An Almighty Plan?

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My front garden.

My front garden.

I have always had the notion that I’m being cared for by some invisible force. Those is AA and the other 12 step programs call it their Higher Power. I called it the same thing before I got comfortable with the word, God. But that’s another story and you’ll be filled in on that one when my book is finally published.

For me, God is not a wizened old man with a long, flowing beard, who sits on a thrown, cushioned with clouds. Actually, I have no idea what He, She, or It looks like. For all I know, God may be Booby, my first dog and special pet when I was very small. He was a dachshund and full of unconditional love. I have always noted that dog spelled backwards spells you know what … I know, bad joke, but sometimes, I do wonder.

IMG_1437All I know is that when I need something, God, often shows up and takes care of the problem. I do wonder about those times when He, She or It doesn’t show up. Maybe it’s because I’m NOT a churchgoer … But whatever, I’m very grateful for the help when it does come and always say thank you loudly, over and over again, in case that special caregiver of mine has hearing troubles like mine.

I do believe that my decision to take a social media sabbatical was one made out of necessity with somebody else’s help. I just didn’t know it at the time. Things were going swimmingly. I was having fun. I was ahead in revising my book. My editor, Annie, and I talk every two weeks, discussing three chapters or approximately 5,000 words of my manuscript. At the same time I’d send her the next three chapters for her to read and point out the places where I’m not being clear and need some help.

I was taking long walks every day, reading, and even seeing friends, that too often, I haven’t had the time to visit with. I made a list of the most important things in my life, and where and how I wanted to use my energy before I leave the planet.

No, I’m not suffering from a terminal illness, nor do I think I’m about to slip away. I’m very healthy. My departure will happen, but not yet. I do reckon though, that it’s important to take time now and then to remind ourselves of what the plan is.

Oh, but is there a plan or does it all just happen? I’ve never figured that out. Life runs at too fast a clip, dragging me along, until one day I have to stop and say, “Whoa there, give me some time to think, before I lose my attention span!”

Two weeks before Bill, was scheduled to open as one of the dad’s in the musical, The Fantastiks, one of his knees decided to rebel. His doc, said it was Gout and gave him special meds to make it go away. In the meantime, he had most of his dance steps in order and worked with the choreographer to make things less painful.

But the pain intensified on a daily basis and he had a hard time just walking from one room to another. I took over his cooking nights, his afternoon walks with the dogs, garbage emptying, and all the other IMG_1438stuff he does around the house. When he saw the doc again, he was told, “It’s not gout. You need to see an orthopedist.” The appointment was made for a date after the show was to open. And there was no getting around the excruciating pain. None of the over the counter anti-inflammatory meds did anything for the swelling or the pain.

Two days before opening night, Bill had to break the dramatist’s credo, “The show must go on,” and made the very tough decision to excuse himself from the cast. The director, took over Bill’s part and the show went on to great reviews. We went to see it opening night and it was fun. But Bill was devastated. Having been a actor, director, playwright, and teacher most of his life, he’d never had to drop out of anything before.

A week and a half later, Bill saw the orthopedist, had a cortisone shot, and was scheduled for an MRI the following week. He was still in pain and I was frustrated. Suddenly I didn’t have a lot of time to write, walk, or take naps. Between my own usual activities and Bill’s chores, I walked well over the 10,000 steps a day without taking my usual long walks. Bill’s sleep was disrupted by pain, mine by worry. Some of his symptoms were similar to those of our daughter’s chronic lyme disease symptoms. Was he suffering from the same thing or was it what the orthopedist said was arthritis? We were both extremely grumpy because life was not going as we’d planned it.

Bill had knee surgery a few weeks ago to repair a torn meniscus. At the same time the surgeon scraped away some of Bill’s arthritis and has warned that he is a candidate for a knee replacement if cortisone shots and a brace don’t keep the pain away. He’s still in recovery, works on a bike at the gym, and walks a little bit further every day without his cane.

I’m sure my decision to take a Lenten sabbatical was God’s plan to give me the time I’d need to be the head honcho here a home. The timing was just too perfect. Every day we both learned new lessons about patience, life changes, acceptance, and the small things that are of the most importance to us.

So far we’ve lived a charmed life. But we were reminded that we do not run the show and that whoever, or whatever it is who pulls the strings, has already figured out what we’ll need ahead of time.

Happy Spring!


  1. My thoughts exactly, Joan. Even though we have different beliefs about God, the core message is the same. I’m so happy the Lenten Sabbatical was well-timed for you. Happy to hear Bill is on the road to recovery. Knees are very complex structures and when anything goes awry, it can be debilitating. The biggest challenge is honing in on an accurate diagnosis so proper treatment can be initiated. It’s so good to have you back!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thanks so much, Kathy. Yes, the core message is the same, regardless of the names and labels we use. I’m very pleased to be back. I really missed doing this blog.

