Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recovering Over-Planner

I've always been a planner.  I wouldn't say that each of my planned moves has been fully understood by outside observers at every moment, but I have spent my life with a pretty clear "point A to point B" vision--repeated ad nauseum.

I was never a fan of the "all life is suffering" viewpoint, nor could I even stomach the Stones' mantra of "You can't always get what you want..."  These both seemed a bit silly to me.  Of course you can get what you want, I naively thought.  You just try until you do (or you change your mind and decide you didn't really want it anyway, right?)

My husband decided this past year (no discussion necessary) that he was "done" and he wanted a divorce.  This was difficult for me to compute. This did not fit my narrative of how people operate when considering dissolving a relationship, let alone a marriage...and the moment I realized that my narrative didn't matter, that there were all sorts of possible narratives out there, then it dawned on me:  "if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need."  I got unobscured vision of who I was actually married to.  And technicolor vision that allowed me to see beyond the "Point B" I had chosen a decade earlier.

SO, what does one do in this situation?  If you're me:  You get really really quiet and centered.  You ride your bike miles and miles up mountains.  You do yoga every day.  You remove all foods and liquids that are not essential for survival (who knew I didn't need coffee and wine?).  You throw away everything in your house that is not essential.  You clean.  You re-grout.  You figure out what grout is.  You become very good friends with the nice men (and a couple of women) at Ace Hardware. You paint murals (I have to cut down on the number of hearts and flowers I paint on surfaces around my house).  I became accustomed to crying in public and noticed that not many people seem too phased by it.  I was hugged by a lot more strangers than I would normally be comfortable with (including the guy who works at the post office I frequent), but...I also got to see some shared humanity.  Not a bad thing.

I had the honor of realizing that being vulnerable, and not having a clear plan for every aspect of my life made me more alive, not less.  I would not trade being able to live "wholeheartedly" (to borrow Brene Brown's label) for any preconceived, carefully constructed plan for my future.  And I realized that in order to be really, truly alive, I was going to have to allow myself to be vulnerable and accept that I don't control all aspects of my life. would think that a relatively smart, and slightly over-educated person would have already been able to grasp this simple precept.  I smile.  I shake my head.  And I remain grateful that I've learned it now.

I was talking to a couple of students about how people think life is supposed to get better and better as we go, and that they don't understand that good and bad things will happen all along the way.  I realized what a fully western concept my life and world view were when I told my students that I had just recently learned that life was, indeed, challenging all along--and, without saying it, these two young men from Nepal looked at me like "Whoa, we thought she was pretty smart, but this lady might be retarded"--And I loved them for what they didn't say out loud, and the fact that they still think I have something to offer them.  We simply nodded at our shared understandings.

And more little lessons make themselves known as I go.  A couple of weeks ago my trusty Subaru was hit (by an unknown driver who neglected to leave me a note) while parked outside of yoga class.  I had gotten lazy.  I was driving the four miles to the studio instead of riding my bike, hell, I was driving the half mile to the school where I work--after years of being a committed bike commuter, this was a strange habit to have developed.  A friend of mine laughed when I told her the car was in the shop:  "You weren't listening to the universe so it had to send you a stronger message..."  I had to agree.  I'm working on listening more carefully to subtlety, and noting that I am more and more attuned to subtleties as I let go of my desire to always be moving "forward."