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In case you hadn’t picked up on it by now, I am a planner.
I love a good to-do list and am utterly devoted to my schedule. Seeing my Living Well Planner with my daily tasks time-blocked and color-coded, fills me with the satisfaction and the comfort of feeling in control of my circumstances. People frequently ask how I’m able to get so much done. Organization is my secret weapon, making a plan and sticking to it.
Take my workout routine. Even when I’m traveling, I block out time in my schedule for exercise. It’s a good plan when it works, and sometimes even when it doesn’t.
WHEN THE MYSTICAL PATH IS A MYSTERY
Last week, while I was in Connecticut for my book tour, I had breakfast with one of my dearest friends, a wise poet with an old soul. After a welcome hug and putting in our breakfast order, my friend gazed at me with her deep blue eyes and asked, “So where are you on your mystical path?”
For the first time in many years, I have given myself the gift of unstructured, unplanned time. This chance to refresh my soul and recharge my creative battery is very necessary, something that I’ve needed for a long time. Because of my professional commitments, carving out this unplanned time had to be scheduled far in advance so I’ve been looking forward to it for months, even years.
But the arrival of the long anticipated break has brought something I hadn’t expected – anxiety.
For the first time in fifteen years I’m not under a deadline. At first it felt great. I did some quilting, caught up with friends, drew up sketches for how I’d like to reorganize my workspace, and took some nice long walks.
But after a couple of weeks, not having a plan for what I was going to do next felt really, really uncomfortable. I had hoped that this break would refill my creative well, summon up my next big idea, and shine bright light on my mystical path, showing me exactly what I should do next.
So far, none of that has happened. As days stretched into weeks with no blinking neon sign pointing me in the right direction, I started to feel confused, then tense, then anxious.
Why is this taking so long?
SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD TO BE LOST
After breakfast with my friend, I planned to spend an hour working out and the balance of the day answering mail and writing a blog post. Since it was such a nice day, I decided that taking a hike could serve as my workout.
Steep Rock Preserve is a beautiful place with over forty miles of trails. During my years in Connecticut, I hiked those trails often. I planned to do what I’d done so many times before, walk along the north side of the river for about a mile, cross the footbridge, then return along the south side.
It’s an easy hike, just a couple of miles. Or would have been, if I hadn’t gotten lost. Really lost.
How did this happen? Hard to say. It was such a pretty day. I was distracted by the buds on the trees, the sun on the water, the chirping of birds. Somewhere along the way, I went left when I should have gone right. By the time I realized my mistake, the river was nowhere in sight.
Before I found my way back to my car, nearly three hours later, I’d walked up so many hills and rocky trails that my quadriceps were aching. I was hot, tired, and thirsty and way behind schedule.
And I was completely, uncharacteristically okay with it.
Sometimes it’s good to be lost.
GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
Being a little lost, not knowing what may or may not be around the corner isn’t always easy, or comfortable, but sometimes it’s exactly we need.
Because people who always know exactly what they are doing and where they’re heading next are never surprised. Like I mentioned in my post about diving out of your comfort zone, it is the surprises, the unanticipated blessings and unexpected jolts of inspiration, that make life an adventure.
Wandering off my pre-planned path gave me a chance to explore places I’d never seen before. I found a stream I didn’t know existed and I saw a breathtaking vista from the aptly named Steep Rock. I’d never climbed to the summit before.
Getting lost gave me a chance to let my mind wander as well as my feet. I got to enjoy the silence of the forest well as conversation with the Creator. I had a pleasant encounter with an interesting woman who finally directed me to the right path. Also, I got to meet her dog, Brophy, and laugh at the sight of him trying to carry a big branch that was longer than he was in his mouth.
Or course, it wasn’t all fun and games and serendipitous encounters. I will admit that I experienced some uncomfortable, even anxious moments along the trail. My writer’s imagination kicked in, conjuring all kinds of dramas and scenes, and lions, and tigers, and bears. (Oh my!)
But then I reminded myself that being a little lost was all right. After all, this wasn’t completely new terrain for me. If I walked long and far enough, eventually, though perhaps circuitously, I’d find my way. Once I made peace with that, I was able to quit worrying about what came next and just enjoy what was.
Being lost wasn’t the way I’d planned to spend my day but it was a good day just the same. In fact, it turned out to be a better day than the one I had planned. Much better.
WHEN A SELF-PROFESSED PLANNER GOES OFF-ROADING
I’m always going to be a person who plans. That’s just part of my make up and an important aspect of my personality. Without it, I’d never have written one novel, let alone fifteen, and I certainly wouldn’t have taken on the additional task of creating this blog. There’s a lot to be said for planning. Getting from where you are to where you want to be requires a roadmap.
But, as I stood at the top of Steep Rock last week and gazed out over the hills to the valley below, I was reminded that there’s also a lot to be said for the unplanned path and unexpected adventures.
Where am I on my mystical path?
Still not sure. For now, that’s okay. Eventually, though perhaps circuitously, I’ll get where I’m going.
I may not know exactly where the path leads but one thing is certain; I’ll have some amazing adventures along the way.