I like to collect quotes that at a particular time provoked contemplation or simply made me smile. Some passages have made enough of an impact to have changed my life. For example, to be gentler on myself or perhaps the words encouraged me to move forward with a dream I had been pushing to the wayside. One quote I found particularly relevant was the following.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell
These words written together as one thought caused me to stop and reflect. I am definitely a planner. I sometimes plan out intricate details months in advance. On Sunday evenings I look at my calendar and plan the following week. I put to memory what I am doing. I look up how to drive to the school I will be working at on a given day. If I’m not teaching then I set up in my mind’s datebook when I will write, clean, do laundry or run errands. When it comes to running errands, I don’t just hop into my car. I plan a route that will eliminate crossing traffic and cut down on driving distance. I rarely go to the grocery without a list, which consists of an inventory of what I am having for meals that week and the ingredients I need. I plan because it is a comfort to me to know ahead of time what I need or want to do each day.
As I search back through my memory of myself. I try to recall, was I always a planner? In college I never pulled an all-nighter. I often had projects done a day or two before they were due. I understood even then, I did not work well under pressure. I jokingly tell others that when my now husband asked me to move to New York from Florida, not to marry, but so that we could be closer to each other, I packed my lime green Jetta and drove. The real truth is I recall agonizing over the decision. Eventually, my older sister who I was living with at the time, said; “just go, you are young, and have nothing tying you here.” With no true plan, I left, a huge leap for me.
Recently, as I cared for my mother I gradually began to accept the idea of Joseph Campbell’s quote. When Mom came to live with me and my family I was at a turning point in my life. My two daughters were either in college or heading there. My husband and I were soon to be empty nesters. I had many proposals for myself running through my mind. I had great ideas for finding my midlife career. None of these mind diagrams included being the caretaker, then guardian and eventually hand holder of my mother as she slid into dementia.
Certainly, I knew that taking my mother into my life was the right thing to do. Soon afterwards my frustration blossomed inside of me as I fought against the reality of my life and what I had envisioned. At times I resented my mother then, I chastised myself for feeling that way. My aggravation at not achieving my perceived goals grew. I would push myself down the path I thought was my destiny, only to be waylaid with the more insistent care of my mother. One day I stumbled onto the aforementioned quote. It was a slow process of comprehension, like a flower slowly blooming until the vivid colors demand your attention. That led to a recollection of words of what another sister often repeated; “If what you are trying to do keeps getting blocked with obstacles, then maybe your guardian angel is trying to tell you to go another way.” I realized it was time to let go of the life designs I felt I wanted or were required by me to accomplish. Instead, I unhurried my pace. I slowed my thoughts and my relentless running towards an objective that was frustrating me. I listened to the very subtle guidance from what I consider to be a higher being. I watched for signs, sometimes confusing in their very nature, but a sign never-the–less.
Over the course of a book club meeting someone mentioned a new writing class that was to begin soon. I heard, but felt I couldn’t take the time. While reading the newspaper there again was the suggestion of this writing class. Finally, because most signs need to be very obvious to me, a friend sent an email with the subject line, thought you might be interested in this. Why she thought that I’m not sure. At least this time I took the hint and signed up for the class. That small gesture has led me to follow this new life course of writing. Something I purely enjoy.
More opportunities opened up once I let go of my preconceived destinations. Several years before, at the persuasion of a friend, I had applied for a position as a teacher for The Traveling Children’s Museum. Nothing came of it and as I became more involved with the care of my mother the idea was swept from my mind. When my life slowed somewhat from the attention I needed to give to Mom, completely out of nowhere I received a phone call from the Museum. Now my friend was in the position to hire and she had found my long ago resume buried under stacks of the previous administrators papers. “Was I still interested in the job?” I laughed, “Of course.” Because I had waited and not pushed to reach a goal when the goal was unachievable my reward was great. I love my job and now have the time to commit to it.
I certainly don’t want to lead you to believe I think life comes to those who wait. No, in my interpretation of Joseph Campbell’s thought I don’t believe he meant for us to do nothing and expect our lives to materialize in front of us. I do think his intention was to allow yourself to open up to opportunities that come your way. Even if those possibilities have nothing to do with the course you have chosen to walk down.
As a planner I have struggled to let go of my big ideas for my future. Now, it seems I don’t even remember exactly what they were. I do know because I allowed myself to find the life that was waiting for me instead of the one I planned, I am happy and look forward to allowing more doors to open.