I like to know where I am going. I like to know how long it will take to get there. I like to know where there will be stops along the way, for peeing and snacking. When I am in control of the trip, I am a relaxed easy going traveler. When my kids were little, we drove from Massachusetts to Oregon in a mini-van. It was the best trip ever. I created map books for each child, highlighting the route we were taking through each state, the original Oregon trail, and important places along the way. We stopped at Super Walmarts, amusement parks, fast food places, clean bathrooms, and scenic overlooks. My son worried the whole way that I would get lost. Because I am forever lost, he was sure that we would wander around the country and he would never see his dad or his bedroom again. This caused him quite a bit of anxiety on our trip. In life, I travel a lot like my ten-year-old son.
The problem in my life is that I am rarely in control of enough things for my liking. I go ahead and create a plan, outline the markers I’d like to meet along the way. I come up with reasonable timeframes, and doable steps forward and I begin to walk it out. Then, life happens. Life always happens. Sometimes my plans work out, but rarely in the way I imagined. I long for measured, methodical growth in an unending line, up and right. My life looks more like a bowl of spaghetti, with twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I’ve tried various strategies to deal with this messiness, but I’ve yet been able to bend life to my will. Looking back, it is probably best that I didn’t. Living in the midst of the messiness of life continues to be a process.
I think along the way I’ve given up on some of the long-range planning. I no longer focus all my energy on my five-year or ten-year plan. I am learning to break off smaller chunks of time, which seem more manageable. Instead of wearing myself out beating “how life is” into “how I want life to be,” I am working on filling up my days, weeks, and months with the things that matter most. Not waiting until, but starting here. Today, I’m going to spend time with people I love, work on projects that matter to me, and invest time in activities that bring me joy. I’m going to make a plan for these things today, and tomorrow, and next week. I feel like what I focus on grows, so I am focusing on the things that I value. I am trusting that the way will unfold as I walk.
I don’t know that this process is better, but I am hopeful. I am not thinking so much about success. I am instead looking to build meaningful activities into my days. I want to make time for people. To think deeply about things that matter to me and consistently live out of my convictions. I don’t exactly know where this kind of life leads, but wherever it is… I think I’m happy to go there.