Plan for NOW

Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now.  The conditions are always impossible.  – Doris Lessing

How many times have you felt a kick in your gut to take an opportunity, fulfill a dream, or exercise a passion, but your response to yourself was, “I don’t have time,” or “I’ll do it later,” or even worse, “The chances of success are slim.”?  Explaining my own answers to that question would take entirely too long, so let’s just agree you’ve got company here if your answer was anything greater than zero (and if it WAS zero, will you sprinkle some fairy dust on me, please?  Thanks.).

That quote above came as an inspirational nudge from a blog I recently started following, Studio Mothers, and it got me thinking about planning amidst unpredictability.  I suppose everyone experiences this to a certain extent, but I know for sure that military spouses experience a highly concentrated version of it.  It’s hard to plan even a couple months ahead sometimes, not knowing if you’ll be solo parenting, preparing for some sort of transition, or even if you’ll still be living where you are.  I don’t just mean planning for your family; I mean planning for yourself, too.

How easy is it for a military spouse plan for a job, make a name for herself within a given organization or cause, or devote regular and serious time to a personal interest, when the fact remains that we don’t know if we’ll be here next year, we are solo-parenting for the moment, we don’t have Grandma at the ready to help, we are much too tired at the end of the day….?  Many of us have probably thought at one time or another, “What’s the point of starting that now if I (might) have to stop in the next (insert length of time)?”

A while back, a friend of mine was trying to decide whether she should apply for a great job, wrestling with the common conundrum: I don’t know if we’ll even be here in another year.  She ended up going for it after a friend advised her: you can only plan for what you know now.  Such simple advice, but so brilliant.  Forget about next year’s “maybes.”  Focus on NOW.  (Incidentally, my friend got the job, is enjoying the challenge she was ready for professionally, and didn’t end up moving.)

So here’s what I know NOW: I’ve called writing my hobby since I was eight.  When I was in my 20s, it slipped to the back burner for a number of reasons – grad school, jobs, marriage, moves, kids, etc.  Once in a while it would experience a resurgence, but it would always fall to the wayside again.  Over the summer, I decided I had to put a stop to it.  I’m in my mid-thirties, and it’s time to stop making excuses.  I could feel it in my gut – I want to write, I know I can write.

And what I’ve experienced in the last few months is that having this outlet is food for my soul, and it actually makes me better at the unchanging commitments I do have.  I feel excited every time I post something, I’m a happier person for my husband to come home to, I feel motivated when I let ideas ruminate in my mind, I speak with enthusiasm at the dinner table, I channel my giddiness into playful interaction with my kids, I become more closely involved in relationships and projects already in place.

Will there be a hiatus at some point, when we next move for example?  Yup.  Will I fall off the writing wagon when my kids are sick or I’m helping to plan an event at their school?  Most likely. But focusing on those conditions makes all the good stuff now impossible.  Planning on the “maybes” erases the potential for good now.  Turning uncertainties into “preventatives” makes now dull.

There’s always going to be that thread in my life, looming in my periphery or sitting right in my focus: the military life automatically means my life contains countless uncertainties, maybes, preventatives.  When looking ahead at future transitions, events, or moves, I don’t have dates, deadlines, or maps.

But I chose this life, and unpredictability is the nature of the beast here.  And I must press forth with the attitude that it’s completely untrue that I can’t experience personal fulfillment, happiness, and success amidst uncertainties.

I think I’m meant to be a writer, whether it remains a hobby or becomes a career.  I’m meant for it.  So I’m doing it now, planning for it now, and relishing in the joy that comes from it.  NOW.

If you’ve got a spark of motivation in your gut, go for it!  And tell us about it in the comments section.  If you like, please feel free to share on Facebook using the tag below.

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8 thoughts on “Plan for NOW

  1. It’s so funny that this is your topic right now. I was just talking with another lady about how I have an activity that I have always wanted to try out, even as a child, but life always gets in the way and I never seem to be able to carve out the time to see if it is something I would truly enjoy. Gotta make the time!!

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    • So true… Carving the time is half the battle. I think the harder part is ignoring the reasons not to do it. I remember a line from a tv show, where a character said, “don’t think of excuses to fail; think of reasons to succeed.” I think the same applies here, and it’s in the same vein as Lessing’s quote. If only it were easy to flip a switch in our brain that made us think of why we should/will do something instead of why we shouldn’t/won’t. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, though!! If we keep consciously reversing that thought, maybe someday it will come more naturally. I think it’s especially easy for us military spouses to use that “I won’t/can’t/shouldn’t” mode of thinking since so often we are either transitioning and/or have to hold down the fort, a big job that can come without much notice. When we are faced with the question of whether something will last, it’s a huge roadblock just to get started. BUT – it’s gotta be doable, right?? I believe!!!!!! 🙂

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this! It reminded me of a favorite quote: “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
    Also, I recently listened to a fascinating TED talk on NPR explaining a theory that creativity not just a magical state, it is a product of your brain and may improve with practice. MRI studies showed that during the creative process of jazz musicians, a large part of the prefrontal cortex was suppressed, possibly including suppression of conscious self-monitoring, allowing creativity. That is, you turn off the part of your brain that tries to make sure you don’t make too many mistakes, and when you allow yourself to make mistakes, you become more creative. So…how do you suppress your prefrontal cortex and get inspired? The scientist giving this talk felt that not just a lucky few are able to generate inspiration; many artistic people who are good at what they create have often been working at it for a while. He thinks that entering that creative flow state is something they are always practicing. So starting to work on something now rather than waiting for inspiration to strike may be a key. It’s just another reason that ‘planning for now’ makes sense.

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    • Funny you should mention that — I think my dad must have heard or read about the same study, and we had a lengthy discussion about it. As we talked, I was reminded of when I studied Shakespeare in college. In undergrad and graduate school I took a few courses dedicated to his work and read other pieces as part of broader courses. Any time I’d been out of “practice” reading Shakespeare, I felt like I was learning another language as I jumped back into reading his work. I’d feel like I was tripping over his words, constantly stopping to consciously translate what he was saying. But, as I settled in, reading and understanding it became more fluid. I’d guess this has something to do with the same idea the TED talk discussed…. that’s a bit of a digression, but still — very interesting! AND – yes, I think you’re right – it does highlight the importance of “planning for now.” As it pertains to writing, one excuse I always make is that I can’t think of anything to write about. Inevitably, once I start writing – both in the moment and after it’s become regular – a TON of ideas, topics, and new directions come to me. ….. very good topic to bring up… I should find a link to that TED talk and post it here. Seems like it would be worthy! Thanks for reading and commenting!! 🙂

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  3. As one of the world’s great procrastinators (my humble opinion but others in my family would agree…), I’ve been known to put off tasks as long as possible. So for the last 45 minutes I’ve been reading your stories and avoiding work that should be done NOW. It was time very well spent. Thank you.

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  4. Pingback: Holding fast to dreams… | Going Placidly

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