This morning I woke and stretched against my pillows, looked up at my arms and saw my grandmother’s skin. I remember when I was a girl looking at the papery tissue of her arms and the deep grooves in her hands, and thinking she needed to use more hand cream. Of course, now I know that hand cream isn’t going to stop my skin from becoming parchment. Parchment is my destiny. But a plan could help me feel okay about that.
I have had the urge lately to make a plan, a big important master plan that will be my to-do list for the next decade, a yardstick against which I’ll measure myself and keep my life on track. Having a plan would make me feel better about not knowing what I’m doing because it would look like I do know what I’m doing, and whenever I doubt myself, all I have to do is look at the plan. See? No doubt. There’s a plan. I definitely know what I’m doing.
When I’m feeling uncertain about my future I open Excel and start making spreadsheets, high tech grids I deploy to manage all the important issues in my life. I’m not putting my faith in some goop that comes in a fancy jar with slick advertising. I’m putting my faith in a software program that sorts information into little boxes, in a vast hive of boxes that can be converted into a pie chart. Organizing myself into rows and columns makes me feel in control. We all have our tricks for coping.
Age is climbing up on me like kudzu, and I feel like I need a plan for what to do with it. In my 20s I had a plan to manage rock bands in the music business and become rich and famous. That didn’t work. In my 30s I had a plan to conquer a desk job and claw my way to the top. Did okay with that. In my 40s I had a plan to develop a software company and own it. Almost did that. In my 50s I had a plan to be a farmer and make a living from my farm. Complete disaster. Although I loved it. Now I’m in my 60s, single in the city, drifting through my days, yacking up the alphabet, using Facebook as a megaphone. And a little voice inside me keeps asking, what’s the plan?
I have to remind myself that having a plan never gave me control over my life. But it would make me feel good to have my future plotted on a grid from now until I’m 90. Little boxes of text would give me comfort that I’m going to be okay. Then the sun shines in my window and the day spreads out before me as virgin territory, and I ask myself — Shall I crack open a spreadsheet and angst over my long game, or should I just go out and buy some hand cream?