Work Your Plan

There’s a handmade plaque in my grandmother’s kitchen. It’s called “Lucy’s Logic” and lists of all of the single-sentence advice she gave her three children while they were growing up. It contains gems like “Put one foot in front of the other and move,” and “Sock that money in the bank.”

The content is pretty basic, as far as advice goes, but as with most things, it’s the delivery that made my grandmother’s words memorable.

“Do your own thing,” she often said. “But if your thing, bothers my thing, then it must not be a good thing.” I’m sure my grandmother said it with love, but it still seems like an odd way of telling a six-year old they could play on a swing set.

My grandmother didn’t like the plaque when my aunt first gave it to her as a gift. After all, hardly anyone wants to be remembered for saying, “All good things must end,” often enough for it to become a personal slogan. But eventually she came around to appreciate “Lucy’s Logic.” Or I can only assume as much, since she still has the plaque on display and quotes it regularly.

In fact, to this day, my grandmother will end most of our conversations with the same two bits: “Don’t talk to any kooks,” and “Be home by dusk.”

She’ll be disappointed – but perhaps unsurprised – to learn that I have been disregarding that advice every chance I get while I travel. (And she will find out that I wrote this post – not because she’s tech-savvy enough to keep up with a blog, but because my brother prints the entries every week and mails them to her house. She keeps them – and the envelopes – in a folder by her telephone and insists that my mother re-read them when she visits every Sunday.)

The thing is, I’m pretty sure my grandmother will understand why I’m not listening to her suggestions. Like me, she’s headstrong and pays little mind to risky behavior until she finds herself in the middle of a disaster. Don’t go out past dark or talk to anyone remotely interesting, you say? I won’t be following that advice – especially when it’s coming from the lady who dismissed the idea that changing a bed skirt was a two-person job until she found herself trapped under a full-sized mattress.

Plenty of people have given my grandmother what they would consider this kind of helpful, if not obvious, advice: “Don’t climb on a kitchen chair to vacuum your curtains.” “Isotoner slippers and hardwood floors do not mix.” “A sweater is not a coat.”

But she doesn’t listen either. And I can’t say I blame her. She’s 93 and when you get to be that age, you earned the right to do whatever you want, even if some days all you want to do is walk to your neighbor’s house, have a cup of tea and then tell her that you don’t like her dog.

All joking aside, my grandmother made some good points on Lucy’s Logic. Specifically, this one: “Plan your work and work your plan.”

I followed that one to the letter a few months ago when I quit my job. Believe it or not, I had no real plan when I resigned – mostly because I wasn’t certain that I was going to go through with my decision until the words actually came out of my mouth. Once they did, the first thing I did was open a new Word document and start writing what came to be known as “The Escape Plan.” I approached it like I would a work assignment, outlining exactly what I wanted to do in the coming year and how I would do it. The document had objectives, deliverables, a timeline and a budget. It was serious.

And then, as the story goes, I had the opportunity to keep my job while I traveled – which meant that the plan, written with the assumption that I would have unlimited free time and just as much mental energy – went right out the window. I might have planned my work, but it would be almost impossible to work my plan. So scrapped the whole thing. That would have been fine if I had drafted a new version that took my updated situation into account – except that I never did. I just left and didn’t look back.

And now here we are. Three months in, I’m sitting in Barcelona, a city that wasn’t even on my itinerary, and I’m wondering what I have to show for my time – aside from some amazing pictures, great memories, a handful of new friends and a half-dozen paychecks.

Don’t get me wrong – that’s a lot. My time has been great and I wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe putting on the snorkel set that probably gave me pink eye and strep throat.) But amazing as my time as been, it’s not exactly what I set out to do when I started this journey. I haven’t published anything new. I haven’t written anything other than this blog. I didn’t even submit any queries. I haven’t so much as thought about how to structure a book, let alone begin to write one. In other words, I’m no closer to fulfilling my goals today than I was six months ago.

A lot people have told me not to worry about it – that it will all come in time. “It will all fall into place,” is how they put it. But I think that’s terrible advice. Because doing nothing is a great way to get nowhere. And if you know where you want to go, anything that prevents you from getting there – whether that something is “good” like a job that lets you travel or “bad” like a Netflix account – is just a distraction.

With that in mind, I’m entering course-correcting mode. A new plan is in place – one that is more reasonable given my travel schedule and existing commitments. And this time I’m going to follow it. I’m going to “Put one foot in front of the other and move.”

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Want another Gramma story? I got you covered. I give you Christmas.

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