Lovely Letters: When Your Plans Are Wrecked (& You Can’t Find a Map)

Happy Wednesday! Here’s a new Lovely Letter and a challenge. After reading this, leave a comment for the girl who sent in this e-mail with a simple sentence of advice/encouragement about what you know when it comes to plans failing and life changing.

“And while my heart has been changed to accept that the life I once planned won’t happen, it’s still hard. I appreciate this stage of growth in my life, but I also really wish I could have gotten this lesson without so much heartbreak. ”

-O

Dear O,

Something happened inside of me when I heard her say these words:

“I just feel connected to you.”

A complete stranger, working at a kiosk in the middle of the mall just stood with her dark eyes looking up at me. She leaned her head on my shoulder and it felt like a bandaid was being placed across my world.

All because I stopped (and I never ever, under any circumstance, stop at a kiosk in the mall). I am the rude person who will not even glance over at them, because I know that they’re going to harass me in attempts to sell me what is probably the last thing I’ll ever need.

But this time was very different and there was something about the way her voice sounded when she called out to me. It was like the voice of an old friend, it was as though we had been on a thousand coffee dates and grew up having movie & ice cream nights together. I knew her, I just did. Though I had never seen her face before, I knew her.

So, I just stopped.

It was never a conscious choice, I had no interest in the product she was selling, but I just stopped. I can’t even explain the reason, other than it’s just what you do when you see a familiar face, you don’t question it; you just stop to say hello.

And with an ease we just meshed into conversation. We talked about how she was from Israel, about my trip there three years ago. It was like we’d been there together. We talked about the food, the nightlife, the way people greet you on the street. We laughed, as though together, we had shared memories and jokes during our desert days.

I ended up buying something, she ended up asking for my contact information and she told me to come back. She invited me to stop by again and see her. She asked to be friends.

And in that moment, I learned something I thought I already knew.

The best things in your life are the things you didn’t plan on, the moments you can’t make sense of, the moments that simply had to be pure fate because they weren’t on the map, but they somehow changed your entire direction.

I wish I had known a year ago, that some of the best things in my life would happen in the middle of the mall or walking down hallways.

Not yet arrived to the place I’m trying to get to, I’ve stumbled into some pretty incredible moments along the way. Usually, it’s just when I’ve left a room of heartbreak and I’m trying to get to whatever room holds the next big thing. Usually, I’m in search of some kind of map while I’m in these hallways, I’m looking for some kind of sign to show me which door to walk in next.

Almost always, that’s when I collide with something that grabs at my heartstrings, something worth stopping for and suddenly, I begin to panic. In those moments, I refuse to even focus on the beautiful surprise, and rather start frantically searching for a compass, something to get me where I was supposed to go.  I tell myself, Don’t stop for this, it’s just a distraction. You don’t have time for this. You’ve got places you need to be, more important things to do.”

I wish I had known earlier how to enjoy the hallways; the people you meet, the paintings on the wall, the things that may just look like common decor, or that may seem unimportant. Usually, these are things worth giving a second glance.

You know, O,  I don’t always want to be in a hurry to find what’s next.  Sometimes, I just want to love what is.

Rather than searching for a map, I wish I had met & asked strangers for some directions along the way. I wish I had met more of the people coming in and out of the rooms around me. I wish I had known that it’s okay to walk alongside some people and go wherever they’re going. It’s not always a bad thing, you know; to trust someone new.  Even though that’s gotten you heartbroken in the past, there’s no  time limit or safety guarantee on how many people you should pass by or how long you should walk until  it’s an “appropriate time” to walk beside someone else again. Yes, they start as strangers, but seconds later they might just change your life.

That’s a lesson you can put in your back pocket today, O. Don’t let fear keep you from trying again, from making new plans, from turning the corner and starting down an entirely new hallway with a whole different set of doors. Don’t let it keep you from stopping when someone stands with their hand extended, waiting to meet you.

I know what it’s like to let go of the life you planned, the uncertainty of beginning again, or trying to figure out which direction to head in. I know what it feels like when dreams die and everything you thought you wanted starts to look colorless.

It’s okay to want new things. It’s okay to change your mind, to explore possibilities, to give yourself some room to make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll open the wrong door. Sometimes you’ll linger in the hallway too long. 

But sometimes, you’ll leave the wrong room and just realize that you’re grateful you didn’t get stuck where you weren’t ever meant to stay.

