When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned

“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take”      – Angela N. Blount

Life doesn’t always go as planned. In fact, it rarely does! What do we do when things don’t go our way? The choice is always ours. That is where our power lies.

One morning a few months ago, as I was driving to an appointment, I came upon some construction at a 4 way stop. I wanted to go left, but when my turn came, the construction worker motioned for me to go straight. I signaled to her that I wanted to go left, and she shook her head no. So, I went straight, which set me back a few minutes.

After this experience, I burst into tears, and cried the entire 20 minute trip. This reaction was very interesting to me. What in the world?! Why did I react so emotionally to such a small setback? I knew it really wasn’t about what had just happened, but about what had been going on in my life. Greg had recently had some health scares, and my children had been diagnosed with vEDS only days before.

As I was thinking about my reaction, I thought about how a lot of the time we don’t get to follow the road we want to choose. No matter how much we plan, sometimes we get taken on a detour, and a lot of the time we want to throw a fit about it. I think this is a natural reaction. Sometimes the detour gets us there faster, sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes the road is uphill, sometimes it goes downhill. Sometimes it is a dirt road full of lots of dips and bumps, and we end up on it for a long time, or maybe even the rest of our lives.

There are other people on our detours – people we would never meet otherwise. Other people teach us and need us to help them out of pot holes, etc. Maybe sometimes we are led to these detour roads so we can help others on their way. Others are led to help us on our detours. Sometimes the road seems lonely, but if you only wait, you will realize you’re not really alone. There are other people. There is God. There are angels.

The view is often the most beautiful from the dirt roads. The remote roads hold great beauty as well. Some of the most difficult roads take us up so we can see things from an amazing, new angle. We have a more clear view of the world around us.  

In the end we might be grateful for the detour, for the different scenery we got to see, and for the experiences we had. Sometimes we don’t know or understand why we took the detour for a long time, if ever.

What will we do when life doesn’t go as planned? Sometimes this is the test. Do we turn around? Do we pull over to the side of the road and quit? Do we cry and despair about it? Do we find adventure, and get our Jeep out?  How do you react when life doesn’t go as planned? I have learned some things about this.

1. Lean into negative emotion

It’s okay, and even good, to feel negative emotion when things don’t go your way. No emotion is ‘bad’. There are emotions that are uncomfortable, but not bad. When I say lean in, I mean let yourself feel it. Be okay with feeling it. This is the only way to truly process your emotions. I have had a lot of reactions as I have gone on some pretty big detours the past couple years with the birth of our son, and shortly after, the diagnoses of vEDS for half of my family. I have thrown fits, I have cried, I have wished I could do a U-turn and go back to the road I wanted to be on. I think it’s very important to go through all of this and to feel all of the emotions, to lean into them. That is how to get through them. It’s important to not let the negative emotions take over your life, but so so important to let them come and to feel them. It definitely helps to use techniques to release negative emotion, such as in this post by Greg.

2. Remember that you have power in any situation

The power you always have is choice. You get to choose how you react, and this makes all the difference in the outcome. How you react and conduct yourself is really the only thing you have control over. I have learned that I get to control what happens inside of me. Outside of me can be a complete whirlwind around me, but can I stay calm? Can I find joy? Can I still love my life? Yes! I have found this to be true. It is all about mindset.

3. Enjoy the journey

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “So often we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to enjoy the journey”. Greg and I watched “The Shack” a while back. In the movie, the main character was being taken on a journey, and he asked where he was going. He was told to not worry about the destination, and to just enjoy the journey. That really stuck with me. It’s easy to jump to the future and wonder where I’m going, how long it will take, etc. There is so much uncertainty. It’s easy to be afraid. But the journey can also be beautiful, even when it’s full of pot holes and mud. There is beauty and joy everywhere, even in the uncertainty and the sadness. It’s always there. Sometimes you just have to look harder.

4. Open mindedness

This goes along with #2 and #3. Can you be open minded about the road you are on? Can you find the opportunities? Every situation, whether you define it as good or bad, comes with opportunities. I truly believe that everything is going to be okay in any situation. Maybe my definition of okay has to change a little bit, but in the end, I will accept whatever happens in life and find joy in the life I have. Can I be open minded enough to see the beauty on the bumpiest, muddiest, steepest road? Can I look past the hard and find the beauty? Can I look outside of myself and find opportunities to lift others on my way?  

5. Faith and Gratitude

I’m grateful that on my detours, I can have faith in One who is much bigger than me; faith that somehow it will be for my good, and that His plans for me are better than my own. Maybe someday it will make more sense why I’m on this road. Maybe it won’t. But I am grateful for the things I have learned on my detours, for the things I have seen, for the people I have met along the way. As I have learned to express gratitude for the good, and even the bad things in my life, I have found increased peace and joy.

Life is full of ups and downs, and it is full of detours. I have often joked that God laughs when we make plans because He knows the true path your life will take, and sometimes it isn’t the one you are planning on. Despite this fact, it is important to keep making plans, keep dreaming, keep living. And when the detours come, take them with excitement for the opportunities they will present. I am grateful for the new perspective I have and for the view I see from the road I am on. 



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