05/20/2014 05:05 pm ET Updated Jul 20, 2014

Optional Obligations

There's something about the making of plans and the scheduling of meetings that doesn't seem as concrete as it used to be. Have you noticed it as well?

I make plans with people I really like, note the meeting notices of committees I volunteer to join, and RSVP positively to kindly invitations. Then a freelancer stops doing his job while another's crisis obliterates her concern for my deadline, a service paid to be reliable proves to be stupendously undependable, and a loved one takes a hard right turn into old age. Kablooey! goes the calendar and I start undoing every plan I've made with the best of intentions.

Everybody seems to understand a medical emergency or a sudden headache, but how many times can you postpone plans because of what's been dumped on your personal and professional plates? How many times can you start a text, email, or phone call with "I'm really sorry" before it becomes pointless to keep trying? How often can you expect a friend to understand that you'd rather keep your promise but the [fill in the stress or duty] is too pressing to blow off?

I know that I'm not the only one guilty of adjourning. As I write this, shortly into the work week, I've already had a colleague reschedule plans she'd proposed to make up for her inability to keep a promise, received voicemail curtly rearranging a doctor's appointment without any concern for my schedule, and been advised to "stay flexible" regarding a meeting jettisoned on Monday that could happen at 2:00 or 5:30 pm on Thursday, or "possibly Friday or maybe next Tuesday."

Maybe it's the circles in which I work and play. Perhaps others write appointments, obligations, and plans in permanent ink -- or whatever the technological equivalent would be-- and never change them. Alternatively, maybe it's my misguided sense of how much I am capable of taking on, while the world around me lies in wait, happy to pounce upon my sense of order (in fact preferring to plunge me into semi-perpetual pandemonium). Did I get too cocky, universe? Did a week or two of regularly scheduled and smoothly kept engagements set me up for my current merry-go-round ride of reaching for the reliable schedule even though it eludes me time after time?

Possibly life has just become more hectic than I'd like, and it's foolhardy to think that others place any great stock in my calendar when they make or break appointments. Or maybe I'm overthinking this whole thing, and everybody's used to setting, suspending, deferring, rearranging, and finally abandoning the best-laid plans and most earnest of intentions.

How does your schedule look? Have you found some method that works more often than not, or have you thrown up your hands and given up trying to keep up with your commitments, let alone the promises of others?