A friend of mine, not my very best friend but a good friend and previous long-time colleague, was hit by a car this past week. She was seriously injured and remains in a coma. She has many broken bones and significant head injuries. This is the second time this year she experienced an accident while doing what everyone tells us is so important — walking for her health. In the winter she slipped on some ice in the road and suffered a concussion and badly shattered elbow and broken arm. She recovered nearly completely after a while. This time, car versus person, was a much more damaging outcome. Her recovery is uncertain and this time her full restoration to her prior self is unlikely. She and her husband recently sold their beach home and bought a townhouse in Boston so they could be near family as the years might bring the comfort and support of close family ties. The move was in progress, our farewell dinner set, and the boxes almost packed.
The rest of the story continues to unfold of the driver, her injuries, and the outcome. I shake my head in awe at the swift and devastating ripping apart of a perfectly lovely life plan. Like many humans I feel more comfortable with planning, assuming predictability, and a sense of personal control.
Years ago I had a five-year, 10 year, 15 year, and 20 year plan. It dealt with paying off the house, buying cars on a schedule for the family, sending the children to college and graduate school, retirement, savings estimates, and vacations for anniversary celebrations. Hmmm, in 1997 my family broke apart. The plan, while it had once made me feel life was predictable and safe, was no longer a reality. Living day-to-day and making it to the next month seemed about all I could manage for the next decade.
My retirement and move to the beach brought the opportunity to plan life again. I have found myself once again doing a five-year plan, one year at a time since age and health are realities at this point in life. This plan covers traveling and projects I would like to complete. Again, I have felt well guarded and secure with this structure.
But, a major life event can completely shift our life, how we function, and the entire direction of the journey. We anticipate facing challenges as we get older, but these are usually gradual, evolve with a partner, friends, and family, and we are mostly prepared for the transitional nature of life as we age.
The problem with life is that it is reality on steroids.
Nassim NicholasTaleb wrote://
“The observation of the numerous misfortunes that attend all conditions forbids us to grow insolent upon our present enjoyments, or to admire a man’s happiness that may yet, in course of time, suffer change. For the uncertain future has yet to come, with all variety of future; and to him only to whom the divinity has [guaranteed] continued happiness until the end we may call happy.”