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When Plans Fall Apart

If you’re a planner like I am, you may be familiar with Woody Allen’s famous quote: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

And if you’re a planner (really, aren’t most of us?), you’ve no doubt had plans that fell apart. Facing our setbacks and plans that fall apart with resilience and grace is an important measure of our worth as individuals. Our reactions to these disappointments can also be a model for our grandchildren.

Last weekend my resilience and grace were seriously tested when my beautiful carefully crafted plans went totally wonky!

This was the plan: My granddaughter, Amelia, who turned 12 on February 19, asked if we could fly down to Burbank, CA for her birthday present. She wanted to surprise her 4-year old cousin Sophia. They’ve become very close since Amelia got an iPod touch and can FaceTime with Sophia.

I loved the idea and jumped into action. I booked airplane reservations, found us a great Airbnb during a FaceTime session with Amelia so she could be part of the decision, and reserved a rental car. We high-fived across cyberspace for getting everything booked a month ahead. Now all we had to do was keep our secret from Sophia for the next four weeks.

On February 19, I made the 2-hour drive to my daughter’s to celebrate Amelia’s birthday. I planned to spend the night and bring her back with me the following day. Then we planned to fly down to Burbank on Thursday. (Notice how many times I’ve used the word “plan!”)

When I got to my daughter’s, she came out to tell me Amelia woke up that morning with a cough and congestion. My heart did a flip flop. I had that devastating feeling of disappointment when you know there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change things and the crushing blow of helplessness and fury just completely takes over.

I went inside and gave Amelia a hug. We were both trying to keep brave faces and not succeeding.

Birthday plans — bowling, dinner and a movie — were scrapped for binge-watching “Gilmore Girls” on the couch and ordering takeout for dinner.

Throughout the day, one of us would utter: “This is such a bummer!” or “I can’t believe this is happening!”

The next morning, I drove home alone – truly heartbroken. The following day I woke up to get ready for my flight to Burbank and had a little cough. I packed some extra Tylenol thinking it was just from the nasty weather we’ve been having for weeks.

After my flight landed and I picked up my rental car, I drove to Sophia’s pre-school to pick her up. She came running into my arms so happy to see me. Then introduced me to all her friends. It took all my will power not to tell her about the planned surprise that didn’t happen. Ever hopeful, I planned to recreate the surprise again in a few months.

My cough was getting worse but I pushed on. We went to Sophia’s favorite library and spent an hour reading books because it was too cold and windy to play in the playground. By late afternoon all I wanted to do was get some hot soup and go to bed. I suggested my son and daughter-in-law meet us for pho at a nearby restaurant.

After dinner, I dragged myself back to my Airbnb and collapsed in the very comfortable bed. Thank goodness for that bed because I spent the entire next day lying in it. I didn’t bring a thermometer but was certain I had a raging fever. In between naps, I dragged myself to the living room couch of my Airbnb and binge-watched “Grace and Frankie.” For those of us of a “certain age” the show is hilarious. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin get into some of the wackiest situations you couldn’t begin to imagine. Their antics take me back to those sidesplitting fiascos Lucy and Ethel used to navigate in “I Love Lucy.”

When I got tired of watching television, I listened to Becoming, Michelle Obama’s inspiring memoir about her humble childhood, her years in the White House, her public health campaign and her role as a mother. I was never more grateful for smart phones and technology.

I barely slept on Friday night and finally called the advice nurse at 3 in the morning. I wasn’t sick enough to go to the ER but being away from home and alone did seem to magnify my symptoms.

The next morning during a phone appointment with my doctor, she offered Tamiflu but I was too exhausted to drive to the pharmacy. I felt a tiny bit better after reassurance from my doctor that I probably had the flu.

I checked out of my Airbnb and spent a few hours with Sophia being careful not to breathe on her. We all gave air hugs when we said goodbye. I dragged myself back to the airport for my flight home. That 45-minute flight was the longest I’ve ever endured. I was never so relieved to pull into my driveway. I dropped my carryon bag by the door and went straight to bed.

As I look back on the past few days, I pat myself on the back for having the resilience to carry on with my plans without whining or complaining and pray I didn’t infect anyone in my path.

Throughout the three-day ordeal, I drew on every ounce of patience I could muster and embraced the mantra “this too shall pass.” Then I promised myself that when it does, I’m going to breathe a big, uncongested sigh of relief and give thanks for surviving it all. For tips on dealing with the disappointment of canceled plans, read my most popular post.

We all draw on different strengths to get us through disappointment. Do you have a story where plans were foiled? What strengths got you through? Click on “Leave a comment” and share your story in the “Speak your mind” box below.



2 thoughts on “When Plans Fall Apart”

  1. Donne, I hope you are feeling better by now. Our Carmen has also had the flu and 103 fever and on Tamiful. (She did NOT get a flu shot,- next year for SURE.)
    It must have been terrible to be away from home and on your own. It is so hard to cancel plans like yours. But I suppose it would have been the better part of valor. However, by the time you were leaving, you didn’t know it would hit you like it did.
    This particular flu has been hitting very hard – so lie low until you are 100% well.

    Please let me know if you are in the mood for home-made chicken matza ball soup.

  2. I have experienced this sad situation more than once but have learned graceful resignation.

    A great read for our age group is,” Women Rowing North” which affirms our emotional growth and grace at thi age.

    I still plan because I enjoy anticipation but Ikeep a spot in my heart for buffering disappointment.

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