Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Part of the Plan

Yesterday I spent 11 hours trekking through western Pennsylvania. First stop: Pittsburgh. I spent three hours with daughter Cassie and grandbaby Claire. The new cupcake shoes I’d ordered for Claire had arrived, so Claire and I opened the package together. They came packed in a little clear plastic purse, and when Claire saw this, her eyes got big and she said, “Wow. Wow.” (Wow is one of her favorite things to say. That and “weeee….”) Claire found much fun in taking her new shoes out of the purse and putting them back in the purse.

I brought along my favorite pumpkin/pudding concoction, like I always do because Claire loves it, too. We sat on the couch together and ate it. I swear I put every spoonful in her mouth, but drooly girl is cutting more teeth and she made a big chocolate ring around her mouth. Just look at the joy on that kid’s face! She radiates happiness. She was eating chocolate with her grammy while her mom sat on the other couch, she had new shoes and a new little purse…what more could a 15-month-old want? Claire knows contentment, and in that moment, so did I.

After Pittsburgh, I drove to a little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town 40 miles away to meet Cassie’s mother-in-law Julia to help her go through some of her late Aunt Jule’s possessions. Jules was 93 when she died a few weeks ago and had lived in her house as long as Julia could remember. Her 1952 stove still worked, as did the wringer washer in the basement. The house is filled with keepsakes, photos and mementos of a long, well-lived life.

A few hours later, I said goodbye to Julia and started the final leg of my journey. Daughter Carlene and I were going to catch an early dinner at our favorite restaurant in Slippery Rock. It’s a rustic old brewery that serves awesome hummus and uses real field greens in the salads, not that fake iceberg stuff.

We ordered some wine and started to talk. We ordered our food and talked some more. Carlene’s pasta came with a little loaf of sweet whole wheat bread. It looked so good, so inviting. It seemed the perfect accompaniment to the wine, the warm and cozy atmosphere, the good company and good conversation. Stern Diet Lynn said to leave it alone. I’d already eaten two triangles of pita (white flour, no less…shame!), a few apple slices, and my allotted amount of hummus. A salad of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions with fat-free dressing was my dinner.

“No more food for you!” my diet mind said.

But You Only Live Once Lynn popped out (she doesn’t emerge often so I was a little surprised) and said, “Lynn, it’s bread. It’s not poison, a hand grenade, or anything that will hurt you if you have a reasonable amount. It’s OK to allow food to enhance emotions sometimes.

Eat the freaking bread.”

So I did. I also ate an extra pita with hummus and some more apples while Carlene and I talked and sipped our wine and just enjoyed our time together.

Driving home, I thought about Claire and the pudding, Jules and her long life, Carlene and the pita and the bread and the wine and I started humming a song by Dan Fogelberg called “Part of the Plan.” Here are some of the lyrics:

I have these moments
All steady and strong
I’m feeling so holy and humble
The next thing I know
I’m all worried and weak
And I feel myself
Starting to crumble.
The meanings get lost
And the teachings get tossed
And you don’t know what you’re
Going to do next
You wait for the sun
But it never quite comes
Some kind of message comes
Through to you
Some kind of message comes through
And it says to you...
Love when you can
Cry when you have to
Be who you must
That’s a part of the plan
Await your arrival
With simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand...

Ah, the plan. My plan was to go to Pittsburgh, help Julia, and to meet Carlene for dinner. I didn’t plan Claire’s pudding face or shoes in a purse. I didn’t plan to feel so humbled amongst Jules’ possessions. I didn’t plan to eat bread. But aren’t these the things that make our lives so rich? Aren’t these the moments we hope and live for?

“Be who you must, that’s a part of the plan.” For me, being who I must means being disciplined and yet open, rigid yet bendable, all in the right time. I’m not always real good at determining when those times are, but I’m getting better at recognizing them. I just have to remember to ask myself these questions: When am I rigid and unyielding when I could be a little softer? When do I feel holy when I should be humble, or lost when I’m really found?

Here’s a YouTube link to Dan singing “Part of the Plan.” I chose this 1982 concert performance because Dan was young and bearded and this song was fresh and new. For all the lyrics to “Part of the Plan,” click here.

6 comments:

  1. Those shoes are adorable!! Um, I would have eaten the bread too!

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  2. So glad for you what a HUGE realization that we can bend and not break by having some warm fresh bread with fresh butter or hummus. Its a beautiful thing to know we can bend all the time and not break. Just like Palm Trees. Congrats!

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  3. Loved this post, Lynn. Too tired to make a coherent comment, but will try tomorrow. Your writing is just beautiful.

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  4. You said: "For me, being who I must means being disciplined and yet open, rigid yet bendable"

    So true. However, I tend to be disciplined too seldom and bendable too often.

    Great story.

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  5. Dan Fogelberg had it all figured out with that song, didn't he? Another good one is a little known song by Billy Joel called "Vienna". Great lyrics.

    This was a terrific post.

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  6. Love this post. I just found you and usually never someone who goes out there and writes to someone like this. Life is a journey and I am inspired by your journey.

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