Under Construction


It begins with an eye roll and a loud sigh, followed by an excuse for why it can’t be done then an incentive is given to make sure it will be done. Eventually an agreement for a time frame is established, a form is filled out (to keep the lawyers happy) and finally, the alteration is made. I have been in the building business long enough now, to witness many times, the step-by-step process of what is called in the construction business—“The Change Order.” In the beginning, blueprints are drawn up and contracts put into place and then, according to Wikipedia, the average construction project makes 56 changes. In the beginning, God probably said, “Let there be Dark,” but then discovered it was just too hard to get anything done -so a change order was created and He said. “Let there be lighting first—so we can get something accomplished around here!” Change orders are a part of the process, unfortunately blueprints still get all the credit! Self-help gurus love the blueprint metaphor. They love preaching about LifePlanning. “Plan your work, and work your plan.” –until as Mike Tyson says, “you get punched in the face!” Blueprints for Life are no less subject to change orders than blueprints for buildings.


While some construction changes are minor-changing the color of a wall or moving an outlet, others require tearing down the wall or jack hammering through a newly laid foundation. Even concrete is not always set in stone. In a design-build, changes can happen almost on a daily basis. And once the building is finished, there are certainly changes before the next blueprint comes off the architect’s drafting table. So why do we get all crazy, emotional when our life plan doesn’t take us from beginning to end, when a simple eye roll and loud sigh will suffice.

Everything is subject to change. It is part and parcel of the creative process. Life is a creative process. Therefore, life is subject to change. And that is as far as my philosophy 101 logic can get me. Mistakes happen. Plans go awry. Doors swing out where doors should swing in. Water pools up where water should flow out. Committed relationships simply don’t work out. Child rearing principles crumble under the weight of new technologies. Financial setbacks are followed by financial gains. Shit happens and new pipes must be laid. Walls built of stone can be replaced with glass windows, opening up new vistas. And, entire foundations can be lifted and moved to new locations.


As a young girl, I watched the London Bridge come falling down, and be rebuilt half way around the world in the desert of Arizona. As an adult, I watched the Berlin Wall tumble down. I have seen the World Trade Center destroyed and I have watched The World Trade Center be rebuilt. Construction followed by destruction followed by construction. And, still, we think a blueprint for life—is for life? How naïve. I have seen dreams dreamed and then dashed and new ones take their place. I have watched mistakes painted over and relationships restored. And within a short lifetime, I have seen entire social constructions leveled and replaced by kinder more equitable structures.


Change order forms are available at any office supply. They are official. They are legal. They should be kept by every nightstand, along with your life plan. When the tears fall and the stomach churns and the blueprint is no longer adequate for your expanding heart, fill out a change order and submit it to the universe. Decisions cast in iron can still be changed with a cutting torch. Plans set in concrete need only a jackhammer and burly arms. Of course in construction and in life, there is the cost—everything has a price—but knowing that changes are possible is what allows us to risk it all and be design builders of our own lives. And, as with any construction project, eye rolling, deep sighs and four letter words are still allowed on site!

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