Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Best laid schemes

One thing I've really tried to do for myself this year is to set reasonable goals, give myself a time
frame to complete them, and hold fast to my plans.  I'm not a great goal setter, and I really never have been.  I have, however, always been the type that my value is wrapped up in the amount of tasks I get done each day.  If I accomplish what I deem is nothing, then I get extremely down on myself.

So, this year has pretty much been a health disaster for me, and my family.  Not that we've had major diseases that put us in the hospital, but it's been a lot of small, minor problems with our health, like strep throat, asthmatic bronchitis, falling, car accident, back aches, ingrown toenails, etc.  These little crises have done nothing for my goal setting!  In fact, they have completely blown out of the water all of the things that I have wanted to accomplish.

My kitchen didn't get painted, we didn't go on a family vacation, I didn't clean out my sewing room and move Emily into it.  Because of all these goals getting shuffled aside as I took care of the incidents as they came, Summer vacation flew past me like a flash (totally unfair, seeing as how slow winter went by!) and the start of the school year hit me upside the head, and I never saw it coming!

It was the second week of school, and Heather was supposed to get packed and ready to move into Peter's parents' house so she could be closer to BYU; and we were already behind on shopping for her and making sure she had everything she needed.  My big plan was to use the time the other two kids were in school to get all this done before she had to go to First Year Orientation on Thursday and Friday, then Saturday we would take her down to the grandparents' house and we would make sure she was settled in.  The plan was all set in my mind of the tender tears of happiness we'd shed as we gave our final hugs, and Heather would have a couple of nights to settle into her new home before the first day of school.

Just as it had all year long, fate had a completely different idea of how the week would go.  I got a migraine (probably from all the stress).  No problem - I still have Tuesday and Wednesday to get Heather's shopping done and all her stuff packed.  WRONG!  Danny contracted Hand Foot and Mouth (it took us two trips to the doctor and 4 days to figure that out) and because he was contagious he had to stay home from school ALL of last week.  I was up all night with him a couple of nights because of fevers and a sore throat.  Then, Emily's vice principal called - she was having issues at school (she has mild Asperger's) and we needed to rearrange her schedule.  Oh, and I forgot that Daniel was scheduled to have surgery in two weeks, so better make sure the surgery has prior authorization (that took several phone calls instead of just the standard one, of course.)

Next thing I know, Friday night rolls around and I am chilling and coughing, and I don't feel well.  Seriously?!

Needless to say, the whole moving Heather to the grandparents' didn't happen.  And instead of tears of happiness, I ended up sobbing and depressed, having a meltdown because this was not the plan!

We did a "hard reset" of our plans, and afterward, as I sat in my room thinking, the phrase, "the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry," went through my head.  Best laid schemes, indeed!  Nothing happened the way I wanted it to go.

Robert Burns
But where did that phrase even come from?  I decided to look it up.  I knew that the book "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck was not the source of this phrase, but certainly used it in the title.

I was surprised to find that the phrase came from a poem written in 1785 by the very famous Scottish poet and beloved bard, and farmer, Robert Burns (1759-1796).  I tried to read the poem, but it being half Old English, part gaelic and another part highland slang it was really difficult to understand.  Fortunately, Wikipedia had a "translated" version of the poem.  Unfortunately, it didn't rhyme, and the original meaning of the poem got lost in translation.  I decided to try my hand at translating the poem while trying to keep true to the ideas and beauty of the original. (Here is a link to the original).  What follows is my version of the poem:

To a Mouse
by Robert Burns 
Tiny, sleek, cowering, timorous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
You need not start away so hasty
With your bickering brattle!
I’d be loath to run and chase thee,
With my murdering plow paddle.
 I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, my poor, earth born companion
And wee fellow mortal!
 I do not doubt, sometimes you may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, you must live!
An occasional ear in 24 sheaves
Is but a small request;
I'll get a blessing with the leaves,
The one ear never missed.
 Your tiny housie, too, in ruin!
Its flimsy walls the winds are strewing!
And nothing, now, to build a new one,
The fog grows thicker!
And bleak December's winds ensuing,
Both sharp and bitter!
 Thou saw the fields laid bare and waste,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter passed
Out through thy cell.
 That wee bit heap of leaves and rubble,
Has cost thee many a weary nibble!
Now your turned out, for all thy trouble,
But house or hold,
To bear the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoarfrost cold.
 But Mousie, thou art not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes of mice and men
Going oft awry,
And leave us naught but grief and pain,
For the promised joy!
 Still thou are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches thee:
But alas! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects drear!
And tho the future I cannot see,
I can only guess and fear!

This poem beautifully sums up this whole past year for me!  I feel like the mouse who had planned and worked so hard to set his plan in motion, but then an unseen force, much bigger than me, with plans of its own, came and plowed all of my goals, overturning them and causing the mouse to panic.  But, unlike the plowman in the poem who is simply trying to prepare the fall field for winter, the unseen force in my situation - aka Heavenly Father - has my own best interest at heart.  At least, I have to believe that to be the case, because to not believe that would mean that all my struggles and plans are in vain, and I should just give up now.

The fact is that with all of the things that have happened this year, I count my blessings that they have not all happened at once, that they are small manageable things, and that for every problem there are scores of blessings that I have been given.  One of those blessings is that if this year's succession of small crises had happened even two years ago, I am not sure I'd have been able to emotionally handle them in the way that I have managed to handle them this year.  Tally it all up and the summation is this: my plight in comparison to others' is minuscule.

So, here's to the best laid schemes of mice and men that often go awry, but in the end, it's not the trial itself that defines our outcome, rather it is our ATTITUDE that defines our outcome.

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