Yesterday I received a rude message. It made accusations against me, because I had posted on Facebook both an update to my fundraiser, requesting donations to pay bills in May, and a request for pictures of items my mother had painted, to utilize at my tattoo consultation. In the mind of the one offering the rude message, these two things were linked, and I was asking for money to pay for “luxuries” like tattoos. This is untrue.
And I could probably create an entire book about how paternalistic judgments of how the poor are “allowed” to spend their very limited resources are completely unnecessary and unwarranted and unwanted. Trust me. The poor have a far greater understanding of thrift and priority and hard work and collaboration and kindness and care than most people. Until you can hold a single $5 bill in your wallet for two months without spending it on anything, or furnish a household using only the items others discard, or own a wardrobe where every article of clothing was purchased on clearance or secondhand, don’t tell someone with limited resources how to use their money. They know far more about money and value than you could imagine.
But I won’t focus on the aforementioned paternalistic judgments today, because what I have been pondering more fully is the idea of making plans.
The tattoo artist I met with last evening is booking appointments for January right now. If I choose to have him do this tattoo (which will be an amazing commingling of what I had imagined as 2 tattoos), that honors my mother and my daughter and covers most of my right arm, I will need to wait until next year before any inked needle pierces my skin. So, last night we talked about design and created a plan. I spent no money. And I used the Facebook comments as a forum for explaining that I had spent no money, nor would I spend fundraising money for tattoos, or any other personal entertainment or luxury items.
But later I was thinking about how great it is that I am even making plans for next year.
When you have as much disease plaguing you as I do, and when you have so few resources that you aren’t sure how you will make it to next week, you could posit that plans are something superfluous, and that the present moment is the only time and place where the focus should lie.
I think that would be a sad position to hold.
Please don’t misunderstand. I work very hard to live in the present moment—to put the past behind and to reduce anxiety or worry that comes from looking forward. I love the present, and being present in each moment. Mindful living, where you fully embrace and enjoy each moment as it is, without judgments or adjustments, is living that I am working toward every day. I meditate, and color mandalas, and do yoga, and work to taste my food rather than devour it, and allow all sorts of sensations and emotions to arise and coexist and leave without trying to change them. Being mindful in the present is extremely important.
But the future, and living toward it, is also a beautiful thing. I sometimes wonder if my life will go on for many years, or if my days are short in number. Especially lately, in the face of testing for early onset Alzheimer’s disease, I think about what my end might look like. And while I am not worrying over it, and will accept my end with as much grace and compassion as I am able, no matter what happens, I love the idea that I am still planning a future.
I am planning a wonderful future!
I was browsing in a boutique last night. And the first thing I said to the sales woman when I walked in was, “I have no budget for clothes right now”, but that wasn’t where we left things. I also told her that I love every outfit that comes up in that boutique window, and I nearly give myself whiplash as my bus goes by the shop, and that one day when my finances are better I will definitely be in to purchase some clothes. As the conversation continued, at one point I commented, “I in no way believe that my past or my current situation define what happens in my future. I absolutely believe that I will have better circumstances in the future than I have today.” The shop keeper echoed my statements, and we had a lovely philosophical discussion about the practical subjects of our lives. And that moment was filled with hope.
Later, while I was walking down the avenue, I reflected on that conversation, and on the earlier tattoo consultation. I decided that plans are a sort of miracle for me, and likely for people with situations similar to mine.
I cancel plans often. There are many days when my health hijacks everything and leaves me in a state where I cannot do what I had planned to do. But despite the fact that I cancel often, I keep making plans. I could sit at home every night rather than disappoint others and upset calendars with rescheduling. I don’t. I keep placing meetings and social events and mating rituals into the little boxes that frame my time, even when I know a good percentage of those boxes will later be altered. I keep living, even when life isn’t easy.
Realizing that I keep living in these little ways brought up thoughts of long-term planning. And I also noted that I have long-term plans. I plan on having a home filled with things and people and animals I love. I plan on growing old. I plan on getting married, or living in a long-term partnership. I plan on being near the beach. I plan on having resources. I plan on finding a way to create art that funds my existence. I plan on having enough and not feeling any lack. I plan on having a full and rewarding and beautiful life. I plan on being covered in tattoos!
There is so much future hope in the way I live today. And, interestingly, I find that the more time I spend focused on being present in this moment, the more positive my plans for the future become. The more meditation and mindfulness exercise and mandala coloring I do, the more full and rewarding and beautiful my future life seems.
A few weeks ago I had a date with a man, and when we eventually got around to setting a second date, he followed up the planning with a “we will see what happens” comment, that sort of felt like it gave him permission to flake out on the second date. At the point when he began to flake on the second date, saying he was still stuck at work, I abruptly ended my connection with him. I didn’t do it to dump him first, or because I thought he didn’t like me, but because he seemed to be in this space where “we will see what happens” trumps “we will”. I didn’t want to be in that space with him.
I want to live in a space where planning for a great future happens, and speed bumps are slowly and carefully overtaken, but that doesn’t make me turn away from the fabulous things I see ahead. I want to live in a space where the best and the most and the loveliest are assumed. I want to plan for a life that is outrageously good. And I want to put all sorts of energy into the present, in order to fight for that future. I don’t want to see what happens. I want to shape what happens.
This week has been filled with conversations with a lovely woman. And she and I have been looking for a time and space where we can have a first date. And while there are no plans set in stone, and no little boxes on the calendar that currently hold her name, we both see only a future where we get to spend time together. “We will be in touch.” “[We will] talk soon.” “We will find a good spot.” “We will do that another time.” “I will teach you about that.” “I will show you when I see you.” “I’ll tell you that story when we go out.”
A future planned together, even without definitive plans, is far superior to not committing to anything that might sound like a plan for a shared future. And a future planned with good things and fullness and love is far superior to waiting to see how things transpire and what life hands you.
For many years now, I have been a “we shall see” type of person, who would wait for what life handed her and then cope with the consequences. But the last couple of years have brought about something new. They have brought out the “I will” person. And she plans for the best possible future, even while the present threatens to overwhelm her and the past pulls at her ankles, attempting to drag her underground. She assumes that better things are coming. She believes that life will offer her more. She knows that the divine wishes her survival. She knows that she is allowed to—meant to—thrive. She makes plans.
I make plans. And they are not based on what I currently see around me. They are based on what I know lies within me. And what lies within offers all beauty and fullness and goodness and grace and love. That is the future I am planning toward.
So, on a day next year, I will have Joseph add some fabulous ink to my right arm. And I will pay for it with money I have earned, either through my slow and steady work or through my long and arduous fight for disability payments. And I will shop in that little boutique, and take some of those coveted clothes from the mannequins in the window and put them on my body. And I will weigh less and cope with my illness more. I will be more self-compassionate and I will trust and love others more than I do today. I will have an amazing partner, and get married in a pink dress, and live on the waterfront, and travel to beautiful places and have money in my bank account and on and on and on…
Because I plan to live the best and most treasured life I am capable of living. And even with over twenty forms of illness to live with, I am confident that I will be capable of living in amazing and wonderful ways. If at some point those plans need to be cancelled, so be it. But I’m not going to cancel a beautiful life before I have planned one.
I’m going to plan one, and do my best to see it through, with every little box of time containing something or someone amazing.
With every little box marked “LIVE”.