June 11, 2014 by Jean
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
And lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
– Robert Burns, “To a Mouse, On Turning Up In Her Nest With the Plough”
I’m a planner – and have been for as long as I can remember. As a child, I went through a period when, before I went to bed each night, I would make pages-long detailed schedules for the next day. I would leave these minute-by-minute plans at the foot of my bed, on top of the carefully folded pile of clothes I planned to wear the next day. I have relaxed a bit over the years!
As an adult, I honed my skills for unpacking a goal or task into a planned sequence of manageable steps. My best planning strategies have included prioritizing goals and staggering tasks so that I’m not trying to do too many things at once. When I was teaching, for example, my course planning process included a master calendar of due dates for assignments that would need grading so that I could space them out.
For the most part, my planning tendencies have served me well; but one of the life lessons I had to learn as I grew older is that things don’t always (don’t ever??) go as planned. As Robert Burns is often paraphrased in standard English, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
I’ve been reminded of that lesson as I’ve settled into my new retiree life in Maine. I knew there would be a lot to deal with in these first weeks and months as I change legal residence, get a new addition built on my house, get my belongings moved here from Gettysburg, shop for a new car, get a new woodstove for my house, etc.; so I tried to prioritize these, dealing with them sequentially rather than all at once. For example, I tried to schedule the move of my belongings that are in storage in Gettysburg for August, after the new addition is done. I decided that I would also wait until August to buy a new car. And the new woodstove could wait until early fall. But, “the best-laid plans….”
When I scheduled my move from Gettysburg, I discovered that I couldn’t have my belongings delivered to Maine whenever I wanted. Because I don’t have a full truck-load, my belongings need to be piggy-backed on someone else’s move; and, as the mover explained, they don’t have many people moving to New England. (“If you were moving to North Carolina,” he noted, “I could do it anytime you want.”) So currently my belongings are scheduled to arrive in mid-July, and I need to make a temporary space for them until their new homes are ready. Then, five days after I arrived in Maine, as I was coming home from doing errands and feeling good about how many items I had already checked off my to-do list, my 2003 Prius suddenly died and had to be towed to the Toyota dealership where it was officially declared brain-dead (hybrid battery failure) ten days later. Oops! Time to move that car purchase from August to June. Yesterday, as I was about to go out to do errands and visit with my friend Joyce in Portland, a crown fell off a back molar – and my afternoon turned into the search for a new dentist (something I didn’t think I’d need to do for several more months) and a visit there to get the crown cemented back in place.
All of which is a reminder that, while it is good to have a plan, I also need to be flexible. The best-laid plans of mice and men (and women) often go awry, and plans will have to be adjusted accordingly.