I am an excellent planner. It is my worst and best characteristic. On the positive side, I get a lot done, both in my personal life and at work. Strategizing and goal-setting are very employable traits. On the negative side, I am prone to disappointment when things don’t work out as I envision, and sometimes I get boxed in by the sheer volume of plans I’ve made.
Every day I am faced with the task of turning my brain off to be a little more curious about life. I once heard a quote that said “curiosity might kill the cat, but it’s good for everyone else.” One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that you can plan until you’re blue in the face, but life will surprise you anyway, both in beautiful and agonizing ways.
There are so many things about my life did not unfold as I'd planned and, while that has been very hard, it has also been the greatest blessing. I never would’ve guessed that I’d be back in Edmonton… and I never would’ve guessed that I would love it here. Moving back, I expected to face the most stifling loneliness of my life and I found it was actually quite the opposite. A solid group of good and enriching people adopted me in much more quickly than I predicted. Growing up, I did not expect that one day I would enjoy being healthy, but today this part of my life is a delight that has opened up a new world of possibilities. Life has surprised me in difficult ways too. I think it would surprise my childhood self that I attend church so infrequently. I never would’ve predicted that I’d break my leg during a lazy summer stroll and move with a slight limp from then on. I never I would’ve expected that I’d be divorced.
That’s the thing: you can only plan your life so much. There will be surprises that make you hoot and holler with elation, but there will be diagnoses, accidents, deaths, and other storms that knock you off your feet.
Curiosity and openness serve us well in either scenario. Openness allows us to accept joys and possibilities with open arms. Last year when I was in Thailand, my friend and I left several days without an itinerary, which was not like me. Since there was not much planned, we had the time to pop into different shops at our leisure and get henna tattoos on the beach. These were some of my best Thailand memories.
This same openness is beneficial when it comes to difficult surprises as well. I was recently at a yoga class and the instructor encouraged participants to stay present through the discomfort. She was spot on in that moment because, sitting there with my knees wedged into my armpits, all I could think about was the smoothie I would drink when I got home as a reward. The significance of this moment was not lost on me: I was trying to plan my way out of pain. It is not always good to escape to your “happy place.” Sometimes forward thinking has the opposite effect of what we hope for – instead of releasing you from discomfort, it mires you deeper into it.
When we are present in the moment, the need to fix is suspended, the pressure is off, and there is less ownership of the outcome. The moment gets to be “as is” and, as a result, we get to be as we are.