I dearly love a good list. I make them for all occasions, and lately have been writing them on stacks of post-its on my desk at the beginning of each week.
In case that’s not enough, my phone and computer contain a scary number of organizational applications: 2Do, Teux Deux, Springpad, Notes, Reminders. There are the lists of life plans, of bills and household business, of artistic projects, and of people I want to remember to get in touch with. It’s not obligation that drives me, but a fear that I somehow won’t remember to take advantage of the hours in each day; a fear that I will somehow get to the end of my life and realize that I didn’t accomplish a lot of the things that I intended to. Naturally, these lists are also the driving force behind a lot of anxiety and muscle tension.
Thanksgiving marks the anniversary of getting hired at the Birchwood Cafe, the restaurant where I met Ben and a lot of people who have forever changed my life. In fact, the three years that I worked at the Birchwood were a catalyst for lots of my just-out-of-college growth. This week I was musing on this time marker and realized how many monumental events have occurred in my life without knowingly or intentionally making them happen. In fact, I got hired at the Birchwood because a lovely person liked me when I asked for an application, and she wrote a note to the manager suggesting that he hire me. In many ways, that event was totally out of my control, or at least somewhat unplanned.
So were others: getting hired to nanny in Wales by two amazing (then) strangers, who have since made me godmother to their kids; choosing to attend college in Minnesota, a state I barely realized existed; taking a class in college that led to a professor giving me my first teaching job, 10 years ago.
Other, less magical things have been out of my control, too: the time I was drugged by a stranger in London; a mysterious childhood illness that led to nine blood transfusion; a mugging while I walked home on a Monday night; a series of events from the past year that all seemed to hit when I was too exhausted and anxious to handle them. At the time a lot of these things, understandably, made me feel powerless because I couldn’t plan for them. But, I look back at them now and realize that they aren’t that different from the ones that I can instantly put a positive spin on: events in life that got me here. And, events that got me here without me muscling too hard to check them off of a to-do list.
This Thanksgiving we went to Ben’s family cabin. I heard about this cabin often in the two years Ben and I worked together before dating. As many times as I’ve been there before, this Thanksgiving I was especially struck by the surprise of this new extension of family- something I never expected or planned for. It’s so nice to remember that there are things in life that we don’t have to struggle or push for or insist on– that some of the greatest things just happen by being present in the right place at the right time and following your gut instinct to the next bridge- the next question. This makes my little compulsive self breathe a deep sigh of relief. It means that I might get where I need to go (in part) by showing up and living these life questions, and that I can even shove my list to the side sometimes. It also gives me further incentive to attempt living in the moment, because I’ve never been able to predict what’s going to come next, try as I might.
So, I’m still uncertain as to what life will offer up next. But, I have a lot of confidence that it will get me where I need to go.