Upon my return from Atlanta, my life went into whirlwind mode. Coming back from a week long intense conference left not only my brain exhausted, but my head spinning and my inbox overflowing. As I shuffled through catch up work and made plans for the next week, I felt like life was finally getting back to a routine. If I’ve learned anything about myself on this journey of self-exploration, it’s that I crave a plan and routine like smokers crave that sweet, toxic stick of death.
As I moved through life, knocking things off my to-do list, planning ahead for the week, and figuring out all the knicks and knacks that had to be done, my life came to a screeching and jarring halt. As I flipped through my Facebook news feed, I noticed quite a few pictures of my friend, Todd. Thinking perhaps it was his birthday or there was a get-together that took place while I was out of town, I brushed it off as a joke between friends that I wasn’t in on. But suddenly, Todd’s name started showing up in other ways, in ways I never thought I would read.
My friend was murdered.
As my back thumped into the cold back of my suddenly extremely uncomfortable chair, my face flushed and my mind just simply didn’t comprehend. My friend of the past 6 years had lost his life in a gruesome way that I later found out was more than likely at the hand of one of his friends and involved a knife, brutal force, and fire to cover it up. While I won’t go into the gory details, the bottom line is that my friend’s beautiful blue eyes and heartwarming smile were now cold and only seen as a memory.
Todd and I were not extremely close. Todd was a friend who I loved to see and always made me laugh. While I wasn’t his best friend, I always looked forward to our meet ups because I knew they would be full of smiles, laughter and least of all, judgement. You see, Todd was a bit more of a social butterfly than I and in the past, I have gotten slack from some of my friends for my love of staying home and going to bed early. While I always appear to be an extrovert, I recharge the way an introvert does – on my own – and i frequently run out of juice by the time the week is done. I’m so involved, that I need my time on my own. While Todd didn’t at all work the way I did, I felt he was always one of my friends that I could count on not to give me any grief – only a smile.
As the news poured in over my Facebook feed through news outlets, friends’ posts and random memories of Todd, my head began to spin. How could my friend, my friend, be murdered? How could someone I know be taken from this earth at the hand of someone else – at the direct hand, at that matter? This was no act of God, no mere accident, no illness that won in an epic and final battle. This was pure insanity, pure hate, pure evil at work.
I went into crisis mode, planner mode. Suddenly, I was being contacted by the media for statements about Todd. As a leader in my young professional organization (of which Todd also belonged), every media outlet was looking for a way in on who Todd was. I began portioning out the stories like rations, trying to fulfill some level of honor for Todd by letting those who were hurt the most tell their story to thousands perched on their couches waiting for the latest thrill of the movie-like incident that washed over our town like a Brad Pitt sighting. It’s all anyone could talk about, and to know Todd, well, you were almost an instant celebrity. While funneling out information to those in the dark and coordinating interviews, updates and gatherings to pay tribute to Todd’s memory, I didn’t have time to think or feel. I only had time to plan. If there’s one thing I love almost as much as planning, it’s logistics, and this was a logistical interest that kept my mind busy.
But then I went home. Exhausted, I walked into my lonely apartment, stale with the curtains drawn and my bed unmade, and looked around. I dropped my bags, my shoulders hunched and suddenly, I wept. Soon, the weeping turned to sobbing and the sobbing turned to hyperventilating. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened to my friend. But, beyond the fact of a life taken far too soon – a life that would be terribly missed by our entire community, I couldn’t understand it – he had plans.
There was so much about Todd’s death that bothered me. The brutality of it. The fact that Todd was genuinely one of the nicest people I had ever met with perhaps one of the biggest hearts. The sobering fact that at some point, death calls for us all. The fact that a life was taken too soon – a life that had so much left to do. But the one thing that nagged at my emotions and chewed on my very existence was what happens to all the plans??
I have built my life around plans. They have worked well for me and they have bit me in the butt. They have made me rejoice in triumph and they have made me weep in pure sorrow and feel like a failure. But, they have always existed and have always come to fruition in one way or another. Suddenly, Todd’s plans didn’t matter any more. Death triumphs plans. This, this I could not fathom. What about the meals I plan to make? The friends I plan to catch up with? The 50 lbs I plan to lose? The family I plan to have? The dinner date I plan to go on? The places I plan to visit? In an instant, the plans were gone.
My soul was crushed. Death could take away my plans. It seemed as if it was the final insult – to rob a girl of her plans. This could not be. I could not let death take these from me. But yet, as I sobbed on my kitchen floor both for Todd and his plans, a small voice whispered inside my ear that one day, my plans too, would be nothing more than Cheerios for death.
As I picked myself up off the floor and squinted through puffy eyes, I thought about what to do next. The planner in me had to make a plan for what to do about my plans. (This is where I should have also realized I may have a planning problem.) While sitting there and fighting through waves of sickness and sadness for the loss of my friend, I couldn’t find an answer. To rid myself of plans is to rid myself of a large part of my very essence. To stick to my plans was to sentence myself to a constant peering over my shoulder for death’s looming jaws threatening my sweet morsels.
I pushed through the week. I sit here on my bathroom floor with journal in hand and planner at my side. I’m at a crossroads, a juxtaposition: I don’t know how to proceed forward. At times, I know that understanding death is always just a few steps away is crippling to the point that you won’t ever do anything. But to leave everything to plans, and to assume every tomorrow is promised, is also a life foolishly lived. There has to be a middle ground – a place where I can enjoy the plans made, but take life as it comes in the same breath. The idea of spontaneity terrifies me, but beckons in little ways.
When thinking about how I want to live my life in such a way that I pay tribute to all the greatness that Todd was, I see him running ahead in my mind. In one hand, a drink (because Todd loved himself a drink or two) and in the other, some of my plans. He runs, mischievous grin on his face, faster than I hope to catch him any time soon. He laughs, the most free laugh that I have ever heard. He takes my plans and he throws them to the wind. “What does it matter??” he’d say. “Live your life today, for today is all you have! Today is all that is real. Tomorrow does not exist and yesterday can never be returned! Today, today is your only day. Plan for that.”
Oh, but Todd, my dear sweet friend. I didn’t ask you enough questions, enjoy your smile enough or hear your laugh nearly enough times. Stop running so fast! Bring back my plans! Whatever shall i do without them?
Live. You shall live.
Rest in peace, dear friend. I will miss you, always.