen hackles
    than loving kindness,
    or Metta,
    More later.
    With some creative climbing and carrying, water was obtained and garden planted. The water came from the pipe you see going up the right side of the photo here, and spewed like a fountain when I turned the big red spigot. I had to lower the volume and climb up with my watering can to get the water I needed, but I got it!

    2 Comments to When Life Doesn't Go According to Plan (with UPDATE):

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    Namskers on Sunday, April 28, 2013 12:28 PM
    And do it does... Most times things that happen truly are not about us, even if they affect us. Even more often, what does not work for us, can be a relief to another for whom the delayed train, the cancelled flight, whatever opportunity we see as messing-up our plans--is exactly what they needed to catch up, catch their breath, have time to think, or not miss an important flight they would've otherwise because of a flat tire or an accident on the highway... Which brings up a whole other issue--that of gratitude. It is easy to get irritated by things not going according to OUR plan, but there are often--if not always--bigger things on the 'really important' list. Health, joy, connection, shelter, availability of basic things like food and water, sunshine and fresh air. The small minutia of trivial irritations pale in example. As well they should. Happy planting, and may your seedlings grow strong and resilient, happy and just-enough watered, joyful in the sun!
    Reply to comment
    Dr. Shielagh on Sunday, April 28, 2013 3:30 PM
    Thanks, Namskers. You make an excellent point about the mixed blessings of encountering obstacles to plans. I often think of 9/11 in this way. As a psychologist working in New York City, I treated many people who were directly affected by the attacks. Several came in shaken afterwards, realizing that had they followed their usual routines, they would have been right there when all hell broke loose. There were the people who stopped to vote and were delayed getting to work (it was a primary election day in New York) as I was. There was the woman who called in sick. There were the firefighters who were off duty that day. There was the industrial insurance rep who managed to get out of one of the towers just before it collapsed. Patients lost partners and parents. Some saw the towers fall and were traumatized by their proximity to death and destruction. And almost everyone knew or knew of someone who was at the wrong place at the wrong time that day and who gave the ultimate human sacrifice. So we never know if that missed train means not encountering an accident down the line. I don't know what might have happened if there had been water at the garden yesterday, but today there was, and as I planted a woman from a neighboring house came by with her dog. She commented on the garden and asked me what varieties I'd chosen. After we talked a bit, she and her dog walked on to where he found something delightful to roll in, again and again, with reckless abanadon. I'm glad I don't know what it was, but for him, coming upon it at that time and place was purely delightful!

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