“Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” That is what an elderly lady used to tell me about 20 years ago when we were raising 3 young kids. Back then, I dismissed it as a cute saying. Little did I realize then just how true the saying was. I’ve thought about those words many times and have even shared them with others. When you are young and your kids are young, you think life will turn out pretty much as expected, so when upsets and surprises happen, it can throw the train off the track, so to speak. It jolts you and is confusing. This is not what you had planned! What are you supposed to do now? Well, one thing I’ve learned, is that life is unpredictable and full of surprises.
We weren’t put here to just live a preprogrammed status quo life. How would we learn anything? Honestly, when have you learned the most valuable lessons in life? Hasn’t it usually been during some of your most challenging times? We learn compassion when we are sick and to appreciate our health. We learn frugality and how to prioritize when times are lean. Although difficult at times, we learn so much when we have children; patience, maturity, unselfishness, unconditional love. We learn empathy when we experience death of a loved one. Through change and trials, we also learn to truly appreciate the good in our life and the calm times.
Some lessons are very hard. I always admired my husband’s parents’ relationship. They were very much in love and supportive of each other. My parent’s, although in love, were not demonstrative towards each other and so the first time I saw my in-laws cuddling, I felt like I should look away. I was seeing something I was not used to. They joked with each other and held hands and were affectionate. They enjoyed traveling together and we knew that when Dad retired, they would have many fun years traveling and enjoying snow birding. Mom was only in her 60’s when we started noticing changes in her behavior and her memory. Dad took care of mom and dealt with her Alzheimer’s for a long 15 years. It was a difficult, scary, emotional time and little by little mom left us until she wasn’t Mom anymore. We tried to help and my husband in particular, was a great support to Dad, but towards the end, Mom had to go to a care center. Dad would say, “This is not what we had planned.”
We remembered Mom’s sense of humor and her love of people. That nobody was a stranger and how much she loved her children and grandchildren. We also learned a lot through this. To be empathetic and sensitive to both Mom and Dad. How to treat Alzheimer patients and how to be grateful for every day together and every day with these healthy bodies and minds. Our children and grandkids learned how to continue to treat Nana and Papa with love and respect and not fear. They also learned how to treat people that might be a bit different. We often wondered why Nana remained for so many years, especially after she was not mentally here. I can only surmise, it was for us to learn and love more fully.
Change doesn’t always bring such sad experiences and a difficult degree in education. Sometimes life can include a swerve that you did not see coming and it turns out to be a life-changing but happy and exciting adventure. When we suddenly moved in 1995, both of our families thought we were crazy. It turned out to be a great experience, a good business move and acquired whole new group of friends. We’ve experienced another beautiful part of the country, 4 distinct seasons and have learned how to cook something delicious called funeral potatoes! Our children’s education became better and more challenging.
I believe every different area has different pros and cons. Especially from state to state you can notice a difference in the character of each state. In the previous state we lived, there was an air of friendliness and acceptance of people, whatever their walk of life. In Idaho we’ve benefitted from their work ethic and willingness to help out a neighbor. I love that with each move you can grow and experience new perspectives that can be enriching and can lend to opening up your world.
Often times the very changes that we fought, end up changing us as a person. We see things and people more clearly and gain wisdom through them. Many people say, “If only I could relive ages 20 or 30 with what I now know.” Or else people might say that even though life has been difficult, they wouldn’t change a thing because of what they’ve learned. Or maybe it’s not so much about changing us, but about refining us and making us the person we were always meant to be.