Facing the Unknown

Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

I guess God was laughing at me last weekend because my big plan didn’t work out.  I’m very lucky that I live in a place where I can hop in the car and arrive at some of the most beautiful spots on earth within an hour.  Last weekend we had a plan to wake up early and drive to a beautiful hike in the Rocky Mountains.  When we arrived at our destination, we quickly learned that the only remaining parking was a good 2 miles down the road from the trail head.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer to hike on the trail, not the road.  So we made a split-second decision and decided to drive on to another trail head.

It turned out the road ahead was unpaved and had a ton of giant potholes, as those mountain roads typically do.  It took us 30 minutes to drive just 4 miles.  It wasn’t a huge problem, but I noticed myself feeling slightly irritable on this part of the drive.

This was the dialogue in my head:

I was excited to do that other hike.  We had this one in mind for weeks.  I thought we were beating the crowds… which led toWhat has happened to the seclusion of the mountains?  Ugh.  It must be the overcrowding of Colorado.  How long will it take us to drive 4 miles?  What if the next hike isn’t any good?  What if we arrive at that trail head only to find no parking there either, and we have to drive home?  I better not have driven up here to only turn around. 

All of the potholes and the what-if’s were getting to me, and I was spinning a nice little story in my head, filling it with assumptions and generalizations that were irrelevant and probably untrue. 

I didn’t even know I was peeved until I tuned in to this unconscious dialogue in my head.   You’ll never guess what happened next.  We arrived, and everything was okay.  It was better than okay.   It was spectacular!

The new plan turned into a beautiful hike with the best wildflowers I’ve ever seen.  We crossed over amazing waterfalls, meandered through mountainsides covered with flowers, and viewed majestic mountain peaks in the distance.  And we were completely alone for the majority of the hike.

None of the things I worried about ever came true, so why did I even waste any energy worrying about it?

I know life isn’t always perfect, but things usually work out.  The outcome is rarely the problem.  It’s often the anticipation and worry that screws us.  We have plans.  We think we’ve made the best plan, and when it doesn’t happen the way we want, we can easily assume the worst.  The Unknown can really send us spinning.

That’s exactly what plagued my dental career for so long.  I had a plan.  My plan to be a dentist didn’t work out, but The Unknown kept me stuck in dentistry for years.  I was so afraid of not knowing what to do, what was going to happen, or whether things would be okay; that this fear left me paralyzed.

I eventually learned that sometimes you have to step into The Unknown to go somewhere.

When I finally made the move, I didn’t have most of the answers.  I had a few plans and ideas, but I had to force myself to leave before I felt ready.  I chose to move forward, knowing that I’d never feel ready, no matter how much I needed to change.  I had to have faith that changing would be better than staying, even if my Plan B might be temporary.  Although I wanted my exit from dentistry to be planned and predictable and perfect, it was nothing like that.  As with my hike last weekend, once I arrived somewhere, I was able to look back and see that it was okay to have a little mystery along the way.

We rarely need to have the perfect plan to move forward successfully.

How do you face The Unknown?  Are you allowing the discomfort and fear of The Unknown to stop you from creating a change that you really want in your life?  Do you feel like you have to know exactly what is coming to make a move in your life?  If so, maybe there’s another way.  Maybe it’s okay to pick a new plan as many times as we need to.

Maybe if we can stop worrying and start wondering about The Unknown, we will find the power and freedom to move forward.

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16 thoughts on “Facing the Unknown

  1. This is incredibly inspiring. I feel as if you are speaking directly to me. I recently told someone that I feel like I’ve jumped off a cliff without a parachute. It’s scary, yet exhilarating. And somehow I know I’ll be ok, whether I land softly or not. Everything will be all right. Thanks.

  2. It’s sad and disappointing how very crowded our national parks have become. How lucky to have plan B turn out spectacular. Love those mountain wildflowers. Because we’ve often had to change plans at the last minute, we’ve become accustomed to rolling with the flow, but that doesn’t mean the negative thoughts don’t still flow through my mind… temporarily.

