I hate it when things don’t go to plan. Well, when they do not go to my plan, anyway. Sometimes people will tell you (very sensibly, I guess) not to worry about the things you cannot control and concentrate on the things you do have influence over.
I do not disagree, however this does not help with the things that I think are under my control but turn out not to be. That is when it gets frustrating.
The Lovely Wife has commented before on my inability to take changes of plan well. I cope with them of course we all have to – but rarely with good grace. No, I have to grump my way through it usually, and unfortunately whoever is close by may well end up as collateral damage from the black mood that has no doubt descended. Trains that are mysteriously cancelled (especially late at night when I am never at my best anyway), work trips cancelled at the last minute, the shop has run out of my favourite beverage – the opportunities for change rage are endless. The problem really for me is not even some sense of disappointment as to missing whatever it is – I refer back to ‘business trip’ which is hardly something at I would look forward to (unless it was to, say, Bermuda – unfortunately it is usually Brussels) but a problem with mind-set. So if I am convinced I am getting the twenty past eleven train home and find it is cancelled – so thirty minutes of boredom on the platform and later than expected to bed just feels… Wrong. The inconvenience is minor but it can put me into a downward spiral that I need to get myself out of pretty damn fast if the situation is to be saved.
Actually, that is a where the Lovely Wife has learned how to manage me. I need space for a few minutes – and maybe a little rant against the unfairness of the universe as that sometimes helps and she is happy to oblige, having seen the signs coming a mile off (sometimes it is an advantage to be easy to read and I’m dreadful at poker anyway). Very occasionally a piece of percussive abuse against an unfortunate nearby inanimate object (always regretted, don’t try it at home). But if I have my little bit of moaning space, I come through it pretty quick.
Because in reality most situations, after a little thought as the throbbing pain where you have kicked the door frame is hopefully ebbing away, split into two types. Some fall under the ‘actually it doesn’t matter’ category – there is another train and you probably would have frittered away that half an hour and not gotten extra sleep about it anyway. But then there is the second type, where it becomes opportunity – if only for adventure. So it was the last train? What do you do now?
When I was in Japan many years ago my (well in my head at least if not in reality) girlfriend of the time and I made a foolish assault on Mt Fuji out of season. The rest of the year the mountain has that lovely snow frosting but in the climbing season thousands descend to climb to the top. We, in our foolishness and arrogance thought we would have a go in July. So we got the bus half way up and on our own struck out for the top. Sometime later above the clouds, when we had reached the snow line and felt terrible – Fuji-san is high enough to give you altitude sickness and we totally unprepared for that as much as the snow – so with only a few hundred metres to go we reluctantly went back to the ‘tourist town’ happy we had at least had a go at climbing what is an achingly beautiful mountain.
Back at the bust stop and formerly bustling shops, everyone had gone. No people. No bus down the 10 + miles of road to the base of the mountain. Just two Australian girls who had come prepared and were going to climb in the evening and get the bus back in the morning.
I had a moment, best described as weary despair, tinged with panic. Lady friend of the times was not much help and we were looking at being trapped for the night on an increasingly cold mountain with only a vending machine for overly sweet tinned milk tea for company.
It took me about ten minutes to pull myself together. After all, I did have a map (albeit entirely in Japanese). Looking at it in the fading light there looked as though there was a trail down through the woods that was half that of the road, if only we could find it. We found something that looked like the start of the trail and began a nervous descent. Luckily we did not know that these woods have a reputation for being a favourite place for people to hang themselves, but we had the happier experience of finding artificial cut steps and realised we had the right path. A couple of hours later, having emerged out of the darkness to find a Shinto shrine and a road we threw ourselves on the mercy of the Japanese equivalent of a Little Chef and were able to get the amused staff to arrange a taxi to our hotel and warm baths and futons.
The point of mentioning this is that the memories from that day are now important and largely positive. It never went the way of our plans, but once we got through the initial shock it turned into an unforgettable adventure. We were lucky to find the beginning of the trail certainly, but I’m a great believer with the view the harder you work at something the luckier you tend to get. What I need to persuade myself more often is that there is always a way of turning a change of plan to my advantage – I just wish I could do away with the grumpy transition process.