Confessions of a Serial Planner


Nicole Joshua -Organic4I am a planner. This includes any project I take on, but five-year plans are my favourite, giving me a sense of purpose, direction and control. I feel safe when my plans are detailed and well laid out. I like knowing where I am going and how I am going to get there.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that I do not take lightly to anything that upsets my well set out plans. When life throws curve-balls my way, my immediate reactions are anger, irritation and frustration. I mean, really. What the heck?!? How dare something or someone throw me off course?

At nearly forty years old, one would think curveballs are almost a given. If I look back at my life’s journey thus far, there is more evidence of curve-balls than smooth fulfillment of previously well laid out plans. Even if the last twenty or so years are not in purview, just the last two months is evidence that the control I so desperately seek, is elusive.


I was excited about my studies commencing in April. I would attend five one-week blocks of classes, spread out over this year, and in between each block I would be required to read and write one essay. Even though I have no idea where exactly this course will take me career-wise, I still sensed that this is what I need to be doing now.

My husband and I decided that Baby Girl, given her sociable nature, would thrive in a school environment where she could interact with other little people her age. She would attend school for half a day, giving me space to work in the morning, and then we would have the afternoons together.

Baby girl would begin March 1, and because my course only started April 4, I would have a whole month of free mornings. I was totally excited, planning what I would be doing with my free time. Even though Baby Girl’s first days were hard for both of us, I still reveled in being able to do whatever I wanted to in the morning.

But alas, it was not to be. Just when I started settling into my rhythms of rest and relaxation, Baby Girl got sick. She stayed sick for most of March, effectively blowing my well laid plans right out of the water.


My plans for April and May included attending classes for the first week of April, spending quality time with hubby and Baby Girl on a quick holiday trip, and then diving into my study program. Once back from our holiday trip, I would spend the mornings doing the prescribed readings for the course, and then have ample time to write my first essay.

Classes commenced, and even though I was super excited to be there, I could not help feeling steadily overwhelmed. But if I’d thought the first two days of class were huge, the mobile classroom of the Wednesday completely knocked me sideways.

We spent the day on the road, moving from one location to the next. It was an exhausting day, but not because we were on the road for almost 12 hours, but because of the enormity of what we saw and felt on that day. Forced removals, gentrification, unjustly squashed land claims, drug economy on the Cape Flats the product of the apartheid government, a new model of building homes in informal settlements, inhumane sanitation conditions, suburbia. The emotions that swamped me included despair, grief, anger, deep sadness, hope, frustration and disbelief.

WHAT THE HECK?!? That was all I could think, and all I could feel. The range of emotions and experiences left me feeling disoriented, struggling to comprehend the breadth and depth of what my city encompasses. Even though I tried to get back on track by acquiring most of my required readings, I struggled to focus my thoughts.

And then I got sick, and Baby Girl got sick, and for the rest of April and May, Baby Girl and I tag-teamed being sick with increasing severity. So again, my beautiful plan got blown away by the flu–pass the tissues, please–and by the disorientation of my week of classes.


For years, I lived according to the view that life was certain, knowable, controllable, and this view of life included God. Recollection of past curveballs brings to mind anger, frustration, heightened anxiety, insomnia, migraines, agitation, unfair lashing out at hubby and withdrawal from the world. (As I mentioned, I do not take well to having my plans waylaid by outside forces.)

But strangely enough, these last few “what the heck” curveballs have not been as traumatic as what they have been in the past. The biggest difference between then and now is one gorgeous, incredibly cuddly baby girl. Being a mom to my precious baby girl is how God is teaching me to surrender.

Since her arrival, I have been learning to embrace a view of the world that is more organic, more mysterious. I find myself kneeling in front of the burning bush, hearing Yahweh say, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” I hear God remind me that God is more than “I Am That I Am.” God is also “I Will Be What I Will Be.”

The strangeness of recent “what the hecks” has been accompanied by peace that is so surprising, but so welcomed. Anxiety still makes an appearance, and I am sure the anti-depressants and lessons learned in therapy are helping quite a bit, but there’s a different feel to my days, a softness that is new and wonderful.

Maybe, just maybe, I am finally feeling the comforting arms of God.