To plan or not to plan, that is the question!

For many of us, planning ahead is a way to manage stress and workload, and to ensure we have control over our future. But what happens when major events scupper those plans? Dr Eimear McCorry explores her fears that her pandemic strategy was interrupted, and how she found ways to embrace the positives.
Dr Eimear McCorry

Undoubtedly I am one of life’s planners. I am not only that person who knows what they are doing next week and next month, but I’m also the one with the five year plan. I unashamedly thrive on organisation and preparation (and dare I say it control). And be it luck or fate, or perhaps a bit of stubbornness, my plans have pretty much always fallen in to place.

Naturally, if not naively, I approached the pandemic in the same way. I made plans and back up plans, and felt in control of the situation. I knew what I would do if my parents became ill, if my husband contracted COVID-19, if I did. I had a plan for the weekly shop (without getting into the hysteria of course), a plan for home school, a cleaning regime, a routine when returning from work so that germs wouldn’t be passed on.

What I wasn’t expecting was the amount of things I couldn’t plan for, the sheer amount of things I felt I couldn’t control. There was the constant stream of COVID headlines and my apparent need to read them all. There was the behaviour of other people and what seemed to me as their blatant disregard for social distancing. There was the realisation that Facetime doesn’t quite cut it when Grandparent hugs are required. There was the overwhelming worry for my family and friends. Then came the icing on the (particularly inedible) cake - my interaction with a set of stairs on nightshift that left me a little worse for wear with a broken bone and a cast.

I found myself at home, immobile and genuinely it was hard for me to see beyond these things. I wanted to plan, to control, to know what was round the corner.

Unexpectedly, but thankfully, small things started to shine through.

I received thoughtful text messages with kind words, beautiful flowers, a care package from a mystery sender. People expressed genuine thanks to healthcare workers; friends expressed heartfelt concerns about me going to work in the hospital.

And momentum built. There was the gorgeous sunshine in April, picnics in the garden and afternoons in the paddling pool. There was the realisation that this was exclusive family time that we might never experience again. I now had time and energy to tackle things I wanted to complete but somehow hadn’t quite been able to, opportunities to do things differently, the chance to make headway on projects that had come to a sudden stop.

Finally there was an awareness - somewhat of a revelation for me - that it was ok not to plan. It was ok not be in control of everything. And so, perhaps in a rather clinched notion, I now have embraced a new plan - one to relinquish some control, embrace what opportunities this can bring and learn to take more things as they come.