I awakened this morning thinking about how different my life is now compared to just one year ago. I’m by nature a planner. In business I always approached things with the philosophy ‘plan your work, work your plan’. They taught us in business school fifty years ago the key management functions of planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling (the command and control style of management). Even in my personal life I’ve started with an idea and then planned and scheduled it before acting. For years when anyone suggested doing something or going somewhere that wasn’t on my radar or didn’t fit how I envisioned the day to evolve I’d get a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach and cringe at the thought of changing my schedule. I still get those feelings today; my wife actually sees them in my face.
But this last year has me spinning 180 degrees. The complications in my chronic illnesses and the cancer diagnosis and treatment have demanded frequent doctor appointments scheduled on short notice, and my medication side effects including just being tired all of the time have curtailed or significantly modified things I can do and places I can go. I have good days when I feel normal, and bad days when the best I can do is suffer through 40 hours of insomnia, vegetate in my recliner and watch movies (or write blog posts). I can still plan, but more often than not my plans are just blown out of the water by schedule changes or my physical or mental state on that day. So here I am, living a life much more unscripted than I am comfortable with or used to.
This is a big adjustment for someone who is practically hardwired to their previous lifestyle. Suppressing the nervous feelings associated with a schedule change, not planning daily details, not having a schedule for the day, and just being open to opportunities that may come along; all of these mental shifts are a challenge for a lifelong planner type! But I’m getting there.
I believe the shift for me really began on day one when I woke up and immediately faced the reality, I have incurable cancer. I had to figure out how to get off of that thought and on to living the day. How was I going to cope with that reality? So mornings became a process of accepting that reality, the thing that I couldn’t change, counting my blessings (keeping a kind of mental gratitude journal), and deciding what was the first thing I would do today, after deciding the highest priority for my day (essential when dealing with multiple chronic conditions including cancer, and scheduling procedures like colonoscopies, heart catheterizations, and cancer treatments around medical regimens that directly affect what can and can’t be done to my body). Once that process was complete each day I could figure out just how open I could be to opportunities and serendipitous happenings that might arise. And I could try to say yes to those opportunities rather than looking for excuses to say no.
I’m finding as I get better at this “life: unscripted” business it’s really more a matter of setting a daily flexible script, looking for those opportunities to stay focused on my purpose and my highest values (the subject of my next post), and figuring out what God expects me to stop, start, and keep doing to be the best human example of a follower of Jesus that I can be. I’m also remembering what my friend Steve Weisberg once said, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Figuring out how to live life: unscripted, with a better script – Pops