Archives for posts with tag: what’s the plan?

I ran into a very senior colleague yesterday. She complimented my hair, the many blues and greens of which continue to change as they age. I make a point of commenting that this, in part, is the intent, and that planning the colors includes accounting for what the selections will look like as they age together, washing out over time, and fading in sunlight. She expresses interest and we continue to talk.

It’s no coincidence that I make my living in the realm of planning things and analyzing time utilization (fascinating stuff, time and how we use it); I feel more secure, personally, with a plan in place – for pretty nearly everything. Plans are, in a sense, the future potential of new routines. At least, I see an association between plans and routines… Something to think over more another time, perhaps. I make a joke about having no spontaneity at all, only plans, plans “B”, “C”, and back up plans, fallback plans, contingency plans, emergency plans – and a willingness to refrain from becoming attached to any outcome, which sometimes gives a loose appearance of spontaneity that can be misleading. She laughs, not understanding that the humorous tone is the only joke there; the rest is legitimately part of my experience. 🙂

I love anticipation – hard to relish or savor that without some planning.

I love daydreaming – and it’s super easy for a day-dream to be gently nudged over into becoming the beginning of a plan.

I love the comfortable certainty and secure feeling of having a routine, which, when included in planning just feels oh-so-super comfortable and gives a sense that I am prepared for life.

Shit goes sideways anyway, of course. Plans are overturned so easily on a single decision, sometimes not even my own (often not my own). Rolling with changes is easier with additional alternate planning already available, and back up plans to those alternate plans, and contingency plans to those alternate plans – one never knows where chance may take the journey, but it’s easy to imagine a bunch of ways that it might, and plan for those. I like to feel prepared. lol I like to enjoy the company of far more spontaneous friends, and over a lifetime I have evolved a way of coping with change that involved more, rather than less, planning to account for the unintended consequences of life’s unexpected moments. I spend rather a lot of time thinking about the future. It took a while longer to learn not to become attached to a future (that does not yet exist), while still embracing all the many options (that may or may not ever be truly within reach).

I used to suffer a lot of despair and disappointment. Attachment to outcomes, expectations, and untested assumptions is a short path to heartache. Letting go of that attachment? It’s a race track to freedom.

This morning I am looking ahead only as far as the coming weekend. I have a plan. So far it is intact, and I am daydreaming joyfully about the weekend to come, to be spent in the good company of my Traveling Partner. 😀 We spent a long while on the phone last night, intimate connected conversation about our future. About my not-so-distant-I-hope retirement. About where we each live. About what we want of life. It was lovely. It felt like a date. When I got off the phone I sat quietly for a long while, just relaxing and savoring the feeling of being loved, and planning a future.

This morning I woke with a contented smile and a calm heart. My coffee is delicious. The world (at least this small piece of it over here) is quiet. I look around me at the many things to do, to change, to craft, even a few things yet to unpack (hey, it’s a process, it takes me time! lol). I won’t be doing any of that this weekend. I look ahead to the evenings between now and the weekend; I make a plan.

This is life. It is worth living. There is much to do. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I am sipping my coffee and considering, for a moment, how strange that there are so many yesterdays, and only just this one ‘today’, only this one ‘present’ moment. I’m not sure how to count futures; are they infinite, because there are so very many potential choices and happenstances, or are they not-even-one because no one such potential moment has any substance whatever until it occurs… in the present? No great calamity or stress pushes my thinking down this pathway this morning. I think I got here because I am contemplating retirement rather earnestly, and giving thought to ‘when’, and ‘how’. I have literally no interest in continuing a tedious corporate grind for someone else’s gross margin until I am 75 or 80 years old. Some days, I barely muster the commitment to do so now. Choices, however, come at a cost, and the bills must be paid.

I’m not having any sort of crisis of self or identity here, I’m just tired. lol I’ve been working my entire adult life with the exception of some weeks between jobs now and then, and I’m ready to invest my time in my own agenda. I’ve said as much before, and I don’t make a secret of it. Hell, the one time I tried to take a serious hiatus, a breather, six months for me… someone else in the household lost her job, income we’d all counted on, and I was asked to go back to work, and did (probably a good thing for all of us, since she was not able to find work for the better part of a year). Economically, I’m fortunate to be employed. Emotionally, I could sure use a break – and realistically, I’m not going to be getting one any time soon. Still, I find value in considering my future retirement. If nothing else, I am hopeful that considering it in a practical way regularly will ensure I have one. I know, I know – there are verbs involved. 🙂

