…I can’t even finish this lead-in. Sigh. Another plan going where best-laid plans go.
The first day of a New Year glows with the best of intentions. Sometimes we state them very clearly, as Measurable Objectives. We craft intricate plans, with bullet points and spreadsheets. Other times, the intentions are fuzzier around the edges, more like Goals than Objectives. (Is it at all obvious that I’ve been writing lesson plans all week?)
Whatever the flavor of plan, it will most likely fail. The statistics, as usual, do not lie. I could quote some here, but you already know the punch line. The overwhelming majority of New Year’s Resolutions fail. And then how do we feel? Awful.
I’m no exception. I made pretty lofty plans for 2015! Plans for a new job. Plans for learning my kayak roll. Plans for a relationship I treasured. They were great plans, and the idea of their fulfillment made me very happy, and so I became attached to them.
Turns out that those plans weren’t so attached to me, though. One by one, they were swatted from my grip by the great cosmic hands of the universe, or whatever. And as most people are when their plans are dismantled, I was left feeling frustrated, heartbroken, disappointed – in short, 50 shades of not great.
So what, then, should be my resolution for this fresh and glorious new year? After the spectacular failure of my plans for 2015, one might think that it would be to never make another plan again. But should it?
A certain quote from CS Lewis brought me comfort in many times made dark by the Great De-Planning of 2015. Lewis said:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Love is really just a different species of plan, I think. To make a plan is to be vulnerable. To make a plan is to create an opportunity to fail at that plan. And that failure could bring guilt, despair, and any of the other 48 shades of not great.
Plans are like love in that way. They’re also like love in that we can’t simply stop making plans just because we know that they might not work out. What would we ever accomplish? From the tiniest plan to feed your cats, to the hugest plan of starting a family, we must have goals. We need some greater vision to move toward, even if the movements are a little disjointed and clumsy.
The problem comes when we become attached to our plans. Sometimes we allow our plans and our visions of achieving them to become an integral part of our happiness. When we cling so tightly to our plans that they become part of our identity, that’s when we’re totally devastated by their failure.
So this year, I’ve decided to do something simple but important: to just approach the year with a sort of nonchalant warmness. I’ve decided to have a goal, but to not attempt to plan out every little strategic move toward that goal. And I definitely won’t be getting attached to any theorized means to my end.
I want to make 2016 the Year of Me. I’m going to build my own identity – one that doesn’t rely upon having a fancy new job, or living in a hip new city, or performing feats of athleticism, or even having a romantic partner. I’m going to just be me, moving toward a goal of self-love and general happiness, no matter what path I end up taking to get there.
I’ll admit that I had big plans for today. Map out my workout plan! Apply for the latest awesome job I found! Finish editing the first episode of Yet Unnamed Podcast! All of these plans represented things that are important to me and my wellness and my betterment. All of these plans were Objectives to support my Goal, my commitment to making 2016 the Year of Me. These plans were laid well.
But when push came to shove, I realized that today just wasn’t a day for plans. At least, not those plans.
I realized that today, what I actually needed was to watch a lot of Parenthood. I needed to eat a lot of Christmas cookies. I needed to take a nap with my cat. I needed to make my bed purely so that I could lie down in it and watch more Parenthood. I needed to attempt to make a really nice dinner, fail miserably, then have a protein bar and a glass of V8 and call it a balanced meal. Oh yeah, that happened in my bed, too. Deep, deep into Parenthood.
Am I incredibly proud of the noble contributions to humankind I made today? No. But do I feel totally awful? No.
And because I didn’t feel awful when my little Objectives for the day ended up falling through, I know that I still worked toward my Goal. I didn’t become so attached to my To-Do List that I feel woefully incompetent for not crushing it. I still took steps toward happiness, even if they weren’t the steps I’d planned on.
I feel like this is the place for a nice, shiny, pull-it-all-together concluding statement. But not right now. I have some more Parenthood to watch.