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Ever heard this one? ‘Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.’ I'd love to know who came up with that aphorism because it pretty much sums up my existence. And I’ll bet I’m not the only one. Ring any bells for any of you?
My plan all through junior high and high school was to be a psychiatrist. Actually it was more than a plan. It was the dream. My raison d’etre. I considered myself a student of life in those days. Unfortunately, my very traditional parents didn’t share my vision, they wanted me to get married and have children. ‘Like a normal person,’ my mother used to say. Bless her heart, she did her best with a kid who was anything but normal.
We were a working class family and I can’t remember a time when we weren’t financially strapped and struggling. No one on either side had gone to college, much less medical school, which made me the odd ball, even then. And finally, when it became painfully clear that college wasn’t in my future, I buckled under the pressure and got married, fully intending to live happily ever after. Donna Reed had nothing on me!
But happily it wasn’t. And ever after lasted all of four years. Possibly I’ll recap that misadventure in a book someday, names changed to protect the guilty, of course. For now, let’s just say that occasionally the Fates demonstrate a flair for irony because after my marriage ended, I moved to southern California, where the abundance of junior colleges made it possible for me to pursue my original dream. Psychiatry became psychology – a much more realistic goal for a single, working mom with an energetic toddler.
And pursue it, I did. I graduated summa cum laude in psychology and went on to grad school, an accelerated doctoral program. Everything was going according to plan. This meant, of course, that it was time for life to happen to me again.
I often tell people that I started writing by accident. Literally. I had a car accident. I was on my way to co-lead my first group therapy session when I got interrupted by a very large truck. I think that's when I knew it was going to be one of those days.
Life, plans, irony. The Fates laugh at our schedules, our Dayrunners and our PDAs. But sometimes they provide silver linings, and in my case, the silver lining was writing. My accident was a serious one, and the recovery was long and difficult. Writing became my therapy, and before I was well enough to return to grad school, I’d actually sold a book and launched a new career.
Now, I write full-time – a rewarding and consuming profession that keeps me blissfully ignorant of schedules, other than my deadlines (and I’ve been known to forget those, as my editors can attest). Writing has brought many blessings to my life, and a couple of curses, one of them an aphorism that seems to govern my new existence.
I do know who came up with this one: ‘Whenever there is a flat surface someone will find something to put on it.’ His name was Ballweg, and I think he must have been a writer.