I suppose that everyone has a picture of what their life will look like in 5, 10 or 20 years. I wonder how many people make a hard plan, committing it to paper, with goals and mile stones neatly outlined and bullet-ed? I am not one of those people and it has been a constant source of conflict with M and I.
As a teen, my only goal was to escape my parent’s house and live life on my own terms. I knew that I needed a job that would pay good money and that that job would not be found in the small town I grew up in. To that end, I needed to get some post-high school education, but there was no money for college, nor, in my mind, was there time for 4 years of study. I wanted out and I wanted out NOW. I attended a one-year trade school program in another state (the farther away, the better, I thought) to give me the basic skills to survive in a large city at a job that paid more than minimum wage.
My vision of my future looked perfect: I would be an office worker (maybe an executive one day!) wearing a skirt suit to a lovely office suite where I would design fabulous things and be admired by my peers. I would have an apartment where I lived alone and could do as I pleased. I would have a cat, a Siamese cat with huge blue eyes, and would eat only foods that I loved and spend my free time amusing no one but myself. There would be no man to cater to, no children to take care of, no responsibilities but what I chose to take on. I would read books and go to movies with a large group of friends who were focused on their careers and had no other ties. We would amuse ourselves, have fun and make a ton of money.
My reality never shaped up the way I wanted it to. I did eventually get a job that sort of resembled my dream job, but only after marrying a nightmare and bearing him the son he said he wanted above all things. Then divorce. Another marriage to another nightmare. Yet another divorce. And now here I am, living in a medium-sized tourist town, my old, faithful Siamese dead these two years, working two minimum wage jobs, treading water to keep afloat, miserable and incredulous that my life plan has gone so far astray.
M claims to have his life mapped out for the next 20 years, with goals set every year, five years and ten years. He claims to think about this plan every day. He claims that he spends all his time thinking about this plan and other “important” things while he goes about his day, answering philosophical questions for himself, evaluating everything he sees or reads as he goes about his day. He claims that every “educated and enlightened” person does this all the time and that I am a caveman for not engaging my mind as he does.
I’ve tried to explain to him that sometimes a person is just too damned busy getting through the day to think Deep Thoughts or constantly edit their Life Plan. Sometimes just making it to bedtime is the best you can hope for and it’s been my experience that there just isn’t time for all the detailed planning and thinking that he feels is essential to life. And besides, I really don’t care. Constantly re-hashing my past and trying to figure out how it applies to my present and how it will impact my future looks like a hamster running on a wheel to nowhere to me, an exercise in futility that I have no desire to start.
Really, how would that internal conversation go?
“Let’s see. My father molested me. Ergo, I don’t trust or like men and all of my relationships have totally sucked. How does that affect me today? Well, I am suspicious of men who claim to have my best interests at heart. What should I do about that? Ensure that I have the financial means to escape because going to jail for murder really isn’t in my Life Plan for this decade…” and so on. It would be like ripping a bandage off a fresh wound every day for the rest of my life. Some things don’t bear close examination, IMHO – I know those of you who have had therapy will disagree…
Or how about this exercise? One day M was trying to make his point about all this Deep Thinking. He asked me, “what would you do if you had to leave this house? Say, you were told this morning that you had to be gone within 24 hours and could not come back. What would you do?”
At my surprised look, he said, “it wasn’t me who said you had to go, but something has happened and you have no choice. 24 hours. What would you do?”
“Simple,” I said. “I would load what I could into my car and drive away.” I mean, really, what else could I do? “I suppose if I had time I could rent a truck and put my stuff into storage or something, but what possible situation would have me abandoning this house in 24 hours?”
“What about me?” he asked.
“You? You said that I had to leave, like you weren’t here or something. There was no ‘you’ in your scenario.”
“Wrong! You didn’t even think about me. You were just going to leave and let me get by however I could? Are we a couple or not? Do you ever even think of anyone besides yourself? I don’t think you do! What about all of your stuff? Would you leave it for me to deal with?” and off he went into a lecture about how selfish I am and what he would do if he had to leave in 24 hours. I couldn’t get a word in and tuned out for the duration. The upshot is that he has made “valuable connections” in the community and has friends he can rely upon to help him in a time of need because he has been thinking Deep Thoughts about possible life scenarios and coming up with solutions. He called me irresponsible for leaving possessions behind for someone else to deal with. He called me selfish for thinking only of myself. He called me short-sighted for not having somewhere to go, some person to rely upon in my time of need.
Here’s my take on his little exercise: I have never encountered a situation where I had to vacate my living quarters within 24 hours. I suppose it could happen in some sort of emergency, but it’s highly unlikely. I have had to leave my possessions behind on one occasion. You know what? Everything was sold by the person I entrusted to keep my things safe for a few weeks. Things are only things and if I have to make a hasty exit I really don’t give a damn what happens to my possessions, nor do I feel a bit of guilt that someone else has to deal with them. I’m being evicted without ceremony, right? Why should I care?
And at that point I can’t even continue because the scenario is just too ridiculous and I have vacuuming to do.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a Life Plan? If so, what does it look like? Have you acted out possible scenarios in your mind and worked out solutions to life’s little emergencies? Or are you, like me, just trying to get through the day without murdering anyone?