Plan B

I'm finally home from Europe. I unpacked and put away my suitcase for a whopping 48 hours before I'll need to pull it back out and pack again. I'm heading back to Colorado in a couple days for another week, and I realized that in the chaos leading up to Spain and my time abroad, I never shared my post from the last time I was in Boulder. So let's rewind. 

I had plans to host my second goal workshop on a Tuesday night in Boulder, so that Monday I went to Chautauqua and found a spot in a field right in front of the flatirons. It was going to be perfect. There were wildflowers, blue skies and incredible mountain scenery. I bought some flameless candles (since I knew the park wouldn’t allow open flames), Mexican blankets, for us to sit on and tons of food and wine. I had planned and prepped and purchased  everything I needed for another beautiful night. I patted myself on the back and left to grab margaritas and tacos with a friend. 


The next day at work, one of the girls that was going to attend that night approached me and asked what the rain plan was. I blinked a couple times. “It’s not supposed to rain” I replied. “The forecast is completely clear.” She looked back at me with concerned eyes. “Have you been outside?"


The sky had gone from a beautiful clear blue to a deep, slate grey. Rain clouds were heavily hanging in the sky, looking as though they could pour open at any moment. And this was what I saw through glimpses of my tangled hair that the intense wind was blowing all across my face. I didn’t have a plan b. This wasn’t supposed to happen. 


"Surely this will pass” I thought optimistically. "Meteorology is  usually pretty accurate with this kind of stuff, right? It must be forecasted to rain somewhere else and these clouds are just blowing over."


I loaded the Subaru up with all the food, wine, candles, blankets, flowers and everything else I had gathered and headed toward Chautauqua. Sure enough, not even a mile into my drive the first raindrop fell on my windshield. And within moments it was pouring. 


"I’m going to have to cancel". I thought to myself. I can’t have a dozen people huddle around my hotel bed and recreate the same night I had planned out in my mind. I stupidly hadn’t considered what my fallback would be ("Boulder has over 300 sunny days a year" they say). The forecast said it would be over within the hour, but the ground we would be sitting on would still be soaked and the sky would still be grey and cover the view of the mountains (which was the whole point of that location).


I was already appreciative that so many people that really don’t know me all that well signed up for the goal workshop in the first place. But now that the beautiful night of wine and candle light around the sunset over the flatirons wasn’t happening, I imagined the RSVP list would dwindle down to nothing. It was the perfect excuse for everyone to bail. To stay in with take out and Netflix on this rainy night. 


But that’s not what happened. 


One of the girls called and said she had just redone her front porch (which was covered) and that we could use that as a space instead if we wanted. I was appreciative of her offer and had a car full of food and wine so I figured why not? It was better than wasting it all if a few people still wanted to come. 


When I arrived to the house, every person who said they would come was there. Every single one of them. Even though we were running late. Even though plans had changed. Even though quite frankly, the whole thing had become a mess. They still showed up. 


“What can we do?” they all asked as I walked in with frizzy hair and wet clothes. 


They took the bags from me and started to slice the baguettes, open the wine and prepare the charcuterie. 

Meanwhile Shelby (shoutout for saving the day and opening your home) was sweeping the porch and hanging twinkle lights and lighting candles. 

Within 30 minutes the night had gone from a complete nightmare to a picturesque setting you’d see somewhere on Pinterest.  


Yeah, Chautauqua would have been beautiful, but frankly this was better. After a week  where people had really disappointed me back home, this night reminded me that people are still good. That failed plans don’t always turn out to be a catastrophe- in fact they can turn out to be a blessing. 


It reminded me that setting goals and making plans for our dreams is exactly what we should be doing (hence the reason I host these workshops), but so is being flexible in your approach to them. That life is full of plot twists and things working out differently than you think they will.  That sometimes your goal will fail and you’ll have to wing it and come up with a plan b. But that plan b is where we learn. It's usually the place where good stuff happens.


So thanks to my sweet friends in Colorado. Not just for still showing up when things fell apart, but for making the night even better than I expected it to be through your kindness. Thanks for laughing a lot, eating (and drinking) a lot, getting cozy on the front porch and for being open-minded to dreaming big with me. But most of all, thanks for reminding me that sometimes our happiest ending doesn’t happen until something else goes wrong.  


I'm an extrovert. I’m energized by groups. I love events, concerts, and the buzz of a large crowd (within reason). I love the hum of a full restaurant on a Friday night and the energy pouring out of people like the wine into their glasses. I love nights of squeezing too many people on the sofa with drinks and snacks and good conversation. I love people coming together: to celebrate, to dance, to be joyful.

But as much as I love all these aforementioned things, I’ve grown to really love solitude more and more over the years. 

I’m in Colorado for the week.  I contemplated calling some of my friends to grab lunch or go shopping in Denver when I landed today. There’s never a shortage of things to do while I’m out here, and my schedule usually fills up before my trip even begins.

But instead I opted to hop in the Subaru and drive north for an hour or two up to Estes Park. 

My grandparents took my dad and his sisters camping here when they were growing up. We came for a huge family vacation with everyone from both sides when I was little. It’s where my little brother took his first steps. It’s my first memory I can remember of being in the mountains. But I haven’t been back in over 20 years (which makes me feel really old to say), so I took some time to rediscover the beauty this place has to offer. 

I did some shopping downtown, visiting the taffy store where my grandfather would always load up on cinnamon salt water taffy. I scored some beautiful woven blankets from a local Native American shop. I sat outside scoping the Rockies while I ate fresh trout that had been caught that morning. And then I decided it was time to head up into the mountains and hike. 

