People Plan, God Laughs


“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

fishtankOne of the many dichotomies of my life that sometimes leaves even me with whiplash is my ability to embrace the impermanence of my life running up against my need to plan. I am a chronic planner – probably not as extremely far along on the spectrum as some of the more compulsively organized people I know – and this need often collides head-on with the nonstop flow of change. Perhaps, I suppose, there is some deep logic to my planning. I plan for all eventualities, knowing full well that my primary plan is likely to be pummeled by some unexpected occurrence. Ultimately, I am prepared for a variety of outcomes.

I do truly embrace the notion that life changes on a dime. And, in fact, sometimes I introduce the change into my own life in order to challenge the status quo. I am restless, typically bored when things become too familiar or predictable. I like to move things around and mix things up. When I was a teenager, I frequently rearranged the furniture in my room in order to gain new perspectives. I have always liked to have a variety of friends, continually affording myself a new panorama. So, despite my need to have plans in place and create a level of order in my life, I have a high tolerance for the unpredictability that constant change creates. I was raised to expect change as my mother used to often say “People plan and God laughs.” I am acutely aware that God is continually getting side-splitters watching me. I acknowledge his hysteria and continue planning nonetheless.

One of my goals in my life has been to effectively read the cues and prepare myself when change is afoot. I have astutely read the tea leaves time and again, seemingly forecasting outcomes of different experiences. My senses are fine tuned and I am not typically surprised or overwhelmed when changes take place. However, the one area of my life that usually creates the greatest vulnerability and challenges my ability to predict the future is with my relationships. I have been blindsided far too many times, devastatingly hurt by betrayals or misdeeds by people I have cared for. I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to my relationships because I don’t install safe boundaries that protect me from the surprise left turns that are often outside my peripheral vision. Because I invest so much into my relationships, I frequently relinquish the planning and the control and allow them to take on lives of their own. Authentically, I drop my guard and allow myself to get pulled out by the tide, hoping that if the seas become rough, I can swim back to shore safely without too much fatigue. I’m usually successful and, sometimes, not so much.

I was recently sitting and talking to a friend who I had lost touch with for many years. I struggled to remember what precisely had pushed us apart and felt frustrated with myself that I had not been more intentional with this person. I knew there were elements about their personality and behavior that didn’t jive with mine and, yet, here we were sitting and laughing like old friends. We connected and it appeared that we were a good fit. Was it simply that our lives had diverged or had it been a clearer choice on one or both of our parts to move in different directions? I couldn’t help but reflect on the many relationships that had, at one point or another, been so integral and meaningful but suddenly were no longer a part of me. Relationships that seemed non-negotiable. Relationships from which I derived oxygen. Yet I was still breathing while they no longer provided an inflow of air. I have reminisced time and again, marveling at how unbelievably interconnected I have been with one person or another, then impaired by the rupture and finally settling into a new normal. There was no planning for it, there was no alternative strategy. For me, I simply had to move on and move forward and maybe, one day, look back in wonder.

Change is inevitable and, in fact, there are few non-negotiables in my life. My kids being the primary. Beyond that, I know that tomorrow could be a new reality and, regardless of how much I plan or try to prepare myself, disruptions will occur and my landscape can look entirely different. And, admittedly, I don’t entirely hate that concept.

Vive la difference.

DAY TWO


pleaser

Well, I made it through Day One. And that seemed like a Herculean task. I was grateful when it was time to go to bed so I could stop thinking about what I could not eat.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with frozen pineapple and mango
  • 2 clementines
  • 1 banana
  • 1 sweet potato with olive oil and sea salt
  • 1 head of steamed cauliflower with sea salt and pepper
  • 30 baby carrots
  • 30 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 24 oz water

How I felt:

I experienced minor headaches throughout the day as a result of the lack of caffeine. Even though I am not a big coffee drinker, I enjoy a Starbucks latte fairly regularly and I do drink tea daily. I also enjoy the occasional diet coke. My body likes its caffeine and is a bit cranky without it.

I felt a little grumpy and disoriented mostly because I was completely disconnected from the world. I think my detachment from Facebook was the hardest part of the day for me because, sadly, Facebook is my most common connection point to life outside my house. I didn’t crave any foods and wasn’t even really all that hungry throughout the day. I did catch myself a few times going for a snack and started becoming aware of how frequently I do that – mindlessly.

