I have a love/hate relationship with plans. On the one hand, I enjoy thinking about what I want to accomplish and how I want to accomplish it. I enjoy this so much I can sometimes lose sight of the fact that I haven’t actually accomplished anything yet because I’ve spent all my time focusing on my ideas about the plans. On the other hand, I enjoy going off plan. Making a plan for the day and deciding at the last minute that the perfect weather really calls for spending time outdoors instead….ahhhh! That feels almost as good as that time when you were a kid and unexpectedly got out of school an hour early. Let the prisoners loose!
I had a plan.
I knew how 2014 was going to begin. I started working on my plan for 2014 back in October. I knew what my milestones were going to be. I was going to have a “take no prisoners” January that would launch me into an incredibly productive year. I had my writing targets set. I had mapped out ideas and topics for my writing here, and had some ideas for projects I wanted to submit to other places. Also, 2014 was going to be the year I finally finished a book I’ve been working on.
I had a plan!
And now, I’m making a new plan because life has turned out differently. I’ve spent the majority of January recovering from an illness that caused both my eardrums to burst. This has meant long hours in bed or on the sofa giving my body the rest it needs, rather than time spent in front of the computer researching and writing. No milestones accomplished, no launch pad into a productive year.
So here I am on the very last day of January, thankful that every morning offers an opportunity to start fresh, and trying very hard to treat myself with the same grace I would offer to anyone else in my situation. I had planned to publish this post during the first week of January. I’m counting it as a victory that the publication date still has the word “January” in it. I’m learning that it’s important to celebrate every victory, regardless how small.
I have several friends who approach each year with a theme or a group of goals. I’ve never been able to join in with them on this. I know that my reluctance to set goals is part of being a recovering perfectionist. For me setting goals can feel like nothing more than another opportunity to fail, not something perfectionists generally look for. Sometimes I feel like perfectionism is like other lifelong addictions, you never really lose the temptation to believe you have to be perfect, you can only choose each day to give yourself grace to be human. So today, I’m choosing not to let perfectionism win. I’m choosing to treat myself with grace and start over again with a new plan. And I’m choosing not to feel defeated by that because, hey…..life happens.
There is an episode of the original Star Trek series called “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” that asks some interesting questions about what it means to be human. (What? You thought I would start a new year without including a Star Trek reference?) I can’t say I particularly like the title, and the storyline does include some pretty anachronistic ideas about the nature of women, but I’m always moved by the final confrontation between Captain Kirk and the antagonist, Dr. Roger Korby. Kirk and company have discovered that Korby has transferred himself into an android body. (For those of you who may not be big fans of Star Trek, or scifi in general, just hang in there with me for a couple of minutes.) Korby keeps asking what he can do to show that in spite of his android body, he’s still human on the inside. What equation can he solve? What data can he transmit?
Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent too much of my life focused on the data, the equations, and the productivity of life, and not enough focused on beauty, being fully present and embracing creativity. This year I’m taking my courage in hand and choosing a word to focus on that speaks to how I want to live and who I want to be. The word I’ve chosen for 2014 is create. I want to give birth to new things. I want to initiate new relationships. I want to explore new experiences. I want to tell new stories. Yes, I have some things I want to accomplish this year. More importantly, though, in my creativity I want to feel my connection to God, the original creator. This is what I believe it means to be fully human.