This is not how I thought my life would be

Gwen Randall-Young

We can plan out our lives thinking we have control over that plan. There is nothing wrong with doing this. It is natural to think that you will start a family, build a business, have a long, happy marriage, or enjoy a wonderful retirement with your partner.

When everything goes according to plan, we feel good and even empowered. However, sometimes life throws curve balls that disrupt our well-thought-out plans.

You may want to have a family, only to discover that it just is not happening. If you can afford it, you may choose fertility treatments. Sometimes that does not go well either. A life that was planned around children seems impossible unless it is desirable to adopt.

This is so difficult for many. Some reset their plans and goals. They may choose, for example, a life of travel. Despite their disappointment, they can still have a rewarding life.

You may have financial goals, but have them disrupted by a pandemic, for example, or a bad investment. You may have planned to work until a certain age, counting on that income, but then illness may sideline that.

‘Til death do us part’ may not be how it turns out. If both decide to move on, then they feel they have control and continue creating a new life. If one or the other does not want this, especially if it comes like a bombshell, it can be completely disorienting.

Accidents or death can destroy the beloved picture we had of our life. All of these circumstances are more common than we would like. We do not like to think about things going wrong, so we do not plan for all eventualities.

A helpful exercise is to imagine what a “plan B” would look like. I did this exercise myself many years ago. I asked myself what I would do in the unlikely event that I lost everything. I concluded I would volunteer on one of the Mercy Ships that take medical aid to impoverished countries. I would have a roof over my head and be with good people.

Without having even thought about a “plan B,” people can live in a state of shock and disbelief, coming completely immobilized when their plan is disrupted. Of course, we do not want major life changes, but they do happen.

We purchase life insurance to protect ourselves financially if things go wrong. Having alternative plans just “in case” is like having psychological life insurance. In my experience, what people struggle with most after a life-altering event is “What will I do now?”

At that time, they are too overcome with loss to think about the future. Make some notes about what you would do if your partner left you, or passed on, and what you would do if your financial picture changed. Consider what you will do if you do not get pregnant or if you have health challenges in the future.

This is not fun, but once you have done it you will be more prepared for whatever comes.

You will also feel gratitude for your life right now, and hopefully savor every moment.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.