Sunday, August 25, 2013

Five Year Plan

August 24, 2008

I’m eight months pregnant. Tomorrow is my first day teaching at a new school. My own classroom, working with kids. I will have six weeks to prepare for my maternity leave, but it will be a short-lived leave, and this will be my home for several years. I am ready.
I will finish my Master’s degree in special ed. Three more classes.

I have just finished quilting a new stocking for Dan. And Kellen. Our son, Kellen. We have no mantle, but it’s ok. We will only live in this house another year or two.
Dan will continue to go to school. He **will** graduate. And he will get an IT job.

I was a planner. I could lay out the succession of Dan’s classes, the preschools Kellen would attend, the exact date we would have a second child. And then…

… my five year plan was gone.

August 25, 2013

It’s been five years since my life changed. Changed in a matter of minutes.

I want to believe the fire no longer defines me. But I am wrong. Everything about my life, about the next five years, about the rest of my life, changed that night. It will **always** be a defining moment in my life. That’s not to say that every moment doesn’t have some impact on the next. But this was profound.
I am not a teacher, at least not a teacher in a classroom.

I don’t have a Master’s Degree.

Dan doesn’t have a degree at all.

What do I have?

I have emotional scars. Anxiety. Fear. Depression. Memories of family nights at rehab.

I have physical scars. An eye that will never be the same size as the other. A small eraser-sized scar from a PICC line. Physical nerve damage from doctors who, rather than seeing a physical illness, saw a woman struggling to deal with a life that was forever changed. Doctors who were wrong.
I also have joy. Joy of two boys. The joy of building a business from the ground up, the joy of learning a new skill and becoming an expert in that field. The joy that comes from letting go of the idea of a five year plan. The joy of reading cards, five years later, of strangers and friends who acknowledged our pain and reached out to show love.

The last five years have not been lost though. There are many lessons that come with tragedy.
I’ve learned that five year plans mean nothing. I can no sooner imagine what the next five years will bring than I can explain the universe.

I used planning to control my anxiety. If I could plan my life, I could control it, and then I wouldn’t be anxious about the unknown. It doesn’t work that way. Life happens whether we plan for it or not. And often, life happens in ways we never could have… or would have… planned.
But I have learned that there are things I can control over the next five years.

My five year plan now involves kindness, love, personal growth. Those things I am in charge of. Regardless of my circumstances over the next five years, I can choose to extend kindness to those around me. I can choose to be more mindful of my thoughts. I can choose to learn – every day. I don’t need to be enrolled in a Master’s program to continue to learn. I also want to be better at sharing my emotions even when they aren't pretty. I struggle with sadness, and I am not good about asking for help - even 5 years later after the biggest cry for help of my life.
I still have a five year plan. It’s just not measured in events anymore, events that I cannot predict. All I hope is that in five years I am more aware, more present, and that I have learned to be calm(er), even in the midst of chaos. I may not be able to control WHAT happens to me, but I can control WHO I choose to become.