I asked a frail older woman working at the register of one of the shops if she could recommend someplace that wasn’t too far away that would be a scenic hike. She pointed me to Gem Lake but warned me that it was a really easy trail so if I wanted a challenge it would disappoint. "But the scenery is beautiful, so that much will be nice.” There were some thick rainclouds starting to form and I thought a shorter, easy hike may be better anyway. 

I don’t know what kind of steroids Granny is on, but that trail is NOT easy. I'd like to think I'm in pretty good shape, but half a mile into my trek I was already gasping for air and breaking for water. About this time it started to sprinkle and I still had over a mile and a half left before I reached the top (not to mention the trip back down.)

I almost turned around. I was alone and I hadn’t seen any other solo hikers. Everyone that I sporadically passed was with their family or friends or significant other.  “Get out of your own head, Whitney” I told myself. "Tons of people hike alone". Moments later I heard two families chatting about a bear sighting earlier that day. I instantly thought of my dad repeating a thousand times to NEVER hike without bear spray when we were in Jackson Hole last summer. Pretty soon I was  creating news stories in my head about my abduction, or how I'd gone missing because I’d gotten lost, or how I’d tragically been slaughtered by a bear. 

I managed to quiet the annoying scaredy-cat voices in my head and press on. As I reached one of the first scenic overlooks, I was instantly grateful I hadn’t turned back. It was breathtaking. I saw an older couple approaching and asked if they’d mind taking a picture for me. The woman kindly obliged. As she handed the camera back to me she said “I’m sorry that you’re out here all by yourself.” The tone of her voice was kind but also sympathetic. You could tell she genuinely felt bad for me. I couldn't decide if I should be offended by her comment. I opened my mouth to say thanks but instead, blurted out “I’m not.” She smiled, now seeming more impressed than she was sorry (and frankly, so was I). But I realized that I meant it. 


Why would I be sorry that I’m by myself? This was my choice. This was what I wanted to be doing. I have the day off and am in one of the most scenic places on earth, dammit. I’m lucky to be in my shoes. 

Yes, I was alone. But I liked it in this context. You could say that’s a theme of the season of life that I’m currently in. It's a season of solitude- and that my friends, is very different than loneliness. 


Loneliness is accompanied by a feeling of emptiness (and typically, it stems from a place of feeling inadequate). Loneliness doesn't just have to be felt when you're alone. It can be when you’re in a huge crowd, a close circle of friends, or even being intimate with someone. You can have a smile on your face and appear to be perfectly happy and still feel incredibly lonely.

But solitude does not equal loneliness. Solitude is a good thing- and it’s often a choice. It’s opting to be alone with yourself: to dream, to re-evaluate, to pray, to explore, and forgive me for sounding cliche- but to find yourself. Solitude restores us. 

So today I marveled in solitude’s radiant glory, and I didn’t feel lonely for a second. Because how could I? I got to see some of God’s best work and most beautiful views. I got to take inventory of myself: How I’m feeling about my dreams. How I’m feeling about my friendships. How I’m feeling about the kind of person that I’m becoming. 

It was restoring for my soul. Because while I’ve grown to genuinely enjoy and appreciate solitude, this season has been one that’s honestly become laughable at this point. There’s been moments that are more excruciating than I ever thought possible. Moments that feel like right when I catch my breath, I get the wind knocked out of me again. It's not all warm, fuzzy stories of overcoming and growing and rainbows. 

Forgive me, but I’m about to make a cliché metaphor about this hike I was on, and how it parallels to my current journey in life. I have to do it- so deal with it. Because every time I saw a scenic spot, part of me considered saying "Good enough" and calling it quits. But I continued to climb. This decision prolonged the time that I spent alone. It made me more tired and more worn out. But every time that I did, I was always greeted with another view that outdid the last one. And I'm learning that's the case with life too. We can stay stuck in our current circumstances and deal with where we are, thinking it'll be good enough. Or we can keep going. Even when we're tired. Even when we're alone. Even when it would be way easier to stop. And when we do continue, there is always a payoff. There's always glory that's revealed to us. 

As I finally sat victoriously on the highest peak of the climb, I randomly flipped my bible open and couldn’t help but smile at the first verse I coincidentally saw. 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  - Romans 8:18

I’m starting to see the glimpses of glory in my life. Yeah, I keep getting thrown curve balls of more suffering that come out of nowhere and knock me right in the face. But the glory is there. It’s the glory that gives me strength to crave adventure and thrive when I’m by myself. To conquer loneliness because I know that I lack nothing. The glory that makes it impossible to miss God’s presence and power that’s working in my life. It’s the glory that causes me to be thankful for my solitude.

The coming weeks are already jam packed with moments of togetherness. I have dinner plans every night I’m here in Colorado. I have 4th of July parties to come home to before I leave a few days later for almost 2 weeks in Europe with my family. And as fun as all of those things are going to be, I’m so thankful for the time that I had alone with myself, and alone with God today. To be reminded that “alone” doesn't have to be a bad thing. That a season of solitude is a beautiful place to be. That it can make you more strong, more grateful, more adventurous and more hopeful than you ever thought possible. 

So if you find yourself “alone”, I hope you can find solitude. That you can look at this season as one that’s a blessing, not a curse. That you won’t rush through it, or lament about how much you want to be somewhere else, but that you’ll use it to become the best version of yourself. Because in doing so, there’s going to be more glory revealed than you even know how to handle.