An Excerpt from The Promise In Plan B: What We Bring To The Next Chapter In Our Lives

Shorehouse Books is so proud to release The Promise In Plan B: What We Bring To The Next Chapter In Our LivesPromiseinPlanB by Mary Farr.  A book of inspiration and motivation, The Promise In  Plan B reminds us that life is fluid and we need to accept and embrace what comes down the road for us. We might not have planned on finding a Plan B, but for most of us, that Plan B can offer a lot of promise.   

Several years ago I held a retreat at the Gunflint Lodge in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This remote and enchanting sanctuary in the Superior National Forest struck me as the perfect setting for a group of twelve women to look at their life paths with an eye toward the future and an appetite for fun. We began the day with my single question:

“How many of you are living your Plan A?” Nobody raised her hand.
So it seems that life offers us plenty of opportunities. It also tests us with setbacks, dead ends, hellos and good-byes. Relationships ebb and flow. Jobs begin and end. Responsibilities mount. Fears emerge. Sickness and losses arise. Most of us find ourselves steering our little ships from one safe harbor to another, searching for continuity and meaning, while scrambling to set our sails for the new leg of the journey. Occasionally, however, we get stuck.

The Promise in Plan B is grounded in the reality that life tends to be a series of interruptions, and we each possess a wealth of resources to initiate, investigate, and recreate the way we travel through our shifting courses. Unlike predictable job skills, these resources emphasize resilience, courage, imagination, humor, curiosity, and more. Yet it’s no small irony that many of our most precious strengths get cast aside in a value system that venerates productivity and achievement. In fact, it’s these unsung gifts that hold the real power to enhance the quality of our lives and the ease with which we move from one chapter to the next.

The Temptation to Resist Change
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
—Lao Tzu
I’m convinced that few of us actually choose to change much. Instead, we tend to resist moving with the flow until all else fails. Rarely do we resist, like a woman I knew who simply said no to the altered life that stood before her when her husband died. Instead, she retreated to an empty farmhouse on a remote hilltop. At age ninety-four she had no intention of changing anything, including her cloistered lifestyle. Living with other people would have required more adjustments than she was willing to make. She chose isolation.

I met Florence Sedgwick in the hills of western Wisconsin. Over the decades following her husband’s death, she had withdrawn from her small farming community. Only an occasional bit of gossip reminded local residents that she ever lived there. Jason Bauer in the Mondovi Co-Op Equity claimed she buried a fortune under her hay shed. A butcher from Bob’s IGA insisted that she was once committed to a mental institution. A World War II veteran in the local nursing home insisted that she set fire to a bunkhouse up the valley on the Werlein farm, a fire that killed her supposedly philandering husband. Nevertheless, after years of speculation, nobody really knew much about Florence, or Flossie, as she chose to be called. All this struck me as curious, because the unpainted fortress she called home was only a few miles from town and within riding distance of the place where I kept my horse Dixie. Every time we rode through the hills, I wondered.

Flossie’s story was both troubling and seductive. I saw something deliciously alluring about the idea of vanishing, of casting off the complicated relationships, damage, and responsibilities that sapped me of energy. That trip back to the drawing board to plot a new course for my children and myself had often felt daunting. Yet as she told her story, it was evident that Flossie bore the burden of estrangement and sadness that accompany a choice to retreat. Though she spoke with enthusiasm about her life on the forty, she clearly longed for human contact. And so it happened that Flossie Sedgwick and I became unexpected friends.

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