Variables, Tight Shoes, & the Boy Scout Motto

We can plan and plan and plan.  We can lace up our boots without missing a single eye.  We can pull them tight and double knot the laces.  We can form strategies, visualize and prepare for contingencies.  But eventually, you’re going to stub your toe, and your boots will be so tight that they’ll start hurting, constricting the swelling.  Eventually, a contingency is going to pop up that you didn’t plan for.  All the “be prepared” you can have in your little Boy Scout brain won’t be enough, and if you’ve boxed yourself in too tightly, well…

When I was a Cub Scout, we discussed the “Be Prepared” motto, and even though I didn’t stay a cub scout (preferring instead to spend my teenage years listening to overly loud music, smoking cigarettes, ogling St. Mary’s girls and driving too fast in my mom’s caravan), I held onto that concept.  My brain races.  Seriously.  It is like a F1 car.  It navigates turns and can pursue several future paths at the same time and simultaneously make arrangements and plans based on a multitude of outcomes.  It is one of my favorite personality traits, though, at times one of my most annoying ones.

Sometimes, I get so focused on an event and the outcomes of that event that I stop paying attention to other events.  Sometimes, the opposite is true.  I become so focused and invest in so many things all at the same time that I don’t savor any of them.  I just do them.  Like a robot.  Pop and lock, baby.

Anyway, the point I’m making about the boots and shoes is sort of inspired by my Chuck Taylor high tops, which I like to lace so tightly that my toes may or may not be turning purple within my shoes.  One time, I was working at Hollywood Video and I dropped a candy display rack on my foot.  It hurt.  Like a ton.  Like, I briefly considered asking my drug-addicted colleagues for something to dull the pain.  My swelling foot had nowhere to go in the overtightened shoes, and the swelling pressed against the canvas and created a throbbing feedback loop that was making my eyes pop out of my head.  I couldn’t get my pain-fogged brain to make my fingers work properly, and it took forever to get my shoe loosened.

Plans are the same way.  Preparations are the same way.  I think part of the “Be Prepared” idea has to be to leave room for the unexpected.  Don’t make plans laced up so tight that you can’t adjust.  I could be the safest, most aware driver in the world and a meteor could still come out of the sky and land on my car.  There are always variables that you can’t see.  If you plan thing too perfectly, too tightly, then when a meteor crashes into your plans, the shock, and possibly pain of it, will probably keep you from unlacing your plans with any kind of quickness or organization.  The unexpected will then cause you a feedback loop of pain until you can adjust.  Perhaps, you won’t adjust.  Perhaps, you’ll just keep going forward with your plan; forcing your swelling foot to stay in your shoe, despite the pain.   Well, I bet that makes you a less effective person.  It makes me less effective, that’s for sure.

Finally, I believe this is a spiritual world, where there are forces at play that we can’t see.  In all my preparations and planning I have to be cognizant of the fact that my plans may not be God’s plans, and the path I think I have laid out may become impassible.

Plan.  Expect excellence and prepare in such a way to achieve it, but be aware that there are other things out there that may impact your plans.  Sometimes life is like Tetris.  You build a solid block and all you need is a straight piece, but all your planning and building is for naught when Nintendo gives you one of those annoying z-shaped pieces and you have nowhere to put it.  Be aware that there are variables and that things will rarely go exactly as planned and that there are contingencies way outside your ability to conceive of.

I’m dealing with the z pieces and tight shoes.  And now that I don’t lace up so tightly, it’s sort of exciting.

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2 thoughts on “Variables, Tight Shoes, & the Boy Scout Motto

  1. I was driving today (like I do every day) and realized I don’t know the license plate number of the car I have been driving for the last five years. It bothered me so much I almost pulled over on the side of the road to get out and look. I started thinking about how I am so distracted by daily life-things that I miss the things that are right in front of me. Like my license plate number.

    I still don’t know it.

  2. I’m responding to this for a couple of reasons, but the main one is that I *just* read a blog post by a girl whose blog I follow, where she went on this dream ski trip with her family, and her feet started to hurt, but because she didn’t want to lose ski time, she kept skiing, causing her toes to turn purple. When the pain didn’t subside after several days, she finally went to urgent care and they had to DRILL HOLES IN HER TOENAILS to drain the blood and relieve pressure to her toes!!! Is that crazy or what? (Here’s the post, if you want to read it. She has a good sense of humor about it: http://lagliv.blogspot.com/2011/03/toes-and-mondays.html)

    But I’m also writing to say that I really like this post. I’ve learned a lot throughout this last half of my 20s about plans and how impossible it is to count on them all falling in to place. It’s a lesson I learn on a near-daily basis. But it can definitely be fun when you are able muster up the grace to see the unexpected z-shaped piece as a blessing and challenge, rather than simply the wrong piece (love that Tetris analogy).

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