I find myself feeling cross at the recollection of a recent conversation about retiring, and wanting do so before I am 60. There seemed to be real resistance to the idea, particularly if there were going to be any chance I might be dependent on my partner’s resources in any measure to make that happen. It was a peculiar moment. I managed not to bring up the months and years of an adult lifetime during which I have reliably and encouragingly supported partners who were not employed at the time – whether between jobs, careers, or starting their own thing; the only such months and years that are relevant are the ones with this partner. The apparent lack of reciprocity caught me by surprise with such force that I couldn’t ask the needed clarifying questions, and instead I let the topic die quietly. It is fairly academic at this point, anyway. It suffices as a red flag, though, calling attention to something that is worth understanding more clearly. Where will I really be in life at 70? At 80? At 110? Is it a given that my elder years will ‘look like’ my recollections of my great-grandmother’s life from my perspective as a child, secure at home with generations of close family? I know that it is not. I don’t know what it will be, but it’s fairly certainly not going to be that.

The travels of a stray ant wandering past remind me how little substance thoughts of the future really have. There is this ‘now’, really, and that’s all I have to work with. I can do my best now. Treat my loves well now. Treat myself well now. Live this moment right here, and make of it what I can, understanding that today’s resources may also have to pay for a tomorrow I can’t see a price tag for. I feel a little cross over the vagueness of the future. I feel fortunate, content, and warmed by love in this current finite present moment. I get to choose where to spend my time.

Planning for my future, surely, but not living there. 🙂

I sit back from my words and wonder what I can do to meet the underlying need begging to be addressed. “I need a break.” Okay, that’s a practical matter isn’t it? So… from what, exactly? Is it really about hours of work each week, or the nature of the job, or any of those details? Is it about an emotional experience that could be addressed quite without disrupting the work week? Is it simply a byproduct of a busy week on the calendar, on top of uncertainty about the future just weighing me down a bit? Questions. Maybe it is time to head to the trees for answers? Taking some time off for a long weekend would probably do me some good.

Yesterday I had to choose; a really cute floor cushion that is ‘just the right thing’ and a lovely set of high thread count king size sheets that suit my color theme quite perfectly… or not buying those things right now, at risk of having to pass on them all together – they are on sale, and not regularly available in any case. It’s a difficult choice, and I fight myself; I have a budget, and financial goals – one of which is buying myself a little home of my own, which, however small the home itself may be, is by far the largest budget impacting goal I can imagine for myself in this lifetime. Buying a set of sheets, itself, holds no potential as an individual purchase to derail my longer term goals…only…things like that are so rarely really individual purchases. I don’t mean that they are reliably associated with the purchase of additional (or impulse) items – I’ve gotten pretty decent at staying on budget and resisting those temptations – it’s that they seem small and insignificant in the moment, but annualized they end up amounting to a larger sum than easily predicted – because they are not entirely, fully, 100% planned.  “Needed but not planned” is a category of expenses I have yet to fully master.

I’ve come a long way with learning to handle my finances with some measure of skill – my TBI being what it is, I also rely on a fiduciary caregiver – someone whose role in my life is to assist me with managing my money, through budget assistance, financial planning, coaching, reminders, regular activity monitoring and regular reviews of progress to goals. (I have been financially abused in prior relationships often enough to be uncomfortably aware how much I need the help – and how risky even the help has the potential to be; it’s scary sometimes.) I still have challenges – and most of my day-to-day challenges with managing my money fall in the “needed but not planned” category. It has been the threat of potentially facing old-age destitute that forced me to consider having help with the money piece of my puzzle, and so far it has been a very wise decision.

Yesterday on my lunch walk I wandered through a nearby retailer filled the with joy that the sense of the recent payday tends to provide me. I spotted the cute cushion – and it is so perfect – and oh hey, those sheets are just the right color! I resisted the impulse purchase (hey! go practicing!) and assured myself that I could easily walk back after work and buy those then. I got back to my desk some time later and checked my budget and my bank account – which has become a habit, a regular practice, when I consider any unplanned expenditure. I expected to feel that satisfying feeling of confidence and self-assurance that comes of managing my affairs so skillfully these days…and…oh. Wait…what?? My balance was lower than I expected (not low, just lower), and I felt crushed for a moment, and deeply disappointed with myself. What had I done ‘wrong’? I emailed my traveling partner, agitated and stressed out by my findings, and feeling worried and somewhat frantic. He called me back with gentle reminders that goals are ahead of me, progress is incremental, and that everything is okay. Reassured I moved on with my day.

