Friday, January 11, 2013

When Plans Go Awry: A 2013 Retrospective Look At 2012

by Pettis Perry

The reality of Life is that things do not always occur in the ways that we hope. We can establish well constructed plans and at the very moment we think we have everything planned out well, something interferes with our plans and things just simply fall apart. This can be true for any of us, no matter how good we are with making things happen in our lives--it is certainly true for me. In fact, I had very clear expectations about what I wanted to accomplish in 2012, and things just did not go as planned. Initially, this frustrated me greatly, but with 20/20 hindsight my perspective has changed.

In the final analysis I had to ask myself, does it really matter? 

As I look retrospectively at 2012, I am wowed by how much travel occurred, how much change there was in my work environment, how many days I worked, how much I learned in pursuit of my own growth, the personal impact of the passing of three friends, and how little I accomplished in terms of my 2012 New Year's resolutions. By the end of the year I was burned out, frustrated, and left with thinking what happened to my year and the goals I wanted to accomplish for myself? 

Now that I've crossed the annual threshold marking a new year, I am able to see in retrospect that through all of my frustrations  and fatigue, 2012 was truly one of the most productive and remarkable years of my life. I traveled many more miles last year than any other year that I can recall. I got to spend more time with my son than anytime since he was 18 years old. I spent more time with my brother than I have since we were in high school. I spent time with friends I had not seen very much during the past several years. I embarked upon a personal development journey that was seven years in the making. I resolved some key issues that have been haunting me since childhood. I was able to relocate to a part of the country that I find absolutely beautiful and in the process I have strengthened old friendships and made many more new ones. I was able to fulfill a commitment to a friend that was more than a year in the making. And, every bit of my skills,  stamina, patience, and perseverance were tested more than in any other year that I can remember, and I survived!

In retrospect I am able to see how wonderful the year truly was despite my frustrations and fatigue. I am reminded that to live Life fully means to engage Life fully to the extent that we have the capacity to do so. I am reminded that out of the chaos comes growth and transformation. To borrow from a colloquialism, I am reminded that when I am up to my ass in alligators it is very hard to remember that my original mission was to drain the swamp; and learning an alternative strategy that the best thing to do may be to not drain the swamp in the first place. Most importantly I am reminded that I am truly a blessed person because while I do not have everything I want, I do have everything I need. I have the love and affection of my family and friends. I have a greater capacity today to be a more effective servant of humanity than I did a year ago. I have gained greater clarity about my Life and purpose; and I come out of 2012 wanting to do even more in 2013 than I was able to do in 2012

(2012) Pettis Perry Lake Nacimiento, CA
So, in the final analysis what I have learned in retrospect is that it really does not matter whether all of my goals were met. What matters is whether I am a better human being as a result of my life experiences. What started out as a very modest personal plan for 2012 morphed into what became a thrill ride filled with lots of emotions and Life lessons. It was replete with opportunities for personal growth; there were myriad opportunities to test every aspect of my character; and there were times when I thought I could not take any more. Yet, in the end, I made it--and I am stronger for the experiences.

Would I feel the same way when encountering Dark Nights of the Soul? 

While contemplating that question, I had to reflect upon my past, particularly the 10 year period 1998-2008, when I experienced one Dark Night after another. These were not my first Dark Night episodes, but they were the most powerful and informative since they lasted for such a long period of time. Additionally, as soon as one Dark Night episode was finished another occurred preventing me from running from the lessons they had to teach meIt seemed as though no matter what I did I simply could not break the cycle. However, what happened to me as I made my path through those Dark Nights was that, like working with an onion, I began to peel away the layers of shell that I created to protect myself from my external world. I literally broke down emotionally and had to confront every demon from my past, emerging through that process  a person with greater capacity than ever before to encounter Life's future difficulties. Each time I encountered a new Dark Night I emerged a little bit stronger and leaving another old shell behind without realizing it. Each new Dark Night episode provided new Life lessons  and because they occurred so closely together I could not escape them long enough to forget what they had to teach me and thereby forcing me to learn or perish under their shear weight.

So yes, I do feel the same way even under the most dire circumstances I've encountered. The difference today is that my Dark Nights forced me to learn about the Dark Night process making it possible for me to change my perspective about Dark Nights and what they meant for human growth.

To that end, my best advice is to plan the desirable Life for yourself by setting a direction and making goals. Nonetheless, my admonition is to embrace whatever occurs as part of the lessons to be learned and to not be so wedded to the plan that failing to complete the plan causes you to feel that you are a failure. Remember, that every experience, no matter what it is, is an opportunity for personal growth and further development of perspective. It is through this personal growth and evolving perspective that we bring true meaning to our lives. It is also through this process that we learn to better understand  our relationship to the greater whole while at the same time developing greater capacity as human beings to co-create a more sustainable future for us all. 

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