Plan B – for “Beyond”

So, most people have a Plan A. It could be a small Plan A, like having oatmeal for breakfast, or getting to work 10 minutes early. Or it could be a grand Plan A, like going to college and majoring in rocket science.

Thing is, even the smallest and simplest Plan As can be derailed. Most of the time, when a small Plan A gets derailed (traffic delays you so you’re 10 minutes late instead of 10 minutes early), most people simply shrug it off and move on. It may not even dawn on them that they had a Plan, let alone a Plan A, so they automatically glide into Plan B mode (sorry, Boss, traffic was brutal today! I’ll make it up at lunch.).

It’s the Grand Plan As that can, when derailed, wreak havoc and destroy lives – literally destroy lives – because they never expected failure, never had a Plan B – “B” = “Beyond” so I don’t have to go “Plan C”, “Plan D”, etc. Assume Plan B stands for every plan past the original Plan A.

What many people don’t seem to realize is that giving up Plan A doesn’t necessarily mean giving up the goal Plan A is meant to achieve.

For instance: I have a friend whose mother was a gifted pianist – before she married. She was fame quality – they had recordings of her concerts. It’s possible she could have become one of the great pianists of the world, she had the passion and potential – until an indiscretion led her to the altar and presented her with a son 6 months later. Her husband didn’t hate music, he simply saw no point in it and wouldn’t spend the money to allow her to continue to play and perform. Her job, as he saw it, was to set aside her childish playthings and take care of him, the child(ren), and the house. She eventually had 3 children, and never, to the day of her death, played piano again. I don’t know what her goal was with the piano, but I always wonder, when I hear stories like this, if she could still have realized her goal, just on a different schedule or in a different way. Perhaps she might have become a piano tutor, or played in the church, or performed for family and friends at holidays – assuming music was her goal and not world fame.

All the gods know my own Plan As have been altered out of all recognition from when I began planning and plotting my life. A couple of times, I’ve been forced to completely walk away from the life I had and to rebuild a new life, other times, I simply had to re-aim my sights and look elsewhere, and my own physiology made a few goals impossible. When you’re young and still growing, dreams range everywhere – but I never grew tall enough to be an astronaut, laws forbade me to work in the field I’d chosen as second best, and by the time the laws changed, I was too long out of the field and chemo robbed me of my mathish skills to be truly competent in it.

That’s what life is – not failure, per se, although by the definition of that word, one could say I’d failed many times over – a constant re-evaluating of one’s life and needs and desires, and the plotting and planning to achieve those.

I let my children see what my goals were and how I achieved them – and what I did when Plan B became my new Plan A, how this new plan would get me closer to my goal. My children learned early that there was always another way to get to the goal. I admit, I played RPGs with my children – how better to teach them life skills where the character they created gets thwarted, blocked, and stalled and they have to find ways past the Evil GM (me) to win their goal and end the game. They applied those skills to life, so when they couldn’t camp in tents because of rain, they could camp in the cars, and when one job didn’t pan out, they could look for another, and when one dream was blocked, there were other ways to get there – and more help than they ever believed possible would be there, too.

An obstacle wasn’t a dead-end. If Plan A tanked, there were many more options than suicide. Death is truly the only dead-end. I haven’t figured a way yet to get past death to complete my goals. For me, death has never been a Plan B.

Sadly, it seems to be the only Plan B the children of my children’s generation and younger seem to have. So many young people take their own lives because they don’t see any other way out of their predicament – and they lack the experience and the teachings that no matter how dire and grim things may be at that moment, as long as one is alive, there is always a Plan B.

My children learned these lessons in games and camping trips and by watching me re-evaluate and changes paths to get to my goals. They saw me take jobs I didn’t want in order to pay bills and get to jobs I did want, to buy a house, to provide food and clothing, pay for their college, and to do the things that made me happy (and them). Unlike many of their peers, they learned flexibility and patience, and they learned that the things they wanted wouldn’t be handed to them just because they wanted it, and the things they wanted could be taken away by a single mistake they made or stolen by someone else’s mistake – but they could get it back, if they thought about it and re-negotiated their goal and the path to it. All was not lost, just – changed.

Death, however, truly ends it all. You can’t make any more Plan Bs when you Plan A is so terminally final.

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