  2. Hi Joan and welcome back. I loved the idea of a “master plan” for many years now. As you know, the “higher power” concept has been an important one for me. The metaphor I enjoy, rather than the “he, she, or it” is of a tapestry. A beautiful tapestry when viewed from far enough back to take it all in. But, of course, none of us are able to do that. We are all right there, in the mix each day, unable to visualize what it might look like from afar. I just believe it’s beautiful. Another metaphor I like is of tuning into a TV show midway, or opening a book half way through. It’s hard to get the gist of the story; might seem bizare from such a distance. It’s the stuff of faith; the decision to believe in whatever helps to “get us through the night.” Thanks for sharing some of your story.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Janet, Thanks. I love your metaphor of a tapestry. There is indeed so much to be taken in. Stepping back to look at it for even a second can help us realize the emensity of what we’re attempting to see and that faith is a necessity.

  3. Joan — You’re well-described story shows once again that “timing is everything” — and definitely points to a master conductor who manages to keep incredible harmony where there could be sour notes.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thanks, Laurie. For me, the master conductor does indeed keep the harmony alive and helps me hear the melody that is so beautiful.

  4. I like the summary of your life/work in this posts, giving me some new details. And of course, the closing lines: But we were reminded that we do not run the show and that whoever, or whatever it is who pulls the strings, has already figured out what we’ll need ahead of time.

    Right now I am having to accept that I won’t reach 10,000 steps on my iPhone Pacer, not even 5000 because I have plantar fasciitis in my right foot, elevated at my desk at the moment and hobbles when I try to walk. Thankfully, I have exercises for rehab, new orthotics, and a “boot” (think a backless ski shoe!) to wear in bed at night. I told Cliff I won’t put it on until he falls asleep – ha! My writing is slow as molasses too, but I recognize this as part of the process.

  5. Joan Rough says:

    Marian, Acceptance is really hard and I’ve too often kicked it in the butt and told it to pick on someone else. But that keeps the discomfort at the top of our suffering. i’ve had plantar fasciitis and it is no picnic. I hope your exercises the “the boot,” get you out on the walking trail very soon.

  6. Just wanted to say a very big ‘thank you’ for your recent decision to follow Learning from Dogs. All the very best to you.

  7. My core belief is that “all things work together for good.” Sometimes it takes a long time to find the good part. Sometimes we fight against it along the way. Sometimes we have to take actions we didn’t expect to take. But more often than not, the positive side of a situation will reveal itself if we remain open to recognizing it.

    • Becca, I love your wise words and I agree with you. One of the biggest secrets to living well is to remain open to what we’re presented with. Denial can be a huge problem at times, but can be gotten over with faith and understanding.

  8. Hi Joan,

    I also believe there is a master plan, a purpose for our lives, but because we also have choice, some of us manage to circumvent the plan. When I’ve tried going it alone or ignore the plan, a few times the Universe has had to shout to me in no uncertain terms. Ouch!

    Fortunately I’ve gotten better (though not perfect yet, of course) at seeing the lessons, flowing with the timing and appreciating the small things. Sweet! It was a delight to see how you’re doing the same.

    • Thanks, Flora. The universe does have a way of letting us know in no uncertain terms which direction we need to go in. I’m a rebel too, and everynow and then it feels like I’m being hit over the head with a 2 x 4. A broken legwas once the only way I was taught to slow down and pay attention.

  9. Hi Joan, A lot here in this post . . . what did John Lennon say? “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.” The message I got from your post is that we never know . . . was it meant to be or random? Ah the great philosopher’s question. Welcome back and glad you’re blogging topics of deep reflection that I think we can all relate to.

    • Thanks, Susan. No, we’ll never know but it’s to fun contemplate. We also wonder about life on other planets. Maybe someday we’ll be surprised and know about such things. For now it’s all part of the mystery. I do like it that way.

  10. Joan, I was hoping for an update on Bill and thinking, too, that the sabbatical was well-timed.

    I think everyone past “a certain age” becomes increasingly aware that we are not in charge, especially of our health. Even as we do the things we can control in hopes of living long, full, lives.

    Each of us names the force we cannot see something different. The old-fashioned “God” works for me, but I know that my vision is incomplete without yours and that the great mystery lies beyond anyone’s ability to describe it.

    Yet we row on, together. Wishing you both great renewed energy as the “sound of the turtledove is heard in the land.”

    • Joan Rough says:

      Mr. Bill is doing great and goes to the gymn most days. Once in a while the knee acts up, but such is healing. He was supposed to go to New York this weekend, but thankfully decided to give himself more time at home where he won’t be hustled and jostled.

      Yes, we do row on through thick, thin, things known, and those unknown. I’m sure glad you’re on the same boat with me. Right now the seas are calm but as with everything, there will be days with big waves. It’s lovely to have friends who care and to care about.