Plan B / by Cherryl Duncan

There is a certain route I sometimes take home where the bus stops right outside a little shop, which can at best be described as a hole in the wall. A hole with a white tiled floor, a shabby counter top that functions as a bar and a few plastic chairs set off to the side of a somewhat large fridge. The plastic chairs, bearing the weight of six large men drinking beer out of bottles. The name outside the shop is Plan B.

As the bus stops and I have a chance to really examine this burly group, I wonder about their lives. What brought them here? Not only to Munich (they’re obviously foreign) but to this place, at this particular time of the day (usually around 6pm)? And did they, the six men, come up with the name? And if this is their plan B, what was their plan A? It got me thinking about my own plan A. Coming to the end of the year, the impulse to reflect on ones life is especially strong, at least for me anyway, and as I look back on the past year it becomes abundantly clear that my life looks nothing like plan A. I am most definitely, undeniably living Plan B.

When did Plan A, become Plan B? I think there are very few people who can honestly say they are living their Plan A to perfection. Life happens and things don’t go according to plan; at least at some point. I too had a Plan A. Finish school, go to University, find a well paying secure job, get married, have a house, have children, be happy. Except for me, plan A would happen once I was finished doing all the things that actually made me happy.  I didn’t go to University (ok, for a year when I was 33; that was fun), I got married not once, but twice, I never had a well paying secure job because feeling owned by anyone or anything made me feel borderline suicidal and, I still don’t have children because, well honestly, there’s kind of a time limit on that sort of thing and children definitely belonged to Plan A, which I was still getting to. Even thought I was actually living Plan B, I was still holding out for Plan A, it was just taking me longer than other people to get there.

 It didn’t occur to me that perhaps Plan A was a stupid idea (for me anyway). I was still committed however and I thought 37 would be a good age to initiate Plan A. Except for one problem; I hadn’t really cultivated any of the elements required for Plan A. For someone who always believed in herself, believed that we take what we want and pretty much did whatever she wanted, it was kind of shocking to realise I couldn’t simply swing into Plan A. Plan A was something people carefully cultivated with much sacrifice, planning and commitment. Not my strong suits. But I was 37, and it was time to hack my Plan A. Not surprisingly, I failed. There is no house by the sea, no well-paying secure job, and no children. While I may not be taking myself off to go drink beer with the men at Plan B, it was however, finally time to let go of Plan A and have a look at Plan B with fresh eyes.

Plan B involves living in Germany, in an apartment, with my husband and my cat. It means doing what I love for a living, it means zero responsibilities, unbelievable freedom and time! Oh time, I have so much time, something I have always valued so highly, what with so much to do and read, create and explore, time is my most precious commodity.

It took me this year, and a challenging and gruelling process of letting go to come to this place. To accept plan B. Not only to accept it, but to realise Plan B was my Plan A all along, I just wasn’t allowed to really say or admit it, because the social programming for where I was supposed to land at this point was so strong. I had many opportunities to get on the train that led to Plan A land, but I got off every time. It mustn’t been because, if I’m honest with myself, I never really wanted it. What I wanted I got, and that was an unpredictable, ever-changing Plan B…

That’s not to say that the life I lead now has not come at great personal cost. I have paid my university fees into a painfully and critically examined life.  I have faced fears, taken risks, studied philosophies, practiced philosophies, travelled and challenged my body, my spirit and my ego, all to follow my heart and my passions and that which thrills and tests me.  Whether my life turns back into Plan A (given the changing nature of my personal plan B) or whether it doesn’t I’m living the life I actually have and taking responsibility for bringing myself here to this point, because some really strong and powerful part of me really wanted it.

As we come to the end of the year, I encourage you to examine your own Plan A, and if it doesn’t look exactly as you’d hoped it would, perhaps it would be helpful to look at some of the elements that made up Plan A, and ask yourself if it’s time to let some of them go. To look at Plan B (your actual life) with new fresh and appreciative eyes, acknowledging that you brought yourself exactly here, and to spend your precious time and energy enjoying the life you’re actually living. Give Plan B a big hug and say YES! .. all the while accepting the little loss of a lost plan A, which will inevitably show up from time to time.

Here’s to an exciting new year and a good bye to 2015.

Merry Christmas brave souls

Love

Cherryl