The lights were out. The electricity was off. Now, what was 2020 up to?
I woke up about 15 minutes before my alarm, and that alarm is set pretty early as it is. Some nights I swear I’m 36 going on 90. I drink a lot of water but that’s still no excuse for my danged bladder to yank me from bed like it does.
I opened my eyes and immediately noticed that things were out of sorts. I shut my eyes and opened them again. The room was absolutely swallowed up in darkness. There was a muffled sound, the kind only darkness and the absence of electricity can make.
Long story short, as I’d found out later, one of my favorite old trees came crashing down sometime around 2:30 AM tearing up several other trees and ripping down the electric line as it did. I called that old tree the Story tree because it was so old and looked like it had stories tucked inside. But that’s another story for another time.
Today’s story is all about the lessons taught to me by that old tree’s path of destruction, specifically, it’s cutting off my lights at the start of my day. Let’s take a closer look.
Life is filled with unexpected surprises
In life, there is only one rule that can be guaranteed. Things will always change.
No matter how amazing our ability to plan or fill up an agenda, life is far better at undoing it than we are at putting it together, to begin with. That’s just a given.
But we have one advantage. We know to expect life to throw changes at us and when you know something is likely to happen (even if you don’t know what that something is) you can prepare for it.
There are subtle but powerful differences between those words: planning and preparation.
Adapt and keep moving forward
Plans are what we make blueprints from, and how we chart our days. Plans are our great attempt at controlling what is often uncontrollable. And you know what? They’re good things to have, good things to make. Plans are the power behind our strongest efforts to get us where we want to go. When things are running as we expect them to, as they normally do, nothing much can beat a well thought out plan.
But what happens when life throws a curveball? Plans go to hell. Or they might if you aren’t prepared for change.
Preparation is acknowledging that something could go wrong, that life could surprise you, that no matter how well laid out the plan is, no one can control all of the things all of the time.
Ultimately it all comes down to just how bad you want it
Not having electricity put a lot of questions into motion. It also made me much more aware of how strongly I have come to depend on all the extra elements in my life to do the most basic tasks related to my writing process and work.
How was I going to do my morning routine? I started to tick through my tasks in my mind and suddenly realized how many things could still be done. So, I grabbed a flashlight and rounded up my clothes. The first thing to do was wash my face and take a shower.
I wound up sitting on the porch, a lantern flashlight beside me, and worked my routine. Mostly I did the same things as usual, except I did them differently. Without electricity and without the internet, I had to take several practices offline and had to adapt them. I could still easily do my morning journal and read (courtesy of a back-lit phone and kindle app).
Writing was different, as I tend to use Google docs and my laptop for a lot of the process. The laptop was charged but Google docs was obviously offline and largely out of question. So, I wrote most of what would become this blog post on my phone in a note app knowing I’d depend more heavily on my editing process later.
All of this added up to one resounding question in my mind. Just how bad did I want to see my tasks through? How much effort was I willing to exert, to invest, to give, in order to meet and rise to the occasion?
I’m proud of how I answered that question. I showed up, I saw it through. These things are important to me, and I saw that very clearly as I sat in the dark and continued to push forward with my tasks.
So, in the end, the only real question that matters is just how bad do you want something? Life can and will change, it can and will surprise you. And guess what, the forces that be won’t invite you to the planning meeting.
All you can do is put your chin down and keep moving forward. You might have to change your plans a bit, adapt and roll with some punches, but whatever you do, don’t quit. Remember, in life, it ain’t the strongest that survive but those that can adapt and change with it best that do the most.
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