    1. What an interesting perspective you lend. It’s your life, so you’re definitely an expert. Has the crowding gotten worse since you started the RV life? We were lucky. Have you ever done the 4th of July hike near Nederland? That’s where we were. The wildflowers were incredible, but my iphone didn’t do it justice. I know you have to be super flexible in your life. It is helpful to hear that you go through the same mental spin when this happens to you– it makes me feel less crazy! 😉

  3. Really great post, and amazing images.. Yes, the detour and change of plans routed you – or upgraded you – to your own private oasis.

    I am lucky that I roll with the detours, road blocks, etc…. If stalled in traffic – and that happens often in Ecuador with landslides – I use that time just to be ‘quiet’ in my mind.. or I pull out a book and enjoy a chapter or ten… or even stand with the locals and discuss trivia – or watch nature… as for detours, ooh wow, they almost always reward me with new discoveries – i embrace detours!

    No matter what surprises Life has planned for us – waiting round the bend – we can handle the challenges… and nothing is worthy of tainting the quality of the day! – ha – not even bad internet, which is off more than on.. and to hit ”send’ only to get a white page… and the fear is, ‘did my comment just get lost?’

    no.. the ‘back button’ usually reclaims it,and it did!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. The scenery was so amazing. My iphone didn’t exactly do the wildflowers any justice. They were so incredible!

      You are so great at rolling with any detours and blocks that get in your way. What a gift! I wonder is that a skill you acquired, or were you naturally that way? Is it a result of living abroad that gives you a different perspective? Just curious. EIther way, it’s wonderful, and you are my hero!!! 😉

      And thank goodness that the back button on wordpress seems to save our comments… I’ve nearly missed a few that I’ve spent so much time crafting! OMG– so funny, that literally just happened to this very comment! Haha

      1. I think it’s a combination of all of the above; even birth order played a role – I did not like when my older sisters quarreled, and I learned to quietly wean away – usually far outdoors in the vast natural playground of my Tom Sawyer childhood. Later, participating in art competitions helped me realize that everyone is different, and what one person likes one week, another might detest on another.. It’s like liking broccoli or mashed potatoes! I’ve always been patient, and with age I’ve learned to see the humor in most all challenges – I’ve probably just now jinxed myself, and Life says, “Ha – let’s give her a little pop quiz and see if she finds the humor.’
        Last week I took an alternate route back to the cloud forest from my new home… I hoped it might be shorter, but it added about three extra hours to the drive… After about hour four,, and I was still in the middle of ‘nowhere’ – a vast and lovely ridge overlooking endless valleys — good highways, but heading east and not north/northwest….. it would be several hours before dark, and I just smiled and was glad no one was expecting me – and wherever I ended up, it would be a surprise —- plus I would know more about the country…. I laughed when I crossed out of Manabi province and into Guayas, which meant ‘Guayaquil’ … sure enough, there was a sign, finally, which stated Guayaquil was about 120 kilometers down the road… another sign revealed my intended hub city, where a four-lane routed me ein the right direction… … whew…

        Yes, thank goodness for the ‘back button’ – if only we could do that in real life when we realize we made an error!!!! but then we’d miss that road less traveled!

  4. Adventures! adventures don’t have a destination, its only when we find our wilderness it becomes an adventure

    1. Funny that you say that… we hiked up to a lake, and while it was very pretty, there were a ton of tiny bugs up there, so we couldn’t stick around to enjoy it. This was a great example of a time that the journey was soooo much better than the destination, that age old experience that we are all trying to achieve. Anyway, it was quite an adventure!

  5. I can relate to your thoughts completely. It’s so easy to have made plans in your head that you assume if they don’t work out it will be a disaster. It’s often not the case.
    I found there was no good time for me to leave my dental career as I had no plan B. The only thing I knew was I could not carry on in the same direction. As it turns out I have no regrets. I’m a lot more open to change than I was before. Perhaps that’s something that comes with age or having had experience now of a plan or career not working out. I don’t beat myself up about it anyway.
    Thanks for your thoughts and blog. It’s very reaffirming for me!

    1. Isn’t it amazing how we fear change so much, but once we see that we can survive it, it’s as if we’ve proven to ourselves that it will work out. And we might even embrace it. I feel the same way now. Change excites me. What is great is that you did exactly what you KNEW you needed to do, even if you didn’t know what it was going to look like. I guess that’s part of the adventure anyway. Thanks for sharing that. It’s great to see how others in our field relate to this!

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