Last weekend got me thinking. Is there a holiday more emotionally charged, both positively or negatively than Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day for that matter)?
Think about all the people who want to be moms but aren’t – for a whole variety of different but equally painful reasons. Think about all the moms who’ve lost a child, or the children who’ve lost a mom. Think about all of those with absent mothers, or those moms who have less-than-ideal relationships with their kids.
Thankfully, I have a great mom who I love a lot, and who poured a whole lot of time and energy into being an awesome and involved parent.
Mother’s Day had me thinking this year for a different reason. That, in combination with a certain upcoming milestone birthday of mine, have me contemplating what to do when the life you have isn’t quite what you planned.
Disclaimer: my life is great. It’s not perfect, it’s often messy and difficult, but I love it. I worked hard to get where I am and mostly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But, if you had asked me ten years ago where I thought I’d be at this point in my life, this isn’t it.
Growing up, I was always the girl everyone told “you’re gonna be a great mom.” The one who excelled at all things domestic, always loved kids and snuggling babies. The homebody who didn’t really have big career ambitions, who loved to surround herself with family and friends and make other people happy.
In my social circles, a lot of my friends got married pretty young, and then subsequently proceeded to logical next step of having kids. As each year passed, I just assumed I’d be next. That if I did what I was “supposed to” (whatever that means), and waited patiently, the happily-ever-after family life of my dreams would be mine soon enough.
Well, here I am staring down a new decade and, while I’m not over the hill by any means, I am not only not a mom, but I’m not even married (or close to getting there I might add).
I know my life might seem enviable to many. And I know the grass is not always greener. But there’s no denying that something very large, and obvious, that I always wanted, that many people have; I don’t.
Your “Plan A,” the life that you were “supposed to” have (side note: should and supposed to are quickly becoming some of my most loathed terms) might look a lot different than mine. Maybe you got the life you dreamed of and it’s not exactly all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe you’re not where you thought you’d be career-wise. Maybe the relationship you thought you’d be in forever is over.
I’m not sure why I’ve arrived where I am. And, as my title says, I didn’t ask for this. So what do I do about that? What do you do when Plan A doesn’t come through for you?
The obvious answer is Plan B (or are we on C? …sometimes it feels like we’re all the way down to Q and even that one isn’t going so well).
The less obvious (and oh-so-much-more-difficult if you’re a type A, list-loving, OCD, planning control freak like someone I know) answer is to throw Plans A through Z OUT. THE. WINDOW. Stop planning. Start living.
If you’re reading this, feeling terrified, thinking that sounds nuts, know this: I am right there with you. I HATE it when things, big or small, don’t go as I planned (see above: control freak much?).
Here’s where I share some well-worn quotation and cliche and tell you to stop planning and comparing yourself to others (make plans, God laughs. Comparison is the thief of joy. I could go on). But they are cliches for a reason, right?
So if you’re not comparing or planning, what do you do? It sounds simple, but I really believe what I said before. Start living.
Start celebrating who you are, and where you are NOW. Sure, I don’t have kids. But look at all the cool things I’ve done and accomplished in my twenties (many of which, I might add, would have been way more difficult if I was raising a young family).
Try to throw out your pre-conceived notions, your timelines, your “shoulds” and “supposed tos.” Find pockets of awesomeness (no matter how small, trust me, they’re there) in your life every day and celebrate those. Even if your accomplishments aren’t what you thought they would be, they’re worth acknowledging.
Think about how you’ve made a difference in others’ lives. Sure, you might not be doing what you thought you would, but I’m willing to wager that the lives of people around you would be a whole lot different if you were off doing what you were “supposed to” instead of living the life you have now.
“Woulda coulda shoulda” is one of the saddest songs ever. And really, if you think about it, who always gets everything they thought they would (if it’s you a) Why are you still reading? b) Who the heck are you? c) Can we talk?)?
What if the life you’re living now is the one you’re “supposed to” live, Plan A be damned? What if you didn’t get what you thought you wanted, but you got exactly what you needed? What if your reality is actually better than your wildest dreams?
Who knows what you’re “supposed to” do anyway? I sure don’t. What do I know? Not a lot if I’m being honest. Will I ever get the life I thought I wanted? Will my wildest dreams come true? I don’t know.
But then again…maybe, just maybe. I already have.
*Speaking of throwing out timelines, a friend sent me this awesome video the other day. If you have two minutes, it’s totally worth your time, and really sums up nicely a lot of what I have to say in this post.