I just want you to know that you don’t have to keep waiting for the next thing. Sometimes, you can find the best things right where you’re standing, right in the middle of the uncertain hallway, where you never expected to meet someone who could make you laugh. Sometimes, you find people that change your life in the middle of the mall and you get to be enchanted by the mystery of not even knowing what made you stop.

Life is funny that way, O. You spend your days trying to find a room filled with your destiny, and most of the time you end up tripping over it in the hallway.

It never looks like you expect, but that’s the wonderful thing about surprises; they’re often much better than the things your mind could have imagined.

Life has some surprises for you, O. They may scare you, they can sometimes seem like hurdles and messes that cause a detour from the path you thought you were supposed to take.

But they’re there for you, they’re gifts if you open your heart. O, you’re going to get to where you’re supposed to go. But I don’t want you to end up there alone, exhausted, discouraged. Choose to enjoy the artwork, to peek in on others’ rooms, stop and make some friends; I promise you when you arrive at that place you’re wanting to be it will seem so much sweeter.

You’re going to get there, as will I. It may not be where we expected, the route may look nothing like we imagined. It may take longer than we thought, but we’re going to get there (whatever there looks like for our lives).

Don’t stress out about maps or compasses. Just keep walking. You are meant enjoy the walk, the process it takes for you to end up stumbling through the door of where you were always meant to be. 

You’ll get there, O; you couldn’t miss it, even if you tried.

 

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (well, at least once a week)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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5 thoughts on “Lovely Letters: When Your Plans Are Wrecked (& You Can’t Find a Map)”

  1. Hi O,

    I’ve gone through the same aching before a few years ago, and because life happens I’m going through another painful heartbreaking change that is hard to accept. I never expected my life to be the way it is now.

    What helps me, my “buoy” that keeps me afloat through the day–without crying–is to remember all the people I love that I met because of the change. People come in and out of our lives all the time. And sometimes when great change happens we meet people we would have never met before.
    I don’t know if this will help, but I know for me I
    hold fast to that. Knowing there are people out there who will be important to me one day.
    When my parents got divorced and our home forclosed when I was a senior in high school my whole world fell apart. But through it I become close friends with someone new, both me and my sister became best friends with someone who was everything to us.
    I don’t know what change you are facing, but maybe there is someone or something new you’re going to discover through it all.
    -ev

  2. O,

    I just want you to know that you’re far from alone. This summer every single plan I had for my life fell through: my job, my car, my friends, where I lived, everything. I know how scary it is to be heartbroken and confused and wondering how the heck this happens and what happens next because I wonder that too some nights (more nights than I’d like to admit), but I have to agree with Ashlin. The beauty does come in the unexpected. I had to move over 800 miles this summer, have my car junked, and de-flea a tiny cat, but I also realized I’m incredibly blessed with my family, tightened some relationships that I never would’ve had were it not for the risk I had taken, and had a lot of time to read and write recently. My life is far from ideal, and I still am trying to figure out what step to take next, but the scenery here is beautiful…and I know God will keep showing up every day. O, life is going to move, the heartbreak will lessen, and something more beautiful will show up. We just have to stay open to life and keep moving forward.

    I have faith for both of us.
    Love,
    J

  3. o-

    You’re not alone in this map-less journey. Within the past three months I’ve suffered skinny love like I never knew that I could. My heart has ached for what once was. Memories have clouded my head and a yearning for the past has choked me to the point where it’s taken my breath away. I’ve always been pragmatic- I’ve never liked the grey, the in-between, the blurry.
    So I truly was at a loss when I saw my carefully crafted agenda of how my life was supposed to go dissolve bit by bit into ashes. I tried grabbing it, I tried bargaining. If I had just been a better girlfriend. If I had just been a more loving daughter. I thought, “I’ll try harder” and “I’ll be better.” Maybe then the two men who I’d built my life around would soften and come back.
    But when my knuckles, bruised and white, slowly began to release the map I’d always kept so close to my chest, I opened myself up to the infinite, beautiful, intoxicating beauty of true freedom.
    You can map it out all you want- point a to point b, point b to point c, etc. But the truth is, life is far too much of a dazzling mystery to be diminished to a single worn out map.
    I have a feeling you have a soul like fire. And I have an even greater feeling that this is its way of telling you that it’s ready to be set free. It doesn’t want to be confined by premeditated plans and maps. It has far too much love, light and passion for that. This is your time, O.

    xx

    -C

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