I have been a self-proclaimed List Queen for as long as I can remember. I come by it honestly, my mom has always kept to-do lists: daily reminders of what needs to be done. My maternal grandfather, the king of lists, even kept one on his honeymoon, dutifully recording each mile, gallon of gas, and penny spent as he and my grandmother traveled from Pennsylvania down to Florida, and then on to Cuba. Quite the romantic, him!
I have come to rely on my lists as useful tools in helping me keep track of the many projects, tasks, and goals going on in my life at any given moment. They have assisted my outcome-oriented personality since high school, when I clearly remember setting the first goals for myself: I decided that I wanted to one, join the small-flag team, and two, play the cello. I succeeded in making the flag team, but realized quickly it was the idea of playing the cello that seemed appealing, not the reality. So I have also been good at knowing it's important to let a goal go by the wayside in order to make room for new ones, and that lessons can be learned in the process~from the successes~as well as from the “failures.”
This goal setting has helped me accomplish many things over the years, introducing me to new places, new people, gaining new skills, and learning much about myself along the way. I hosted a college radio show, joined a cycling club, moved to Japan, backpacked around Asia, lived in Europe, got a Masters degree, started a non-profit organization, and most recently, opened a belly dance studio and store. I’ve kept busy.
The lists that accompany these many adventures helped me stay organized and focused along the way. I’ve enjoyed listing out the steps needed, checking them off dutifully as they were accomplished, adding more items as needed, and making new lists to carry me onward.
But I’m keenly aware that when life is planned out step-by-step, with no room for spontaneity or sudden inspiration, much can be missed. In my mid-twenties my goal was to move to the Czech Republic. It didn’t matter that I was very inspired and intrigued--right where I was at the time--by Thailand, and even offered an opportunity to stay there. I had a plan. Move on I must. Yet it turns out my time in Eastern Europe was quite lonely and depressing, not at all what I had “planned.” For years I wondered what would have happened if I had followed my heart, my intuition, and stayed put, instead of keeping to my schedule. What did I miss out on, by being so “organized?”
As this year draws to an end, I’ve come across many blogs and postings suggesting how one can achieve anything you want if you set your goals and regularly check in on how you’re doing. They offer templates for plans, grids, outlines, and list-keeping tools to help you along the way. I imagine if you have bumbled about in life not sure how you’ve come to be in the place you are at, these tools are instrumental in helping you find focus, meaning and direction in our chaotic world.
For myself, I have lived this way all of my adult life. I think it’s time for something new. This Winter Solstice, as the Sun turns towards the light on the great wheel of life~my “New Year”~I can’t help but wonder, what have I missed? What has my heart, my spirit, my soul, been calling out for me to do or be, that I have not heard for all of the lists, the goals, and the plans crowded into my life?
So I bravely embark on a different kind of journey this year, one filled without plans, goals, or schedules (this just may drive my friends, family and colleagues nuts ~ please bear with me!). Instead I open my heart to its song, to the music of the trees, to the inspiration of spirit.
And yet it is not about just being blown by the wind, this way or that, directionless and at the mercy of whatever energy is nearby. It is a chance to truly hear my soul’s voice, to find out what I may have been missing in all the structure. It is living in the present, open to spontaneity, honoring the now of life, letting go of worries about the future or the “should of’s” of the past.
This in and of itself may sound like a “plan” for the year. And in a way it is. But one of a very different nature. A new adventure indeed! I am very excited!
Blessings for the Solstice and this New Year,