Physical Activity:

None.

I was in front of my computer from 9am until about 9pm with a project on deadline for work. And that made me mad. And leads me to today’s blog post.

Throughout the day yesterday, I felt anger simmering inside me. I was trying really hard to not filter myself and embrace and acknowledge my feelings. The whole point of this exercise is to see how what I put into my body affects how I feel. And, it is important for me to pay attention to how I feel when I don’t have the freedom to numb myself with food. That level of detox occurred immediately. I was looking for comfort throughout the day because I wanted to squash how I was feeling.

Last week, I attended my younger son’s very last Parent/Teacher conference at his elementary school. It was a bittersweet experience and I surprised myself when I got a little emotional at the end of the meeting with the teachers. I was not ready for the time to end and just wanted to hang on a little bit longer. I think they sensed that and were kind  enough to chat with me a little bit since there was a lull in the traffic of parents. Both of the teachers made a comment about my son that I have heard before but, for the first time, gave me a little sick feeling. “He’s such a great kid.  We love having him in the class. He is such a pleaser.” I hate that last part. I know this is an accurate statement and I know how it comes across in the classroom environment. My son will work hard so the teachers and we, as parents, will be proud of him. He wants to please us and, ultimately, feels satisfied when he does. I also know that my sweet boy won the genetic lottery and caught that character trait from me. I’ve been a pleaser my whole life and, after all this time, it is one of the aspects of myself I least enjoy.

Being a pleaser evokes an image for me of a doormat. And, while I know that neither my son nor myself are a doormat, it sometimes feels like we are. People on the receiving end of pleasers often can’t resist the temptation to let us do things to make them happy. It is hard to blame them for taking. For me, the pleasing began when I was a young girl because I was trying to keep the peace in my home and I believed that if I accommodated everyone else’s needs that I could make everyone feel better and, in turn, I would feel better.  Well, of course, that is not the case at all.  A pleaser never feels good. The foundation of why we please is generally rooted in a deep level of insecurity about ourselves. For my son, he feels like he does not perform well enough in school so he goes out of his way to ingratiate himself with his teachers and wants nothing more than to come home with good grades. He shared with me last year that he gets stressed when he takes tests because he is concerned that we will be angry with him if he comes home with a bad score. Neither of us have ever demonstrated that to him but it is hard-wired into him to feel that type of concern. Perhaps he feels overshadowed by his older brother. Maybe we pushed him too hard early in his academic years because he was struggling. Who knows exactly the root cause but it is in there. And now he gets pleasure from pleasing and doesn’t understand that this won’t serve him well in life.

Yesterday, I was feeling the pain that pleasers tend to feel when they have hit their saturation point. And I wanted to lash out. Another Sunday was sucked up by work and I was resentful that I am the one who always say yes in order to take the burden off of everyone else. As a result, my life has been swallowed up. I have lost myself in trying to lighten everyone else’s load and can no longer figure out how to lighten my load. When I think back at how I have been living for the past few years, it is so obvious to me that I have allowed my inner pleaser out and, rather than keep it on the short leash I normally do, it has run free and rampant through my life. And I have become increasingly more angry.  Rather than direct this energy where I should by, perhaps, pulling back the reins a bit and shutting the pleaser down, I have turned the rage inward and beaten myself up. And I have stifled myself by shoving food in my mouth rather than saying the simple word “no.”

The word in my head all day today was boundaries. I need to cordon off my area and keep it safe. My belief is not that the people around me are inherently trying to take advantage but, instead, that I enable them to. I want to blame the others and victimize myself but I know, in fact, that I am mostly responsible for this and I need to revise the rules of engagement. If nothing else, I will come out of this cleanse with an inherent understanding of what is broken and causing me to ease my discomfort with food. The absence of the drug and the laser focus on my moods and emotions are certainly revealing some hard truths.

I’m still kind of angry today and feeling extremely unsettled about it all but I know, with time, it will ease up. Like the little headaches that dully nag at me throughout the day, this uncomfortableness with make way for some new understanding and, hopefully, some meaningful development in my life. And, while I definitely felt the pangs for a comfort in the form of food today, I know I will wake up tomorrow morning truly thankful that I am sober and aware.