How did this planner learn to let go?
I was born a planner. Knowing what is happening next and what I need to do to get there brought me so much joy. I remember going to the stationery store and spending hours examining the paper planners. I would flip through them and examine each one as if they were a rare gem. I felt a sense of ease and relaxation that there was an order to the world and the notebook in my hand was the key to harnessing it.
I loved routine and predictability. I took the same route home from school every day. I would take my key out and have it ready to insert into the key hole before I stepped on the elevator. I was ready and prepared until one day I wasn’t.
Eventually, as happens to all of us, stuff started happening that was out of my control. First, they were small things like snow days and friends who flaked on plans. Then there came the larger changes—I did not get in to my first choice college, it took me longer than I thought it would to get pregnant, and my first marriage ended.
There’s a yiddish phrase that I have heard many times that always resonates: “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht,” meaning, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” Whether you believe in God or not you get the point: we plan and life still happens. When I first heard this I was pissed. I wanted to be able to control my future and my fate. I did not want to turn over control and I knew there was no switch that was going to be able to turn off my planning gusto.
But reflecting now on myself, I realize that over time I did shed my need to plan and predict the future. Just the other day I was planning to go to my yoga studio to practice at 7 a.m. as I do every morning after I drop my son at the subway station.
This morning he told me he had a free period and would be leaving approximately 20 minutes later. My head started spinning at first, “but we always leave at 7 a.m. This will throw everything off.” I started to feel anxiety in my chest. Then, I took a deep breath and asked myself the two questions that are key to letting go for me:
1) How important is this plan I am rigidly holding on to?
2) What is the benefit to me and my relationships by changing the plan?
Here are my answers to those questions:
I can go to my studio any time between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. to practice. My morning is pretty flexible. There is no reason to be so rigid about the time.
If I wait for the 20 minutes rather than leave at 7 a.m. on the dot I will have the benefit of spending time with my son. I can spend those 20 minutes chatting with my daughter who I don’t typically have much time with in the morning. I can spend five of those minutes meditating.
So, after this calculation I decided I would let go of and change my plans.
The morning was lovely and connected. I was so grateful I had changed my plans.
And as I said goodbye to my son I noticed a feeling in my chest of pride. I felt proud of myself for doing something differently and could feel the importance of getting out of the same pattern for my sense of myself.
I felt more open and flexible—skills I used in my yoga practice.
When was there a time when you had to change plans quickly? How did that turn out? I would love to hear.