When Life Has Other Plans

It’s an easy wager that most everyone can identify with the reality that our life plan rarely follows the course we think it will. Sometimes there are minor changes in our plans, but other times it might be major. I’ve lost family members and dear friends to cancer, when they were way too young to die. That wasn’t in their plan for life when they married, nurtured their career, and looked forward to aging gracefully. We all know of way too many people who had their life’s plan altered by early death or disease. John Lennon, who had his own plan permanently changed by a crazed man’s bullet, nailed it succinctly when he said ‘life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.’

So what is this life plan that is hyped and promoted? We would languish in one spot if we didn’t aspire for more in our life, and if we didn’t set goals, create relationships and construct the mental idea of how our life might unfold. Yet who ever reaches the end, having their own life plan still intact?

I think of the detour my own life took when I heard my multiple sclerosis diagnosis – it definitely was a moment when I was cruising along and I encountered the ‘road closed’ sign. Detours from the main routes while traveling may be fun. Even getting lost while following those detours may be exhilarating as we strive to return on course. But chronic illness and disease is much more than a detour from our life plan. It often requires us to stop at the roadside to develop the new plan.

The ability to rethink, improvise and reimagine what our future might hold, and change with the ever changing path, is what gets us moving to the next leg of the journey. More productive than focusing on the final plan, we might look to negotiate the path we are on at the present moment. It’s hard to be a good traveler when the journey includes loss.

We are reminded by Lao Tzu, Taoist philosopher - ‘A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.’

It becomes clear the challenge to create a new plan is an exercise in flexibility and creativity because our original life plan will rarely be fully achieved. Even the simplest of lives doesn’t work that way.

We’ve all heard words intended to make changes to life more tolerable or a touch bit more palatable, but it’s impossible to think that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade, when life has turned sour from the loss of life or health. It’s also much too simplistic to believe when a door closes another window of opportunity opens. We might have to knock that damn door down to find out what is behind it….

We constantly reinvent our plan or at least adjust aspects of it to fit our current situation. As for me, my plan never included being a health care activist, MS advocate, or even a blogger. But here I find myself on a different path, thanks to the introduction of multiple sclerosis to my life. I would not say having MS has made me a better person, but it did make me better at adjusting my plan, finding positive outlets for my energy and frustrations, and continuing on the journey. It’s not so simple for most of us and I hope however MS or whatever else might have altered your life plan, you have found a way to build a new path.

Wishing you well,


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