I am the man with
the unplan. What is the unplan? The unplan is simple: my long range
plans are firmly set in jello, and are therefore subject to revision,
reversal, and massive change. Although I know who I am and where I am
going, I don't have any long term plans set in concrete.
My life is full of maybes, perhaps, and
possibilities, but real long range plans are clearly out of the
question. Three of my colleagues who had long term plans are no longer
alive, and the handwriting is on the wall and in clear focus. The
message says, "Today is the only day I have, and I need to make it count
for something good."
I used to be a man with a plan, When I was halfway
through college, I made a plan to go to medical school, and I did it
right on schedule. But after that, the unplan took over. When I was
an intern, I planned to become a pathologist, but instead, I became an
eye surgeon. I planned to practice general ophthalmology, and instead
became a retina and vitreous surgeon. I made a plan to work overseas in
Saudi Arabia for five years, and instead stayed for eleven years before
I set sail on the ocean of my dreams. I planned to spend two years
sailing around the world on my yacht, and it took eleven more years to
complete my circumnavigation.
Life has been full of twists, turns, and reverses,
and it's easy to see why I am the man with the unplan. I didn't realize
I was the man with the unplan until I had a car accident in New
Zealand. When I rolled the van I was driving, I broke two legs, five
ribs, one scapula, and I punctured one lung. I spent nine days in the
intensive care unit, had three operations, and received seven units of
blood - all of this was quite unplanned. I stayed in the hospital for
two months and gradually regained my ability to walk. It took six
months to be able to bend my right knee ninety degrees, and that made it
difficult to climb on and off my yacht.
While I was hobbling around on crutches in Whangerei,
New Zealand, I passed a real estate office that had an advertisement in
the window for waterfront property - one kilometer of ocean frontage.
At the bottom of the advertisement were the words, "For long term
plans." I looked at those words and burst out laughing. Those words -
long term plans - were massively presumptuous in the world in which I
lived. In my world, I didn't know if I would ever walk normally again.
Skipping and running were out of the question. First, I had to progress
from hobbling to limping. Even my trip around the world on my sailboat
was up in the air; I didn't know when or if it would ever continue.
I realized then and there that I was the man with the
unplan. Although I had a general direction to my life, and I had a list
of things a mile long I wanted to do, I no longer had solid plans or
even a schedule. My life was full of possiblities, but long term plans
were a thing of the past. When you are fifty old, and you don't know
how much time you have left, you leave the long term plans to young
whippersnappers who feel like they are immortal.
Since that time, I have been living more in the
moment. I have a general direction to my unplanned existence. I planed
to sail across the Atlantic Ocean sometime in November, December, or
January, conditions permitting. I will probably cruise in the Caribbean
from January to June, and then I will arrive back in the USA in June,
July, or August. That's my unplan.
The truth is, I was never very good at squeezing my
life into any type of mold, and plans are sometimes the most restrictive
molds of all . Anyway, the majority of my plans have turned out
different, maybe even better, than I had hoped. So I have decided to
stick with my unplan and see what happens. One thing you know for
certain, we will be surprised when we see how it all turns out.
By the way, God, if you happen to be listening, I
would appreciate it if you would extend my unwitting and unplanned
existence for another forty or fifty years, because there is so much to
do and so little time, and I want to make the next fifty years into a
real adventure. I promise I will do better this time. Amen.