Making plans?

I’m a planner. A think-aheader. An organizer, a routine person. Anyone who knows me, knows that about me. I have lists to check off and dates to remember and goals to meet and visions to pursue. In some arenas, I pride myself on this. It makes me feel productive, and somehow, it comforts me.

But lately, I’ve been realizing how sometimes, planning ahead isn’t possible and it isn’t the best way to go about things. For instance, planning out the BIG aspects of your life: marriage, kids, career, where you’ll live, etc. Don’t get me wrong – thinking about these things and having ideas about them isn’t bad. But I know that I can, and I’m sure other people can, fall into a rut of imagining their lives so far in advance before certain things have even happened, so much so that it can take away from living in the moment, and take away from you doing the things you truly want to do and being the person you want to be.

Parents are good at these times, to remind you to be selfish while you can, before you have obligations, before it’s too late. As someone in a serious relationship, I know that I often think about what will happen in a few years and what it means for the things I want to do in life. There’s trade-offs. It’s inevitable that we give things up to be with someone else. That’s where planning ahead too much can make things harder. Suddenly, the plan to get married in 3 years and have kids 2 years later and live in City X for 5 years before moving to City Y isn’t so appealing if it means you might have to sacrifice other things you love.

As this year moves forward, it’s part of my “plan” to not plan so much. Now is the time to figure out what I want to do – and go do it.

Relaxation brings reflection

We’re all doing it right now – the days of 2008 are coming to an end, and as we’re sitting around trying to take a breath after the holidays, putting away decorations, catch up on the piles of magazines, and we’re doing a little thinking. What happened this year? What will next year bring? What changes do I want to make, if any?

At least that’s what I’m doing. I’ve been “home” in Cincinnati with my parents for over a week and have another week left. It’s funny, because my parents always ask if I want to do anything fun while I’m home, but honestly, I prefer to just keep doing what we’re doing – watching old Law & Orders, having coffee and relaxing with our dogs, seeing some movies, that sort of thing. Rather selfishly, I don’t even like giving up my time of doing what most people would call “nothing,” to hang out with a couple old friends in the area, despite earlier plans to do so.

There’s a lot that’s been going through my mind lately and many things I’ve been trying to figure out. I’m constantly wading through those old bad memories from years ago of a father who didn’t seem to want me, of friends who suddenly weren’t friendly, and so forth. As much as I try to let it go and move on, I can’t. And I’ve come to accept that if I don’t do something about it, it will continue to affect my life and all my current and future relationships in a damaging way – and I don’t want that either. You’ve read in my past entries that overall, life is good with the new job and new place. But even with that, there are some things that just don’t go away until we do something big and life-changing about it. For me, the first part has been realizing that I can’t do it alone.

I’ve had a lot of little moments lately, what Oprah in her magazine likes to call “Aha!” moments. Mine run the gamut, including things like omg I’ve gained 10 lbs and need to lose it ASAP, to why am I not volunteering for Habitat for Humanity to build homes for those hit by Katrina – my real hometown area, nonetheless? Then it’s other things like, damn, I can’t believe I just blew up at my boyfriend for no reason or how did I not realize I was acting like that at work?

My parents always joke that they’re boring. Looking in from the outside, one might agree, considering their social calendar isn’t exactly booked. But then again, mine isn’t either. I tend to spend much of my time just like they do – reading, watching old movies, and just hanging out. But those are the times when I have those Ahas, when I’m not thinking about my work to do list or who do I need to call or what errand do I need to take care of tomorrow. In a week, I’ll be ready to return to DC, and jump into 2009. And then I can turn my Ahas from thoughts to actions.

What really matters?

Everyday at work I read the news and the blogs, which cover all manner of topics. The top headlines are the ones we’ve been seeing 24/7, for months on end: the Bush Administration slowly chipping away at our Constitutional liberties, racist hate crimes, political scandals, and the scary number of young female celebrities engaging in dangerous and rebellious behavior, poisoning the minds of our youth.

We get E-mail alerts from organizations we vaguely remember signing up for, or even the ones we ardently support, asking us for one more donation to give children healthcare, to stop the war, to provide internet access to all. Our friends and family send us the latest YouTube video bashing Bush, applauding Gore, and sexualizing Obama. People we don’t even know invite us to Facebook groups and causes like “Stop Global Warming” and “Boycott D.C. Taxis.”

But when you think about it, none of these things matter to the average person. On the surface, we all want to stop spending billions on the war, we want to save healthcare, and make sure people are punished for their crimes. But on the inside, we’re thinking about if we’re going to have enough time to stop at the store on the way home to grab more milk, if we’ll get our post-work workout in, and oh yeah, what’s on TV tonight? And we’re thinking about what we’re going to be doing on Friday and if we remembered to pay our bills online. I admit, I think all of these things and more. Sometimes I care about nothing more than getting home to eat my dinner and check the latest releases on Amazon.

None of this is wrong of course. People prioritize their lives in different ways, and some days, some things are more important than others. I’d like to do an experiment where in one work day, people write down their thoughts and actions, and see how much of it is actually work-related and how much is personal stuff. When we’re supposed to be saving the world, are we really shopping for a new winter coat or making a mental grocery list?

When it comes down to it, the things that matter most to me at the end of the day are my relationships with my friends and family, and if I got the things accomplished I wanted to. Did I eat? Did I exercise, shower? Did I get that E-mail I was waiting for?

Something to ponder. What really matters to you?