Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What happened to the Plan ?

She sat down and asked me when I was born. The day, the hour, the place. She took away those bare details and came back with my chart all set out - labels and notes and diagrams which I didn't understand. She took me through them all - the notes on my family and my life path, the things I struggled with and the things which made me strong. Things she could not possiibly have known, but she did. And then she said one thing which has always stayed with me since ... 'Follow the flow - always follow the flow - if you fight it and lose your way you will spend your whole life searching for the way back.'

Heavy words to a 23 year old searching for direction and meaning in her life. Working at her first real job while waitressing at night. Trying to figure out who she was and what she was all about. 

Those words have haunted me my whole life long since that day. So many years. So many choices made. When things did not go smoothly did that mean I had lost my way, gone off the path, gotten myself lost in a mountain ravine instead of sitting on a tropical blue-sea shoreline ? Sometimes the flow did not feel very flowy. Sometimes in fact it felt like the river had all dried up and i was walking along the dry river bed asking where the flow had gone. Sometimes instead of flow it felt like huge waves dashing me into the sand. Not very float-along-on-your-back-under-a-blue-sky kind of flow.

But here's the thing I am learning. Life doesn't always (mostly) work out how we plan it. If there's any truth I can see from the path behind me, this is one of them. When I left high school some close friends and I spent a week at the beach, dreaming of our lives ahead and having the best time in the sun, our whole futures spread out ahead of us. One of the rainy afternoons we took turns predicting where we would be in ten years time. Mine was a small house in Knysna, on the Eastern coast of South Africa ... living in a small wooden cottage with a man who made sculptures and had long knotted blonde curls, who was passionate and quiet and who rowed boats out to sea. A bouncy baby in the middle of a play-pillow-fight, giggling. An old car and torn denim shorts. 
Other friends in college said they saw me trekking through South America and falling in love with a blanket-maker who lived high in the mountains and who spoke not one word of English.

The truth is that neither of those really surprised me. Although I had no plans of marriage (ever) and the bouncy baby - well I loved the idea in theory but had decided none of those for me. I planned on backpacking around Europe and learning Spanish in South America before ending up in the Cape somewhere close to the sea where I would paint beautiful paintings and walk around barefoot and ... well, the plan shifted and changed depending on my mood.

But definitely not where I am today. Not married and a stay-at-home mom living in the suburbs outside New York city. Definitely not that.

I signed up for Flora's first Bloom True e-course in the spring and then with all the unexpected chaos of Houston and all the ups and downs and then nothing at all, I never had the time to paint. Maybe and hour or two but not much more. But a few nights ago when the house was quiet i sat down to read through some of the lessons as her pages are still active for a few days longer, and one of the things she wrote really jumped out at me as being so relevant in life, not just in art. She was talking about painting and how when we study art or have lessons anywhere, we are always told about the things which are not working ... we are taught to focus on the messy areas, the bits which are wrong and then on how to improve them. And actually there's another way to do it. We can focus on what IS working and make sure to keep that in our paintings as we add layers and rework areas. Focus on what is good, not on what is wrong.

I thought how relevant this is to me right now ... with my plans which never seem to work out and life which sometimes does not feel like it's flowing. How I cannot always see the pattern being woven and it's too easy to complain about what goes wrong, what is hard, what does not come easily. What I did not plan on. 

When actually the secret is to look at what is working. What is beautiful. What is good and nourishing and helping us grow. What makes us smile and light up inside. What makes us want to get out of bed in the mornings.

As I look at my unpacked house I breathe a sigh of gratitude for the calm which somehow came in the door while I was clearing and throwing out in readiness for the move. The space for light and quiet instead of clutter. The time I suddenly have to sit and do puzzles and play, instead of frantically packing and sitting online for hours planning our new lives. I somehow managed to find a bit more order. I was thoughtful as I unpacked and re-arranged and welcomed treasures back out of their boxes.

How grateful I am that Clint kept his job, that we have a home to live in even as we search for a new one of our own. For the legos I find in all nooks and crannies, for the bunch of brushes left lying by the sink at bedtime tonight. A colorful surprise waiting for me. 

I don't know what's ahead and right now there doesn't seem to be much order or flow going on at all. So I am letting it go. I am kicking back my planning head and thinking of long sunny afternoons in the garden and walking on the beach with sand between my toes. I am going to take some time to paint a little something in the next few days while camp is still on, and make pizza with Lexi when she asks me to. I am going to make time to read more stories and to sit and watch my kids jump on the trampoline instead of rushing off to the next 'to do' on my list. I am going to feel deep gratitude every time I get to hold a soft baby-girl cheek against mine, or tidy the PS2 remotes away after yet another baseball session Hayden had. I am going to stop worrying about the PLAN and where I should be by now, and how well everyone else is doing and what a success they are and ... breathe .... in and out. Sit down for a bit. Try to stop worrying. And see how that goes for me for a little bit and where the flow takes me.



Peter Abbey said...

What a beautiful post, with some lovely photographs to accompany it. I really like the paintbrushes in particular.

It seems fitting to me that I read this whilst sat in the garden this morning, toast in one hand, iThingy in the other. No other sounds but the chattering of the morning birds and the minimal breeze as it rustled through the trees. For a brief moment your blog took me away from my own chaos, as serenity swept over me.

You're quite right with what you say. The art of letting go is not an easy one to master, but not everything needs to be planned. This seems a world apart from the Silvs I used to sit next to. The Silvs that taught me to juggle 12 SKUs on 3 different platforms whilst simultaneously mopping up a spilled glass of water!

Keep up the great blog. I'll be reading with interest.


Silvia Byrne said...

Ah Pete ... i remember those skus and the water mopping so well ! Thanks for your lovely comments today. The paintbrushes sum Lexi up perfectly, that's 3 year olds for you. x