Best Laid Plans

Because I did not renew my XM subscription in June, I’ve been listening to NPR in my truck every day, just like back in the 90’s before I had satellite radio, and I’m finding myself so grateful, more and more every day, for even the shittiest days of my life…There is a crisis throughout the European Union that is not reported nearly as much in our media as it is on the BBC, and it is heartbreaking and tear inducing, every day when I listen on my way to work.  People like you and me, JUST LIKE YOU & ME, but who happen to have been born and raised in Syria or Afghanistan, are desperately trying to get out of their war ravaged countries and to any number of European countries, and thousands and thousands are stuck, in limbo, in purgatory, in this half-way point, not home & not settled, that they can’t get out of, they are out of their home and their country but nowhere they wish to be…they are in the streets on islands, they are at train stations, they are stranded…

…and every day I listen to BBC news in my truck, I think to myself, that even on my very worst day of my entire life thus far, my life is and has been so much better than that of these scared and desperate people, and why?  Why am I the lucky one who got to be born white, in the USA, to middle class parents?  The interviews with some of these refugees rip my heart out, every day, but I still listen, every day…I want to know, I want to know what is happening, how are they making out, will they get to Germany, to Iceland, to Sweden…do they have relatives somewhere who will take them in, have they got anything to eat, are their babies sick…I want to know…These are educated women and men.  These are people who owned businesses, who worked for law firms, and as doctors or nurses in hospitals, and taught school, and drove delivery trucks…they had birthday parties for their kids, they had dinner parties with their friends, they had date nights with their husbands and their wives…and now, because their ability to live and thrive and raise their children with any semblance of peace or contentment in Syria, or wherever,  had become near impossible, they risked everything they had to try to find a better life somewhere else…they left their jobs, their houses, their older family members and took what they could carry in  a suitcase, or they took nothing, and took whatever money they had, and left the only life they knew…brave, desperate, hopeful, hopeless?  I think you have to be every one of these things to do this seemingly impossible thing, flee your life…

I watch the news early in the morning and most often at night here at home, and having listened during  the morning, can’t help but think about myself…how so many of the plans I had, the wishes I wished, the dreams I dreamed, did not come to fruition, and wonder, how dare I feel even a bit blue?!  When I think about these Syrians or Afghans, these men and women who had loving parents just like I did, who came from a lovely home and stable family just like I did, who went to college just like I did, who worked hard to own a home and make ends meet just like I did, and now, through no fault of their own have had to give up all that they knew and all they had to try to find a  new life…

These refugees are far more educated than I; they speak English, AND one or more other languages.  These refugees are far more brave than I; they left all that they knew with nothing but uncertainty and dreams for something better.  These refugees are far more resilient than I; they have had no full meal, no shower, no toilet,  for days on end, and they press on…and I say to myself, how dare I complain about ANYTHING?!  I work for people whose biggest problem of this weekend might be that one of their ice makers is on the fritz, or the caterer brings fewer plates than are needed, or the landscapers cut the wrong tree limbs, or the pool filter is too noisy…the news brings an oft needed reality check to my life…what life could be like, what it IS like, for so many and holy cow am I lucky or what?!

I have joked with several of my customers over the years, that here I am, graduated first in my class in college, and cleaning bathrooms of rich people and painting their bedrooms.  Not complaining at all, but recognizing that my plans for my life and my future did not work out, at all.  I planned to get a job with the Prosecutor’s office, or a prestigious law firm, or some sort of women’s advocacy organization, or with the county pretrial intervention department, but not one of my plans worked out…I applied for job after job after job…I kept wondering, how do they not want ME?!  My parents and my friends would wonder the same thing; how can so and so get hired and not you?!  Who would not want a woman who was a single mother, who worked full time, who put herself through college, who got straight A’s?!  Who would not want a woman like THIS?!  But nobody did…and I have held onto that hurt for so many years, that not one of my plans for my life worked out…I worked so hard to do well in college, and for what?!  Now I plant gardens and clean houses and paint siding for millionaires, and I think about it often…how what I planned did not work out at all…AND it can be so easy to get sucked into that state of woe, any of us can get sucked into it…how woeful when your best laid plans don’t pan out…and then I listen to the news and I watch the news and my reality check is presented to me…and think, how dare I feel blue or rueful??!!   These people are not much different from me or you…they worked hard, they studied, they did well in school to have a career, they did what they had to do to buy a home and now…this…talk about plans not working out?!  In not one of the interviews have I heard a woman say, “why me?”  or “what did I do wrong?” …NONE of that sorrowful talk…just bewilderment that this is their now, that this is what is happening to them right now, and they are tired and hungry and thirsty and scared, but they just keep looking ahead to what will come and pray it will be okay…undaunted, resolute…I am amazed by their bravery…So here I am in my air-conditioned office, at my computer, sipping coffee, getting ready to head out the door to my job, and realizing how very good and easy my life is, when I look at the bigger picture…

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