My life had been laid out in neat stacks of controlled chaos. The wonderland I was going to live at. The group of lovely weirdoes I was going to spend time with. That book I was going to complete with a realistic deadline. I kept a floral-print spiral notebook filled with lists of chores and things to accomplish. Chop wood. Carry water. Make coffee. Write a paragraph. Climb a tree. Stretch. Relax.
All the joys of a single, independent woman were laid out for me.
And then I fell in love.
Want to make God chuckle? Tell him about your plans.
Imagine having a set of things-to-do and goals-to-achieve without having anyone to dictate your time. Each day you get to choose to work and enjoy (or agonise over) the results. Your days are filled with small blessings like sunshine, nutritious food, clean water and long forest walks with a furry companion. In the evenings you’ll feel satisfied for getting a little bit closer to your destination; or if it wasn’t a particularly fruitful day, you promise to do better tomorrow.
Out of the blue woods, someone walks into your life. As if they always belonged.
Boom! Every verse in each gooey-drippy love song starts to make perfect sense. Food becomes a thing you used to want. Sleep? An afterthought that can be put off indefinitely. Those plans and goals and ideas? No, just no. That person has taken center stage in each deliberation and daydream.
Does it itch yet? Makes you throw up a little? No wonder poets have named such a state ‘a crush’. My hormonal drug-mix has destroyed the entire house of cards I had carefully built around the idea of I-am-she-who-does-that.
I had wanted something. Many somethings. Now I wanted some-one. Yes, that one.
Feels like the scariest admission I’ve made thus far.
‘People don’t live in the Now,’ said my mentor with a wisp of sadness in her voice. ‘They either keep entertaining the ghosts of their past or project ridiculous ideas towards the future that will never come.’
I nodded with closed eyes, the sadness echoing in my mind. I knew that my life was different now. I will not be able to complete everything I had planned exactly how I had planned it. Even the tingly idea of spending more time with Someone didn’t make this predicament any easier. I still had to let go.
‘But I said I will do this’ I defended the remnants of my single castle. ‘What will people think if I will not complete my plans? Doesn’t it mean I have failed to see things through?’
‘You can not control nature,’ she responded as if telling a child that the fire is hot. ’You can only follow its path.’
You can not control nature. My mind formed a vision of the sea at the coast of the island. The waters constantly yielding to the wind and the tides. I witnessed it rising and falling, changing shape and direction. The water didn’t care about what I wanted of it. It was dancing to a song I couldn’t hear or comprehend.
‘The water doesn’t control the way it flows, it just does,’ I responded with understanding. ’I can not take charge of the water any more than the sea can command the wind.’
‘Quite right,’ she agreed. ‘You should live within your life, not struggle against it.’
I thought about the times I had been punished or shunned for giving up on my plans or ideas. For not following through on the expectations placed on me. For falling short of standards I had adopted from my parents, teachers and managers.
Expectations are like double-edged gifts we generously craft for ourselves and others. Feels safe to be able to expect something, doesn’t it? Helps us trust and relax into life. We set expectations with the snap of our fingers. Why isn’t it as easy to also to drop them? To allow life to take its course. To let the tide take us.
Sure, we can navigate and negotiate with the wind and the water. Spend time predicting the weather, prepare to adapt to its moods. Yet there remains a theme of surrender underneath. We can’t change or direct the way our planet spins; no more than we can predict when love comes knocking.
I’m unsure why it’s been so difficult for me to accept.
Once I imagined that if I meditated for long hours and with enough dedication, I could become the master of the Universe. What was I thinking? I seem to have no control over the amount of dopamine and serotonin pumping through my system. I can barely keep track of my sleep. Perhaps the mastery is in the surrender?
It’s been a few weeks since that pivotal moment. Inside, I still feel like I’m being thrown around between what I think ‘normal’ should feel like and what my infatuated brain thinks it might become.
The world keeps throwing curveballs on all my plans and predictions, keeping me on my toes. So far every item on the list has fallen through except the plans we make to spend together. Those somehow get the green light. Go figure.
So, dear friends… carve out your roads, build those maps. Fill yourself carefully with tactics and skills to deal with every eventuality. Feel safe and enjoy the blast out of it. Simply be aware that the flood will come. The winds will change direction and the water will follow suit. There may be another virus. There may be a war or a heatwave or a swarm of locusts. Or there may be a chance meeting or a serendipitous phone call… or a tree-root that will sneak up on you and make you land flat on your face on a muddy track.
Nature wins every time. It is what it is.
I hope we all find a way to joy in the here-and-now.
And in case there isn’t much joy to go around… we’ll have what it takes to make some.
Does that sound like a plan?