Life Interrupted

I am a planner.

Not just a recreational, so-so, if the mood strikes planner. I’m a full on, hard core, map it out, leave no detail to chance planner. I know what we’ll eat for dinner two weeks from now. My closet is organized so that I don’t wear the same outfit too frequently. I have color-coded lists to keep track of my lists. I wake up in the morning knowing precisely what time I need to take my shower so the entire day runs smoothly. I can tell you the balance in our bank account and what bills need to be paid this week. Details are my thing. Planning is my wheelhouse.

Being a planner serves our family well. We save money and our home lacks chaos. We aren’t late to events and we don’t often find ourselves double booked. I am more comfortable and at ease within my spirit when I’m able to run a tight ship. Keeping the unknown to a minimum preserves my margin and helps me feel like a successful mother.

But for all the benefits I can list to being a planner, I must also acknowledge the biggest disadvantage: I’m not at all interruptible. Altering my plans, even the least little bit, throws me off kilter, and if I don’t keep my reactions in check, I can spend days being upset about an instance when my plans were not respected.

A friend told me a story about my mom. This friend and my mom had a mutual friend who struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. One particular evening, this mutual friend called my mother at the point of her most severe desperation. “I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m sadder than I’ve ever been. I’m thinking about ending it.” I can’t say I’ve ever been on the end of such a cry for help. My mother’s response is chilling to me.

“Ok. I’m sorry. Can I call you back in a while? We just sat down to dinner.”

Sticking to the plan is a good thing…until it becomes a bad thing.

Being interruptible is a skill about which I know very little. I have friends who are brilliant at being interrupted. It’s no thing to call them at the last minute and ask for a favor. They think nothing of picking up on a whim and doing something fun. They don’t seem bogged down with cares that consume me — house isn’t clean enough, food won’t be ready on time, kids won’t get enough sleep, we don’t have the money. Their whimsy is both fascinating and challenging as I consider how I can become less detail sensitive.

How can I be an interruptible planner? Is there even such a thing? How do make the plan but then hold it loosely enough in my hands that it can be altered by other people? Balance is as hard in this area of my life as it is in every area. I’m most comfortable with a plan…but spontaneity also intrigues me. Beyond that, Christ was often interrupted. Living according to His example, I should make every effort possible to loosen up a bit.

One of my favorite characters in a show we watch with the boys says, “First step: Make a plan. Second step: Execute the plan. Third step: Expect the plan to go off the rails. Fourth step: Throw out the plan.” I think he was getting ready to rob a building, but the message is still good. Living intentionally is the best way I know to take care of myself and my family. It’s who I am and how God made me. To throw out every plan would create distress and prevent me from feeling like I’m managing my family well. However, allowing myself to accept the human element and get caught up occasionally in others’ ideas might prove beneficial.

What does this look like in practical terms? Can I just be really honest and say that I have no idea? I have so infrequently allowed my plans to be changed with a good attitude that I can call my own bluff on any examples I might provide. The need to control is a stronghold and it manifests itself through all of my careful plans. Sadly, a poor attitude is my faithful companion anytime I am forced to be interruptible.

My husband has learned to accept my planning nature. Sometimes he respects the plans because he loves me, but sometimes he respects the plans because he’s learned not to make waves. Dealing with an unhappy wife gets old after a while. I know these things about myself, and I see what my need for control does to my family, but yet making the lifestyle and attitude change still alludes me. What opportunities have we missed out of respect for my plans? What friendships could we have pursued? Were there times when we could have ministered to another family? Did we miss an opportunity to serve? How much has been sacrificed on the altar of control?

Being responsible is a character trait to which I hold dear and one I want my children to possess. But throwing a few plans out the window is a far cry from being irresponsible. If I can, when I can, I need to be freer to let things go and I need to have a better attitude about it. Maybe I move a menu item to another night and get the take-out Chinese. Maybe I fold my to-do list and allow some of the details to fall through the cracks. Maybe I loosen my grip on the reigns and ask Jesus to help me have a sweeter spirit even in the midst of a little bit of chaos.

Make a plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go off the rails. Throw out the plan. Doing this with a good attitude feels like the most monumental task.

I wrote this post more than a month ago. When I went back to review it, I realized how superficial and disingenuous it was. There were so many changes to make! As a matter of fact, just this past weekend, my husband altered the plans and I spent most the day on Saturday sulking in front of the computer. I’m no where close to having this figured out. But it’s good to be honest. It’s good admit that we don’t have all our junk together. Who needs more shining stars, bent on setting the bar so impossibly high that no one else can attain their level of perfection? Friends, that is not me. We are all works in progress and in desperate need of grace. Extravagant grace.

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