Heading home, I felt the pull of that cushion and those sheets… the urge to walk that way, look at, and touch those things was very powerful. I also know so much more about how my injury works, and why there have been so many times in my life when I would literally be checking out at the register paying for things I could not realistically afford, all the while negotiating with myself, trying to talk myself out of it…until I was at the exit, at which point I would switch to trying to justify the mistake I had so obviously just made. Disinhibiting injury. Loss of executive function. Not a game – and holding so much potential to destroy my future. 😦

The only thing in life that's all about the money is the money itself.

The only thing in life that’s all about the money is the money itself.

Yesterday, the power of incremental change over time, and practicing the practices, made itself clear; I kept heading for home, thinking about the cushion and the sheets, and the purchase I am not making now – but may make later. I get home, and add those things to my list of ‘things to have maybe’ (I generally  use my Amazon wish list for that purpose), which I consider each payday with great care, and an eye on the future. “Needed but not planned” is restricted, these days, to things like grocery essentials, and toilet paper – stuff that just can’t wait if I have run out, truly legitimate needs. Everything else goes to plan. This is what works for me, day-to-day. [You are not me; your results, and your best practices, may vary.] Any time I recklessly stray from that practice, I end up facing some moment of fearfulness and panic – or regret – when my budget and financial planning suddenly don’t add up. (That’s what caused me to be taken by surprise regarding my account balance yesterday; a reasonable, affordable – but not planned – purchase, made on the recommendation of my traveling partner, definitely affordable – still, not planned – and I had failed to account for it over the following days of other spending that had been quite planned… but not adjusted to account for the unplanned expenditure.)

I’m not good at skillful self-indulgence. I get easily carried away and take things too far, spend too much, lose sight of my longer term more important [to me] goals. I’m not good at managing panic and regret, either. The extremes of too much and too little mess with my head (thus the ongoing emphasis on sufficiency, contentment and ‘enough’). Attempting to practice austerity or extreme frugality to balance poorly planned spending, or reckless over spending don’t work very well for me, either; I react to the emotional sense of deprivation, privation, and ‘you can’t have that’ and find myself acting out against those feelings before I take time to remind myself that “I’m in charge around here, and I did this to me” – I would call it childish, but truly it is simply part of living with the combined challenges of my PTSD and my TBI. Struggling to work around the damaged bits isn’t ‘childish’ – it’s just complicated sometimes. I am very human. I have grown so much, though! I am actually frankly delighted with myself this morning, even joyously celebrating the small win that is not buying that perfectly cute cushion and that exactly right set of sheets – it’s a far bigger deal that I managed it so comfortably, than I know how to share. This morning I can see a future where I may not be destitute, living in poverty, homeless, abandoned, broken, and finished off by inevitable starvation or disease! Wow. Win and good. 🙂

When I consider money from the perspective that it is the spendable form of my very life force, I understand more easily what value it has, and find it easier to respect the needed planning and careful decision-making required for a comfortable lifetime.

When I consider money from the perspective that it is the spendable form of my very life force, I understand more easily what value it has, and find it easier to respect the needed planning and careful decision-making required for a comfortable lifetime.

My lack of skill at long-term austerity, if required, or basic day-to-day frugality when resources are limited drives continuous practice of those practices that seem most effective for me – and most of those have to do with planning, and capitalizing on the fact that I am good at planning, enjoy the planning, and leverage the planning for the joy of anticipation – which is quite as exciting and nice as the joy of spending right now, for me. Relying on my ability to plan, and follow a plan, not only gives me great delight in minutes and hours of happy anticipation and eagerness – those feelings give me opportunities to practice day-to-day resolve to stay on  plan (yep, reinforcing feedback loop for the win!) and give me a window of opportunity to carefully reconsider what I really want and need in my life – often things that are exciting in the moment (like a really super cute cushion, or just the right set of sheets) may lose their luster over a few days of consideration. I remove things from my wish list regularly, happier that I didn’t make the purchase, at that point, that I would have been to enjoy the item if I had bought it. It is rare to actually feel regretful over things I did not purchase – in fact, that generally only comes up with things like art, where a piece is one of a kind, never to be duplicated; in those cases the sting of regret is unavoidable, and may last a lifetime, for me. It is what it is; in some cases I will never have the funds to afford some piece I yearn to see in my home – in a roundabout way it is an element of what drove me to become an artist, myself. 🙂

Today is a good day to remember that resources are limited, and to plan accordingly.

Today is a good day to remember that resources are limited, and to plan accordingly.

Funny…so many words this morning, and really just to say ‘practicing the practices is effective’ and ‘incremental change over time does happen’ – and of course, ‘choosing the most appropriate practices is a pretty big deal’ and finishing it off with ‘your results may vary’ – because of course, ‘we are each having our own experience’. 😀