Life cannot be prepared for. Accidents will happen in ways we cannot hope to imagine. Success happens when we can transform the bad into good; the worst events can often transform us into better people.
One week ago, during an afternoon raid on the compost bin, one of our dogs bit the littlest dog. The pressure of the bite completely dislocated her shoulder; she weighs 4 pounds. The sadness this event brought me is indescribable. My options for her care were amputation, a non-surgical procedure that might not work or a $4500 surgery that was invasive and would prove painful for the little monster. I cried. We cried. Moments such as these define us, and I knew I had to do the best for my whole family. Emotional decisions are not the same as logical decisions. I felt that I had to euthanize the little dog who had been with me through my toughest days and nights (even if she was to root of many such nights). I was shattered. However, we paused. We argued. We tried to justify an emotional decision, but could not. Perhaps like Abraham and Isaac, I had to commit to my decision only to find an angel stopping me from delivering the final blow. Dr. Sanderson and Dr. Teeger offered a middle solution that I could financially afford, would offer her as little pain as possible and would help with the immediate care she would need.
Would she have been saved unless I stood by my personal code of values? Was I a bad man for choosing to sacrifice her for the good of the rest of my tribe? What kind of man does not “man-up” with money to save his friend? For the past week I have wrestled with these moral questions, and I believe that the experience has made me a better man. Indy has improved greatly with each day; I hope to have her home again soon.
On the eve of this catastrophe I had also planned on proposing to the love of my life: perfect timing. I had designed a ring, had a friend’s father procure a beautiful emerald to place in a platinum band, and we were visiting our great friends at their magical retreat in the forests near Arrowhead. I had pushed my finances a little to purchase the ring, but I wanted to create a piece of jewellery that was timeless and more than the typical engagement ring. Hence, when Indy was injured my plans made other decisions impossible. Her injury became the wrench in the works; the best laid plans of mice and men….
Robert Frost asks the question in his poem, “Ovenbird”: “what to make of a diminished thing?” These words have resonated within me since first hearing them 20 years ago in my American Literature class. Is that not we do every day of our lives? The time we have diminishes with each passing moment; we must demand of ourselves what to do with the time we have left. I chose to propose marriage in a forest by a lake, move ahead with our weekend plans, and trust that my dog would recover best without my over-compensating, nervous help. I did the best with what I was dealt, and that is what I consider to be what makes a good man. I may be wrong, but that is where I stand.
After confusing my dental appointment days, I find myself sitting at a local cafe, drinking a cafe Americano, eating an almond croissant and preparing to enter my first GTD review since I started using this system to “get things done” five years ago. Plans may not always work out, and we often lose life’s best opportunities when we cannot go off-script from our projected narratives, but David Allen’s system of actionable planning has allowed me to realize what I never could have dreamed of before. The hour I spend reflecting and planning will at least let me see where I want to go, know my first steps towards that place, and then when detours lead me astray I still know my bearings, can see land, when the storm passes.