When Things Don't Go as Planned
"I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do...", was all I could mutter between sobs and through the fattest, hottest tears.
I was crying in a 7-11 parking lot at 2am, 240 miles from home.
Have you ever experienced a setback that made you feel so incredibly lost, helpless, and just... done?
I just got back from a weekend camping trip in Moab, Utah. From my photos, you'd never know just how hard and SCARY this trip really was.
If you know me, you know I love to plan things. Parties, itineraries, MY LIFE. I'm that girl who had every single semester planned out months and months in advance. I graduated with the exact number of credit hours needed for a bachelors degree, no credit wasted. I love a good to-do list and I typically plan out my day, every day.
I spent weeks planning this camping trip. The departure time, arrival time, what time we'd set up camp and cook dinner, which hikes we would do (with the hiking difficulty and mileage listed), a daily menu and the approximate time we'd eat at were all laid out well in advance. I was so ready. Cinco de Moab was going to be hella rad.
Friday 3:30p.m. I left work, got the dog dropped off at daycare, and we were set to take off with a short stop at the sporting goods store to pick up my sleeping bag I had ordered in advance. Spirits were high and we were ready for adventure.
And then adventure came.
The store I had preordered my sleeping bag at never processed the order so I had to find a new sleeping bag, cancel the previous order and start a refund. They were then out of tent footprints and tarps. Ok, that's fine, we'll stop at REI and pic one up there. Minor inconvenience, right?
If you're from Utah, specifically Salt Lake City or Provo, you know what point of the mountain southbound traffic can be like...
So there we were, leaving town three hours later than planned, but on the road and happy to be out of town adventuring for the weekend.
After a few deep breaths and running the mantra of the day through my head, "I am grateful for this moment.", I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery, the company, and the sweet tunage.
Friday 11:30p.m. We rolled into quiet Moab and I navigated to the canyon we intended to camp in. We passed 3 campgrounds, all with "campground full" signs posted at the entrance.
It's fine, it's fine. There's still like 6 more sites to check further down the canyon. It wasn't a holiday weekend and there weren't any events we were aware of. We will just camp farther from town than intended...
Of the 9 campground with 125 campsites, not one was available.
On to the next campground.
After four hours of trying to find a place to sleep, we found ourselves rolling into a 7-11 at 2 o'clock in the morning with a Subaru Outback packed to the brim with camping gear, eyes heavy with fatigue and spirits low with defeat.
The tears started pooling in my eyes as I climbed from the passenger seat. I slammed the car door shut, walked across the gravel and sat on the curb.
I pulled out my phone in a last ditch effort to find another campsite or even a hotel room. No Service.
I tossed (ok, threw) my phone into the gravel and buried my face in my hands.
Both the iPhone screen and I... we broke.
"This is not what was suppose to happen. This doesn't happen to me. I planned this out and we should be resting up for a day of hiking by now. We are stuck and there's nothing I can do about it. I need to fix this and I can't. Is this my fault? I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do..."
This isn't a story about a girl who picked herself up from the 7-11 parking lot gravel, pulled an inspiring mantra out of her back pocket, believed in a miracle and watched it unfold in front of her. I gave up. I wanted to drive the three and a half hours back to Salt Lake and wallow in defeat.
We eventually found an overpriced room in town and slept for a few hours, woke to a few "Sorry for what I said to you when I was frustrated and had no one else to blame" phrases, and jumped back in the car.
We found our perfect camping spot and the rest of the weekend, despite a sudden wind and rain storm blowing us and our entire camp around, waking to coyotes howling, and red ants invading, it was beautiful. I wouldn't change a thing about Cinco de Moab.
I'm not proud of my reaction to our temporary circumstance, but I've reflected back on it a lot the last few days and decided to learn from it.
As humans, we love control. We love to know exactly how things will work out, what's around every corner. Even though we KNOW things don't ALWAYS work out, why are we so surprised when things don't go as planned? We get frustrated and mad and we throw our expensive smart phones down on gravel in the 7-11 parking lot. Why?!
Plans are funny things. We do our best to stick to the plan but so many parts of our lives are dictated by things beyond our control.
As I sat in that parking lot I felt pretty lousy about myself. Looking back, I can easily identify the good in the situation. (Something I should have tried to do in the moment.) Things could have been so much worse. I wasn't traveling alone, I had a partner in crime alongside me. We learned to work through hard things together and can now laugh at our misadventure.
A change in perspective may be all you need to recover from things not going as planned. Don't waste time harping on the negatives of the situation. While we can't change what has happened, we can change how we react.
Your reaction is the only thing you CAN control.
Here are a few steps to take when things don't go as planned:
- Evaluate the situation. How will it impact your life one year from now? Will it all?
- Vent. Feel your feelings, throw your phone in the gravel (ok, don't do that), but don't linger there. Let off some steam then move on. Try letting it out on paper in journal, meditating, or talk to someone you trust.
- Process your emotions. Be aware of your thoughts and emotions and consciously deal with them. Don't leave them like a dormant volcano awaiting eruption. That's how people die.
- Cut yourself some slack. Take a walk, cool off, take a mental break from the problem at hand to regroup. You may come back with an alternative solution to the problem.
- Think about actionable steps. You've had a setback, but you don't have to be stuck there forever.
- Forgive yourself. Remember, you are doing your best.
- Pin point what you have learned from the situation. And then move forward.
The most successful people describe their journey as a series of slip-ups and misfortunes with a few rad moments thrown in there. These people had the ability to withstand disappointing situations, reassess their route, and move forward.
Remember that life is so much more than the mud your trucking through right now. Next time you are faced with disappointment, just throw your phone on the ground and cry...
KIDDING! Don't do that. Please.
Have a little faith that the universe, God, your inner guide, has a much better plan for you. Sometimes you have to get hurt in order to put the pieces back together a better way.
What empowering reminders do you practice when you need to push forward through an unexpected or disappointing change of plans? I would love to hear from you!
Keeping It Real,